Historic Sanger Circus collection of photographs finds a home at the University of Sheffield Library, National Fairground and Circus Archive

We are very pleased to announce that an important collection of Sanger’s Circus photographs has come to the National Fairground and Circus Archive.

This remarkable collection provides an insight into one of the most important circus names in British history revealing intimate, behind the scene aspects of circus life concerning both John and George Sanger.

The collection comprises 156 photographs, some negatives, a programme, 2 publicity cards and a caricature dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Sanger family of showmen originated with James Sanger (c1778-1849), who started to travel a peep show around the fairgrounds of Great Britain after retiring from the Royal Navy. His marriage to Sarah Elliott (1787-1852) gave him nine children, two of which will be responsible for putting the Sanger family name amongst the greatest in British popular entertainment history; John (1819-1889) and George aka ‘Lord George Sanger’ (1825-1911).

The two brothers grew up on the fairground, working in the family’s peep show. In 1848 they bought some canaries and mice and trained them for exhibition. This humble beginning into animal performance and their business ambition, led to the formation of the Sanger's Allied Circus in 1854 at the King’s Lynn Charter Fair. The business grew from strength to strength and by 1858 Sanger’s circus could boast of presenting the largest stud of horses ever seen in the European continent. By the 1870s the Sanger emporium owned ten permanent circuses between Plymouth and Aberdeen and two of the most reputable circus venues in London; the Royal Agricultural Hall at Islington and Astley’s New Royal Amphitheatre. Additionally, they travelled tenting shows on the Continent for fifteen seasons and George, who out of the two brothers was the showman par excellence, received two Royal Commands to perform before Queen Victoria.

George became a very respected member of the showland community and was elected the first President of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain in 1890, a post he held until 1909.

To find out more about the Sanger Circus Collection follow this link.