Barnum and Bailey cause a stir in the town …

28 October 2021

‘I’ve discovered a report in the Leicester Chronicle of Saturday 28th October 1899 about a request to the Board of Guardians – at a meeting that took place on Tuesday the 24th of October 1899 – from the inmates of Loughborough workhouse asking to be allowed to see the procession of Barnum and Bailey’s circus through the town. The request stated, ‘We promise to keep sober and return home again in a peaceful and orderly manner.’ The Guardians granted the request on condition that the inmates were taken in the charge of an official.’

‘That particular meeting of the Board of Guardians was chaired by its vice chairman, Thomas Mayo, who was many times mayor of Loughborough, and the request was just a small part of the Board’s fortnightly meeting.  The main issue under discussion was about alterations at the workhouse for an isolation ward. The new infectious diseases hospital which had been built along Beacon Road was originally intended to be for typhoid cases only, so other cases from the workhouse could not be sent there.’

‘Curiously I can’t find any reports in the Leicester Chronicle of the actual Barnum and Bailey procession through the town, though it is clear that they were in Loughborough about the end of October to the beginning of November 1899.’ 

‘The Leicester Chronicle of the 25th of November 1899 carried a report of the prosecution of a man named Fred Johnson, labourer, at the Autumn Assizes for attempting to pick another man’s pocket outside the box office at Barnum and Baileys show in Loughborough. The incident occurred on the 2nd of November 1899 when a farmer named Edward Hive’s went to see the show and was at the box office to get tickets when, he said, he felt a hand in his pocket.’

‘Hives turned round and saw the accused,, who ran away without stealing anything. Hives chased him to cries of ‘Stop, thief!’ but couldn’t catch Johnson, who was later apprehended and a policeman named Potter brought him to Hives for identification. At the time Hives had £3 15s in his pocket. Johnson said he was wrongly accused and that the gentleman had made a mistake, but he was found guilty and sentenced to three months imprisonment. Deputy Chief Constable Smith said that little was known about the prisoner. He apparently had no fixed home but travelled about the country selling books.’

Graham Hulme, with information sourced from the British Newspaper Archives website.

With thanks to Graham and to the Remember Loughborough Facebook Group for allowing us to reproduce his post here.