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History – Family & Fairs


JW The Shaw family’s fairground roots can be traced back to Sheffield in the early part of the 20 th Century, where the family spent its winter months.

Shaw’s operated in Sheffield and at numerous other Yorkshire fairs including the large Leeds feasts, as well as travelling further a field to places such as Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester.

The first generation of the family to travel was Walter Shaw Snr with stalls, although he later acquired some Steam Swings around 1897 before selling them to Pullens after a number of years. Walter also owned an intriguing ride called the Wiggle Woggle. This travelled extensively, putting in regular appearances at the Christmas Fair in the Agricultural Hall in Islington, London.

For many years, Walter also travelled a Switchback for many years, that was later converted from the traditional motor car theme into the ‘Diving Whales’.

Walter had four sons, John, William, Walter and Charles.

John Shaw, travelled Dodgems before and after WW2, a type of ride that would become very important to the family over the years, and which remains a staple part of their offering today. Later he would equip himself with some children’s rides and a Helter Skelter, or ‘slip’. A Mono Rail, Moon Rocket and a Noah’s Ark (ex-Kit Johnson) were other notable attractions travelled by John, the latter two eventually taken over by his sons.

John himself had four sons, Walter, John, Joseph & Herbert,

Walter Shaw (II) travelled a Mono Rail and, briefly during WW2, a caterpillar.

It was Bill Shaw that travelled the Arks on behalf of the family, although the first wasn’t retained for very long. The second was sold in 1937 following the big Newcastle Hoppings fair. A third such machine was acquired in 1937, a real masterpiece from the works of Ortons. Bill also travelled a set of Chair-O-Planes during WW2, managed by Danny Hamer. Bill became the second member of the Shaw family to acquire a Dodgem, a brand new track from the famous manufacturer Supercar. This ride usually travelled in Yorkshire but also had positions at fairs in East Lancashire.

Bill had two sons and a daughter; John, Bill and Pat.

At the periphery of the business was Charles Shaw, organising entertainment at carnivals and outdoor events. He did, however, join the Showmen’s Guild, the fairground trade association, and travelled a Mono Rail for a period in the 1930s.

The third generation Walter Shaw travelled the Moonrocket and a very exciting ride for the time, the Hurricane Jets. Walter also had a number of children’s rides, including the Happy Caterpillar built by Maxwell’s of Musselburgh, and in which he had a hand in designing. As in the past, the rides appeared in both counties, but, significantly, Walter eventually chose Lancashire as his base, establishing winter quarters in the town of Westhoughton near Bolton. Walter had two children, John Walter and Christina, who married Anthony Harris from the Midlands.

John & Herbert Shaw, who took over John Snr’s Dodgems, formed a partnership to acquire the business of Arthur Bates and travelled under that name for several years, both with the Dodgems and an Autodrome. The duo also acquired the rights to stage fairs in many towns and villages throughout Lancashire and Cheshire. In the 50s they made their name with a set of Jets, presenting them each year at the famous Nottingham Goose Fair. Later, the Autodrome was sold, and the brothers branched out on their own, John with the Dodgems, and Herbert with a Waltzer. John would continue under the flag of Arthur Bates Amusements, while Herbert traded as J&H Shaw Pleasure Fairs Ltd. Herbert’s last machine was a Flying Coaster, and John stopped travelling around 10 years ago, handing control of the Arthur Bates fairs to John Walter Shaw.

Joe Shaw made his living travelling his father’s Ark on the old Johnson run in Yorkshire. This machine eventually passed to his son Anthony, who opens the ride to this day in Wakefield city centre.


John Walter Shaw, who gave his name to the current business, travelled from 1974 onwards with an Easyrider (the modern day version of a Noah’s Ark) that doubled as a Waltzer. He later bought one of the latest novelty rides from the continent, the Ramba Zamba, famous for its characteristic ‘hissing’ sound. The Ramba Zamba was later replaced by the even more modern Orbiter, and when John retired, John Walter took over the Dodgems, later upgrading to a new track from Reverchon of France.

John Walter’s Dodgems and Orbiter, together with the Waltzer – now known as the ‘Razzamatazz’ – now form the nucleus of attractions offered by JW Shaw Amusements, complemented by children’s attractions including the Star Combat ride and inflatable slide.

Although the family is now well established in Lancashire, these rides still travel into Yorkshire – and beyond – occupying some of the old positions established over the years by their ancestors.

John Walter’s wife, Marissa (neé Armstrong), now spearheads the family firm, with children Farrar and Narvenka fully focused on taking the business forward into the next generation.

Information kindly supplied by Eddie Kelly and others.

Contact us now to see how JW Shaw Amusements bring all the fun of the fair to your next event.

Image of J.W.Shaw Amusements fuunfair rides, graphic

JW Shaw Amusements is a member of The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain.

Image of Shaw's Dodgems courtesy of Michael Smith


Image Shaw's Jets courtesy of Michael Smith


Image of Walter Shaw's Moonrocket


Image of Walter Shaw's Hurricane Jets


Image J.W Shaw's Amusements at Halton Show


Image J.W Shaw's Amusements at Halton Show


Image J.W Shaw's Easy Rider


Image of Walter Shaw's Happy Caterpillar built by Maxwell’s of Musselburgh


Image J.W Shaw's Ramba Zamba
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Dodgems for Hire

JWShaw dodgems are available to hire, Contact us now

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Rides for Hire

Selection of rides available to hire from J.W.Shaw Amusements.

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The Shaw family’s fairground roots can be traced back to Sheffield in the early part of the 20th Century.

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