At last the project is complete! The third and final part has just
been published. It went straight into the Top 100 Best Sellers of Circus
Books at No. 11!
In addition, the covers of all three volumes have been updated to the
one above. Look out for the distinctive red covers and the subtitles (
volumes I to III, Events at Warwick, The Greatest Showman and The Real
This volume also contains many previously unpublished images from the Wombwell Collection and a menagerie events calendar between 1800 and the late 19th century. It is a major addition to the genealogical map of menageries families in the UK and beyond.
After 172 years, George Wombwell’s visit to Windsor Castle is to be celebrated at a family event day at the Castle! Queen Victoria’s Circus will be a true family affair, with circus acts and stuffed elephants and even a lion tamer!
Date: Saturday, 14th September 2019
A storyteller wil relive, on the very spot, the menagerie’s visit during 1847. Lots of events and children can also join the circus for a day! I trust you know somebody that might want to attend, especially if they have never been to Windsor Castle. It’s all included in the standard price tickets.
A programme is being produced which includes the above image. I have permission to reproduce it here. It is a very rare image of the day at Windsor Castle in 1847. I’ve only ever seen one in many years of searching for it.
I think George Wombwell would appreciate the involvement of children as it was his wish to let everyone see the beasts of the wild, no matter how poor they were at the time. There are many instances of newspaper reports of George allowing whole school classes in to see the menagerie for free.
The above postcard shows some of the non-menagerie booths at the annual show and is dated May, 10th 1907. A fighting booth can be seen, which was popular at the turn of the century.
This postcard, also from Nottingham Goos Fair, dated 1906 is hand tinted and shows the statue of Queen Victoria in the foreground. The booth in front of the statue (rear side of sign only) is Wombwell’s superior pitch, seen in the close-up below
A Grand Bostock and Wombwell bandwagon in USA parade at Circus World Museum, Wisconsin where many Victorian Menagerie items are on display/stored. Any B&W items were probably from Frank Bostock’s collection.
Colour printed postcard, verso: This elegant vehicle dates back to 1882 England. A remarkable feature of this wagon are the six-foot diameter rear wheels. The Wombwell name dates back to 1805 when it was used on a travelling menageire. Photo:Jim Morrill
The following two cards are displayed for the first time and concern Tom Thumb, a well known entertainer from late Victorian society.
The NFA has a page on the American Tom Thumb: Charles Sherwood Stratton. These cards show what one card claims as ‘The English Midget’ and the other as ‘ The Turkish Tom Thumb’
The former card shows Harold Pyott, aged 32 and just 23 inches high. The latter card shows Pasha Hayati Hassid, born 1852 at 30 inches. he was introduced into the English entertainment industry by Lloyd Forsyth, according to the card (verso). requires further research.
Earlier in the blog, I mentioned the view from ‘Flip-Flap’ at the Japan-British Exhibition held in London during 1910. This card shows ‘Flip-Flap’ towering over the main pavilion on the site. A cross between the Ferris Wheel and Tower, my guess is that it ‘flipped and flapped’ from side to side. I doubt though that it was very fast!
Interesting to compare with the earlier card, reproduced below. The chimneys are missing and a garden or plazza has apeared in the view. Possibly, the pavilion in rear centre was still being constructed in the colour photograph, dating it to 1910 or earlier
Bostock and Wombwell’s claimed at several times in their history, to possess the smallest horse in the world. Indeed, several competitors made the same claims to draw crowds to their booths.
Where Bostock succeeded was in not quite telling the truth. In this card they show the ‘smallest horse in the world’, but closer examination of the photo-printed card, reveals it is a composite of two photographs. Doctoring photographs for financial gain, is not a new phenomenon and showmen were ‘at it’ here in 1911 (used card, franked Jul 24 11). I doubt anyway, that a horse and a dog would stand still in that position long enough to have their portraits taken!
Bostock’s Zoo, was thought to be located in Baltimore, USA. It was owned by Frank Bostock. This image, although a representation, shows a wealth of wild animals and performers/handlers. Needs more research. There are photographs of it after a fire completely destroyed it during 1901.
Cenetaph Remembrance Ceremonies started in the early 1920s and there is extensive research on its origins.
This view, from ‘Flip-Flap’, shows the extent of the exhibition and the reuse of earlier exhibtion buildings. ‘Flip-Flap’ was a cross between a Ferris Wheel and Tower (x2) The name tells its own story, but is not to be confused with a USA ride of the same name.