Cuypers workshop, wood carvers and Roermond's fairground people
Itie en Wim Luinge
In the official
"Cuypers Year" 2007/2008, the Roermond Barrel Organ Festival
feels it is justified to dedicate some words to the relation between
the architect Mr Pierre Cuypers on the one hand and barrel organs
on the other.What is the relation? The link is formed by the sculptors
Cuypers, native of Roermond (1827 – 1921), had established
his workshop for religious art in the present municipal museum in
the Maastricht Road.This workshop attracted many sculptors from
this country and abroad. Roermond had been well-known since the
Middle Ages as a centre for sculpture, but after the establishment
of the Cuypers workshops this professional group grew rapidly.
consequences did this have for Roermond?
All these sculptors,
woodcarvers, stone masons, decorators, painters, and their families
settled in Roermond. Whenever Pierre Cuypers received another commission
for a church or some other building, large parts of these families
moved to the building site, occasionally even abroad.
They would stay there for extended periods of time. When the work
was done, the whole group moved back, only to be relocated again
after some time. This coming and going of families did not go unnoticed
in Roermond. Again and again families had to be rehoused, children
had to enter school or tuition, only to leave once again after some
These families had strong ties, and frequently partners were found
in this small professional group. There is even one family on record
where 16 relatives at one time or another either worked in the workshops
of Cuypers or one of his pupils, or set up their own workshops.
Employees Cuypers Exhibition Düsseldorf 1902
We see the
same in the fairground families. Many of the famous fairground families,
the so-called fairground barons, settled in Roermond. In the summer
season they would tour the fairs at home and abroad, but in the
winter season they returned to Roermond.
its central geographical position (large parts of Belgium, Germany
and Holland were within easy reach) the presence of sculptors,
woodcarvers and cabinet makers was essential.
In these families we see the same social patterns: lots of travelling
families, and frequent intermarriage.
Van Bergen en Benner Xhaflaire
soon as the funfair season was over these families returned to
Roermond to use the winter break in order to fix their attractions,
to renovate them or build new ones.
This is where the sculptors and decorators of Roermond come in.
Steamcaroussel Van Bergen en Benner-Xhaflaire
Concertorgan 38er Ruth van D. Hinzen, Roermond
days, fairground attractions featured barrel organs to make a
good show and to enhance thefestiveatmosphere. Some families toured
the land with portable dance-halls (mirror halls) and later with
mobile cinemas, where again barrel organs were used for musical
support. For this purpose some impressive concert organs were
built. All the carving and decorative work for these attractions
was produced by sculptors, woodcarvers and cabinet makers. One
need only think of all the carrousels with their beautiful wooden
horses and boats, and their ornate wooden panelling.
sculptors who had started their own workshops of course had a
hard time time competing with the famous Cuypers workshops. Various
small workshops took up working for the fairground people. One
of the best-known is that of Petrus Smeets (1865-1947). He specialised
in horses and other animal figures for carrousels.
Horse on the frontage
of the workshop Smeets
(foto Han Ruijs)
He also produced
many wooden panels and ornamentation. Not only for the fairground
attractions but also for the caravans that the itinerant families
lived in. So apart from sculptors, there was a need for caravan
builders, metalworkers who could make the metal frames for the
attractions, glaziers for the mirror halls, and decorators. Both
after the introduction of the steam-driven attractions like steam
carrousels and with the introduction of electricity (dodgem cars),
various professional groups joined the already extensive group
of people working in the fairground business.
The workshops of Cuypers and others provided employment for quite
a number of people in Roermond, producing both religious art and
fairground attractions and barrel organs.
Hurdy-gurdy man on Carillon townhall Roermond ( foto Han
figure of the hurdy-gurdy man on top of the townhall carillon
(a gift by a real Roermond fairground family) or the familiar
old song about Kunkels' rollercoaster which people sing at Carnival,
usually without realising what it is about, are both mementoes
of this wonderful bit of Roermond's cultural heritage.
people's awareness of this aspect of Roermond's cultural heritage
is growing, which is why we hope that this information, and the
organisation of the Barrel Organ Festival will make a valuable
the Barrel Organ Festival Team,