Sudbury Hall NT

Sudbury Hall NT Blog

Hidden Treasures – The Circus Comes to Town

When going through the records of all the objects in the museum one by one, sometimes something catches your eye; piques your interest. Today I was intrigued by a little set of Corgi vehicles. They are an incomplete set, of what we call ‘well played with’ toys. What struck me was firstly the name printed across them; ‘Chipperfields Circus’, and secondly the unusual shape of one of the vehicles. The vehicle (once you know what you are looking for its obvious) turned out to be a ‘Giraffe Transporter’. What we have on the record turns out to be a small selection of the ‘Circus Vehicle’ models made by Corgi in the 1960s. You may well recognise some of them from your own collections.

Chipperfields Circus Giraffe Transporter

Chipperfields Circus Giraffe Transporter

 As we go through the records, we begin by editing basic information, such as the material an object is made of, and the measurements, to help you the viewer ‘see’ the object online in all it’s, accurate, glory. What we are also hoping to do is to catch your attention, and make you want to learn a little bit more about some of the wonderful collections here at the Museumof Childhood, both those on display, and in store. With Corgi models, and indeed Matchbox ones too, some are based on real vehicles, and others are simply made up or concept vehicles. I wanted to just find out, forgive my ignorance, if there really was or is a ‘Chipperfield Circus’. It turns out that they were just about one of the most famous troupes in England!

Chipperfielcs Circus model made by Corgi

Chipperfielcs Circus model made by Corgi


The Circus was a family affair, and was started by James Chipperfield who exhibited some animals at the Thames Frost Fair in 1684. Across 300 years, the circus passed through the Chipperfield family, growing and evolving as it toured throughout Englandin the 19th Century. It’s height came in the early 20th century when after World War II, under the management of brothers Dick and Jimmy Chipperfield it became one of the biggest circus’s in Europe. The name ‘Jimmy Chipperfield’ remained associated with animals into the 1960s as he branched into Safari Parks such as Longleat and Woburn Abbey. The circus slowed and almost ceased to exist, blighted by accusations of animal cruelty and stunted by dwindling audiences.  There came something of a revival n the late 1990s and it is now run by Dick Chipperfield’s descendents into the modern age; with just one major difference; without animals.


Today circuses can be a controversial subject, but whatever your views, good or bad, you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship on these wonderful little models, and it is clear that they were certainly well loved by their original owners.

 Have a look online at our online  collection and see if you can spot anything else that catches your eye, or you remember from your childhood. 



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