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When llamas, elephants and bears were the stars of the big top

PUBLISHED: 14:34 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:42 02 March 2019

Elephants performing a spectacle for the audience at Circus Hoffman in 1973 Picture: OWEN HINES

Elephants performing a spectacle for the audience at Circus Hoffman in 1973 Picture: OWEN HINES

Owen Hines

Decades before the Hollywood blockbuster The Greatest Showman made the circus popular again, Hoffman Circus came to Ipswich and drew a strong crowd to the big top.

A llama performing to the crowds in Ipswich  Picture:  OWEN HINESA llama performing to the crowds in Ipswich Picture: OWEN HINES

This week we have delved into our archive to find these astonishing negatives of the Circus Hoffman trip to the town in 1973.

Bears rolling around the circus ring - animals were the mainstay of the circus back then  Picture:  OWEN HINESBears rolling around the circus ring - animals were the mainstay of the circus back then Picture: OWEN HINES

At that time animals featured heavily on the bill and guests were treated to some amazing features including a bear riding a motorcycle and elephants performing balancing acts.

There were also the ever popular trapeze performers flying through the air and other stunt performers to wow the audiences.

Circus performers riding on a three person unicycle waving the British and Italian flags in Ipswich  Picture: OWEN HINESCircus performers riding on a three person unicycle waving the British and Italian flags in Ipswich Picture: OWEN HINES

The circus is an ancient tradition derived from the Roman period, where a circus was a building which held equestrian and chariot spectacles. The most famous being the Circus Maximus in Rome.

Two bears riding around the circus ring on a motorbike  Picture:  OWEN HINESTwo bears riding around the circus ring on a motorbike Picture: OWEN HINES

Philip Astley, who founded a riding school in London, is known as the father of the modern circus in Britain. He famously incorporated trick ride displays in his riding school exhibits in the late 18th century.

Performers balancing in a vertical human chain  Picture:  OWEN HINESPerformers balancing in a vertical human chain Picture: OWEN HINES

Were you at the big top for Circus Hoffman’s shows in 1973? Share your memories in the comments below.

A woman balancing a giant dice on her feet  Picture: OWEN HINESA woman balancing a giant dice on her feet Picture: OWEN HINES

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