Between the Wars
The period between the two wars saw the introduction of many new rides with old favourites such as the Scenic and Switchback being replaced by the then modern Noah's Arc and Dodgems. In 1925, the fair had its first civic opening and by 1927, the Yorkshire Section Committee of the Showmen’s Guild was successful in gaining the concession of an extra Saturday for the showmen. The most profitable outlet at the fair was reported to be the fruit machines, and the World’s Fair claimed that such was the success of these machines on the first Saturday that many travellers went to London and other places to try and buy some. The main worry for the showpeople attending the fair was the increase in living wagons being broken into with one riding proprietor reporting a theft of £18 in coppers. Despite the threat of the depression the fair continued to thrive and Alderman Farmery, who opened the 1930 event, reminded the audience who were attending the civic opening, that although the fair was primarily for pleasure, the horse and sheep fairs were still important components of the event.
The 1930 fair also saw the arrival of the Wall of Death introduced by Pat Collins with the daredevil rider accompanied by a lion in the sidecar ! The interwar years saw much innovation at Hull Fair as the rides continued to evolve. The scenic railways and switchbacks which had been so popular were gradually superseded by the less sedate Speedways and Dodgems and in 1937 the first Walzer. Shows continued to feature at the fair with regular appearances by Bert Hughes Boxing Pavillion and Tippler White’s side shows where new novelties made their appearance each year. The smaller stalls which are a stable component of all fairs continued to flourish with the grocery stall run by Joe Barak, better known as Chicken Joe
(the man you all know) becoming famous in its own right.
In 1931 Alderman Farmery praised the showmen, for the joy and entertainment they brought to the residents of Kingston upon Hull, at the opening of the fair:
It is at least one week in the year when the youth of Hull and in addition to the youth, thousands who are growing older in years get back to youth and enjoy themselves for at least the greater part of a week on Hull’s fair ground.
The 1931 fair also saw the last appearance of Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie which had been appearing at Hull for over 100 years.
Another interesting aspect of the 1931 fair was the General Election, which saw the showmen being drawn into the battle for political authority. Young Pat Collins published an advertisement encouraging all classes of showmen to come to Hull with their motor cars, to carry voters to the polling stations on behalf of The Hon. Lt. Com. Kenworthy; this proved friend of all showmen.
The clamour for new and modern sensations saw the advent of new and exciting rides with many of the old attractions being superseded by The Whip, the Caterpillar and the Wall of Death. By-gone relics such as the Scenic and Switchback, were replaced by Chair-o-planes from Germany and the Dodgems in 1928. The Globe and then the Wall of Death, arrived between 1925 to 1928, and the impact of these dare devil riders was immediate. The death riders, as they became known, were the new stars of the fairground shows, borrowing names from the Royal Air Force wearing flying jackets and advertising themselves as the Wizards on the Wall and Speedy Barham. This change was reflected in the stalls with bingo and slot machines becoming a popular and profitable feature and the old style games of chance being electrified and modernised.
Some of the most popular rides
make their appearance on the fairgrounds for the first time in the 1930s, including the Noah's Ark and the Waltzer. The manufacturers adopted innovative themes with Lakins pioneering their famous Ben Hur rides with horses and chariots featuring on the platforms, and Edwin Hall's extravagant scenes of the Circus Maximus in Rome. These new rides captured a feeling of the times with speed and fast thrill replacing the now sedate gallopers and switchbacks. Showmen started to use powerful heavy-duty purpose built electric gramophones known as the Panatrope in these new fast rides, and employed a microphone to call the people onto the rider with the now immortal expression "do you want to go faster" possibly heard for the first time, mixed in with the latest jazz tunes The excitement invoked was reflected in the names - the Skid, the Swirl, the Waltzer, and the Dodgem. The artwork on John Powell's Orton and Spooner painted Super Speedway of high-speed motorbikes reflected the spirit of the age:
The march of progress, however, has effected even the old fashioned fair ... electricity, generated by dynamos driven by steam engines and motors, gives a flood of light ... The old steam organ seems to have had its day, and is rapidly being replaced by loud speakers and amplifiers each shrieking a different jazz tune at the same time, so that the night re-echoes to their vibrant voices, which compete noisily with the din of the steam engines, and the shouting of the side show attendants ... There is a craze for speed and the faster a machine can go, and the more sinking sensations it can produce in the pit of the stomach, the greater its popularity. The old flying machine has gone and in its place is a safer but faster form of roundabout that seems to hurtle one in every direction possible. [The Herald, 29 July 1933.]
The old sedate pace set by Gallopers and Switchbacks were no longer vogue. The epitome of the new fast thrill ride
of the 1930s was the Moonrocket a lighter faster and electrically driven reflection of a modern age.
The period between the two wars was one of highs and lows with the arrival of new and exciting rides transforming the landscape of the fairground. The pursuit of speed saw the widespread use of rides linked to flight, speed and technology including the jets. Speed was now the essence of new rides. The final tour and subsequent sale of Bostock and Wombwell's menagerie in Kelvin Hall Carnival at Christmas 1931 demonstrated the lack of nostalgia on the fairgrounds. Bostock and Wombwell had been synonymous with the fairground for a well over a century but relying on old-fashioned formats resulted in lack of business and eventual disbandment.
In the period leading up to the Second World War the fair continued to expand and the reporter for the World’s Fair in 1937 claimed:
Throughout the week the railway company have their usual special rail travel facilities with cheap day, half day and evening trips ... the great Hull Fair of 1937 seems to have surpassed many successful former events with the efficient way everything has been carried out.
The outbreak of War saw the land on Walton Street requisitioned and the fair was suspended during hostilities.