I am trying to find the family name of the trapeze act (and ideally the individuals) who toured Ireland back in the 1950's with the Chipperfield Circus.

I'm struggling to find any resources that might help me.

Additional information: there are photographs on the Web of the elephants leaving the railway station of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, but no details that I can find of the performances.

  • 1
    I assume you've tried circushistory.org
    – user104
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 14:30
  • 1
    I have but with no response. See message 4139
    – ACProctor
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 14:38
  • if I can help any further, maybe by giving you contact details of many of the people still alive from the Stey family, just email me through my web site, as you see from your research above, Frieda Stey is my mother, Dominic Stey and Heinrich Stey are my uncles, happy to help if I can.
    – user941
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 19:30
  • Thanks for the offer of help @FredRainert. This is a situation where StackExchange falls apart, though, because it provides no way for us to privately exchange contact details and to take this offline. I am present on Google+ & LinkedIn if you can find me.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 14:43
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    I just happened to come across this webpage. My mother was Marjorie Stockley (nee Chipperfield). She was a director of Chipperfields Circus. very best, Jim
    – user960
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 8:10

2 Answers 2


My first question was, What is the Chipperfield Circus and what or whom was the circus named after?


The Chipperfields can trace their genealogy for 300 years: a Chipperfield erected a booth on the frozen surface of the Thames in the seventeenth century during the great frost. They now tent in the West Country and specialise in animal acts. Animals are bred on a large scale and supplied to the other circuses. On my last visit to their quarters I saw twenty lion cubs varying in age from three to eighteen months and a magnificent litter of tiger cubs. James William Chipperfield, father of Richard, the present proprietor, was born in the Tottenham Court Road and boasted that he knew every village in Great Britain and could train any animal from a rabbit to an elephant. The great grand-father was a boot-maker and costumier in Drury Lane who trained pigs and dogs in his leisure time. He entered the show business as a conjurer, also carrying a puppet show in his back and was over eighty when he died.

The present Richard Chipperfield is a painter in oils of animals and a decorator of shields and flashes for rides and stalls. In the early days of the twentieth century he was a pioneer of moving pictures which he showed on the fair grounds. His sons and daughters, Richard, John, Marjorie and Maud, all perform on the show(1). Source-link

The excerpt that describes Richard Chipperfield as a "pioneer of moving pictures which he showed on the fair grounds" may also yield you some interesting information in the future.

The next question I had was, can I find anyone's name that is linked to a trapeze act with the Chipperfield Circus that was in Ireland in the 1950's?


When WWII broke out Fritz Rainert joined the army, and no less he joined the "Waffen SS" and was a gunner in tank. Stationed in France near the end of the war, the tank was hit, Fritz was heavily wounded and captured and imprisoned by Americans, escaping with others after several months, Fritz made his way back to his parents farm in Braunau where he was quickly sent packing as Waffen SS" were being hunted down - he hopped the border to Switzerland and stayed there for a few years completing his training and work.

In due course Fritz heard about Ireland and felt a calling to come here. Once here he worked at International Meats and with Dublin Meat Packers. This was in the early 1950's.

Frieda Rainert (aka Mausi to some) was on tour with Circus Krone from Germany, their family act was "Stey Familie" Trapeze and High Wire. Krone joined up with Chipperfield's Circus from the UK and toured, a leg of the tour was Dublin, Cork and Galway here in Ireland.

In Dublin, Fritz was an audience member with some friends, he saw Frieda climbing to the high wire and basically fell in love - he followed the circus on it's Irish leg of the tour and when they played in Dublin again he approached the family caravan and asked Frieda's father if he may take Frieda out to a dance.

They were wed shortly after in Dundalk before the circus left Ireland - yes it was one of those whirlwind romances. Frieda's family - "Stey" returned to Germany and continued being circus people, many are still today connected to the circus community and Circus Krone in Munich, the others are business people or traders - mostly involved in the festival and entertainment industries such as the world famous "Oktoberfest"(2). Source-link

My next question was, Can I find any other information about the "Stey Familie" Trapeze and High Wire family caravan?


Heinrich & Frieda Stey

Yes, Many wonderful pictures and stories about the Stey Family as they perform their various acts(3). source-link

I hope this provides you with some valuable clues into your question. : }

Sources and other useful information:

  1. http://www.twjc.co.uk/books/thecircusbook.html

  2. http://www.rainert.com/index.php/About_Us

  3. http://stey1437.de.tl/Dominikus%2C-Heinrich-%26-Frieda-Stey.htm

All sources were produced utilizing Google's advanced search techniques, also known as Google Power Searching.

  • 1
    Hi, Ezri. How did you find all this info? A good answer would be an even better answer if you explained.
    – user104
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 18:18
  • 1
    Ezri, your search has produced amazing information about ONEtrapeze act in Ireland in the 1950s. How would we demonstrate that Rudolph Stey was the only aerialist engaged to tour? This was the period when the Flying Wallendas were at the peak of their fame and there was high demand for flyers.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 2:59
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    Fortiter, I don't believe I intended to demonstrate Rudolph Stey was the "only" aerialist that toured Ireland in the 1950's. My intention here was just to provide a connection of the family name of a trapeze act (and ideally the individuals) who toured Ireland back in the 1950's with the "Chipperfield Circus." Very interesting though, that would be great if there are other examples that connected to the Chipperfield Circus from the 1950's. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 11:45
  • 1
    OK, put me down as 'very impressed' Ezri! :-) For such a weak question, you've produced probably one of the best answers on the site. It'll take me some time to go through all the leads but I'll let you know if I make my connection.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 14:22
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    One suggestion Ezri, can you replace the links to www.google.com with the actual links that you found? Google does not return the same result set for everyone, in all parts of the world, and for all times in the future. Hence, I'm already not seeing the same as you did. :-(
    – ACProctor
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:36

Is it possible to inquire of a Chipperfield or the circus and learn if there are extant historical records or archives? If such materials exist, perhaps access can be arranged.

Discovering private archives and/or business archives can be difficult. The company itself seems to survive. Family members seem to be involved, quite likely descendants of those who were with the circus in the relative time period. Perhaps start with the source to learn about the extant historical records/archives.

A few references follow that might help you contact these family members or the company.

From a 1998 news item, "Circus family's double trouble," about Graham Chipperfield (then age 28) and his brother Richard Chipperfield (then age 24).

Members of the Chipperfield family have been performing in circuses since 1684 and have a long tradition of working with lions, tigers and leopards. As the British public lost its taste for live animal shows, however, Richard and Graham moved to work in America ...

Another news article about the same time, "Mary Chipperfield and a ring of circus names" (1999). From the article, "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."

There are more current articles about Chipperfield. (I searched "Chipperfield Circus" and then any of the individual Chipperfield names that I came upon.) You might also see Duedil, "Chipperfield Enterprises Ltd," and WorldWizzy, "Chipperfield's Circus."

Note: Even general research about the circus exposes continuing activist initiatives aimed at the company. Hopefully your Irish family historian's interest (19th century; trapeze/high wire), would be far enough removed from the different controversy that some access to the extant materials could be gained.

  • 1
    Thanks @GeneJ. I will try and get in touch with their archives
    – ACProctor
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 15:12

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