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Hengler Grand Cirque (1844 - 1924)



  • Existence: 1844 - 1924


The Hengler Circus dynasty started with Michael Hengler, a German equestrian and pyrotechnic, who served as a Lieutenant in the Hanoverian Artillery before moving to London in c1780. In 1783 Michael aka Signor Hengler, established the Hengler’s Fireworks company in London and among his clientele were Philip Astley and Vauxhall and Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens.

In c1783 Michael Hengler married Sarah, who was an equestrian, wire walker and pyrotechnic. They had three children Henry Michael (1784-1861), Tobias Joseph (born and died 1786), and Magdalen Elizabeth (b.c.1788).

All their children followed on the parent’s footsteps into performance.

Michael Hengler died in 1802 and his wife took over the pyrotechnic business. Sarah died in a fire at the fireworks factory on 9 October 1845. At this point, her daughter Magdalene who had already been managing the pyrotechnic factory for a few years took control of the business.

Henry Michael became a celebrated tight-rope walker and had a long and prosperous career working with some of the best known British circuses of the time including Batty, Ducrow and Astley’s for nearly fifty years.

Henry married Jane Pilsworth on 9 January 1808 in Dublin and they had eleven children, among who was Fredrick Charles, who is regarded as the founder of Hengler’s Circus, although it was his brother Edward who first established Hengler’s Circus in 1844.

Frederick Charles, commonly referred to as Charles, became a multifaceted performer before becoming the proprietor of his brother’s Hengler's Circus in 1846. Shortly after, he married Mary Ann Frances Sprake and joined her uncle’s circus, dissolving Henglers Circus in the process.

Charles re-formed Hengler's Circus in July 1847 in Stafford. He travelled the circus around the provinces during the summer season and presented specially erected buildings during the winter until 1886. Between 1863 and 1866, Charles opened permanent Hengler Circus buildings in Glasgow, Dublin, Hull, Birmingham and Bristol and by 1869 he was running two circuses simultaneously, in Glasgow and Liverpool. Two years later he opened the Grand Cirque Variete in London and in 1875 he presented the summer circus at Alexandra Park. Charles gave a royal command performance at Windsor on 20 February 1886.

Charles died on 28 September 1887 aged 66 years old.

The management of the business passed to his son Albert who continued presenting it until its closure in 1924.

Found in 12 Collections and/or Records:

Bill Barnes Collection

Reference code: NFA0172
Scope and Contents

Programmes, posters and photographs mainly related to the Poole family's travelling Myriorama show.

Dates: 1881 - 2017

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Circus Research Material, 1872 - 1975

Reference code: 178B30.1
Scope and Contents Photocopies of programmes from the London Hippodrome, the National Amphitheatre, Hengler's Circus, Olympia, Hagenbeck's Wonder Zoo and Big Circus, Barnum and Bailey, Paulo's Circus, Chapman's Circus, Rosaire's Circus, Grand Continental Circus at the Crystal Palace, Barrett's Canadian Circus, Cody's Continental Circus, Pinder's Royal Circus and Menagerie and other UK and international circuses, also photocopies of newspaper cuttings, ordenance survey, photographs of performers and posters,...
Dates: 1872 - 1975

Hengler Circus Programmes, 1837 - 1892

Reference code: 178K43.658
Scope and Contents

Monochrome illustrations of equestrian acts on front covers, inside programme, 2pp.

Dates: 1837 - 1892

Hengler's Grand Cirque Poster, c1879 - 1889

Reference code: 178R53.24
Scope and Contents

Brunswich Road, Liverpool. Blue type on white background, Poole & Young's new excursions, Zulu War, Rorke's Drift, Cetywayou the Zulu King, The Dioramic Effects, Electric light, singers and ventriloquists, Miss Mary Townley, Mr W. D'Almaine, Le Petite Maud and the Petit Charlie, Mr Felix Somers, Mr Frank Freeland. Printed by Stafford and Co., Printers and Engravers Nottingham.

Dates: c1879 - 1889

Monographs, Articles, Manuscripts and Research Material, c1795 - 1999

Reference code: 178B30
Scope and Contents

Compilation of monographs, articles, manuscripts and a range of research material about circus companies and performers in the United Kingdom, Europe and other parts of the world by various authors, the research was mainly compiled by Hal Thomas.

Dates: c1795 - 1999

Newspaper Cuttings and Scapbooks, 1838 - 2007

Reference code: 178G21
Scope and Contents

A collection of newspaper cuttings on circus, circus proprietors and performers and scrapbooks containing newspaper cuttings, posters, programmes and other items of ephemera, covering mainly British circuses and venues such as Belle Vue and also some international circuses.

Dates: 1838 - 2007

Posters, c1800 - 2011

Reference code: 178R47
Scope and Contents

A wide range of British and international circus and menagerie posters ranging from the 19th to the 21st century including Astley's Amphitheatre, Pablo Fanque, Polito, Bostock and Wombwell, Ducrow, Cooke, Hengler, Sanger, Smart, Gerry Cottle, Bertram Mills, Chipperfield's, Robert Brothers, Fossett, Blackpool Tower, Billy Russell, Belle Vue, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, Austen Brothers and many more.

Dates: c1800 - 2011

Programmes, c1800 - 2019

Reference code: 178K43
Scope and Contents

A collection of mainly British and international circus programmes and some variety and music hall programmes containing circus acts.

Dates: c1800 - 2019

Scrapbook of Multiple Circuses, 1925 - 1936

Reference code: 178G21.4
Scope and Contents

Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings, advertisments and black and white photographs relating to multiple circuses and acts including Belle Vue Circus, Hengler's Circus, Blackpool Tower, and Sir Robert Fossetts, includes deaths of Buff Bill Kayes, Whimsical Walker the clown and Mary Ann Bevan 'the world's ugliest woman', 61p.p.

Dates: 1925 - 1936

Scrapbook of Multiple Circuses, 1939 - 1962

Reference code: 178G21.79
Scope and Contents

Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings, relating to multiple circuses and acts including Blackpool Tower, Hengler's, and Rosaire's, 180p.p.

Dates: 1939 - 1962

Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Circus Posters, c1800 - 1930

Reference code: 178R47.1-51
Scope and Contents

Early circus and menagerie posters including Polito's menagerie, Astley's Amphitheatre and Pablo Fanque's, Sanger's, Powell's, Ducrow's, Cooke's and Hengler's circuses among others.

Dates: c1800 - 1930