George Wombwell menagerie ‘fostered’ many talented showmen, performers, trainers, etc. One such showman was James Chittock’s father, originally an apprentice baker in Norwich, and at 18 left to become an animal trainer with George Wombwell’s Menagerie. He stayed the next 20 years! When that show dispersed, he began on his own with, rather strangely, performing canaries, hares and ponies. James was born in 1841 and brought up in the business and was well known by George Wombwell. When old enough, James left his family, married, and travelled with his own show. James and his shows are described in the text Travelling Cinematograph Show by Kevin Scrivens and Stephen Smith.
In “TheShowman” he was described as being from one of the “oldest and most representative families of the aristocracy of the road.” His first show featured his famous troupe of performing dogs and monkeys, considered the best travelling. It opened at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, each winter for over 30 years, and rarely travelled far from the London area. On seeing the success Randall Williams was having with his Cinematograph at the World’s Fair in 1896, James Chittock invested £500 and began to show moving pictures using a projector acquired from R.W. Paul, his first show being at a fair in Birmingham in 1897. He claimed that so popular was the new enterprise that he netted, in coppers, £40 a day.
The following rare photograph shows James Chittock’s Dog and Monkeys show entrance, probably prior to 1897, the year he turned his attention to the newly invented Cinematograph. (The rear of the card states ‘@FPS Chittock’s animal show. 1885.’)
The Chittocks are also related through marriage to the Chipperfield family.