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  1. ITV Report

Roll up, roll up, for a piece of circus history

You can watch Natalie Gray's film about the Hippodrome here.

The circus used to stage animal acts Credit: ITV Anglia

There's been a circus in Great Yarmouth since July 20th 1903 - and the crowds still come.

The building may look the same but the acts have certainly changed.

115 years ago Baby Tilley - the only girl lion tamer in the world was top of the bill with her 12 Forest bred lions.

In those days of course circuses were one of the few places you'd see exotic animals .

Anglia Television filmed at the Hippodrome in the 1970s when animal acts were still all the rage.

"Most people think of the circus as a tent or a big top but that was an American invention . The British invented circus in 1868 and Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is the only surviving example of a purpose built circus building built for circus."

These days there aren't any an animals as what was so acceptable is now so unacceptable.

Sixties rock star Peter Jay has run the Hippodrome for nearly 40 years.

He was drummer and leader of the band The Jay Walkers.

"We bought it originally to stop somebody else opening up a bingo hall and then what are we going to do ? Are we going to run a night club . Well let's have a go at this circus thing . We didn't really know anything about it . It wasn't my thing at all . I wasn't a fan . I'd only ever been here once and it wasn't great. So I thought let's have a go at it and maybe we can change it. Fast forward nearly 40 years and we're still trying to sort it out."

– Peter Jay
The circus has moved with the times and is now more like a variety show Credit: ITV Anglia

His youngest son Jack is the host - in the old days he'd have been the ringmaster.

"Our shows look more like an episode of Britain's got Talent than they do something in a big top but that's fantastic because kids can relate to that and families are watching something on a Saturday night and then going to see a live performance on the weekend so I think circus has always been great at doing that and that's why it's been able to survive for 250 years."

– Jack Jay

The Hippodrome can flood the ring with 70,000 gallons of water to put on different displays.

In bygone days horses swam through the water - there were even crocodiles - and the audience dived for sixpences.