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History of the Carousel

A carousel could be considered to be a key component of any fayre. But how did it the carousel come about?

A carousel could be considered to be a key component of any fayre. But how did it the carousel come about?

Southbank Carousel

 

Horsing Around

It’s believed that in 1100’s, Arabian and Turkish horsemen competed in a game played on horseback.

Italian and Spanish crusaders who witnessed this sport described the contest as a “little war” or garosello and carosella respectively based on the ferocity the horsemen played.

When the crusaders returned home, they brought the game back with them where, over time, became an extravagant display of horsemanship and finery which the French called carrousel.

History of the Carousel

Southbank Carousel. Credit: Hazel Baker

 

The French Carrousel

This major event, the carrousel, was a ring-spearing tournament in which a man would ride his horse at full tilt and with a lance in his hand towards a small ring hanging from a tree limb or pole by brightly coloured ribbons. The object of the game was to spear the ring.

In the 1700s the French devised a new way to train young noblemen in the art of ring-spearing. This device consisted of wooden carved horses and chariots suspended by chains from arms supported by a centre pole. This is thought to be the basis of the carousel we know and love today.

By the late 1700’s, there were numerous carousels built solely for recreational purposes spread across Europe. They needed to be small and light as they needed to be moved around by mules or horsepower.

It wasn’t until the invention of the steam engine that the elaborate machines we know today became possible.

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