Roll Up, Roll Up, the Circus Comes to Leodis

For those of you feeling like running away to join the circus take a look at the Leodis website, our photographic archive of Leeds, to see the circus visiting the city.

First we have 1950s images of crowds flocking to the Bertrum Mills Circus big top on Woodhouse Moor, visible in the sky above is an elephant shaped balloon promoting the show.  Remembered for bringing lions, tigers and elephants to Leeds along with acrobats and trapeze artists Leodis commenters share their memories of the visits online.


“I was a girl who lived opposite Woodhouse Moor 50 yards away in Delph Street.  Whenever the circus came, the lions and tigers used to keep us up at night with their roaring, and we used to go watch the elephant being scrubbed by the keeper. So exciting.”


“The circus would set off in convoy to Woodhouse Moor with some of the less dangerous animals walking there”


“I remember going to see Bertrum Mills Circus with my school, about 1956. I remember dancing acrobats balancing on huge balls”

In the 1960s we had Billy Smarts Circus performing publicity stunts in the city centre.


December 1963, Dutch trapeze artist Ria Roeber can be seen swinging from a crane 100ft above Merrion Street.


December 1964, Spuggy, the clown at Billy Smarts Christmas Circus was treated by Knoble the chimp and assisted by Daphne Murgatroyd, an assistant at Leeds General Infirmary.


January 1965, a member of Billy Smarts circus pulling a Leeds City Transport bus full of passengers, with his teeth. Quarry Hill flats can be seen in the background

The Local and Family History Library in Leeds has a huge collection of photographs relating to the city. Before the Leodis site was set up these were only accessible by visiting the library and searching card indexes.  Today you can view these images from anywhere with an internet connection.  Originally just 40,000 images were uploaded but today the site boasts over 64,000 photographs of Leeds from the Library collections, Leeds Civic Trust, The Thorsby Society, Leeds Museums and Galleries, and West Yorkshire Archive Service.

To see over 64,000 images of Leeds go to

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