Meet the Menagerie



Nelly a 2 wheeled horse-drawn wagon  built for “Lord” John Sanger & Sons Ltd around the turn of the century. She was retrieved from a field in a poor state of repair by Colin Thorpe,  before joining us for her new start.

What did she do?

Sanger’s circus was famous for its awe-inspiring acts of equestrianism and magnificent stud of horses, and at its height in the 1870’s was said to travel in a train of vehicle more then 2 miles long featuring parade cars, living vans, wagons to carry tents, seating, props, costumes, harness and, most importantly for us, a foal wagon.
Anyone who has worked with horses will tell you that a foal, while adorable, is a nuisance when you’re trying work and during a mammoth logistical exercise like moving the show, it would have been quicker and safer to move any foals in a wagon of their own.
When the Sanger brothers split up their concern, “Lord” John concentrated heavily on horse displays, and we believe that Nelly was purchased as a general purpose horse-ambulance, but adapted for foals.

Why is she special?

Whether a foal wagon or a horse ambulance, Nelly is one of the last of her kind. We believe there are only around 5 horse-ambulances left in existence, and to our knowledge there are no foal wagons left at all.
While the Sanger brothers were instrumental in the story of the modern circus, very little survives from the real behind-the-scenes world of their shows.

What needs to be done?

Structurally, Nelly needs a complete rebuild. She arrived without wheels or shafts, with a heavy infestation of woodworm but most of her ironwork intact. The plan will be to use the surviving timbers as a pattern and give her with new woodwork, sandblast the ironwork and repair any damage, locate her a new set of wheels and paint her back into the vibrant scarlet she once carried.