J.Rowland & Sons

Published: Wednesday, 02 September 2020

The  Rowland family is one of the oldest showland in the West Country, but unlike the De-Vey family of Anderton and Rowland, there is very little early published history of the company.



Image: Transport Fleet - Early 1970's: Richard Adams Collection

Francis Brown has written a book entitled "Fairfield Folk A history of the British fairground and it's people" in it there is a tale of one one Tom Smith or Tom Bushnell who was born in 1852 and as a lad fell foul of the law on a trivial (today) charge and while awaiting trial, he slipped his guard in Surrey County Gaol and fled over the wall. At the age of 16, Tom was effectively on the run but changed his name to Rowland and quickly set up a lawful business as a 'Hawker'. He married Betsy Smith and they had ten  children including Amy, Joe, Thomas, Billy (William), John, Priscilla, Joesph, Lavina and Albert. Amy married Joe Mathews and features prominently in the rest of Francis's book. The interesting thing is that it describes how Tom and Betsy Rowland travelled further and further west from Surrey until their run of places took in the far west Cornwall fairs down as far as Penzance. 

All of Tom and Betsy's sons followed their parents, trading first as Rowland Brothers. In 1909, Guy Belshaw documents in his book Tavistock Goose Fair that Tom was called as a witness following the death of 'Professor' Albert Anderton of Anderton and Rowlands . Albert and Jack both served and survived the first World War and when they returned the business grew taking on steam engines and rides. With the passing of Tom and Betsy, their sons Tom, Joe, Jack, Bill and Albert carried on the business and it was Joe Rowland who gave his name to the firm that became J.Rowland & Sons.

Joe had three sons, Albert, Tommy and Joe Jnr and two Daughters who both married and became Mrs Lawrence and Mrs Barron.

Albert married Evelyn Jones and they had three boys, David, Maurice and Jimmy Rowland. Jimmy managed Blackpool Pleasure Beach for many years while Maurice and David both worked within the firm and independently and hence have their own pages on this site. 

Thomas (Tommy) married Norma DeVey and had two daughters. One of their daughters, Nicola, married Alan Jenkins who carries on the business having taken on their Dodgems and run of places.

Joe (Joey) Rowland had two children: Jonathan and Thomas and they also have their own equipment and operations.

The Rowland family are no relation to the Company of Anderton and Rowland, although one could be forgiven for thinking there was. True, Thomas Rowland married Norma De-Vey family, but as has been quoted "Same name - no relation"


Image: Scammell Towing Box Truck: Richard Adams Collection

In the  late 1970's (i.e. my era) Neil Barron and his wife, operated the firm's Big Wheel, Bobby Lawrence the dodgems, Joey Rowland the Ark and Maurice travelled his Waltzer.

Image: AEC Towing Dodgem Loads: Richard Adams Collection

Throughout the 1950's through to the 1990's the firm used to start the year with a fair at their own yard in St.Blazey and their run of places takes them from Penzance to St Ives and Perranporth and on into South Devon through Torrington in North Devon back to Summercourt and (even) Perranporth. As some rides became less popular they started to appear in preservation events with the Ark appearing in the Great Dorset Steam Fair during the early 2000's.

 Joe Rowland the founder of J.Rowland & Sons, lived a long life passing away aged 95 in 1981


Image: The late Joey Rowland painting the Ark boards.

Image: J.Rowland's Ark Summercourt 2006 (C) Simon Reed


 The range of equipment owned by the members of the Rowland family are really well illustrated here by Steve Barton where the transport is showing leaving Summercourt in 2006.

 Technically, the company still exists, but 

- Bobby Lawrence passed away and the Dodgems have been in the ownership of Stan & Fred Chapman since 2012

- Joey passed the Ark to his Son Jonathan in 2012 and it was sold in 2014. Joey passed away suddenly in 2017

- Neil Barron sold the Wheel in 2009 and the Round-up in 2012

- Maurice Rowland sold the Waltzer and went on to run a successful trailer business.

- Thomas Rowland and David Rowland have their own operations.


Photo (unfortunately under exposed) of J.Rowland's Scammell (C) Richard Adams Collection

Photo: J.Rowlands Ark now converted with Invader Cars and themed the Musik Express  @ Summercourt (C) Simon Reed 2013

Photo: J.Rowlands Ark now converted with Invader Cars and themed the Musik Express  @ Summercourt (C) Simon Reed 2013

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