Thursford has become synonymous with the magic of Christmas, the wonder of performance and the joy of a shared experience, but it's not just a wintertime wonderland, the Thursford Collection offers a truly unique visitor experience from April to September.
Walking through the collection takes you back in time but, unlike a museum, there's an overwhelmingly personal feel to the collection and a spine-tingling overload for the senses. There are rows of glistening steam engines, all stunningly preserved, there's the tinkling sound of fairground organs that send childhood memories sweeping through you and the colourful sight of the graceful carousel horses that make you want to reach out a hand to touch one.
There are just a couple of weeks of the season remaining, so don't miss the chance to step back in time and experience the impressive collection founded by George Thomas Henry Cushing. George was born in Thursford in 1904, he was the son of a farm labourer and developed a love of steam engines as a young boy. Before he reached the age of 20 he had already landed himself a job driving a steam roller and went on to buy an engine and set up his own business which quickly flourished.
By the end of the 1930s, steam engines were being replaced by internal combustion engines and heading for the scrap yards; George saw this as an opportunity to buy old engines and lovingly restore them to their former glory. Word of his collection spread and like-minded steam-enthusiasts started to travel to Thursford to see the impressive collection of beautifully restored engines; from here began the makings of a dedicated museum. George Cushing was appointed MBE in 1989 and saw Thursford's success grow over the years with the expansion of the visitor experience to include the annual Christmas show, the Thursford Spectacular. George died in 2003 at the age of 98, leaving a family business that draws thousands of visitors every year and can boast the largest Christmas show in the country.
As well as the world's largest collection of steam traction engines, visitors can enjoy the magical sounds of fairground organs. George was taken to the fair as an eight year old boy and it's a memory that stayed with him; the magic of the rides and the lights and sounds of the organs inspired the collection you see today. The Mighty Wurlitzer is the centrepiece of the Collection and there are two 30-minute shows with resident organist, Robert Wolfe each day during the Summer Season at 12.30pm and 2pm. You can also ride the stunning 1896 Gallopers fairground ride, or sit back and ride in the Venetian Gondola with its gentle ups and downs. Rides are not included in general admission and are £2 per person.
The Thursford Collection is open until Thursday 21st September, Sunday to Thursday 11am to 4pm with last admission at 3pm. Tickets are £5.50 for adults and free for under 16s. While you're visiting, there is also a restaurant, a picnic area, an adventure play park for children and an 'olde worlde' village of shops, where you can indulge yourself with traditional sweets, British jams and chutneys and a Christmas shop that is open year-round.
Every year thousands of people travel from all over the country to be dazzled by the three-hour stage show of music, singing, dancing, humour and variety with a cast of 130 performers. The show is open from 8th November to 23rd December with performances at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets sell out very quickly, so check the website for availability and prices.
Children can experience the wonder of Christmas by visiting Santa's Magical Journey, a walk-though wonderland. The journey takes you past penguins and polar bears and busy elves wrapping toys before you walk through the magical woodland to Santa's house. Santa's Magical Journey is open 25th November to 23rd December and must be booked in advance - see the website for availability, tickets are from £16.50 per child and £10.50 per adult.
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