Manufacturer(s): Wards, Bennetts, Cadoxton, Hrubetz (imported)
Debut year: 1958
First UK produced: 1975
Last UK produced: 1982
Total UK number: approx 55
Summary: A simple concept utilising centrifugal force. The wheel has cage
compartments on the circumference, and force pins the riders against this
(similar to a Rotor). The axis inclines towards vertical and the riders
experience the centrifugal force combined with the pull away/towards the
cage through gravity as the machine rotates. For the showmen this is one
of the most compact machines around.
The story of the Meteorite is made more interesting in that the ride persisted as a unique "novelty" for nearly 20 years, before manufacture (and import) of the ride began in earnest in the mid 1970s. The Meteorite always appeared to be a good idea, and a simple construction, though we are left guessing as to why it took so long to make such a deep impact on the UK fairground.
The first machine in this country was also the first machine in Europe, showmen Manson and Emde buying it for Germany before quickly selling it to Rose Brothers in 1958. Manson and Emde went on to open more Meteorite rides, whilst Rose Brothers quickly sold the UK based machine to Eddie Monte, where it enjoyed prime locations with the Pat Collins fair. The extent that this machine travelled (featuring at some time at every major fair) led some people to believe that more than one machine was around, but the fact remained that the Meteorite was a true novelty for many years. Monte sold the machine to Scottish family Grahams in 1961, where it continued to feature at many of the major fairs. In 1977, just as the manufacture of the machine in the UK began to reach epidemic proportions, it was sold to Ireland where it can still be found opening a modern antique if there ever was such a thing.
Rose Brothers' Meteorite at Oxford St Giles, 1958.
The last outing for the original machine, Galway Races, 2002.
This first Meteorite was a Hrubetz machine, and
these machines would later feature heavily on the UK fairground.
The Hrubetz Meteorites were 12-section machines, and the second
Meteorite to arrive in the UK was another Hrubetz delivered to Blackpool
Pleasure Beach in 1969. This ride was themed "Astroswirl"
and has remained on site in the dome structure until 2003 when it
was advertised for sale (now themed "Millennium Bug").
The ride recently passed to Southport. A third Hrubetz ride featured
early in the UK, a machine imported in may 1975 from Canada by Michael
The Blackpool machine (the second UK Meteorite) plays on the Millennium
Michael Phillips presents the third Meteorite in the UK, shown here in
1975 was, however, an important year for the Meteorite
for another reason: Sam Ward beginning manufacture of their famous machine.
Reg Gale took the prototype machine (travelled recently by Glen Miller),
and this 10 section version proved a major success with Wards building
a further 13 machines between 1977 and 1981 (see attached list for full
histories). The Wards rides gradually increased with individual theming,
setting the scene for the 80s decade to be marked by both the Meteorite
and the parallel developing Orbiter ride. Wards developed unique gates
and fencing as well as shaped head and body rests in "diamonds and
hearts" designs giving the Meteorite an unforgettable flavour.
The name of the ride began to diversify to include all aspects of outer
space travel and cosmology.
The original Sam Ward Meteorite, seen here in 1979.
A fine example of a contemporary Meteorite - Slater's Ward-built "Asteroid"
in Sheffield, 2001.
Wards main UK competitor was Cadoxton, a South Wales
based enterprise that had built a few individual rides. The Cadoxton Meteorite
was again a 10 piece construction, with Pat Evans taking the first example
for his park at Porthcawl. Approximately 10 other Cadoxton rides were
built, with many still in operation.
Billy Roberts' Cadoxton Meteorite, 1978.
Bennetts also built 4 machines, these carrying the distinct
Bennett handrails, and having a slightly heavier appearing centre construction
(although still 10 piece). Bennetts' success obviously lay elsewhere during
this time and between 1977 and 1979 the following owners took delivery
of a Bennetts Meteorite: J. Greatorex, A. Manning at Margate, J. Murphy
(exported in 1980), T. Smith.
Margate 1980, showing all the Bennetts characteristics.
The remaining Meteorites in the UK consist of imported
machines alongside a few home-built efforts. Hrubetz remains the prime
source of imported models, their 12 section construction being the giveaway
factor. Early imports not previously mentioned include Alf Burgess in
1979, John Wall in 1980, Chipperfields at Weymouth in 1980, Hunstanton
Park in 1978, S. Bailey in 1981, W. Coneley in 1978 and an early example
opening on Skegness Pier under the name Mitchell (and later appearing
on the "club car park" at Hull). More recent imports include
Billy Joe Butlin, J. Manning, Jason Price, Michael Price and J. Crole.
Home built and mystery machines include J. Bateman,
Stanley Thurston's 2 machines, Jamie Raywood, J. Bomber Smith, J.W.
Adcroft (built by J. Rennie) and George McFadden's unique miniature
version resident in Ireland. Finally we cannot forget S. J. Cubbins'
1977 "Perez" import, still going strong in the Lancashire
section. This makes a total of approximately 55 machines having
travelled in the UK, with 50 of these machines still in operation.
Not bad for something that took nearly 20 years to establish itself
as something other than a novelty.
For an updated version of this article, which
includes a detailed history of the first Meteorite in the UK, see
the Fairground Mercury Volume 30, Number 2.
Skegness Pier 1980, what became of this?
S.J. Cubbins' unique Perez-built Meteorite, seen here in 1980.