by Phil Gould
: Added May 2011

Close by these two attractions were the other novelties imported for the Festival Gardens. Alf Makin supplied the Hurricane. This had a central tower which had six arms connected to four seater cars. The ride picked up speed and centrifugal force pushed the cars to a horizontal plane. Then a solenoid was employed causing them to dip back down before flying back to the horizontal once more. This ride was similar to a ride called the Ramba Zamba that was travelled by Shaws in the 80s. In the same decade a couple of modern versions of the Hurricane were imported into the UK and operated by Pat Evans at Porthcawl and M & D Taylor. The latter ride putting in an appearance at Hull Fair.

Belle Vue Amusements were responsible for the next novelty the Bubble Bounce, built by US company Hrubetz. Ten individual tubs, which could be spun by riders, were positioned on a spinning platform. As the ride built up speed  the platform was forced up at a 20 degree angle then lowered again, giving the motion of bouncing. On some models at the end of the ride the air was expelled from the pistons allowing the ride to land on a inflated platform and bounce. I’m not sure if this ride had the latter feature. After a few years this ride was transferred to Belle Vue. It might even still travel in the North West today with the Chadwick family . But the bouncing motion has not operated for many years.                   

The Jets ride had been built by the Eyerly Aircraft Company of Oregon and was operated by Moorhouses of Southend. Eight arms had two seater planes at the end. As the ride gathered speed the arms would be raised into the air and riders could perform stunts including rollovers. However, the unlucky ones would spend the entire ride hanging upside down! This ride spent many years at the Kursaal in Southend. You can still see this ride today as, following extensive refurbishment, it is travelled around Berkshire by independent showmen Masons.    

Other attractions housed in permanent buildings included the Haunted Mirror Maze, the Fun House and the Nestle Playland (a crèche and children’s playground). These three attractions were positioned at the front of the amusement park. Also probably worthy of a mention was the park’s miniature railway. This was called the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway. Three locomotives - Nellie, Neptune and Wild Goose - pulled four coaches seating 96 passengers. The rolling stock and stations had been styled to designs by Punch cartoonist Rowland Emett. This was the complete list of attractions on the opening day, although it has to be said not all of the rides were operational from day one.

During the summer some standard British funfair rides were introduced to fill in gaps at the park. These included George Whittingham’s Lakin-built Ark Speedway, Albert Botton’s Ghost Train, B Styles Big Wheel - sited inside the Big Dipper and a second Lighthouse Slip from Bottons. But this final ride only stayed a few weeks and was removed to make way for the final novelty at the Festival Gardens. In the second week of September the long-awaited Sky Wheels arrived. Built by Samuel Butler of Leeds for Iles of Belle Vue this late arrival certainly made an impression. It had two 26ft big wheel style wheels which each had eight two seater cars. These were attached to either end of a centrally pivoted boom. As this revolved the two wheels turned in the same direction. Even though this proved to be a great talking point this ride only survived two seasons before being bought by Blackpool Pleasure Beach. 


The Chimpanzee Nursery.

Human Icicles.

The Living Pixie.


(Photos: Horst Koch)

The Amusement Park was only supposed to operate for six months but was such a success  that it reopened for business the following year. At the end of the 1953 season a private company took over the operation of the park and it survived until 1974. If you walk through Battersea Park today it is hard to imagine where all the thrills and spills of the amusements were once built in this now leafy municipal park.  But for many people the Festival Gardens has left a lasting legacy and is seen as the forerunner of this country’s theme parks.              

Alf Makin's Hurricane in full swing. Picture: Horst Koch

The unusual Bubble Bounce ride. Picture: National Fairground Archive

The visually impressive Sky Wheel ride operating at Battersea Fun Fair. Picture: National Fairground Archive

The Nestle Playland and Mirror Maze buildings. Picture: From Festival Gardens Photo Memories

Battersea Fun Fair Memories

2011 is the 60th Anniversary of Battersea Funfair. A new book on the history of London's amusement park is currently being written by Nick Laister and Robert Preedy, with the aim of releasing it in this anniversary year. If you have photographs or information on Battersea Funfair please email Nick Laister at nick@joylandbooks.com. More details on this book can be found here.

Your Comments

Just finished reading your article on Battersea Park and the Festival of Britain. How I wish my Father were alive to read it as well. Being a Yorkshireman he was a good story teller and one of his favourites was the Festival of Britain. "Bert me Lad", he would say, "the Festival of Britain was a showcase for the best that England had", and he was very proud to be a part of it.

His story went like this: His Father Herbert Harry Moorhouse (born 1901, Sykehouse, Yorks) was a genius; he was a self taught electrical engineer who specialised in providing fairgrounds with music and power. He was commissioned to supply the amplifiers and speakers to the Rotor that was making its debut at Battersea Park. The Moorhouse amplifiers and speakers were sought by all the showmen, so Herbert and his son (also Herbert) set about making something “special”. When the system was completed they drove it down from Knottingly in their vans and set it up. They were one of the first to have finished their installation and ran some tests on the system. They were running 100 watt amplifiers and 4x4 block 12 inch speakers; the speaker boxes were “Bass reflex”, a style that Herbert had spent months developing.

When Dad relayed his story he always got excited at this point. The music was played and the volume turned up, the bass was bump bump bump. Apparently all the workers downed their tools and started dancing. Dad said the quality of the music was unbelievable, Guy R Fountain (of Tandy fame) came over and shook Herbert’s hand and lifted his hat to him commenting that he had never heard anything better.

Herbert Harry Moorhouse and his son Herbert Harry Moorhouse (born 1924) built and serviced amplifiers and speakers from London to Scotland. They operated workshops in Thorne, Knottingly, Brotherton and Bradford. In 1952 Herbert junior emigrated to Australia as a coal miner. He is survived by his son Herbert Harry Moorhouse (born 1954) and grandson Herbert Harry Moorhouse (born 1980).

Bert Moorhouse, March 2017


With thanks to Horst Koch and the National Fairground Archive for the photographs.

More on Battersea
Day Trip to Battersea Fun Fair
Battersea Funfair Memories

Battersea Pleasure Gardens Guide
Photo Gallery on BBC London

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