The Hanneford Family, long considered the “Royal Family of the Circus,” can rightly claim an unbroken span of circus history fast approaching three centuries! Beginning with Edwin Hanneford in the late 1600s to the present family action Tommy Hanneford, they have consistently amazed, amused, thrilled and delighted audiences around the globe with their resinback exploits and stellar circus presentations.
Our story begins in 1690 with Irish-born Michael Hanneford who toured the dusty roads of rural England with Wombwell’s Menagerie, the first show of it’s kind in the British Isles. Each day the athletic Michael put on a display of horsemanship that included dancing and leaping upon the bare back of a galloping horse. Word spread about the multi-talented performer so that he was invited to attend a contest before King George III to determine who was the greatest juggler in England. He not only juggled off with the Grand Prize, but made his mark in circus lore by having presented the first of the Hanneford Royal Command Performances, a tradition of honor that has been repeated by each succeeding generation since then.
During the next 100 years, the Hanneford name became synonymous with perfection in the circus arts as the children and then the grandchildren of Michael Hanneford continued to perform in the exciting family tradition. Toward the end of the last century, after generations as star performers, the Hannefords decided to become “their own bosses” and built a circus of their own. They toured England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales annually with the show prior to World War I, showing under a tent and moving over the roads between towns by horse drawn wagons. From its inception, the show became a great popular favorite.