The big stars of the big top

Charlie Carioli with his son
Charlie Carioli with his son
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Roll-up, roll-up... for a peek inside the archives of the famous Tower Circus.

These wonderful black-and-white pictures – reproduced courtesy of Blackpool Tower – show the circus in years gone-by, including some of the stars of the shows, the clowns.

Charlie Cairoli interacting with the audience

Charlie Cairoli interacting with the audience

Some rarer, behind-the-scenes shots show a side of the circus rarely seen by the public.

Legendary clown prince Charlie Cairoli is pictured in his dressing room, adding the finishing touches to his make-up, as well as entertain the crowds at the Tower Circus.

With his world-famous red nose, white make-up and trademark bowler hat, his was the face that stopped countless custard pies and made young and old laugh until they wept.

Charlie had first come to Blackpool for the season in 1939 and got stranded here because of the war – and briefly interned as an alien. He had to have a work permit and report to the police station – but he soon found he liked the resort, which liked him too. He was the popular lead clown at the Tower from 1940 until 1979.

Charlie Cairoli

Charlie Cairoli

One of the circus’ biggest stars – who was only 4ft 10ins high – Doodles the clown, is shown taking part in the circus parade through Blackpool.

Doodles, also known as William McAllister, was the lead clown at the Tower for 30 years.

This file photograph, taken in 1930, shows Doodles and the parade passing the Palatine Hotel.

He is also pictured with fellow clown Austin, and ringmaster and animal trainer, George Lockhart, pre-1939.

Charlie Cairoli, in the dressing room

Charlie Cairoli, in the dressing room

Acrobats are seen practising beneath the circus in 1930.

The Blackpool Tower Circus first opened to the public on May 14, 1894. Admission was from 6d. It has never missed a season since it began.

The circus is positioned at the base of the Tower between its four legs.

Long before he became famous as a Hollywood film star, the comedian, WC Fields, spent a season before the First World War, at the circus, as a juggler.

The clown Doodles in a circus parade, in 1930, passing the Palatine Hotel, in Blackpool

The clown Doodles in a circus parade, in 1930, passing the Palatine Hotel, in Blackpool

Read about what it was like to work at the circus in the 60s here

Doodles, George Lockhart and Austin

Doodles, George Lockhart and Austin

Fiery Jack and Austin, 1930, in the Blackpool Tower

Fiery Jack and Austin, 1930, in the Blackpool Tower

Charlie Cairoli , with junior and George Lockhart

Charlie Cairoli , with junior and George Lockhart

Charlie Cairoli, with audience

Charlie Cairoli, with audience