About the NFCA

The National Fairground and Circus Archive (NFCA) was born out of the PhD research and lifetime commitment and passion of Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of the NFCA from its inception until 2016. The Archive is part of the Special Collections and Archive Division of the University of Sheffield Library.

The core of the NFCA collection embodies the history of popular entertainment in the United Kingdom from the nineteenth century onwards. This unique collection of photographic, printed, manuscript and audio-visual material covers every aspect of the travelling fair, circus and allied entertainments as well as the culture, business and life of travelling showpeople. The NFCA provides a primary source of research and teaching material to a wealth of popular culture and history from the unique view point of the travelling entertainment industry.

The Archive collects material from the fairground, circus and the allied industries that found a place in the early travelling fair, including early film, circus, sideshows, magic, boxing, variety and amusement parks, until they developed into their own distinctive form of entertainment.

Some of our key collections are the Shufflebottom and Smart Family Collections, the library and archive of the Circus Friends Association of Great Britain (CFA), The John Bramwell Taylor Collection, the Malcolm Airey Collection, the John Turner Collection, the maps, plans and charts of British Amusement Parks, the World’s Fairs and Expositions Collection and the World’s Fair Newspaper collection. We also hold thousands of posters, handbills, programmes, periodicals and photographs. 

Other specialist resources available at the NFCA are the Adam Matthews Victorian Popular Culture website and the British Library Nineteenth Century Newspaper database.

Living Archive

Additionally the NFCA is a living archive, actively involved in the contemporary popular entertainment industry, forging and maintaining close links with companies, show families and performers and contributing to the organisation and promotion of shows and festivals.