Back to list
 

THE WORLD FAMOUS FLEA CIRCUS

THE WORLD FAMOUS FLEA CIRCUS,
20th century, 'The Smallest Show On Earth', a collection of flea circus props and memorabilia from Professor Len Tomlin's Flea Circus at Belle Vue, comprising;
2 trapezes,
1 dueling pedestal,
2 bicycles,
1 windmill,
2 chariots,
1 lawnmower,
all of brass construct, also including a magnifying glass, a spool of copper harness wire, boxes of assorted flea circus props, and a collection of photographs and newspaper cuttings (qty.)

Provenance: Museum of Childhood Ribchester, Manchester.

Being immensely popular attractions at fairgrounds in both Germany and Britain from the middle of the 19th century, the flea circus at Belle Vue was one of the last of its kind. The origin of the flea circus, however, lies with watchmakers, as far back as the 16th century, who specialised in miniaturisation, and the harnessing of fleas to exercise the contraptions constructed. The Belle Vue circus was run by Professor Len Tomlin and his wife Evelyn, who would employ professional insect catchers in the cities to ensure they had a good supply of fleas, as the average lifespan of a flea is around ten days. They would also both roll up their sleeves and make sure the fleas could feed off them as they were trained and exhibited. However, with modern times came comforts such as increased hygiene facilities, central heating systems, and vacuum cleaners, and the common flea started becoming irradicated within the cities of Britain, eventually causing a shortage of performers.

Take advantage of our Sworders Delivery Service. Please see 'Shipping estimate' below.

Estimated at £1,500 - £2,000


 

Absentee bidding

As you cannot attend the auction in person we can bid on your behalf. You can leave an absentee bid on our website.

The amount you bid should be your maximum bid. We will bid up to that limit for you, and remember you may end up paying less than your limit, depending on other bidding on the day.

You can leave an absentee bid up to half an hour before the start of any sale. Please note when we receive two or more absentee bids for the same amount, the first bid received will be the one taken.

Leave commission bids online on sworder.co.uk

If you would like to leave a commission bid on our website you can do so up until 30 minutes before the sale starts. Leaving a commission bid through sworder.co.uk is free for all registered clients. Thereafter you may register bank card details under your account in order to bid live. Click here to register an account.

Bid live on sworder.co.uk

You can bid live at our auctions from the comfort of your home or office using bidding platform Sworders Live.  It is easy to register and you can watch the auction live as it happens.  A 'Bid Live' button will appear on the auction on our website homepage when a sale is live; simply click the button to sign in or register with your card details. There is no additional charge for this service. 

For further instructions on registering to bid live, please click here.

Telephone bidding

If you would like to bid by telephone please contact our team prior to the auction with your details of the lots you are interested in and your full name, address, telephone number(s) and email address. Once our team have entered your bid request you will receive an email confirmation. We will contact you during the sale and one of our team will bid live with you over the phone.

Please note that we normally offer this service for lots with an estimate of £500 or higher and all telephone bid requests must be received by close of business the day before the auction.

Auction: Out of the Ordinary - Two Day Sale - Live Online, Tue, 13th Apr 2021

Viewing

Although we are currently unable to offer general viewing of all items in our auction rooms, we are pleased to announce that selected items for this sale can be viewed by appointment on 12, 13 and 14 of April.  If you would like to book a time slot to view (maximum of 10 lots), please click on the link below: 

Book Appointment

All lots are, however, extensively illustrated and carry detailed condition reports - see 'Condition report' at the foot of each lot description.

View all lots in this sale

Please select the shipping destination;

Here at Sworders we are happy to offer a free online valuation service. Please fill out the form and press the 'Submit' button below.

To help us with your valuation please attach clear photographs of the item where possible. You can submit up to 5.

Approximate dimensions are also useful. Expect to hear from the appropriate valuer as soon as possible.

Images

Drag and drop .jpg images here to upload, or click here to select images.