Circus Sanger in United Kingdom

Circus Sanger
Sangers Circus animals including elephant drinking from the River Severn at the English Bridge, Shrewsbury
Sangers Circus animals including elephant drinking from the River Severn at the English Bridge, Shrewsbury

Local name Sanger's Ampitheatre, Sanger's Equestrian Troupe, 'Lord' George Sanger Circus, 'Lord' John Sanger Circus

Owner -1901: William Sanger
-1962: Victoria Florence Sanger Freeman
-1962: George Sanger
1851-1884: John Sanger Sr.
1851-1905: 'Lord' George Sanger
1851-1905: Nellie Chapman
1889: 'Lord' John Sanger
Closed down1962
Place Margate
Country United Kingdom

Directors: James Sanger Jr. (assistant director)
1821: Sarah Elliott (assistant director)
1821-1849: James Sanger (assistant director)
1848: Elizabeth Sanger (assistant director)
1879-1955: Rebecca Sanger (assistant director)
1895: Barbara Sanger (assistant director)

Key People-1962: Pat Freeman (manager)
-1962: Claude Yelding (artist)
-: Beatrice Sanger (artist)
-: Laurina Coleman (animal trainer)
-: Alexander Coleman (animal trainer)
-: Ellen Burdett Sanger Coleman (animal trainer)
-: Harry Austin (animal trainer)
-: Georgina Sanger (animal trainer)
-: Sarah Reeve (artist)
-: Georg Sanger Jr. (artist)
-: Sam Pugh (artist)
-: Lavinia Sanger (animal trainer)
-: Ida Sanger (artist)
-: Maud Ginnett (artist)
-: Dagmar Sanger (artist)
-: May Sanger (artist)
-: Arthur Sanger (artist)
-: Leslie Sanger (artist)
-: Peter Hoffman (animal trainer)
-: Mick Hoffman (animal trainer)
-: Henry Chapman Jr. (stable master)
-: William Chapman (animal trainer)
-: George Austin (animal trainer)
-: Cissie Austin (artist)
-: John Sanger (artist)
-: William Sanger (artist)
-: George Sanger (artist)
-: Sara Crockett (artist)
-1961: James Freeman (artist)
1858-: James Crockett (animal trainer)
1858-: Sarah Foottit (artist)
1908-1912: Dick Sandow (artist)
1919-: Edward Sanger (manager)


Elephant department

Head keepers
of elephants
-1916: Bert Sanger
(elephant trainer)

Elephant keepers -1903: Joseph Williams
1888: Herbert Taylor
Record history
History of updates2024-03-07

Latest document update2024-03-07 13:27:25
Google map

'Lord' George Sanger
Relevant literature
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Circus Sanger, in Margate, United Kingdom , was founded in 1821. Circus Sanger closed down in 1962.

Comments / picturesOriginally founded 1821 as a travelling show by James Sanger who had a booth at Plymouth fair, Circus Sanger was founded 1851 by his sons John Sanger Sr. (1816-1889) and his brother, 'Lord' George Sanger (1827-1911). 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 within the fairground scene and their business ambition, built up to the formation of the Sanger\'s Allied Circus in 1854 at the King’s Lynn Charter Fair, which they operated with a few family members and friends. George later took over the circus, and renamed as 'Lord' George Sanger Circus. The Sangers married into the Pinder, Coleman, Austin, Hoffman, Freeman and Ginnett families.

1816: John Sanger Sr. was born at Chew Magna, Somerset.
1827-12-23: 'Lord' George Sanger was born at Newbury,Berkshire.
1848: 'Lord' George Sanger met Nellie Chapman, then performing with Wombwell\'s lions.
1850: 'Lord' George Sanger married Nellie Chapman.
1851: Circus Sanger was founded.
1854: John Sanger Jr., son of 'Lord' George Sanger, was born about 1854 in Norfolk. (John married Rebecca Sanger nee Pinder, born in 1860. They had 11 children, including the oldest son Bert Sanger (Herbert) and twins William Arthur Sanger and Olman Leslie Sanger, born ca 1899.)
1871: 'Lord' George Sanger purchased Astley\'s amphitheatre and menagerie. Later, he ran circuses at Agricultural Hall, Islington, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Bath, Bristol, and Plymouth.

Circus Sanger in United Kingdom United+KingdomPoster for Sangers Circus in Astley\'s amphitheatre, 4 elephants, 1873.
1874: The Sangers sold all of the equipment needed for producing their show ‘The Congress of Monarchs’ in America to Mr P. T. Barnum, an American showman, businessman and politician.
1889-08-22: John Sanger Sr. died while touring, at Ipswich.

1899: In 1899, the Burnley Express reported that one of John Sanger’s employees was seriously injured during a show when the elephant he was leading into the ring unexpectedly ‘seized him with its Trunk, and several times raised him in the air and banged him to the ground’. It was only when the animal was whipped with bamboo canes that it released the man, who suffered broken ribs and a pierced lung.

Later that year there was a slightly more comedic occurrence in Dartford. Five of the elephants escaped from their enclosure in the evening and were eventually found outside a baker’s shop where they had broken the front window and proceeded to eat ‘all the bread and pastry they could find’. One of the elephants, ‘Minnie’, could not be found for almost an hour, but was later found asleep near to a large market garden.

Martyn Cooke, British Society of Sports History

Circus Sanger in United Kingdom United+KingdomEarly 1900s (1902?) Photograph of large family group from 'Lord' John Sanger’s Circus outside circus tent. The people in the photograph are identified as follows: Left to right, back row: Bert Sanger, Sam Pugh, George Sanger (son of 'Lord' John Sanger) , Tom. Row 3: John Sanger (married to Rebecca Sanger nee Pinder and son of 'Lord' John Sanger) , unknown, unknown, James Sanger (son of 'Lord' John Sanger) , unknown, unknown, unknown. Row 2: Ida Sanger (granddaughter of 'Lord' John Sanger) , unknown, unknown, Maud Sanger (granddaughter of 'Lord' John Sanger) , Elizabeth Sanger (Innie), Barbara Sanger (nee Pinder) with baby Beatrice Sanger (Trissie - granddaughter of 'Lord' John Sanger) , Rebecca Sanger) (nee Pinder married to John Sanger, son of 'Lord' John Sanger) , Lavinia Sanger (daughter of 'Lord' John Sanger and married to Peter Hoffman) , Georgina Sanger (nee Coleman), Dagmar Sanger, Alice (maid?). Front row: unknown, Winifred Sanger (Winnie - granddaughter of 'Lord' John Sanger) , unknown, Victoria Sanger (Vicky - granddaughter of 'Lord' John Sanger) , Arthur Sanger and Leslie Sanger (Twins - grandsons of 'Lord' John Sanger) with man, Mick Hoffman, Edward Sanger (Eddie - grandson of 'Lord' John Sanger, George Sanger (grandson of 'Lord' John Sanger) . Part of living wagon for 'Lord' John Sanger’s Circus can be seen at the side of the photograph.

1903: Joseph Williams, a Circus elephant handler an employee of 'Lord' George Sanger\' s Circus in Hereford died after he was stabbed in an argument with a man who was teasing his performing sheep in Hereford in 1903. William Watson was charged with the murder of Joseph Williams.
1905: Sanger disposed of his circus property, which became part of Howes Great London Circus, Hippodrome, and Sangers English Menagerie
1911-11-28: 'Lord' George Sanger (aged 84) was killed by an ex-employee, 28-year-old Herbert Cooper. Cooper was one of the sons of Mr Sanger’s farm bailiff and had been the showman’s personal attendant. He killed Sanger as he sat in his dining room in his home in Finchley, Middlesex, attacking him with a hatchet at 5.40pm. Sanger died ten minutes later from his injuries. The man also attacked two of Sanger’s servants who were in the house, Mr Jackson and Mr Harry Austin.
Circus Sanger in United Kingdom United+Kingdom

Following Sanger’s death, the circus still continued to operate.
1916: Bert Sanger joined the RAF in the First World War

Circus Sanger in United Kingdom United+Kingdom
Photograph of Bert Sanger being held in the Trunk of Tiny the elephant. Bert Sanger (Herbert) was the grandson of John Sanger, brother of ‘Lord’ George Sanger. Herbert’s father was ‘Lord’ John Sanger and his mother was Rebecca (née Pinder). The eldest son and one of eleven children, Bert went on to perform as Pimpo the clown in ‘Lord’ John Sanger’s Circus. He was the first clown known as Pimpo. Bert married Lillian Ohmy (Smith) in 1916. Bert joined the RAF in the First World War and was wounded on active service. In December 1918 he was in a military hospital in Etaples, in France. Bert is thought to have died in 1928.

1920: The year after the 1919 visit to Helensburgh, Sanger’s circus was the scene of a terrible fire while at Taunton in Somerset, and Circus Sanger manager, Edward Sanger, was mentioned in news article.
1921, Circus Sanger toured Britain again, and on 24th June 1921, the Montrose Standard reported that the circus had celebrated its hundredth birthday.
1924: Despite this awful tragedy, Sanger’s circus and menagerie was back in Helensburgh in 1924.
1928: Bert Sanger probably died?
1929: 'Lord' John Sanger died in 1929, but his Sanger’s circus carried on until 1941.
Circus Sanger in United Kingdom United+Kingdom
Circus Sanger in United Kingdom United+Kingdom
1939: 'Lord' George Sanger Circus had four elephants at the start of the war: Ida, Annie, Tiny and Jennie.[6]
1941:Circus Proprietors have complained that meat rationing arrangements do not provide sufficient food for carnivorous animals like lions and tigers. The Government’s answer was to ban all dangerous animals from public performances, because they might break free during an air-raid. This was the last straw for the 140 year old Lord John Sanger’s Circus. The blackout, labour shortage, food rationing, and now the ban on performing animals means they can no longer continue. At an auction, Annie, their famous 50 year old elephant, was sold to Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester for 50 guineas; Alice, her 16 year old companion, went to rival Tom Fossett’s Circus for 90 guineas.

Afterwards, however, Sanger’s circus was able to regroup, and one of the star attractions was the clown ‘Pimpo’, real name James Freeman, who married Victoria Sanger.

The last of the Sanger dynasty was the English circus entertainer Victoria Sanger Freeman (28 September 1895 – August 1991) who earned the title "the Queen of the Elephants". Her father having married a cousin, made the young Victoria a Sanger on both sides of the family. She was the great-granddaughter of the original 'Lord' George Sanger. He had bestowed this courtesy peerage on himself when faced with a court battle with Bill Cody, alias Buffalo Bill. On her father\'s side, she was also a great-granddaughter of Lord George\'s brother, John Sanger Sr.. For many years she travelled with the 'Lord' John Sanger Circus. In 1917 she married James Freeman, a trapeze artiste, highwire walker and clown, among other roles. Plans of their marriage did not meet family approval and the two had to meet in secret. The wedding, which was carried out at Burstow Church, was also carried out unknown to her family. Victoria Sanger Freeman died in August 1991. Her ashes were placed in the family plot at Margate where Sanger\'s 'Hall by the Sea' was — at one time — a crowd puller at the seaside town. She was the last of the great Sanger dynasty. Her obituary appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 21 August 1991.[7] She had a son, Pat Freeman, who followed the family footsteps as a clown. He died at an early age while performing in a circus in Switzerland,[7] but his sons Peter Freeman and Mike Sanger Freeman continued as animals trainers.

Circus Sanger in United Kingdom United+Kingdom
The attached photo is of Annie an Elephant that was part of the Sanger menagerie at that time. The photo dates somewhere in the 1920s taken at the winter quarters in Crawly near Horley in the UK and the lady in the photo was an aunt of mine. She also told me that around about 1949-50, the Sanger show performed in Belle Vue winter circus and my grandmother (Victoria Sanger Freeman) went to see Annie where they had a few emotional moments together. I don't know when she died. Mike Sanger Freeman, 2008

1962: 'Lord' George Sanger Circus closed 1962 in Margate.

References for records about Circus Sanger

Recommended Citation

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

Sources used for this article is among others:

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