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Mills, Cyril Bertram, 1902 - 1991



  • Existence: 27 February 1902 - 20 July 1991


Cyril Bertram Mills was born on 27 February 1902, the oldest son of Bertram Mills and Ethel Notley.

Cyril and his brother Bernard had always been involved in the family business, however after graduating as an engineer from Cambridge University Cyril worked in the oil industry for a two-year spell between 1923 and 1925. In 1925 he joined his father in the family business, which by now had expended from the circus at Olympia to various dancing halls around London. It was at one of such venues, the Convent Garden, Royal Opera House dance hall that Cyril started to work as an Assistant Manager. By the 1925-1926 winter season Cyril had been moved assist with the management of the Christmas circus show at Olympia with his father and brother Bernard, who joined as Acting Manager.

In 1929, the Mills circus started to flirt with the idea of forming a travelling branch of the circus and entered a partnership with Harry Cameron aka The Great Carmo to run a tenting circus for a season. Cyril and Bernard were put in charge of this new venture and used the experience to learn as much as they could. A year later, Cyril and Bernard established the Bertram Mills Circus tenting show, which travelled locations around the UK for the next thirty four years, until they folded this side of the business in 1964. The tenting circus was a prolongation of the static shows in Olympia and the brothers ensured they presented the same high quality standards and experience linked to the Bertram Mills Circus in every show.

Cyril and Bernard inherited the business with their mother when their father died in 1938 and formed the Cyril and Bernard Mills Ltd company. Cyril concentrated on the technical aspect and the booking of the programme and its artistic content, while Bernard was in charge of the company’s animal acts and trainers, and of the administrative side of the business.

During the Second World War the circus was put in storage while Cyril, who had a pilot’s licence and his own plane served with the Security Service on espionage missions and his brother served with the Royal Air Force. Business was resumed in 1946 after the war.

In 1947 Bernard and Cyril, launched Bertram Mills Circus as a public company, with a quotation on the London Stock Exchange, making them the first circus in the world with such status.

The brothers continued to run the Mills emporium until its decline in 1966, when they leased it to catering and hotel magnate Maxwell Joseph. This same year Cyril retired and the business was folded the following year.

Cyril died on 20 July 1991.

Found in 12 Collections and/or Records:

Billy Merchant Correspondence, 1974 - 1988

Reference code: 178F31.3
Scope and Contents

Correspondence between Cyril Betram Mills and Billy Merchant, including some Christmas cards, one photocopy and one envelope.

Dates: 1974 - 1988

Christopher Palmer Collection

Reference code: NFA0105
Scope and Contents

Circus programmes and VHS tapes from Billy Smart’s Circus and Chipperfields’s Circus collected during the 1970s and early 1980s by the TV producer, Christopher John Palmer. There are also a number of promotional photographs of artistes and other ephemera related to the circus.

Dates: 1973 - 1983

Circus Photographs, 1910 - 1964

Reference code: 178C108.5141-5337
Scope and Contents Black and white and some colour photographs of circus scenes, animals, people and personalities including; Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Dame Laura Knight, Bertram Mills, Cyril Mills, Winston Churchill, Coco, Whimsical Walker, A. Pearson equestrian director at Bertram Mills Circus, Percy Huxter, Lulu Adams, Cissie Rosaire, Aubry Rosaire and Zena Rosaire, also Rosaire Circus, Bertam Mills Circus, Tom Arnold's Circus, Ginnett's and Fossett's Circus and a large Barnum shows...
Dates: 1910 - 1964

Correspondence, c1900 - 1999

Reference code: 178F31
Scope and Contents

Items of correspondence including personal and business letters and Christmas greetings.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Cyril Bertram Mills Presents Centre Circus Poster, c1970 - 1979

Reference code: 178R27.82
Scope and Contents

Brighton. Colour illustration on mount board.

Dates: c1970 - 1979

Cyril Bertram Mills-This is Your Life, Paul Daniels, Circus Circus, The Circus, Circus Moves on in Calabria, 24 Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain and Gypsey et Maud Films, 1974 - 2003

Reference code: 178D13.18
Scope and Contents Thames Television Plc, ITV, TWO, ARTE France Telmondis, Les Poissons Volants Neyrac Films. Colour and black and white, sound and background music. DVD1 Cyril Bertram Mills on This is Your Life, tv programme 1989 showing interviews and modern and vintage footage including the Royal Performance, Paul Daniels presenting a variety tv programme, including comedy, strong men and skating acts, followed by news programme, Circus Circus tv documentary on circus narrated by Wendy Richards, showing...
Dates: 1974 - 2003

Cyril Critchlow Collection

Reference code: NFA0089
Scope and Contents The Cyril Critchlow collection contains programmes, posters, handbills, books and magic journals, many of which relate to shows in Blackpool where Cyril resided and includes material on entertainment venues such as Blackpool’s North Pier, Central Pier, South Pier, Tower Circus and a small collection of programmes from other national venues. Additionally, it contains circus photographs and postcards mainly of the Ohmy Circus and Sanger Circus including individual circus troupes and performers...
Dates: c1837 - 2008

Films, 1927 - 2007

Reference code: 178D13
Scope and Contents

Compilation of circus films showing acts on the ring as well as interviews with performers and proprietors, mainly produced by tv companies in the UK and Europe. Many of them narrated in German.

Dates: 1927 - 2007

Joe Stumcke Collection

Reference code: NFA0162
Scope and Contents

This collection contains scrapbooks, programmes, photographs of performers at the Kursaal, Bertram Mills Circus and sideshows as well as some business records related to the Stumcke family and their work at the Kursaal and Bertram Mills Circus.

Dates: 1829 - 1974

Madison Square Garden Productions in Association with Cyril Bertram Mills Presents Centre Circus Programme, 20 July - 28 August 1978

Reference code: 178K41.21
Scope and Contents

Mills present Centre Circus. Brighton Centre. The Four Vulcanus fire act, Hoppes’s rodeo Mules, The Kam-Tai troupe balancing act and others. Contains photos, 12p.p.

Dates: 20 July - 28 August 1978

Posters, c1887 - 2010

Reference code: 178R27
Scope and Contents

Circus, variety, pantomime and magic posters including Argyle theatre, Liverpool Empire, Blackpool Tower Circus, Robert Brothers, Austen Brothers, Sorcar, Vesta Tilley, Ken Dodd, Dan Leno, Florrie Forde and others.

Dates: c1887 - 2010

Programmes, 1970 - 1981

Reference code: 178K41
Scope and Contents

Programmes for various British and international circuses including Billy Russell's, Blackpool Tower, Fossett's, Chipperfield's and the Toni Boltini's Circus.

Dates: 1970 - 1981