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Savage's Yard, King's Lynn, Norfolk; Recording Britain

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    King's Lynn, United Kingdom (made)

  • Date:

    1942 (Painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jones, Barbara, born 1912 - died 1978 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour painting on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Pilgrim Trust

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In the late 19th century, King's Lynn in Norfolk was a major centre of the manufacture of merry-go-rounds and other fairground attractions. Savage's Yard was the headquarters of the trade, developing and building magnificent steam-powered merry-go-rounds and fairground organs. By the time Barbara Jones painted this desolate scene, however, the traditional fairground had been superseded by more sophisticated amusements.

The brightly-painted horse in the centre of picture would have been placed in the inner circle of a merry-go-round; horses in the outer circle were elaborately carved as well as painted. The two male figures in eighteenth-century dress perched on the organ are automata who would strike bells or drums in time to the organ's music.

Physical description

A watercolour drawing of a room where merry-go-round parts are stored by the manufacturer. The picture is redolent of neglect and decay, the bright figures relegated to a dark and dusty corner. The horse that forms the centre-piece of the picture is only lightly carved, most of the decoration being painted in "trompe l'oeil" in imitation of carving. In the foreground the unravelling concertina of card lies on the floor, and on the organ there are two figures.

Place of Origin

King's Lynn, United Kingdom (made)


1942 (Painted)


Jones, Barbara, born 1912 - died 1978 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour painting on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Barbara Jones 1942'


Height: 21.75 in, Width: 14.625 in

Object history note

This work is from the 'Recording Britain' collection of topographical watercolours and drawings made in the early 1940s during the Second World War. In 1940 the Committee for the Employment of Artists in Wartime, part of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, launched a scheme to employ artists to record the home front in Britain, funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust. It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. Their subjects were typically English: market towns and villages, churches and country estates, rural landscapes and industries, rivers and wild places, monuments and ruins. Northern Ireland was not covered, only four Welsh counties were included, and a separate scheme ran in Scotland.

The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'. Clark also wanted to help artists, and the traditional forms of British art such as watercolour painting, to survive during the uncertain conditions of wartime. He in turn was inspired by America's Federal Arts Project which was designed to give artists employment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Over 1500 works were eventually produced by 97 artists, of whom 63 were specially commissioned. At the time the collection had a propaganda role, intended to boost national morale by celebrating Britain's landscapes and heritage. Three exhibitions were held during the war at the National Gallery, and pictures from the collection were sent on touring exhibitions and to galleries all around the country. After the war, the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949, and it was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. For many years the majority of the collection was on loan to councils and record offices in each county, until recalled by the V&A around 1990. The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time.

Historical context note

The manufacture of merry-go-rounds and other fairground amusements had been an important industry in King's Lynn, with Savage's Yard as the centre of the trade, since the late 19th century. By the time Jones painted this desolate scene, steam-driven merry-go-rounds and fairground organs had been superseded by more technologically sophisticated amusements.

Descriptive line

Watercolour of Savage's Yard, King's Lynn, by Barbara Jones (Recording Britain, Norfolk).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Mellor, David, G. Saunders and P. Wright. Recording Britain: A Pictorial Domesday of Pre-War Britain. 1990. p. 121.
Catalogue of Drawings in the ‘Recording Britain’ Collection given by the Pilgrim Trust to the Victoria and Albert Museum published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Prints, Drawings and Paintings Department, 1951.
The full text of the entry is as follows:
JONES, Barbara.


Savage’s Yard, King’s Lynn.
Signed and dated Barbara Jones 1942.
Inscribed with title.
Water-and body-colour (21 ¾ x 14 5/8)
(Reproduced in colour, VOL.II)

Palmer, Arnold, ed. Recording Britain. London: Oxford University Press, 1946-49. Vol 2: Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, Northhamptonshire and Rutlandshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire. pp.162-163, illus.
Palmer, Arnold, ed. Recording Britain. London: Oxford University Press, 1946-49. Vol 2: Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, Northhamptonshire and Rutlandshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire. Introduction to Norfolk, p.145.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1949, London: HMSO, 1961.
The full text of the record is as follows:

'JONES, Barbara Mildred (1912- )

Savage's Yard, King's Lynn [Norfolk]. (R.B., II, page 163)
Signed and dated in ink Barbara Jones 1942. Inscribed in ink with title.
Water- and body-colour.

Given by the Pilgrim Trust as part of the 'Recording Britain' Collection'
Recording Britain, London, 1946-9. Volume 2, page 163

Exhibition History

Recording Britain (DLI Museum & Durham Art Gallery, Durham 29 March 2013-30 June 2013)
Recording Britain: A Pictorial Domesday of Pre-War Britain (V&A 01/08/1990-18/11/1990)


Paper; Watercolour; Bodycolour


Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted

Topographical views; Horses; Norfolk; Fairgrounds; Carousel horses; King's Lynn; Amusement Rides


Recording Britain Collection

Collection code


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