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Days Gone By: Circus animals were no stranger to Ipswich for many generations

PUBLISHED: 15:44 24 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:50 24 January 2018


A parade of elephants in Princes Street, Ipswich, in the 1950s, making their way from the railway station to Christchurch Park and the big top. The parade was passing the Friars Inn (centre) at the corner of Portman Street. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

A parade of elephants in Princes Street, Ipswich, in the 1950s, making their way from the railway station to Christchurch Park and the big top. The parade was passing the Friars Inn (centre) at the corner of Portman Street. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

Dave Kindred

Circuses with performing animals are, fortunately, largely consigned to history in Britain.

A crowd gathered at Ipswich Station to see ponies being transferred to road transport when they arrived in 1953. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
A crowd gathered at Ipswich Station to see ponies being transferred to road transport when they arrived in 1953. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

For generations it was considered as family entertainment to see elephants, bears and other wild creatures performing stunts in the circus ring.

Public attitudes changed and people were no longer prepared to watch as beautiful animals, which should be wandering free, were transported around the country often in tiny, bare cages.

Circuses with performing animals first appeared around 250 years ago. During the Victorian period exotic and dangerous animals were imported from all over the world.

Huge touring shows, including Chipperfield’s, and Billy Smart’s, were regular visitors to our region, often setting up on parks in the town centres with animals arriving by train.

Zebras were used to pull a wagon when Barnum and Bailey came to Ipswich in 1899. This photograph, by Harry Walters, was taken from the Halberd public house (now P.J. McGinty and Son) as the parade turned from Fonnereau Road onto St Margarets Plain. The houses on the right are now the site of the Bethesda Church. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE Zebras were used to pull a wagon when Barnum and Bailey came to Ipswich in 1899. This photograph, by Harry Walters, was taken from the Halberd public house (now P.J. McGinty and Son) as the parade turned from Fonnereau Road onto St Margarets Plain. The houses on the right are now the site of the Bethesda Church. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

In the 1960s, BBC television featured a circus show at Christmas, when it was seen as wholesome family entertainment.

In this week’s Days Gone By I feature photographs of circus animals in Ipswich. Do you remember these shows?

To submit a letter, in less than 300 words, write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS, or send an email.

Camels, giraffes and ponies were part of the Chipperfield’s Circus in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, in the 1950s. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
Camels, giraffes and ponies were part of the Chipperfield’s Circus in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, in the 1950s. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

Elephants passing Reavell’s engineering works in Ranelagh Road, Ipswich, in May 1955. The circus was based on a site at the junction of London Road and Ranelagh Road. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
Elephants passing Reavell’s engineering works in Ranelagh Road, Ipswich, in May 1955. The circus was based on a site at the junction of London Road and Ranelagh Road. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

After unloading at Ipswich rail station, in May 1955, a parade of elephants walked along Ranelagh to the circus site at the junction of London Road and Ranelagh Road. The Ancaster Road bridge is in the background. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
After unloading at Ipswich rail station, in May 1955, a parade of elephants walked along Ranelagh to the circus site at the junction of London Road and Ranelagh Road. The Ancaster Road bridge is in the background. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

The sad sight of performing bears with Robert Brothers Circus at Ipswich, in June 1974. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
The sad sight of performing bears with Robert Brothers Circus at Ipswich, in June 1974. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

Elephants performing tricks with the Robert Brothers Circus at Ipswich, in June 1974.  Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
Elephants performing tricks with the Robert Brothers Circus at Ipswich, in June 1974. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

A cycling chimpanzee on the Cornhill, Ipswich, around 1950. Westgate Street is in the background. Picture courtesy of the Stowmarket Local History Group. Picture: GEORGE WILDEN A cycling chimpanzee on the Cornhill, Ipswich, around 1950. Westgate Street is in the background. Picture courtesy of the Stowmarket Local History Group. Picture: GEORGE WILDEN

March 1955 saw this large group of elephants performing in Christchurch Park, Ipswich. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
March 1955 saw this large group of elephants performing in Christchurch Park, Ipswich. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

Crowds gathered at Ipswich rail station in March 1953 to watch the arrival by train of Chipperfield’s Circus.  The animals were paraded through the town to promote the show. In the picture the parade is crossing the Princes Street bridge. There is now a ban within the borough of Ipswich for any circus using performing animals. In the background is the Station Hotel at the corner of Princes Street and Burrell Road. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE
Crowds gathered at Ipswich rail station in March 1953 to watch the arrival by train of Chipperfield’s Circus. The animals were paraded through the town to promote the show. In the picture the parade is crossing the Princes Street bridge. There is now a ban within the borough of Ipswich for any circus using performing animals. In the background is the Station Hotel at the corner of Princes Street and Burrell Road. Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

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