I do visit the site several times over the year, recording the activities from busy farm life, through the build up of the Steam Fair
to the break down after the event and the full cycle back to the active farm.
The Great Dorset Steam Fair is one of several events I travel to on the road with the owners and engines, spending many days and nights out on the road escorting and
photographing the engines. The engines and crews travel from all over the Country to the event, and then do the same when they leave the site for other events or returning to their
It is reputedly the largest collection of steam and vintage equipment to be seen anywhere in the world. The fair was founded by the Dorset Steam & Historic
Vehicle Club and has been held in Dorset, England, every summer since 1969. The show is now run by Michael Oliver's son, Martin Oliver through Great Dorset Steam Fair Ltd.
Established in 1969, for the first 15 years of its existence the steam fair (then known as the 'Great Working of Steam Engines') was
held at Stourpaine Bushes, then in 1985 it temporarily moved to nearby Everley Hill, as Bushes Farm were delayed in harvesting the crops from the fields used by the steam fair due to the weather
conditions. In 1988, after 3 years at Everley Hill, where access by large crowds was difficult, it moved to its current permanent home at Tarrant Hinton, north of Blandford Forum, where access
is vastly improved. The fair now attracts up to 200,000 visitors.
The numerous exhibits are traction engines, tractors and farm machinery, but there are also sections for classic cars and commercial
vehicles, working shire horses, rustic crafts, 'bygones' displays, and more. The show also has a market, auto jumble live music and funfair (some of which is powered by the steam engines). The
funfair has traditional rides such as gallopers and steam boats, as well as modern ones like the "World Fair Wheel" which was sited in Manchester for the millennium. It is the biggest gathering
of fairground organs in the UK.
The show regularly attracts around 200,000 visitors, and there can be 30,000 people on site, making the fair the fifth largest
population centre in Dorset, after Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth and Christchurch (the population of the historic town of Dorchester being only half that number).
A speciality of the show is the display of traction engines and steam rollers performing the work for which they were designed.
Such displays include heavy haulage, threshing, sawing logs, ploughing and road-making. The main arena of the show is purposely sited on the slope of a hill to allow both steam- and internal
combustion-powered machinery to demonstrate their capacity for heavy load hauling. One of the main displays is the "Showman's Line Up", in the vintage fairground section, which is thought to be
the largest collection of showman's engines in the world.
Since 2003, the show has contracted its own radio station, Steam Fair FM, broadcasting 24 hours daily from the Saturday prior to the
show, to the Monday following – 10 days in all. The station, which is also streamed on the internet, covers show news and views, weather and other relevant information with plenty of listener
dedications and a format of "Vintage Hits". During the event, the station is advertised on roads in the surrounding area and provides traffic news for drivers using the A354 Blandford to
Salisbury road that passes the show site. Due to sponsorship issues, it was announced in February 2015 that it will not be running in 2015, but as a result of listening to public opinion this
decision was reversed.
For the 40th anniversary, in 2008, the organisers recreated the very first fair, by tracing all of the exhibits that were displayed
at the 1969 show.
The end of the fair used to be marked with the Director's Thanksgiving Service on the Sunday, at 12 noon, which takes place on the stage of Dean's Bioscope,
organised for many years by Chris Edmonds, the Lay Chaplain until his death in 2007.
The Rev'd Dr Michael Foster, a friend of Chris, and the local Rector of Tarrant Hinton, continued to organise the Thanksgiving
Service, with Sally, Chris' widow. Fr Michael was appointed Chaplain to the Show at the Thanksgiving Service September 2011, having been Assistant Chaplain for some four
years. It was Fr Michael who conducted the founder of the Fair, Michael Oliver's Funeral in 2009. The Directors' Thanksgiving Service is now organised to begin the Show, on
the opening Wednesday, as was the practice in some past years.
Prior to the 2013 event I had more road journeys to the event than the norm. This was due to travelling with some of the Steam Rollers. I also escorted two of the rollers back to their base after the event and was able to record these journey with
photographs etc. This took several days travelling through the quiet Wiltshire Countryside and stopping overnight.
On 31 August 2013, GDSF set a new World Record for the largest parade of steam rollers, when 103 rollers were driven into the main
arena for a photo call. This took almost half a day to get them all set up in the main arena and was a wonderful site to see. The previous record had been set by GDSF in 2003 with
32 steam rollers. The requirements for the record attempt, which took place on a newly created 80m-long (260 ft) section of road at the showground, included the fact the vehicles had to be moving.
The citation from Guinness World Records is as follows 'The largest parade of steam rollers consists of 103 vintage steam rollers and was achieved by the Great Dorset Steam Fair (UK) in Tarrant
Hinton, Dorset, UK, on 31 August 2013'.
A regular section of the fair is the road making demonstration, where workers in period costume use vintage equipment to demonstrate
how roads were built before the invention of tarmacadam, using crushed stone. An extra section of road was built during the 2013 show, for the purpose of breaking the record: "greatest number of
steam rollers going over a newly laid piece of road". The 103 steam rollers, and a large number of diesel rollers, were all driven over the new section of road before continuing to the main arena.
"Lord Jellicoe", a Fowler formerly owned by the founder of the fair, Michael Oliver, was the 33rd roller in the procession and hence the first to break the record. Also taking part in the parade was
"Betsy", the Aveling & Porter roller restored by steeplejack, Fred Dibnah.
The 2001 event also saw the public debut of the home-built Hudspith Steam Bicycle.
It should be noted that Michael Oliver was not the sole founder of the Great Dorset steam fair, he was part of a group of
The list is as follows:
President; Mr G. J. Romanes, M.A, M.R.C.S, D.O.M.S.
Vice President; Mr E.C. Hines.
Chairman; Mr J. E. B. Pocock
Vice Chairman; Mr M. F. Oliver
Treasurer; Mr N. J. Fincham
Public relations officer; Mr A. Imber.
Joint secretaries; Mr & Mrs J. Cluet.
Sub committee for the event;
T. M. Abbot, J. Antell, A. S. Braddick, J. Cluet, A. W. Field, G. A. Fincham, N. J. Fincham. F. Franklin, S. J. Garrett, H. Gray, E.
C. Hine, A. Imber, G. J. Romanes.
Secretary M. F. Oliver.
It should be noted that this list has been taken from the Souvenir Program and guide from the first very first show dated September