When Mrs Wombwell retired from running her former partner’s menagerie she retired to live with her daughter and her husband, Edmond Bramston, in an area of London known as All Souls or St, John’s Wood. She lived at 26 Belsize Avenue as shown in the Ordnance Survey map from circa 1869. Prior to this, she mainly travelled with the menagerie number 1, but has been known to have an address elsewhere in North London, probably Stoke Newington. The Belsize Road address at that time was quite a wealthy neighbourhood, being RED: Middle class – Well-to-do on the Booth Poverty map dated 1898-99 as shown below.
Whilst concerning ourselves with Hippodrome theatres, this book caught my eye a few weeks ago. Published in 2005, it covers the years 1905 – 1985 and provides a history of the building and the variety acts that ‘trod the boards’ during that period. I of course, am interested in the early years when it was owned by E H Bostock the Menagerist. Indeed, it was even built by him in double quick time.
Ipswich already had a Hippodrome of sorts, a temporary wooden structure on the Woodbridge Road that contained a circus ring and therefore a potential rival for Bostock’s main business. He received information that the current Hippodrome was to be rebuilt which provided Bostock with some urgency for a completely new theatre. He chose Frank Matcham the well known theatre architect, of London Coliseum and London Hippodrome fame, to provide the plans. These plans were submitted for planning permission on the 19th September 1904. One month later and the foundation stone had been laid in St Nicholas Street, Ipswich after several houses had been pulled down to make way for the new theatre. E H Bostock was not going to hang around waiting obviously! It was opened during 1905, long before the rival theatre and became known as the Ipswich Hippodrome.
The book is a good read, but is quite scarce. It may be available via Amazon on occasions at:
It has been a while since I published anything. However, I have been very busy researching travelling menageries. I am currently conducting a research project at the University of London on the subject of early travelling menageries and associated visual culture. That’s why I have not published articles here. It has uncovered a wealth of information and that will keep me going for several years I think! One day, I hope to announce that we can say we ‘know’ the early history of George Wombwell the menagerist. Included in this will be an account of the so called ‘Warwick Dog Fight’. I have some surprises in store for you all on that subject! Right now, I have to concentrate on the matters in hand.
I have also been busy collecting items associated with the subject and also with early circuses like Sanger’s. Below is the first batch of items that will, in due course be added to the research website. A short description is attached to each item. Sometimes I have to rely on the originator’s description which may not be 100% accurate. As always, higher resolution images have been stored.The card shows Barham, Sanger and Hutchinson together with a procession including the Lion Queen on the elephant from Sanger’s outfit (his wife Ellen). Eventually, after about 1880 the Barnum outfit became known as Barnum & Bailey’s. The original poster would represent some time between 1881-1887 after which date Hutchinson retired. His main job was as booking agent and he had worked for Van Amburg’s some time during the 1870s.
The postcard is much later of course and some ‘granny’ must have received it hand delivered!
This undated card is thought to be from Paris.
This card shows a ‘Black Comic Parade’ and is marked 1904. Its origin is not yet known.
The card was sent from Brussels during 1904 or it may be 1922-23. I’m no philatelist! Research is required to place this troupe in the history of entertainment and identity studies.
Here is another cracking image from the Goose Fair in Nottingham showing Bostock and Wombwell’s presence in the centre of the city during the early 1900s. Note the juxtaposition between the outfit and the statue of Queen Victoria, fascinating! The menagerie was always centre stage when it went to the fair.
Further items will be added shortly.
At the very end of the Menageries era, circuses were finding winter quarters. One famous venue was the Olympia exhibition halls in central London. Bertam Mills were regular occupants over the winter for a period greater than thirty years. Indeed, it is where I was introduced to the circus for the first time. Here is the front cover and some internal pages from the 1936 season programme.
The following is a modern reproduction of an ancient photograph of one of Sedgewick’s American Jungle wagons. Little is known about this outfit. Any assistance is gratefully received.
There’s a distinct American style about the wagon which probably contains animals rather than people. Date of the original photograph is not known.