There was great excitement
in the village when the spectacular Sanger's Circus passed
through Matlock Bath. Parades
through the streets were part of the showman's exhibition
and such processions generally finished at the show ground
where they were to perform.
According to Arkle, when Sanger's Circus was performing
at Bateman's Park, some elephants were seen to drink water
from the Derwent. One elephant became
a problem; it refused to leave the river and apparently pulled
down a tent pole later on.
This was one of the biggest English circuses during the
19th century and Lord George Sanger certainly knew how to
hype things up. When he visited Derby in 1897, for example,
the advertisement he placed in the local paper read:
of the population of the United Kingdom have heard their
Mothers, Fathers and Grandfathers speak of, and Millions
that now wear their honoured grey hairs, in the sear of life,
will say Sanger's Circus was the first circus I ever saw!
Sanger's has been the best circus I have ever seen!! Sanger's
always have something new!!!"
Sanger added that the Derby show marked his Diamond Jubilee
as a performer, dating his professional life from 1837. He
also congratulated Queen Victoria on her Jubilee.
Sanger's Circus had developed as a family business with the
brothers Lord George and John Sanger working together for
some years but they eventually went their separate ways.
Lord George Sanger retired in 1905. Sadly, at the
age of 84, he was attacked and murdered by an employee at
his home in East Finchley in 1911.
Whilst it is difficult to know which of the two competing
circuses this was, we know that Lord John Sanger was in the
Matlocks in 1899. The Good Friday Bank Holiday that year proved
to be a really wet day. "From the time they arrived until
going away there was no pleasure to be found such as that for
which the excursionist came. Lord John Sanger's circus occupied
a site in one of Mr Ward's fields. People went there to obtain
shelter from the wet and cold. The day passed, over with lamentation
from the tripper because the uncomfortable condition he was
in, and from the caterer through the store of food remaining
on his hands".
Below is another picture of the circus, this time parading
through Alfreton's Cattle Market. We can get more of a sense
of just how long the parades were from this image. In this
picture you can see a group of four horses, three of which
are riderless and on the fourth is a man wearing armour. There
are four large elephants and three or four camels in the foreground,
with a line stretching back along the road behind them that
includes more horses and people wearing a variety of costumes.
The circus seems to have visited Alfreton almost every year
between 1890 and 1900, and presumably they also visited the
Matlocks with similar frequency.
There is a similar photograph, undoubtedly taken just a few
minutes beforehand as it shows the same onlookers, in a book