The National Fairground Archive at University of Sheffield

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The National Fairground Archive (NFA) was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield in 1994, with the support of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain and the Fairground Association of Great Britain. Housed in the Main Library, it is a unique collection of photographic, printed, manuscript and audiovisual material covering all aspects of the culture of travelling showpeople, their organisation as a community, their social history and everyday life; and the artefacts and machinery of fairgrounds.

Venue Type:

Library, Archive

Opening hours

The National Fairground Archive is open from Monday to Wednesday, from 9.30 to 4.30 and Thursday from 9.30 to 4.30 by appointment only.

The University Library is fully equipped with modern information technology, photocopying facilities and a photographic service, and these are all available to visitors to the collections.

The NFA collections are continuing to grow: there are now over 80,000 images in the photographic collection, in addition to audio and video material, journals and magazines, and nearly 3,000 monographs. The collection also includes a unique body of fairground ephemera (programmes, handbills, posters, charters and proclamations, plans and drawings).

The NFA represents an important part of the cultural heritage of the nation. It is a primary resource of rich potential for research at every level; it provides a new and exciting source of teaching material for primary and secondary education, and provides access to a wealth of popular cultural history both for the Fairgound enthusiast and for the public at large.

Central to the collection is the newspaper and cuttings archive which includes a complete run of the World's Fair newspaper and also 150 scrap-books compiled by fairground enthusiasts from regional and national publications. These have recently been added to with scrapbooks detailing fairs in Cumbria and North Lancashire. The documentary holdings are constantly being updated with the additional publications of books and articles relating to fairs and showpeople. The Archive presently holds over 4000 monographs and articles published from the 1790s onwards and claims to be largest repository for printed material on the history of fairs. The periodicals section of the Archive is equally comprehensive and full listings of magazines and quarterlies such as the Fairground Mercury, the Merry-Go-Round, Steaming, Platform, Key Frame and others can all be found within the collection. The donation of the Circus Friends Association library and over 90 circus periodicals have greatly expanded the circus and allied performance material. The circus holdings have developed over the past five years with the Smart family archives forming an essential part of this. This unique family collection charts their history as fairground showmen to presenting one of the great British circuses from 1947 onwards, and is a fitting tribute to the Gov'nor Mr Billy Smart - the founder of Smart's Circus.

Collection details

Archives, Photography, Social History

Key artists and exhibits

  • Fairgrounds
  • Showpeople
  • Fairground rides
  • Billy Smart and Smart's Circus
  • Ron Taylor
  • Jack Leeson
  • Stuart Johnson
  • George Tucker
  • Lionel Bathe

The National Fairground Archive at University of Sheffield
The National Fairground Archive
Western Bank Library
University of Sheffield
Western Bank
South Yorkshire
S10 2TN



Prof. Vanessa Toulmin, Director


Reading room

0114 222 7231


0114 222 7290

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.