Test your knowledge of fairground words and phrases

15 April, 2019

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There are some phrase and words associated with English fun fairs. How many of these do you know about?

Read about the meanings and then see how many you can find in our word search.


Dodgems cars were popular from the 1920s onwards – who could resist the idea of being able to crash your car over and over again without being hurt.

Candy Floss

Candy floss was invented in America in 1897 by two men: William Morrison was a dentist and John Warton was a confectioner (a real life Willy Wonka). They introduced it to the world in 1904 at the World Fair as ‘Fairy Floss’ and children and adults have been enjoying it ever since.

Fun fair

The first fairground rides began in the 18th century and were made of wood. As technology advanced Showmen often made the most of it for the rides and found new ways to thrill the general public.


Steam powered roundabouts were developed in the 1860s and this led to the creation of lots of other steam powered fairground rides. Our gallopers date from the 1890s. In England the rides with horses were known as ‘Gallopers’ and in America they became known as ‘the carousel’.


The fairground horse or ‘carousel horse’ is an enduring icon of fairs throughout the centuries and has been popular in movies – remember the scene in Mary Poppins where they have a race on Galloper horses?  There is even an emoji for it! On English Galloper rides you’ll see that the horses are in an action pose as if they were galloping along but American rides have the horses standing up.


Scammell trucks are British commercial vehicles that were made between 1921 and 1988. The Showtrac Scammell is a specially modified tractor (a ‘ballast tractor’) that showmen used to transport and power their rides and only 18 were ever made.

Steam engine

When steam engines were introduced to fairgrounds in the 1860s they caused quite a stir – rides could go much faster than when they were powered by hand. At the time people were also scared of trains travelling faster than 30 mile per hour, so riding on a steam powered rides was a genuine thrill. Motor cars weren’t commonly owned yet so for many people, riding on a steam powered ride would have been the fastest that many of them had ever travelled.


The swingboats date from the early years of fairgrounds and would have been a common sight in the 1800s. They were so common and popular that the saying ‘the fair is in full swing’ became used. We have two sets at the fair: a full size set of swings and a children’s sized one too.

Steam yachts

Just as merry go rounds were mechanised, swingboats were too. The first steam yachts were introduced in 1888 and a company called Savages started building them from 1894. Steam yachts were often named after the big liners of the day – our two yachts are called Britannia and Columbia. The engine that powers our ride dates from 1901 and is called ‘Yorky’.


Download and print our fairground phrases Wordsearch PDF for all the fun of the fair at home!

Read more

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