Scarborough Fair Collection: Yorkshire vintage transport museum enjoying visitor boom after TV exposure from Jane McDonald and Susan Calman

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Having too many visitors is a good problem to have for one of Yorkshire’s most unusual museums.

This week, Scarborough Fair Collection announced it was having to temporarily close after it reached ‘safe capacity’ limits due to a deluge of people entering the building.

Although the attraction, which had to make the decision for the first time in its history, later re-opened, the incident highlighted just how popular it has become thanks to recent TV exposure and visits by presenters Susan Calman and Jane McDonald.

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The museum is unique in many ways. Firstly, it is one man’s private collection – entrepreneur Graham Atkinson, from a local farming family, has amassed an astounding range of exhibits, from fairground rides and organs to steam engines and classic cars, tractors, motorbikes and even a bus. All are housed in a purpose-built venue in an unexpected location – a caravan park. The building opened in 2008, and now hosts regular tea dances during which a classic Wurlitzer theatre organ is played.

Volunteers caring for the Scarborough Fair CollectionVolunteers caring for the Scarborough Fair Collection
Volunteers caring for the Scarborough Fair Collection

Nick Sumpton, from Flower of May Holiday Parks which hosts the collection, said that staff were having to consider introducing new ticketing options to manage crowds and demand in future.

The museum has recently featured on Susan Calman’s Grand Day Out series and Jane McDonald: My Yorkshire.

Mr Sumpton said: “We were really thrilled to have so many visitors in the Scarborough Fair Collection enjoying themselves and we hope they all had a wonderful time.

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“Restricted, timed visiting slots just wouldn’t work for us. Being able to buy an advanced ticket is more of a possibility, but is currently just an idea rather than something that we are looking to implement imminently and we would still accept customers walking in.

Manager Julie Kennedy and the 1916 Napier double decker bus.Manager Julie Kennedy and the 1916 Napier double decker bus.
Manager Julie Kennedy and the 1916 Napier double decker bus.

“I think we have been so busy due to a combination of our team working hard to provide an excellent experience and the unique nature of the exhibits in the museum as well as the opportunity to ride some of the rides.

"The recent TV exposure has also contributed, along with the persistent rain we had throughout the day yesterday and families on holiday in the area looking for something to do indoors.

"Recently we’ve been used as a photoshoot location and as a backdrop for a music video.”

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The collection, which Mr Atkinson began in the 1980s, is now one of the largest in Europe. Some of the showman’s traction engines are still road legal and sometimes leave the museum to attend steam fairs. Volunteers care for the exhibits, with paid staff manning the ballroom and cafe.

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