Clickety Clickety Click

clickety clickety click of the ellisons turnstile at the arthur wharton foundation in darlington. the arthur wharton statue and bottles of gin and rum on display from the little quaker distillery
Clickety Clickety Click – Ellison’s turnstile on display at The Arthur Wharton Foundation, Darlington

Historic Turnstile Saved

The ‘Clickety Clickety Click’ of a turnstile was (and still is) a sound that many football fans around the world have etched in their footballing memories. This unique sound created from the mechanical workings of the turnstile only added to the nervous pre-match suspense. I have many a fond memory of queuing up at football grounds all over the country, the air buzzing with excitement and filled with the ‘clickety clickety click’ of the Ellison’s turnstile in full flow.

It was therefore with great excitement that between Christmas and New Year 2021, we welcomed an amazing piece of Darlington Football Club history down at the Foundation. The original turnstile from the East Stand, Feethams was saved from being scrapped by Paul Colman and Craig Morley. We’re very excited to have this incredible piece of DFC and footballing history on display at the Foundation.

We’ve done a little research into the turnstile and it’s absolutely fascinating what we’ve discovered. Go on have a read of below! 

rodney dale, danny howes, craig morley, paul colman and shaun campbell stand behind the ellisons rush preventative turnstile on display at the arthur wharton foundation in darlington clickety clickety click
A very heavy turnstile that took five of us to shift it!
(L to R – Rodney Dale, Danny Howes, Craig Morley, Paul Colman and the Arthur Wharton Foundation’s Founder, Shaun Campbell)

Sport mad Victorian Britain

Before the installation of turnstiles, spectators would congregate en masse and enter venues via simple gates. Often the men operating the gates were unable to keep track of how many spectators had entered the grounds. As a result, many also pocketed the money paid without counting the spectator. As the numbers of people wishing to attend Victorian sporting events increased. This led to unsafe overcrowding and improvements to venue access and admittance reporting was required.

Rush Preventive Turnstile

The majority of turnstiles installed from 1890 to 1960 at British sporting venues and areas requiring mass public access, were those manufactured by W.T Ellison & Co of Irlams O’Th’Height, Pendleton, Salford. The patent in England for the ‘Rush Preventive Turnstile’ No. 3,225 was filed on 19th February 1892 by William Thomas Ellison Jr of Salford and James Unsworth Jr of Manchester. The US patent application was filed on February 17, 1893. Serial No. 462,799. You can access the US Patent here  – a really interesting document.

ellisons rush preventative turnstile diagram of American patent filed in 1893 clickety clickety click
Diagram taken from the US Patent submitted in 1893 – nearly a year after the initial patent was submitted in England (No. 3,225)

Tamper proof mechanisms

One of the key features which made Ellison’s turnstile unique and placed it ahead of its competitors was a foot pedal. It allowed the operator to lock and unlock the turnstile as each spectator passed through, allowing one admittance at a time. Also, the product was cleverly advertised as ‘rush preventive’ – therefore much safer and accurate in monitoring admittance against venue capacity.

Ellison’s turnstile was developed to include the first ever safety counting system. This tamper proof brass mechanism contained ceramic counters which allowed officials to accurately reconcile gate receipts to attendance. We are unsure if the Darlington FC turnstile has the counter installed underneath the brass plate. We cannot wait to investigate!

Wembley Stadium 100 Ellison turnstiles

The Ellison turnstile originally sold for just over £7, quite an investment at the time. However, it will have quickly been recouped in previously ‘pocketed’ gate monies. Sadly Ellison’s ceased trading in 1963. One of the reasons cited was due to the turnstile being so well made and durable, that they rarely went wrong or broke!

FACT: Ellison’s ‘rush preventive turnstile’ was designed to admit 4,000 per hour (or 3,000 if change was given).

Online references can be found to Ellison’s turnstiles being installed at the grounds of; Exeter City, Liverpool, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Plymouth Argyle, Halifax Town, Newcastle United, Manchester City/United (Maine Road & Old Trafford) and Middlesbrough (Ayresome Park).

FACT: The turnstile now on display at the Foundation was installed at Feethams in 1920

In 1923 Ellison’s fabricated and installed 100 turnstiles at London’s Wembley Stadium (formerly the Empire Stadium). One is on display at the National Football Museum in Manchester. You can read that article here.

FACT: Ellison also made a fortune using the same mechanism for penny slots for public toilets, hence the phrase ‘to spend a penny’.

Come and visit us in Darlington

Hope you have enjoyed reading a little more about the Ellison turnstile? Please do share with us any memories you have of going through / under / over an Ellison’s turnstile! Can you remember the ‘Clickety Clickety Click’ of an Ellison turnstile?

If you would like to pop down to see the turnstile and also some of the other DFC memorabilia we have on display (which is kindly on loan to us from DFCSG), please drop us an email at or contact us via our social channels.

We’ll shortly be announcing some open door events for anyone wishing to visit the Foundation.   

Read more about the turnstile in a Northern Echo article that was published in last week’s Northern Echo. Thanks to Bill Edgar for writing the article and Sarah Caldecott for her ace pictures.

Massive thanks again to Paul Colman – co owner of The Little Quaker Distillery in Darlington. Check out the website to have a peek at the amazing hand crafted Gin’s and Rum’s that have been lovingly created. The Black Diamond Rum is incredible.

Support the Foundation

Whilst you are here, why not find out a little more how you could support the Foundation?

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