John and Mabel Strudwick Collection

Henry Arthur Strudwick and friend posing in front of Henry’s Aunt Sally game c.1900

Ref: NFA0153

Title: John and Mabel Strudwick Collection

Scope: This collection contains black and white and colour photographs and postcards, some originals and some copies, including one World War I soldier photograph, and some colour photographs, as well as a newspaper clipping, a baptism certificate and a recent letter from BBC Northamptonshire.

Dates: 1900-1999
Level: Fonds
Extent: 1 box
Name of creator: Strudwick family

Administrative / biographical history: The Strudwick family have been recorded travelling fairground rides and game stalls around the East Midlands since the Victorian era.

Henry Arthur Strudwick (1862-1932) aka Harry or Cockney Harry was born in London to William Thomas Strudwick (b.1822) and Sarah Elizabeth Strudwick, nee Carter (b.1831), who both originated from Middlesex. They had six children; Louisa Emma, William Thomas, Alfred James (b.1860), Henry Arthur (1862-1932), unknown and Ada Emily (b.1864).

In 1886, age 24, Henry married Emily Hood (b.1868), who also had her roots in a fairground family from the Wokingham area in Berkshire. Henry and Emily had a large family together of which ten children survive to adulthood; Henry Arthur (junior) (b.1887), Maud (b.1888), Florence Elizabeth ‘Florrie’ (b.1889), William Thomas (b.1893), Albert (b.1894), Frederick James ‘Freddy’ (b.1896), Emily Violetta (b.1897), John (1899-1994), Louisa and James ‘Jimmy’.

Although Henry was born in London, he spent most of his life touring Northamptonshire and the surrounding counties. The Strudwick family owned carousels, swing boats and games such as ‘Aunt Sally’, which they operated at various fairs and feasts around the East Midlands.

The family’s winter quarters were in Burton Latimer, Kettering, where they owned several sites including a yard on the corner of Rosebery Street and Spencer Street. The yard was positioned behind corrugated iron fencing which incorporated two swing panels to allow the caravans to be brought out when the family were on the road in the summer months. Another site was at the bottom of Higham Road. Like the others it was used for residential purposes until the fair season started, when the family were on the road and the sites were vacant. In later years the living caravan was replaced with a bungalow built by Tony Burbidge, part of the Strudwick family by marriage, and the Strudwicks run a second-hand van business from the rest of the site called ‘Strudwick Motors’.

The youngest son, Jimmy, also run a second-hand car business in Higham Road for many years.

The Strudwicks attended the Cranford Feast with their steam set of dobbies and the rest of their amusements up to the beginning of the Great War, when the men of the family who were of serving age either volunteered or were conscripted for war duties. Albert, served as a Private with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers while John served as a Private with the 6th Royal West Kent Regiment. The 6th Regiment was raised as part of Kitchener’s First New Army and were involved in battle in France from 1915 till the end of the war. Amongst others, they fought in The Battle of Loos where they suffered heavy losses with over 3,000 men killed or wounded. The name W. Strudwick is also listed on Burton Latimer’s Roll of Honour, this mention is thought to refer to William Thomas.

Henry senior died in 1932 and his wife Emily in 1944. After Henry's death, his son John was the one to take over the fairground business. John retained the family base at Burton Latimer, where he wintered with his wife, Mabel Lucy (1902-1984) and six daughters; Leah, Sylvia, Eileen Josephine (b.1929), Renee, Maureen and Janice in living waggons he had built himself. During the winter, John used his yard to deal in scrap metal as was common amongst showmen and during the summer he and his daughters took the fair out on the road around Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.

John continued to present juvenile roundabouts, swing boats, a shooting saloon, a coconut shy and other game stalls, as well as a rock and brandy snap stall with his daughters and extended family until the late 1960s, when he retired. After his death at the age of 94, John’s waggons and land were sold to other showmen families.

Related Collections: Selina Dobson Collection, Anderton And Rowland Collection, Marshall and Scott Collection 
Source: Donated by Heather Rutledge
System of arrangement: Catalogued according to type
Subjects: Fairground, Family Collections, Fairground Rides, Fairground Art, Travelling Entertainment, Showpeople, Living Wagons
Conditions of access: Items are available to view by appointment in the NFA reading room
Restrictions: None
Copyright: Copyright Heather Rutledge. Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of National Fairground and Circus Archive, subject to copyright law and condition of the material.
Finding aids: Online finding aid available here