Barnum in the Blood is an exciting exhibition that traces the family history of Southport Pleasureland owner, Norman Wallis. It takes visitors back over 150 years to find out where it all started for one of the ‘first families of fun’.
Norman is a sixth-generation showman and his own children have inherited the Wallis passion for the business. The family has strong links with the earliest days of the Pleasureland park, stretching back to almost a century.
Until the 17th December, The Atkinson in Southport is playing host to a huge display of archive pictures and narratives and even features notes from a 1906 newspaper article which dubs the great, great, great grandfather of Norman’s ‘The Seaforth Barnum’. He got this name following the arrival of his four abreast Gallopers (carousel horses) at the resort.
A Barnum history
Norman grew up with ‘Barnum business’ in his blood. He brought creative drive and ambition that quickly propelled him into national and international theme park consultancy work.
The family’s love affair with the amusement business began in London’s West End in October 1833 with the birth of Henry James Wallis. As Henry grew and he ventured into the world of work, his business couldn’t have been further from the world of amusements! While living and working in London, he plied his trade as an ‘umbrella maker’, which was a fairly appropriate trade given the capital’s weather!
Eventually, he headed to Liverpool and married his wife Ann Morgan. It was here he moved into photography, but it sparked a new calling. The entertainment industry beckoned and a dynasty was born.
In 1907, ‘The Showman’ noted the work of Henry James:
‘A very enterprising showman is Mr H. Wallis, of Wallis’ Carnival, whose name throughout the showman world is as familiar as the proverbial household words.’
‘During the past three weeks his carnival has been located at the Spion Kop, Garston, Liverpool, where pleasure-seekers have had full opportunity of enjoying a merry rise on the electrical jumping horses, viewing an interesting series of films projected by the cinematograph, riding on flying machines to their great delight, trying their skill at coconut shies, and shooting at water globules, besides taking part in all the other excellent fun of the fair. From Spion Kop Mr Wallis moves on to Wavertree, Liverpool with Wigan Fair to follow.’
Visit the exhibition today
This exciting exhibition charts the Wallis family’s innovations and development of new rides and amusements which has eventually led to the Southport Pleasureland you know and love today. Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to learn where it all started. Find out opening times on The Atkinson website.