Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918

Source: Excerpt from interview with Frank Henry Scott, C707/225/1-2, Thompson, P. and Lummis, T., Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918, 1870-1973 [computer file]. 7th Edition. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], May 2009. SN: 2000,

Text: A: And we had – we had a – a little circus place. Oh yes, they had circus there.

Q: Were these permanent or did they come every so often?

A: No, it was there permanent. Manley’s circus, oh yes.

Q: What sort of things did they have there?

A: Oh they had – equestrian riding you know, a couple of clowns, a bit of acrobating and – perhaps a little sketch they’d put on. Yes. And they’d had – what they called penny gas [gaff], they had little side shows you know. Shadow pantomimes and – well fat ladies and the biggest rats you know, a coypu that’s what they were, oh, rat about that size, they were coypus, I know what they are now but we didn’t at the time. The bearded ladies you know, tattooed – tattooed ladies, tattooed man. A penny to go in you know and – that was the first time I’d seen – moving pictures. Paid a penny to go in, you – and I can remember that picture even now. I don’t suppose I was about seven or eight. And that was a – they would play cards, it was a French picture. There’s two blokes playing cards on the side of the kerb, van came by with the tailboard down. They got up with their cards and playing cards on the tailboard of this van, ’til it went round the corner, that was the finish of it.

Q: That was more or less the whole film?

A: Well that was – yes, about five or ten minutes I suppose. Then perhaps they’d put on a – a short comic one on, drunken sailors or something like that you know. That was – when I went home and told – father and mother I’d seen moving pictures they wouldn’t believe me. I said, well you go up and have a look. Up Falcon Road, that’s where it is, in the – swing yard. Oh they got a big fair going as well. Another one on Lavender Hill. Swings and roundabouts there and they were more or less permanent …

Q: … How about cinemas, did you or your wife go to cinemas before the First World War very much?

A: Oh yes. Yes, we always went once a week. Well it was only about threepence to go in at that time.

Comment: Frank Henry Scott was born in Hoxton, London in 1884, so his recollection that he was seven or eight when he saw films in a circus is incorrect. He married in 1904. He was interviewed on 4 March 1971, one of 444 people interviewed by Paul Thompson and his team as part of a study of the Edwardian era which resulted in Thompson’s book The Edwardians: The Remaking of British Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975).