Nostell Priory Steam Fair

Saturday was a nice day and having such a shocking letter through the door in the morning I just had to get out for some fresh air….the steam fair wasnt exactly fresh air I grant you but out of the house it was and away from that bloody letter!

The letter in question was from my employers explaining key points about my pension when I finally retire, inside the envelope was a letter congratulating me on my forthcoming retirement…then a request….Would I consider becoming an assessor for them? At first I thought it was an elaborate wind-up from some wag at The Zoo. “ARE YOU FEKKING JOKING ME???” I shouted at the letter throwing it at the door. I read it again and yes…it wasn’t a wind up it really was a serious attempt to get me back inside. It has taken me nearly 27 years to escape, now the clowns that run the place actually think I might like to come back and work for them!…..Foxtrot Oscar springs to mind..There are those of you out there that know what I think about work over the past couple of years and of the head cretins that claim to be in charge. Im quite sure your tittering at the scene, I’m still “effing” and “jeffing” at bit as I recount it for you!

So a day out in the sunshine was required, we got MISTRESS MABLE II out, filled both the tank and the wallet and head to Nostell Priory in the direction of Wakefield. Their was a steam fair event this weekend. The last time I saw anything like this was when I was a bored teenager, dragged along by my parents along with Susan my sister-in-law and her kids, in fact that particular steam fair was over at Harewood house near Leeds.

A steam fair is essentially a gathering of traction engines, massive Wurlitzer fairground steam-powered organs,  working examples of steam engines complete with leather straps oil cans, the little ones that look like tea pots. all attended lovingly by characters in oily clothes and filthy hands. They really are amazing pieces from a bygone age. Deemed not practiable these days in our “throw it away and buy another”  Dozens of stalls selling stuff ranging from home-made fudge, 50 year old hammers, shovels scanners socket sets rusty vices too heavy for a man to lift. Old push bikes glass ornaments lamp shades wooly hats nails tyres wheels and coils of barbed wire?? The folk who attend the stalls run the engines drive the cars  rebuild the tractors and sell you sweets from the 60’s are  the wonderful class of excentricity  is typically English and the folk and will happily engage you in conversation in a flash. England will never be conquered whilst we have people like this! Warfare winning schemes like.. “Know thine enemy” and more modern acronyms will no way on earth get to know how they tick!! I give you for example Mr Fred Dibnah of Bolton, remember him? Well there are plenty more characters where he came from. We heard and saw many such characters today. One old boy was asked by the commentator what he’d brought with him today indicating his old motorbike, “I’ve brought a cold with me today that what I’ve brought cock” came the honest reply from an old gentleman from North Yorshire..Priceless!  Likewise the young 20-year-old on his lovely traction engine was asked if he worked on his machine a lot replied ..”Well no not really coz it spend a lot of time in t’shed tha sees” We in the crowd knew what he meant but again….Priceless!

I have spent a long time “darn ” so see how the quaintness / roughness works in both camps, folks I’d like to say that we are exactly the same…just in a different dialect!

Here is summat I’ve borrowed from the web to explain what traction engine was and is….A traction engine is a self-propelled steam engine used to move heavy loads on roads, plough ground or to provide power at a chosen location. The name derives from the Latin tractus, meaning ‘drawn’, since the prime function of any traction engine is to draw a load behind it. They are sometimes called road locomotives to distinguish them from railway locomotives – that is, steam engines that run on rails. Traction engines tend to be large, robust and powerful, but heavy, slow, and have poor manoeuvrability. Nevertheless, they revolutionized agriculture and road haulage at a time when the only alternative was the draught horse.

They became popular in industrialised countries from around 1850, when the first self-propelled portable steam engines for agricultural use were developed. Production continued well into the early part of the 20th century, when competition from internal combustion engine powered tractors saw them fall out of favour, although some continued in commercial use in the UK into the 1950s and later. All types of traction engines have now been superseded, in commercial use. However, several thousand examples have been preserved worldwide, many in working order. Steam fairs are held throughout the year in the UK, and in other countries, where visitors can experience working traction engines at close hand.

Traction engines were cumbersome and ill-suited to crossing soft or heavy ground, so their agricultural use was usually either “in the belt” – powering farm machinery by means of a continuous leather belt driven by the flywheel – or in pairs, dragging an implement on a cable from one side of a field to another.

From the 1950s, the ‘preservation movement’ started to build up as enthusiasts realised that traction engines were in danger of dying out. Many of the remaining engines were snapped upby enthusiasts, and restored to working order. Traction engine rallies began, initially as races between engine owners and their charges, later developing into the significant tourist attractions that take place in many locations each year. It has been estimatedthat over two thousand traction engines have been preserved.

Right then, now you have read that, you will know what your looking at on the following photo’s.

I said to Julie, Oh I don’t really care for these older bikes, then went over and started pointing and commenting at bikes further up the line!

This would be my vehicle of choice when doing the weekly shop at Sainbury’s, in fact Id go twice a week in this big boy!

I know more about these things from my childhood than the shyte on the road today..cant understand why I didn’t get hooked on cars back then!

Got to say this is really beautiful, don’t you guys agree?

I have to admit I prefer the “racy” Jag  over the Roller.

 Rolls Royce? Not for me…far to much knobbery say Julie!

The tractor guys enjoying reading and sitting with tractors.

We saw a lot if miniature traction engines, I asked an owner of their purpose, he told me …..”Big boys toys!”

Could you really put a price on these model traction engines? I asked but just got a smile and a shrug from their shoulders…Wives or girlfriends stood nearby and probably influenced the lads!

This is part of one of the huge Wurlitzer fairground machines and steam-powered. These days at the fairs if you see one it will almost certainly be powered by electrickery!

This old boy was stood at the front taking it all in, maybe he remembered them when he was a young lad. Today he uses a camera phone to take a picture, Whats a camera? whats a phone? He would have said in his youth!

Some engines were used in every day but mundane tasks. This one was used at the fairgrounds to power the rides the paint jobs reflected their usage, rather like old canal barges.

A nice example of a fairground engine.

And a nice example of a workhorse of the day, this was a road roller, but you knew that right?

Another example of a fairground traction engine.

This young owner wasn’t typical,,though his reply to how much he worked on the beast  was…Well no because it spends a lot of time in the shed”

At least a dozen tractors arrived in the showground, I’m not huge on tractors, so alot of it was lost on me Im sorry to say.

Except for this geezer! I think  he typified ” Tractor Man”

Place your cursor on any photo then click twice on your left button on the mouse will make the picture. This is exactly the same as the first Honda Goldwing 1000cc I owned!

This noisy Honda they saved until last, the old man kicked her into life and she snarled her way round the showground, OOOOH what a noise, it took me back to the days when I first got interested in motorbike and when my street heaved a sigh of relief when I didn’t go ahead and buy one! It sounded and looked so beautiful.


It was nice to sit about and see some history flow by, some history not so ancient..or was it that I was in fact getting ancient?

We left the show and took the long way back home, usually a quick twenty miles took us about forty,the day required a ride back home the long way round!


4 Responses to Nostell Priory Steam Fair

  1. Chris Easter says:

    It’s really good that people taken the time and effort to preserve these wonderful machines from our heritage.


  2. Steven Lenza says:

    Crisp photos Dave – spotted an old Austin A30 the car I learned to drive in’


  3. Chris Easter says:

    Cheeky git. Your turn will come; unless you are beyond restoration.


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