The Jack Leeson Collection

Scope and Content

The Jack Leeson Collection consists of approximately 11,700 photographs and negatives, both collected and taken by him, and 30 notebooks with detailed lists of every fair visited. Jack Leeson used an elaborate system of cross-referencing which enables the researcher to match the photograph and Jack's account of the fair. Also included are letters, scrapbooks and a collection of records of fairground music. A number of Jack's famous fairground models are on display in the NFA reading room.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Jack Leeson Collection at the National Fairground Archive is a major addition to the resources. Leeson was considered one of the pioneering trio of fairground enthusiasts - along with Rowland Scott and Philip Bradley - who took fairground enthusiasm out of a strict preservation outlook and turned it towards the business of recording contemporary change at all levels - technical, aesthetic, social, etc.

The collection includes approximately images which have been digitised and indexed, and form the bedrock of our fairground-specific cataloguing basis. In addition Leeson also supplied his large collection of meticulous notebook, diaries and correspondence received from Rowland Scott and Philip Bradley.Jack Leeson was a crucial axis in what can be described the 'second generation' of fairground enthusiasts and together with Rowland Scott and Philip Bradley, formed the basis of a new breed of enthusiast interested in the 'here and now' rather than strictly looking to the past. Added to this was their unease at accepting established work as fact, since much of the 'gospel' of the first generation of enthusiasts had been compiled by a select few and became accepted (inaccurately) as truth. Leeson, Scott and Bradley were not afraid to dig around whenever they felt something needed challenging.

Consequently their approach to their hobby became detailed, methodical and fastidious in the extreme. All three of the kept dedicated notebooks which were filled in contemporaneously - these notebooks, once full, stored for safe keeping. Leeson's notebooks, together with his correspondence with Bradley and Scott, are kept here in the Archive, and have proved invaluable in us establishing both a dedicated cataloguing system to describe fairground aspects, and as bedrock of some of our research into machine histories.


Catalogued by type

Access Information

These items make up part of the image database collection which is available to view by appointment in the NFA reading room. The records are unable to be played.

Acquisition Information

Deposited on loan by Jackie Craven

Other Finding Aids

Photographs on image database. Other items listed by type. Contact the NFA for further information.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Jane Donaldson

Personal Names