Presland's Fair

Presland's - The Jungle Ride. The National Fairgounrd Archive.
"Reproduced with permission of the University of Sheffield"
Charles Presland's Steam Engine. The National Fairground Archive.
"Reproduced with permission of the University of Sheffield"
Presland's - The Ark. The National Fairground Archive.
"Reproduced with permission of the University of Sheffield"

Presland’s fair that used to park every year in the field off Denbigh Road, Laindon has been mentioned once or twice.  I have been doing a little delving and have found that this fair was run by the Presland family who originated from Deptford, Kent and later appear to have been based in Tilbury.

I have found some online records of the family plus some photographs of the fair on various websites.The records show that Charles Davison Presland was born 4th October 1865. (Davison being his grandmother’s maiden name). His father, born 1843, was also named Charles Davison Presland, and married Elizabeth Maddock in 1865.  His grandfather John Presland married Rebecca Davison in 1822.

In a newspaper interview which was published in 1945, Charles explained that his Grandfather John, had owned a little periscope which he used to take around fairs to get a better view.  He got himself a small roundabout which he pushed around by hand (a novelty at the time).  So the family show started off in a small way and eventually Charles inherited it from his father.  Charles had six sisters and five brothers, but he was the only one of them who carried on the family’s traditional business.

Charles older sister, Elizabeth Mary, was married in 1893.  Her father’s occupation at that time is shown as ‘a traveler’ which indicates the family’s involvement with the fair.

In 1899 Charles married Susan Reynolds.

Records from 1908 shows that Charles Presland enrolled two children into infant school.  Susannah and Alfred Presland.  Address at that time was given as Exhibition Ground, Quaker Street, Tower Hamlets.  In 1925, Susannah Presland married Alfred J White.

Charles Presland died 2nd January 1952.  His address was given as Caravan Fairground, Orient Field, Tilbury, Essex.  Probate was granted to Alfred Presland, Albert Edward Presland (amusement caterers) and Susannah White (a widow).

Albert Edward Presland died 28th Dec 1959, his address was given as The Fairgrounds, St Chads Road,  Tilbury, Essex.  Apparently Alfred (Alfie) carried on the business.

During the 40s, Charles had been the owner of a steam engine called Princess Mary, Burrell 8nhp, built for a William Nicholls of Forest Gate, Essex in 1923.If you go into the following link and scroll down, you will see photos of Presland’s Fair at Earl’s Colne Show, where they used to park up at the edge of the cricket field.  Also a photo of ‘Princess Mary’ pulling a row of trailers.

I wonder did anyone see this wondrous sight when the fair came into Laindon?

I’m not certain what remains of the business today, but when I ‘googled’, I found the following address:  Presland Amusements, Fairground, St. Chads Road, TILBURY, RM18 8NL.  Maybe a little more delving may be required.

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  • I remember Presland’s funfair very well!
    They used to visit Tolleshunt D’Arcy every year to provide the entertainment at the annual Horticultural and Flower Show on the first Saturday in July.
    The Meadow where they set up (Carter’s Meadow) was right opposite the local primary school and I remember with great relish how we kids used to line the school fence in the 1950s and watch all the lorries and the famous
    steam engine bring all the rides and various stalls in.
    We used to go back to the meadow after school and watch as they built all the ride – Dodgems, Noahs Ark, Swinging Boats etc.
    They were wonderful times and as a schoolboy aged between 7 and 11 years -old it was so exciting.
    I can never recall it raining to spoil our big day and sadly I can’t remember when Presland’s Funfair ceased coming to our village.
    Wonderful times always remembered!

    By Francis Ponder (now aged 78 years-old) (18/07/2022)
  • I am a distant relation of the Presland family from Deptford. My great great grandfather is Walter Richard Presland who was an older brother of Charles Davison Presland who went into the fairground trade. The rest of the family went in different directions. I know quite a lot about the Presland’s in 19th century Deptford which I am happy to share.

    By Andrew Roberts (06/01/2022)
  • Hello. I remember the Charles Presland fair visiting Bocking School playing field just after the war. This was the first time that we had ever seen so many electric lights in one go after the blackout. Probably 1946. Everything was driven by the magnificent steam engine which ticked over with a long belt clacking away. I remember 3 engines on the road with the names Mary, Elizabeth and ?????
    They used to move on to Halstead next to the river on what was always know as the fairground which belonged to the travellers. (hearsay) It was an annual event for some years.

    By John Wicks (23/12/2021)
  • I recall one of Presland’s caravan dwellers making humbugs. Just inside the van the lady occupant had hooks fixed to an opposite wall .. she had a large amount of humbug mix which she ‘flung’ onto a hook .. would then stretch it .. several times .. before she made it into humbugs as we recognise them.

    By Andrea (16/02/2021)
  • Princess Mary engine was sold to Mr Presland in 1943, during WW2 it was used to pull down with its winch, bomb damaged buildings and was one of the last to be used commercially until 1958, it’s preserved and shown at steam rallies.

    By Robert Howard (19/12/2020)
  • Hi Nina, yes I remember Presland’s fair very well. When it came to Laindon I was a regular visitor, I was more interested in the equipment, the big lorries and trailers and especially the traction engine than I was of the rides. I once followed the traction engine all the way to Canvey island on my bike, I was only 8 or 9 and had a very small bike, when I got there I realised how far I had come and had to get home, luckily I remembered the way we came. I was told that Presland’s owned the field in Denbigh Road as they used to leave some of their equipment there all year and they generated their electric by big generators on the backs of lorries and also on the traction engine. Presland’s was not the only fair to come to Laindon but the other fairs and circuses used the field at the end of Aston Road. Peter Hayden.

    By Peter Hayden (14/12/2020)
  • I lived next door to Elizabeth Presland she was a daughter of Mr Presland and was married to George Phillips. I got free rides at the Tilbury Fair as they knew I did all Lizzies shopping.

    By Diann (10/12/2020)
  • Hi
    After searching the Web I came across this forum. My great grandfather was Benjamin Presland who run side shows, ie swings, coconut shy and so on. My nan told me she helped her dad when she was little, travelling fairgrounds in the east end of London including Wanstead Fair from the 1920s. As a matter of interest Benjamin also came from Deptford he could be related to Charles Presland. Any further info would be great.

    By Natalie Bury (16/08/2019)
  • Having discovered your website I found the article on Presland’s Fair most interesting. I am trying to find if there is any link between Charles Davison Presland and my paternal Presland family as my father had mentioned that he used to get free rides when taken by his father to Presland’s Amusements when they visited Wanstead Park (probably around 1930 or so). Does the writer of the article have any contact details for surviving members of the family.
    Hope you can assist as I would like to contact them as I have hit a brick wall on research on my Presland family tree.
    Many thanks

    Editor: Unfortunately we don’t have any contact with members of the Presland family. However, if you can supply the name of your father, we may be able to do a bit of research.

    By Terry Presland (05/06/2019)
  • I remember going on the Jungle Ride…also ‘Party Doll’ by Buddy Knox used to be played a lot.

    By John E Burton (24/08/2018)
  • Hello Andrea.  I remember the fair as a child, and when I got married I  moved to Halstead, the fair came to a field opposite our house and I knew Mr. Presland and Mary, and daughter Mrs White.  I last saw Mrs White on the last visit they made to Halstead about 9 years ago, and her sons had taken over the running of it, as far as I know they still own the field, but no longer run the fair at it.  They did at the time own 3 fields at different locations. They would arrive on a weekday and repack on Sunday, it was amazing watching them put it up and taking it down again, very hard working people.

    By Mary Hawkins (15/06/2016)
  • I have fond memories of pulling the rope to swing in the wooden swinging boats!!

    By Helen Sutton (nee Brown) (03/02/2016)
  • I remember the fairground, a wonder to me with the lights and I liked the walkway! It also brings back memories of having to go to the coal yard near where the fair was held to collect with an old pram, a weighed bag of coal which was all my mother could afford, wages being so low.  It was extremely heavy for me to push right down Salisbury Avenue.  With the war everyone had to register with a specified coal merchant, we had Co-op and every week an agent collected the money having enough saved to pay for rationed delivery when the roads were dry enough to use.

    By Thelma Oliver (11/01/2016)
  • Andrea, very interesting. So there were, apparently, large power generators in existence in those days. One mystery solved!

    I wonder about Rawley owning the field. Are you sure Rawley owned your house, Andrea? I always understood that his business, with the little office on stilts opposite Station Approach, was the collection of rents and forwarding on to the various owners who lived away from Laindon. (Minus his commission of course.) I was unaware he actually owned any properties himself. My mother always stopped in at his office to pay our rent. Twelve shillings and six pence a week! I never saw or knew the actual owners of “Lowlands” Raglan Road.

    By Alan Davies (04/01/2016)
  • Andrea, I would have visited my grandparents in Denbigh Road from the time of my birth until such time as their house was compulsorily purchased. So that would be between the years of 1947 until ? Who knows when? Looks as though the memory began to fail quite early. 

    By Donald Joy (04/01/2016)
  • Re the power source used – only a child, but I do remember very large maroon painted lorries at the outskirts of the fair; very noisy, so possibly generators.  Also remember stepping over very thick cables in the grass. Regarding owners of the field, I am guessing it was Mr Rawley; he owned our house, or perhaps it may have been the Turners, who resided in our road and owned the coal yard next door to number 1?  I bet Nina will find out.   

    Donald – I was born in number 1 Denbigh Road in 1943 and my family left there about 1953/4.  I knew all the neighbours. Would this have been the same time of your visits there?

    By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell) (03/01/2016)
  • One final thought or question! In periods of persistent and heavy rain, it must have been difficult if not impossible to transport the heavy and oversize loads comprising the fair from the High Road down the mud soaked cow path called Denbigh Road and set up in the field. The wet conditions must have made the electrical work involved in the setup quite hazardous.

    There was the risk of an initial lorry becoming mired in the mud with backup lorries at a standstill blocking the High Road. The same risks were there when the fair was dismantled prior to moving on to the next location.

    What happened to the attendance during heavy and continual rain? Did the crowd (mostly children) wander around in wellies and were some rides and attractions closed. One wonders how dodgem cars (electrically driven) would have operated on a wet surface with fierce rain driving in at a forty five degree angle. Certainly they would never have passed any modern safety regulation.

    Under such circumstances was the fair closed for the day or the evening? Was a fair ever cancelled entirely in the event of prolonged bad weather? Weather forecasting was in its infancy so any such decision had to be pretty much guesswork.

    So many questions!

    By Alan Davies (02/01/2016)
  • After reading this post and the similar one on the knife throwing incident, I began to think back and came to wonder how this business was organized.

    Presland’s presumably paid a fee for the use of the field in Denbigh Road. Who owned the field, I wonder? The fee must have remained affordable because Presland never sought a different location. Did Presland need a permit of some kind from the BUDC to erect and operate the fair? Did this permit need renewing each time the fair was held? Was it a permanent or annual permit? Was there special permission needed from the ECC to move the huge oversize lorries and equipment? Could they only be moved in the middle of the night to avoid congestion on the roads?

    Was there an advance employee whose job it was to distribute posters, place ads in the local newspaper regarding the dates for the upcoming fair, make sure all the permits and regulations were in place?

    Where was the tax man in all this? Presland’s profits had to be taxed. And it was all in cash. A traveling business, all income in cash, never in the same place for more than a few days, employees all paid in cash. What an ideal business for a tax fiddle!

    Did Presland tie in to the local electrical supply for lighting and power requirements? I doubt there was much available spare power at the foot of Denbigh Road. In any case this would have required more permits and coordination with the electric company. How was this paid for? Or did Presland’s have their own power generator? Did power generators of the size needed even exist back then?

    Lots of questions but I fear most of the answers may be lost in time.

    By Alan Davies (01/01/2016)
  • Is it known, the approximate date of the last visit, by this fair, to the site in Denbigh Road? I ask because my grandparents home in Denbigh Road was immediately adjacent to this field. As a child I spent a lot of time at their house, but at no time do I ever recall the fair having been there. Until now that is. Another little bit of history learned.

    By Donald Joy (01/01/2016)
  • Thank you Nina for your hard work!  Living opposite the field in Denbigh Road, it was sheer bliss when Presland’s visited; I have mentioned this elsewhere on the site.  Great memories, I enjoyed every minute.  Just wonder if anyone remembers a very old lady called Mrs Cakebread (our lodger) who took to the Chair-O-Plane rides – what a sight that made!

    By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell) (31/12/2015)

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