Poster advertising the circus at Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London


This vivid lithograph shows a typical entertainment at a high-end Victorian circus, but it also demonstrates a number of changes in the way circuses were run in the mid-to-late Victorian era. Travelling circuses were once all-year-round affairs, with circus owners pitching their big tops in fields with little or no notice and hoping to attract the public through sheer native spectacle. But this circus was put on at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden: an historic building in London’s fashionable West End.

It is also advertised as an ‘Easter Holiday’ performance, which is partly a response to the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, which ruled that Good Friday and Easter Monday were public holidays – creating, in effect, a four-day weekend. Circuses and other peripatetic entertainments therefore began to focus on such bank holidays as ideal times to maximise their revenues. The public having downed tools for the long weekend, circus owners had their biggest potential audiences of the year.

Full title:
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Circus. Easter holidays. Two performances daily
estimated 1880, London
Playbill / Advertisement / Ephemera / Illustration / Image
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Evan. 278

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Popular culture and the impact of industrialisation

Article by:
Paul Schlicke
Popular culture

Industrialisation had a dramatic effect upon all aspects of Victorian life. Paul Schlicke examines how it led to the growth of commercial entertainment and the presence of these new cultural forms in the novels of Charles Dickens.

Popular culture

Article by:
Liza Picard

From music halls and waxworks to freak shows and pleasure gardens, Liza Picard looks at the variety of popular entertainment available in the 19th century.

Related collection items