Orton and Spooner - Labour of Love

by Elaine Pritchard in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom

We did it
On 22nd August 2022 we successfully raised £475 with 23 supporters in 35 days

Raising money towards the costs of publishing a book about Orton & Spooner, world-renowned fairground ride designers & makers.

by Elaine Pritchard in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom

If you visited Burton-on-Trent during the summer of 2022 you might have seen 30 brightly designed carousel horses making up a sculpture trail - The Big Burton Carousel - around the town centre.

Carousel horses were chosen because the East Staffordshire town was the home of George Orton and Charles Spooner. These two men, born in the time of Queen Victoria, combined their talents, ingenuity and ambition to create innovative and beautiful fairground rides that made memories to cherish for generations of children and their families. 

Who were Orton and Spooner?

Fairground enthusiasts and collectors across the world know these names well, but many of the general public are yet to hear how they created escapist fun for millions of people. In their early days this was through travelling shows, then fairground rides and finally cinemas.

So, working with Paula and Cath of the Howell family (Albert and Sidney Howell were Orton and Spooner fairground artists from 1913 until the early 1950s) I am writing a new book. It will chart the achievements of Orton and Spooner and also, for the first time, tell the stories of the personal tragedies that challenged them on their journey to create successful businesses.


Why write the book now?

The Big Burton Carousel, by Making Trails, has sparked interest in the Orton and Spooner story. In October 2022, the carousel horse sculptures will be auctioned to raise money for Burton and District Mind, the mental health charity. We would like to have our book out to coincide with that auction and if we make any profit, that will also be given to Mind. 

Why Crowdfund?

We are committed to creating a book that celebrates two remarkable entrepreneurs and the artists, craftspeople and engineers who worked with them. So we are asking the community to help us achieve this and create a real sense of pride in their achievements. The costs of printing are going up month on month at present due to rising energy costs and general inflation that is affecting the price of paper, inks and everything else. 

Please help us by pledging on our project and choosing rewards from the right hand side of the page (scroll down if you’re on a mobile). For example, you could be one of the first people to receive a copy of the book when it is published. If you are an early supporter you could even have your name, or business name, in the acknowledgements section of the book.

Who is on board with this project?

I have volunteered to write the book free of charge. It is a story I have always wanted to tell since I first heard about Orton and Spooner in 2003. Artist and entrepreneur Tilley Bancroft has offered to create the cover artwork free of charge. Typesetting, editing, publishing and all the other services needed to create a professional book and later an ebook, have been offered at heavily discounted prices and in some cases at cost. 

The National Fairground and Circus Archive, based at the University of Sheffield, is also allowing me to browse their incredible Orton and Spooner Collection and has agreed to images being used in the book.


 I am also grateful for the help and support of Andrew Warwick Thompson, a descendant of the Spooner family, and the National Brewery Centre in Burton which also holds a large collection of Orton and Spooner images and original documents. Fairground historian Craig Cooper has also been a mine of useful information.

What next?

The book will go ahead, but your support will help us raise money for Mind. They need support more than ever to respond to an unprecedented rise in demand for their services to help those whose mental health has been affected by bereavement, relationship breakdown, abuse, trauma, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, depression and ill health. 

As I found out more about the men behind the fairground ride company, I realised that bereavement, trauma and ill-health were all challenges the Ortons and Spooners faced - so it seemed right that their book should help those facing the same difficulties today.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£16 or more

Get a book posted to you in the UK

If you can donate £16, we will post a copy of the Orton and Spooner book, Labour of Love, to any mainland UK address as soon as possible after its publication.

£5 or more

£5 Donation

If you are able to donate £5 to help us fund this book, we'll show our gratitude with a public 'thank you' on our Orton and Spooner Facebook page. Just let us know the name (or business name) you would like us to thank.

£13 or more

£13 for a book

If you live in, or close to, Burton you can donate £13 and receive a copy of the book that you can collect in person from Burton-on-Trent by arrangement. If you need the book posting to you, see our £16 reward that includes a book plus UK mainland postage and packing.

£40 or more

1 of 20 claimed

Be in the book

If you donate £40 your name, or business name, will be listed in the book's acknowledgment section when it is published. You will also receive a copy of the book, when it is published to any UK mainland address and a public 'thank you' on our Facebook page. The names you want to appear in the book MUST be with us by the end of August 2022.

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