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Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 16:17 GMT


Mary Chipperfield and a ring of circus names

Mary Chipperfield with husband Roger Cawley: Her name dates back to 1684

Mary Chipperfield descends from a circus dynasty that can be traced back more than 300 years.

The name "Chipperfield" dates back to James Chipperfield who introduced performing animals to England at the Frost Fair on the Thames in 1684.

Dick Chipperfield - Mary's uncle, who died at the age of 83 in 1988 - began performing as a clown at the family's fairground variety show when he was just five.

Her father Jimmy, Dick's younger brother, also took part in the show as a clown, a wire-walker and an acrobat.

It was in the early 1930s that the Chipperfields started to become well established in the traditional circus business and by the end of World War II the show had become one of the largest touring circuses in Europe.

By 1953, Chipperfield's Circus ousted rivals Bertram Mills and Billy Smart and boasted a big-top tent which could accommodate 6,000 people.

It had a collection of 200 horses, 16 elephants and 200 other animals.

Family ties

But two years later Jimmy suddenly broke away from the family circus and after a brief spell at farming and managing other shows, he and daughter Mary began providing animals for film work.

In the 1960s he started making a career in "drive-through" safari parks such as Longleat and Woburn Abbey, both at home and abroad.

Today Mary Chipperfield Promotions Ltd still trains and supplies animal acts for film and television work.

The present day Chipperfield dynasty in the UK includes four other separate businesses.

Chipperfield Enterprises trains and supplies lion and tiger acts for circuses worldwide, while Clubb Chipperfield trains and supplies animals for circuses, advertising and film work.

The Chipperfield Organisation Ltd is an international animal supply and transport business, and Chipperfield Organisation (for Chipperfield Trust) manages and trades the animal stock at Longleat Safari park.

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