Statement of SignificanceThe Darling Harbour Carousel and Band Organ is historically significant as a rare, operational and substantially intact example of a nineteenth century Carousel. It is understood to be the oldest operating Carousel in NSW (imported 1894), and the second oldest in Australia, following that of the Royal Melbourne Zoo. The Carousel has associations with historic events such as the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park as well as the arrival of the American Naval 'White' Fleet. The extant fixtures such as timber horses, English adornments and artworks together with those artworks introduced in the 1920s representing the Australian idiom are significant characteristics demonstrating the aesthetic of travelling fairs and fairground entertainment. The Carousel and Band Organ are of social significance to many generations of fairgoers throughout Sydney and New South Wales for its associations with several cultural events such as the Royal Easter Show, Annual charity events at Government House, operation at the Manly Pier and current operation in the contemporary tourist context of Darling Harbour. The Carousel remains in operation and continues to provide entertainment to children and adults alike. The technical significance of the Carousel and Band Organ are embodied in the retention of their original operating systems being that of the pneumatic roll playing organ and operation of the Carousels steam boiler and engine manufactured by Tidmans of Norwich. The Carousel has the potential to yield information associated with the modification of machinery and technical innovation embodied in the electric machinery introduced in 1951 as well of the mechanisation of the horses' gallop in 1910.
Movable / Collection
Recreation and Entertainment
Construction Years: 1894 - 0
Physical Description: The Darling Harbour Carousel is a portable, three row, suspended-gallopers carousel (fitted with thirty wooden horses and two replica vintage cars). It is driven by an electric motor but retains its complete steam boiler and engine intact and operable, through the boiler is currently out of commission. It is fitted with Gebruder Bruder pneumatic band organ. The carousel is permanently stationed within an octagonal pavilion which has steel framing, a glazed roof and metal roller shutter doors between each of the eight posts supporting the roof.The CAROUSEL is founded on a four wheel centre truck made up from a timber wagon. The central, vertical drive shaft of the centre truck turns a set of twelve horizontal timber beams called 'swifts', radiating from the centre shaft. The timber floor platform is supported by a substructure of radial beams and intermediate struts. The horses are three abreast and occupy ten of twelve segments of the circular platform, the other two having replica vintage cars. The carousel is covered by a canvas dome canopy, and liberally festooned with lights.The two POWER SYSTEMS to drive the Carousel are both mounted on the centre truck. One is the original steam boiler and engines, the other being the electric motor which is used at present. The DECORATIVE PANELS and ARTWORK of the Carousel are: on the rounding boards around the outside of the roofing structure, on the twelve top centre shutters of the centre truck, on the portable bottom centre shutters which conceal the centre truck, on the banner boards hanging from the swifts between the rows of horses, around the floor and sides of the floor platform. Decoration includes timber panelling, mirrors, and painted scenes including: Venetian gondolas, Australian Aboriginals hunting kangaroos, American 'Indians' pursuing a western covered wagon, sea shells, various animals, nursery rhyme scenes, a lighthouse, tall ships and a Manly ferry steamship.The BAND ORGAN is manufactured by Gebruder Bruder. It is a 52 key stop pipe organ with two drums, one of which has a cymbal. The organ is wholly contained within a varnished timber casing elaborately decorated. The machine is pneumatically operated, controlled by a perforated paper roll. The organ is mounted on a four-wheel timber carriage, acquired from farm in NSW c1960 and converted for this purpose. [source: Godden Mackay Heritage Consultants, April 1997)
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The carousel was originally invented to train mounted soldiers, an early example is depicted in a Byzantine sculpture dating back to 500 AD. During the crusades this training method was observed by the Christian knights and was given the term garosello (in Italian) or carosella (in Spanish) meaning 'little war'. Following the crusades carousels were erected to train knights and a variant erected during jousting competitions. The recreational opportunities of the Carousel were identified early with small carousels built in France to amuse royal children. By the eighteenth-century the carousel had evolved from a private amusement for the wealthy and the royalty into a popular fairground attraction and by 1745 specialist carousel makers could be found in Germany. Carousels were designed to be rapidly erected and dismantled and were carted from one fairground to the next. The roof form of the carousels is derived from a canvas canopy.The industrial revolution brought about a new age in fairs with efficiencies in transportation for travelling shows and the mechanisation of the fairground ride. It was the advent of steam power that resulted in an increase in popularity of the fairground carousel in England. Steam engines were introduced in the early 1860s to turn the carousel.By the late nineteenth-century companies that specialised in the building of fairground carousels could be found in both England and America. By the mid-1880s imported carousels were in widespread use in Australia. In addition to travelling carousels, a number of carousels had been erected at zoos, including Taronga Park Zoo and the Royal Melbourne Zoo. The example at the Melbourne Zoo dates from 1886 and is probably the oldest surviving English-built carousel in Australia. No information on where the Darling Harbour Carousel was used prior to its arrival in Australia has been located. It was imported from England in 1894 and purchased by Thomas Kale as a travelling attraction for fairs, race meetings and agricultural shows across NSW. Kale is reputed to have made a number of improvements, however, the horses remained fixed until 1910. In 1910 Kale commissioned the prominent engineer Herbert Thompson to improve the carousel by adding a mechanism that allowed the horses to rise and fall, resembling galloping. Thompson was one of Australia's leading engine builders and had been designing and building steam engines since he was a teenager. In 1899 he designed a steam 'phaeton' or motorcar. Thomson's Engineering Works in Armadale, Victoria, manufactured cars, fire engines and steam engines for merry-go-rounds until around 1915. Thompson built the St Kilda Beach carousel (Weniger's Famous Steam Riding Gallery) for Anton Weniger in 1914. Of the numerous carousels that were employed in travelling fairs in England, Europe, America and the colonies in the years leading up to World War 1 it has been estimated that fewer than 200 survive, the majority of which are in America. The Darling Harbour Carousel is one of only a handful of surviving examples in Australia.Thomas Kale sold the carousel to his son David in the 1920s for ?350, beginning a long tradition of successive generations of the Kale family being involved with the maintenance and repair of the carousel. David Kale continued to travel around NSW, setting up his carousel at Agricultural Shows, fairs and other special events. From 1920 until 1939 Kale's carousel was a regular feature at the Royal Easter Show at Moore Park in Sydney. The Kale's carousel was also erected at Millers Point during the festivities that marked the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.In 1927 the Kale family purchased a 52 key pipe organ manufactured by Gerbruder Bruder at a cost of ?343. A photograph of 'Kale's Roundabout' as it was then known, taken in 1928, shows some of the details that have now been replaced, including the fixed sleightype seats, the candytwist brass poles and the painted scenes to the fascia. The painted scenes were altered, with an Australian view of kangaroo hunting being added.During WW2, in 1941, the Australian government began to introduce restrictions that limited fuel usage and the use of lights at night. As there was little call for the carousel the Kale family put it into storage at the Manly Fun Pier (or Amusement Pier as it was also known) in October 1941. After the war the pier reopened and the attraction was sold to Porter and Smith, the pier operators, in 1951. It was during the years of Porter and Smiths ownership that the sleighs were replaced with the cars seen in the Carousel today. The Carousel was fitted with an electric motor in 1951, however, its steam mechanism survives. Few carousel steam engines are still operational as most have been converted to a more modern power supply. In Australia there remain two steam engine rides still in use: Laurie's steam powered merry-go-round built in 1898 and 'The Gallopers' Carousel dating from 1882 and operating from the Hobart Botanic Gardens. The Kale family repurchased their Carousel in 1957 however it remained a permanent fixture at the Manly Fun Pier until the 1970s.During the 1970s the carousel was erected in The Rocks within the shell of a former warehouse on the corner of Harrington Street and Argyle Street. In the 1980s a shopping centre 'Clocktower Square' was built on the site. By 1985 the Carousel had made its last appearance at the Royal Easter Show but featured as part of the Festival of Sydney in 1986.In mid 1986 the Kale's sold the carousel to the Darling Harbour Authority while continuing to operate and maintain the attraction. Prior to its placement in Darling Harbour repairs were carried out and the horses and other decorative elements were copied for the 1987 Powerhouse Museum exhibition on revolutionary steam technology. Alan Kale and the Museum's curators advised on the repairs and rewiring of the carousel which were undertaken by the Public Works Department. Inappropriate fixtures and wiring, including fluorescent lights, were removed and replaced with incandescent lights. When the repaired carousel was erected in Darling Harbour in 1987 a number of the moving figurines from the organ were removed and placed in storage. It was decided that a permanent canopy be erected to protect the historic structure. The modern canopy was designed by the Sydney architect Feiko Bouman and the structural design was undertaken by Birzulis Associates in 1992. In its initial configuration the canopy was open. However, to prevent vandalism, roller shutters were installed four years later. Once again the Kales undertook extensive repairs to the carousel at their workshop, including timber replacement, painting, glass and mirror replacements and sign writing. The rise and fall mechanisms of the horses were also repaired. In 1995 the organ broke down and had to be disassembled and the bellows reskinned. The carved figures were refurbished and were returned to their positions in 1996 once the roller shutters had been installed. The organ is one of a few Gerbruder organs in working condition in Australia and the only 52 key roll playing organ. The carousel continues to operate on weekends and during the holiday periods.
Historical significance: The Darling Harbour Carousel and Band Organ is closely associated with the late Victorian and early Federation era of country fairs and amusement parks and the introduction of mechanical amusement devices. Carousels formed an integral component of fairgrounds and travelling shows which were a focus of entertainment and recreational activities of the time. The Carousel at Darling Harbour is associated with numerous celebrations and historic events, such as the opening of Luna Park and the celebrations of Sydney Harbour Bridge opening.The Carousel and Organ meets this criterion on a State level.The historical significance of the Carousel and Organ is demonstrated by associations with the following historic events and cultural celebrations:Celebrations at Customs House, Circular Quay, for the arrival of the AmericanNaval 'White' Fleet, 1912.Royal Easter Show 1920s-1939 and 1970s-1985.Annual Charity Fete at Government House (Dates).Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.Opening of Luna Park.The termination of operations at Manly Pier in response to War time restrictions.
Historical association: The Carousel and Band Organ has associations with the Kale Family, long term owners and operators of the Carousel from its arrival in Australia in 1894 till 1951, returning to their ownership in 1957 until its sale to the Darling Harbour Authority in the mid 1980s. The Kale family were retained by the Darling Harbour Authority as operators of the Carousel until c.2005.The Carousel has associations with Herbert Thompson the Australian Engineer and designer of the first Australian motor vehicle, the steam driven 'phaeton' (1896) the only known Australian built Carousel (1915)
Aesthetic significance: In 1910 Australian Engineer Herbert Thompson is known to have designed and installed, some 26 years after its arrival in Australia, a system to allow for the Carousel horses to gallop through a rise and fall motion (See 7.16). This system comprised a series of cranked shafts off a central drive shaft, these components being renewed in 1948, with some wrought iron components replaced in steel in 1976. Originally operated by steam engine the Carousel has been upgraded to operate by either steam or electricity by 1963. At the time of writing the boiler has been out of operation since 1986. In 1927 the Carousel incorporated a Band Organ manufactured by German Company 'Gebruder Bruder', one of three imported to Australia in 1924. The 52 key organ is pneumatically operated and controlled by piano rolls. It is thought to be the only of its make to remain in operation in Australia.The Carousel is rich in decoration and embellishments typical of carnival and fairground aesthetics. Its decorative elements are representative of an English style of Carousel translated into an Australian idiom in the 1920s through the incorporation of artwork of an Australiana nature, depicting native fauna, convicts and redcoats, Manly ferries and Sydney tramcars.The Carousel is understood to be the oldest operating Carousel in New South Wales. The 52 key roll playing Gebruder Bruder Band Organ is thought to be the only one of its type which remains in operation in Australia. Although several Gebruder Bruder organs are known to exist, such as that associated with the Canberra Civic Centre this organ unusually operates on pianola style roll as opposed to sheet music.The Carousel and Band Organ meets this criterion on a State level.The aesthetic significance of the Carousel and Organ is demonstrated by:The only known Carousel to have had artworks modified in the Australian idiom.The retention of the original wooden horses as well as decorative features such as escutcheons, painted screens, mirrors and adornments.The decorative band organ.The technical significance / creative achievement of the Carousel and Organ isdemonstrated by:The retention of early mechanisms from 1910 which provided for the rise and fall motion of horsesRetention of steam engine and boiler associated with the original operations prior to electrification.The only band organ from its group of importation to retain a direct and operational relationship with its original fairground attraction.
Social significance: The Carousel and Band Organ have a long association with recreation and entertainment in New South Wales since 1894 as well as associations with key cultural events and national celebrations.The Carousel is known to have provided entertainment in 1912 for the official celebrations at Circular Quay for the arrival of the American Naval 'White' Fleet, the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the early months of Luna Park's operations. The Carousel travelled throughout NSW for agricultural shows, fairs and events and was a regular fixture at the Royal Easter Show 1920s-1939 and the annual charity fete at Government House. Since the 1940s the Carousel has been a permanent fixture at Manly Wharf (1940s-1970s), The Rocks (1976-1986) and its current location at Darling Harbour (1986-present) The Carousel has established significance to the people of NSW through its long association with key cultural and commemorative events providing entertainment and leisure.The Carousel and Organ meets this criterion on a State level.The social significance of the Carousel and Organ is demonstrated by:Royal Easter Show 1920s-1939 and 1970s-1985.Annual Charity Fete at Government House.Associations with the experiences of several generations.
Research significance: The Carousel has the ability to demonstrate the workings of an English steam-driven carousel as they were operated at the turn of the twentieth century.The Band Organ has the potential to yield information about the design and operation of rare roll operated Band Organs.The Carousel and Organ meets this criterion on a State level.The research significance of the Carousel and Organ is demonstrated by:The retention of early mechanisms from 1910 which provided for the rise and fall motion of horsesRetention of steam engine and boiler associated with the original operations prior to electrification.The only band organ from its group of importation to retain a direct and operational relationship with its original fairground attraction.
Rare assessment: The Darling Harbour Carousel and Band Organ is one of the very few traditional carousels surviving in the world which retains its original form and fittings, especially its steam propulsion unit, intact and in working order (albeit now not in operational use).The Darling Harbour Carousel is believed to be the second oldest operating carousel in Australia, and the oldest in NSW. The Darling Harbour Carousel has been operated by a single family for most of its life and thus reflects the tradition of the carnival family that is a central aspect of the cultural environment that created such machines in the second half of the 19th Century.The 52 key Gebruder Bruder roll playing band organ is thought to be the only of its type which remains operational in Australia, and the only organ to remain with the Carousel for which it originally accompanied.The Darling Harbour Carousel and Band Organ provide an opportunity to experience a traditional amusement park "joy ride".The Carousel and Band Organ meet this criterion on a State level.The rarity of the Carousel and Organ is demonstrated by:The only Band Organ of its type to remain in operation in Australia.The oldest operating Carousel in NSW.
Representative assessment: The Darling Harbour Carousel is a representative example of English carousels imported to Australia as fairground attractions in the late Victorian and Federation periods. The Carousel embodies the principle characteristics of English Carousels in its design, operating in a clock-wise direction as opposed to the American anti-clockwise action. The ornate detailing and stylistic characteristics of the Carousel reflect those from the Victorian period and with unique addition of artworks of the Australian idiom the Carousel reflects the influences of social and historical commentaries from the earliest period of its operation throughout New South Wales and its importance to popularist recreation of the day.The Carousel and Organ meets this criterion on State a level.The rarity of the Carousel and Organ is demonstrated by:The clock-wise rotation of the Carousel, indicative of its English origins.The Victorian period detailing, retained regardless of the introduction of artworks of the Australian idiom.
Intact assessment: The Darling Harbour Carousel is a rare, complete and intact example of an Edwardian carousel, and is representative of a wider variety of similar machines. The Darling Harbour Carousel retains its steam engine and original workings, and demonstrates the methods of construction and operation that are associated with the "golden age" of carousels (1890s and 1920s).
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing cultural institutions and ways of life||Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities.|
|Marking the phases of life||Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||1620||29/06/2002||4987||106|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||1620||The Carousel||28/06/2002||4987||106|