Tinplate carousel toys and antique Merry Go Round toys.

By the early 18th century carousels were being built and operated at various fairs and gatherings in central Europe and England. Animals and mechanisms would be crafted during the winter months and the family and workers would go touring in their wagon train through the region, operating their large menagerie carousel at various venues. Makers included Heyn in Germany and Bayol in France. These early carousels had no platforms; the animals would hang from chains and fly out from the centrifugal force of the spinning mechanism. They were often powered by animals walking in a circle or people pulling a rope or cranking.

By 1803 John Joseph Merlin had a carousel in his Mechanical Museum in London, where gentry and nobility liked to gather on winter evenings. The horses "floated free over a pole". It was connected to a "big musical instrument that played a fully orchestrated concerto" and from the first note, the carousel would start turning while each horse would make a galloping movement with a visitor riding on its back. Merlin did not patent his inventions and engineers were allowed to come to create their own models of his creations.

In mid-19th century England, the carousel became a popular fixture at fairs. The first steam-powered mechanical roundabout, invented by Thomas Bradshaw, appeared at the Aylsham Fair in about 1861. It was described by a Halifax Courier journalist as "a roundabout of huge proportions, driven by a steam engine which whirled around with such impetuousity, that the wonder is the daring riders are not shot off like cannon- ball, and driven half into the middle of next month."

Updated: 13 February 2021

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Carousel value and price guide

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