The Zoo and The Circus

The Box

The Box | Tavistock Place | Plymouth | Devon PL4 8AX 01752 304774 Email Facebook Twitter

This new video clip produced especially for this year’s festival features people enjoying themselves as Tinside Lido on a sunny day, train travel, Plymouth’s days as an ocean liner port of call and some elephants from Chipperfield’s travelling circus arriving in Plymouth by train. Take a look!

The Circus

The modern circus has existed for over 250 years, ever since a former sergeant major called Philip Astley, set up a ring on an abandoned piece of land in a place called Halfpenny Patch, (now Waterloo) in London in 1768.

Since then, generations of people have been entertained by what has become a worldwide phenomenon, including here in Plymouth.

In the UK the three biggest circuses during the 1900s were Chipperfield’s, Bertram Mills and Billy Smart’s.

Each of them had their own ‘niche’. Chipperfield’s for example, was known as the animal show. There are some amazing images in the city archives showing a Chipperfield’s circus at Brickfields in 1946 with children riding a llama and a little girl holding a lion cub.

Today, the use of wild animals has been banned in many countries and in keeping with changing times, some circuses are now all-human shows.

These images date from 1963. On the left you can see the amazing elephants. On the right a boy stands with a clown. Both images were taken at a Bertram Mills circus in Central Park.

The Zoo

Did you know that Plymouth once had its own zoo?

Plymouth Zoo was opened in 1962 by the Chipperfield family and closed 16 years later in 1978.

The zoo was located in Central Park, towards Outland Road.

It had a surprisingly exotic selection of animals for a small zoo. These included an elephant, a hippo, zebras and tigers.

As an urban zoo Plymouth was able to serve as a quarantine centre for animals which had been newly transported to the UK.

This meant that many other animals passed through Plymouth on their way to safari parks and other zoos across the country.

This guide book that we’ve shown the cover and a page from below dates from 1974. It describes the zoo as having a ‘friendly intimate atmosphere, appreciated by residents and visitors alike’.

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