Fossetts Grand Circus in United Kingdom

Fossetts Grand Circus
Fossett's Grand Circus in about 1880 situated upon the Worcester Race Course ground.


Owner 1852-1875: Robert Fossett I
Country United Kingdom


Key People -: Emma Fossett (artist)
-: Harry Fossett (artist)
-: Harriet Fosset (artist)
1923-1926: Dick Sandow (animal trainer)
1923-1926: Carrie Fossett (animal trainer)


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Latest document update2023-10-27 16:36:54
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Fossetts Grand Circus, United Kingdom , was founded in 1852.

Comments / pictures1852: Circus founded by Robert Fossett I.
1880: Labelled as Fossett\'s Grand Circus.

Prior to 1952, the show was managed under several different names since its first beginnings around 1870. The Fosset family was the oldest circus-owning family in Britain. At times, as many as five generations of Fossetts worked together in the show.

Sir Robert Fossett II and circus proprietor Mary Francis had a son Edward who later took over the circus.
1922: Edward married Mona Powell (daughter of Dr. Powell)
1927: By 1927 it was called Edward Fossett and sons. Edward and Mona had six children, Robert (known as Bobby), Mary, Edward (known as Teddy), Amy, John (known as Johnny) and Mona.
1946: Mona Fossett Powell died.
1951: Edward Fosset died.

The Fossett family is one of the oldest circus families still in existence and one of the most prolific ones with branches of the family in England, Ireland and America. The first itinerant performer of the family was the first Robert Fossett I, who started making a living as a child selling almond rock in the streets of London in the early 1900s. He first became a showman performing with trained birds and ponies until he was able to run his own small family circus.

The second Robert Fossett II, son of the first Robert Fossett, became one of the greatest bareback riders in the world. He continued travelling the family circus around England in the summer season, while in the winter, when travelling a tented show was unviable, he presented a static circus in a disused tunnel under the Thames.

The third Robert Fossett III, son of the second Robert Fossett, followed his father’s footsteps to become a great trick rider. For some years he left his father\'s circus and travelled with Bostock\'s Circus and Menagerie around England and Ireland. Upon his return to England, he found the family business had been struggling and had to be saved by Lord George Sanger, who bought it at auction and gave it back to the Fossett family.

At this point Fossett Circus joined the Bostock brothers to present a combined show and menagerie. This arrangement continued successfully for several years with Robert Fossett as Ringmaster as well as presenting his celebrated riding act. Robert married Isabelle Bailey, daughter of the co-lessee of the Agricultural Hall, who joined her husband’s circus managing the finances.

Robert and Isabelle had three children one of which was also called Robert (Bobby) who continued with the equestrian tradition, Bailey who trained wild animals and Mary who performed as a circus ballerina and dog trainer. By this time the Fossett Circus was a true family affair with parents, children, uncles and cousins involved in every performance genre and aspect of the business.

The circus prospered and grew after the Second World War gaining fame around the UK and Europe and becoming a source of trained animals to circuses around the continent as well as the film industry.

Towards the end of the 1958 season Bobby married Pauline Biddall, a wire walking artiste and the fifth generation of Robert Fossetts was born that year. Bobby died shortly after in 1959.

The Fosset circus forked into four circuses: Sir Robert Fossets circus (Bobby) in UK, and his brother Fosset Circus (Teddy Fosset) in Ireland, and their second cousin Little Tom Fossets Circus in UK. Another Tom Fosset had Ringlands Circus (Big Tom Fosset), owner of the famous elephants Salt and Sauce.

References for records about Fossetts Grand Circus

Recommended Citation

Koehl, Dan (2024). Fossetts Grand Circus, Elephant Encyclopedia. Available online at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

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