Giants, Wolves, Wild Beasts and Fortune-telling Horses at Mansfield

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Circus and Fairs at Mansfield in the 1840s

 The following first-hand accounts of visiting attractions at Fairs and Circuses in 1841-42 in Mansfield come from a diary written at the time by William Moss of Leeming Street in Mansfield**.


10 July 1841: Fair Day.  Two tumbling-shows and several swinging boats and cranky-horses were fixed up yesterday, but the fair has been anything but busy. The weather was pretty favourable until about 5 o'clock when it began to rain and continued very wet the whole of the night.


12 August 1841:  The celebrated wild-beast tamer, Van Amburgh, came into the town to-day as 12 o'clock, and has exhibited his wonderful collection of trained animals in a large pavilion in the White Hart croft.  I went to see them in the evening, when I believe there could not be much less  than 1,000 persons present, and I understood there were as many in the afternoon.  The elephant is a most tractable, docile creature.  Several lots of young people rode in the houdah on its back: it carried about a dozen at a time


16 September 1841:  a company of Horse Riders have come into the town today.  They perform in a circus in the White Hart croft


6 November 1841:  There were a great variety of shows here yesterday, but they are all gone except two.  An accident happened in one Wild Beast.  A Sloth which was kept in a den above a hyena, had the misfortune to fall through when the hyena tore it limb from limb in a short time.  To-day a young wolf has broken out of the same show and ran across the Market Place and up Westgate.  It turned into Mr Savage's shop and was there secured and brought back.  The show is Hylton's


8 December 1841:  Wombwell's Menagerie is come into the town this afternoon.  Since they were here before they have got a travelling gas-house; so they light with gas of their own making.


24 December 1841:  Batty's collection of Wild Beasts have come into the town this afternoon, and have fixed in the Market Place as if they were intending to stay Christmas with us.


8 July 1842:  To-day two tumbling shows have come in, and one of them is fixing up just before Mr. Bowman's.  They began in front of our house, but father went and discharged them, so they removed lower down.


22 October 1842:  Two shows were passing through the town and have stayed to exhibit in the Market Place.  One contains some performing monkeys; and the other a giant, and two Siberian ladies with white hair.


5 November 1842;  [Hiring Fair]  the attendance of servants was numerous and there was a good deal of hiring done.  There were many shows, exhibiting giants, dwarfs, a fat pig, performing monkeys, a china manufactory, serpents and alligators, boxers, tumblers and conjurers, a fortune-telling pony &c. &c.  But the principal was Wright's exhibition of wild beasts, in which there was an elephant which drew its own caravan, and walked underneath it.


** By other entries in the diary we know that William and his father worked as Coopers.  In the 1841 Census we find Joseph Moss (his father) aged 54, a Cooper, living on Leeming Street with his wife Catherine (57), his son William (27, the diarist and also a Cooper) and daughter Elizabeth (17).  Also in the house is Edward Simpson (15), a Coopers apprentice

William kept his diary in the blank pages of copy of the "Christian Almanack" published by the Religious Tract Society, and it was transcribed and published in the Mansfield and North Notts Advertiser in 1911



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