Tag: artists

Event Planning, Fun Story, Funfair Rides

Sid Howell, Fairground Artists

21 September 2021
Fred Thompsons Ark

Another in our series of portraits on the great fairground artists. Sid Howell, and indeed his father Albert, were two highly regarded painters at the firm of Orton Sons, & Spooner. Or more commonly Orton & Spooner as it was referred to within the funfair industry.

The company produced some of the most ornate and elaborate rides, stalls and showfronts during the early part of the 20th Century. Indeed little since has come close to matching their style, both the early rococo theme or the later Art Deco. They were well known for employing the best of artisans and artists to work on their rides.

Sid Howell was born in 1906 in Bristol, but moved with the family to Burton On Trent, the homebase of Orton and Spooner. He not only studied art at school, but was helped with additional coaching from his father, and received actual working experience at the firm.

By the time he was 18, he had completed a study course at Burton Art School, and eventually qualified to teach the subject.

Many would assume that he would follow his father in to the amusement ride firm, but he chose a different path, instead accepting a position as trainee draughtsman at Branston Artificial Silk. Sadly this didn’t work out as the company folded three years later.

Sid Howell
Sid Howell

Orton Sons, And Spooner

When Sid found himself unemployed in a period where jobs were scarce, he ended up joining his father Albert decorating funfair attractions. He brought the benefits of a new younger generation to the company. His knowledge of new techniques and his introduction of newer styles was evident in the standard of work being turned out.

The father and son team were a perfect match, especially on the many jungle scenes they painted together.

They were interrupted during the war years, as were most ride manufacturers. But happily by 1946 the company was back producing rides.

Edwards Ben Hur

Robert Edwards owned a Noah’s Ark that had been built in the mid 30’s. He placed an order for the ride to be rebuilt.

The rounding boards were painted in the familiar jungle theme, quite probably by Albert. Sid however designed and painted a scene from Ben Hur on the main front panels. At over 40ft wide and 15ft tall it was a stunning work of art. This was widely recognised as the finest work of his career. Keep in mind that the front not only had to look right at ground level, but also when it was placed in the air. Add in the fact that the front was curved, and you have an idea of the level of skill involved in his creation.

The Famous Ben Hur Front
The Famous Ben Hur Front

Much of the fabulous artwork from these early artists has been lost, either when the rides were retired and scrapped, or when, as often happened they were repainted to keep them fresh.


Happily the Ben Hur ark survived. It is now a resident at the Dingles Heritage Museum in West Devon. Well worth a trip out to see.

Dingles Fairground Museum
Dingles Fairground Museum
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Sid eventually left Orton & Spooner as work from the showmen gradually dried up. The company turned away from the industry .

Sid had a spell undertaking freelance work, and worked at an amusement park, and also Blackpool’s famous illuminations.

He died in 1966, but the immensity of his talent lives on in his finest work.

His son, Alan S. Howell, researched and wrote a book about the artists of Orton & Spooner titled ‘Men At Work‘. This is fetching sums in excess of £100 for a paperback copy. It would be well worth a read if you can get your hands on one.

Men At Work
Men At Work


Fairground Heritage Trust https://www.fairground-heritage.org.uk/

Joyland Books https://www.joylandbooks.com

Fun Story

The Master

20 August 2021
Fred Fowle 'The Master'

A while back we published an article on the late, great, Fred Fowle, one of the famous names of yesteryear in funfair artwork.

This was intended to be part of our series on famous funfair artists. Not knowing Fred personally, we used that great resource Google to research the article.

A while after we published the post we were contacting by the great mans son Peter, who told us that much of the article was inaccurate, and drew on information in the public domain that he said was likewise incorrect.

Not wishing to perpetuate an article containing inaccuracies, we asked Peter if he could pen a short precis of his fathers life.

The article below is supplied by Peter to correct some of the misinformation around his Fathers career.

Fred Fowle

My father Fred Fowle was better known in the Fairground world as ‘The Master’.

At the age of thirteen he had a Saturday job painting Japanese scroll work onto grand pianos in a small workshop in Southwest London. This became a full time job for a short time after leaving school.

When the opportunity to work for Lakin Bros. arose, painting fairground rides, it was time to move on and follow his dream. After a period of time this gave Fred the opportunity to express himself with his creative skills and flamboyant colourful artwork.

World War 2

When the Second World War started, Fred was called up and joined the army. This included taking part in the Normandy invasion as a Medical officer.

After the war had ended, Fred’s life completely changed with the setting up of Hall and Fowle fairground artists. Unfortunately, over a period of time there was a difference of work practices and the couple decided to go their separate ways.

This was the time for Fred to set up by himself to carry out the work he enjoyed by forming his own business F.G.Fowle Ltd.

The Sixties

The sixties were an exciting time for the Fairgrounds, with bigger and faster rides taking centre stage. This suited Fred who adapted his style to the emerging modern day funfair of the time and for many years afterwards.

Every fairground ride or stall designed by Fred used patterns that were then stencilled onto the rounding boards. All the work was carried out using only Keep’s paint, many colours were mixed to Fred’s own requirements.

Since my father’s death in 1983, just a few weeks before retiring, the new artwork on fairground rides etc has not been the same since, although many have tried.

For those who maybe reading this article, you can see Hall and Fowl’s first ghost train machine at Dingles Fairground Exhibition in Devon plus various artwork completed by my father.

Peter Fowle August 2022