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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 October, 2003, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Cottle leaves big top behind
Circus vehicle
The Cottle and Austen Electric Circus will continue to tour the country
Circus impresario Gerry Cottle is auctioning off hundreds of items of memorabilia after deciding to leave the big top behind.

Mr Cottle joined the circus at the age of 15 and then worked his way up to have his own act and then his own show.

He ended up running the Cottle and Austen Electric Circus, the Moscow State Circus and the Chinese State Circus as well as a Circus of Horrors for the stage.

But now, after more than 35 years in the job, he is turning his attention to a different venture and is selling off the antiques and paraphernalia he has collected over the decades.

He is not turning his back on circuses completely he is just trying another venture
Circus spokesman
Mr Cottle has said the reason for abandoning circus life is because the local council in Surrey refused to give him planning permission to expand his headquarters.

Addlestone Moor in Surrey has been the centre of Mr Cottle's business for about 30 years.

He had wanted to expand and build staff accommodation and an antiques centre but Runneymede Borough Council said the development would be inappropriate and damage the green belt.

The auction, to be held on Saturday at Addlestone Moor, will see more than 1,400 lots sold off.

Wookey Hole

Among them are a double barrelled human cannon, billed to be the only one in the country, and old circus vehicles.

A circus spokesman said: "There will be quite a few pieces like actual circus props.

"It is all from circuses from the past he has run.

"There will be stuff from the whole history of the circus."

Mr Cottle, whose act used to be juggling, is not giving up entertaining the public altogether.

He is planning to run a tourist attraction in Somerset called Wookey Hole which includes caves and a paper mill.

Another circus spokesman said: "He is not turning his back on circuses completely he is just trying another venture."

The three circuses will continue to run and take their shows to towns and cities around the country.

And Mr Cottle will continue to be a part of the theatre show.

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