The Wittingslow family is one of Australia’s oldest carnival families, adding fun to agricultural shows since the 1930s.
Known as amusement ride and country fair Royalty across the show circuit, the family business has been passed down through four generations starting with founder Thomas George Wittingslow.
He was an apprentice at the Melbourne fun parlour, before working small shows and fairs in country Victoria.
Thomas’s life-long passion for carnival rides and games was ignited at his first Royal Melbourne Agricultural Show. His ‘Guess Your Weight’ game was a big hit, and he was ready to share the joy and exhilaration of the carnival with others.
In the 1940s Thomas and his son Des travelled around attending local country fairs with their games. They were responsible for introducing some of the first thrill rides to the Royal Melbourne Agricultural Show. While the first steam-powered mechanical carousel, invented by Thomas Bradshaw, appeared in England in 1861, it was Thomas Wittinslow who introduced Australia to the merry-go-round.
Pictured: Thomas Wittingslow on the Octopus Ride. Photo source: Wittingslow Amusements
The Wittingslow family not only brought many rides to Australia from around the world, they also invented them. When you think about most sideshow alleys, today the first thing that springs to mind might be the smiling clowns, a Wittingslow invention.
While the Wittingslow operation went into receivership in 2001 ending an era for Australia's east coast agricultural shows, the family have returned to shows, now trading as Amusements Australia. The company is now run by Thomas’ grandson Michael, with his wife Manya, and son Morgan.
In an interview with the Herald Sun, Michael Wittingslow said the family continues to tour rides and amusements all over Australia and internationally.
“Since my grandfather ... first began touring rides and amusements to small shows and fairs in regional Victoria in 1932, we have grown our family business and involvement with communities all over Australia,” he said.
From left to right, Morgan, Manya and Michael Wittingslow. Photo source: Herald Sun