Circus promised to light up the winter sky

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IT’S lovely when you’re delving about in the past and an image flashes into life, so vivid as to almost crackle and sparkle.

TV has recently sought to create realistic lighting effects for some of its period dramas, which make you realise the dimness in which people once existed at night.

Even in the era of oil lamps, or gas, for that matter, there is the impression of having to go about in a half-glow.

So you can imagine the crowds that must have turned out for something that promised to light up the winter sky in spectacular fashion.

This goes back to an era when there was a site opposite the old station in Mile End Road in Shields which was obviously still not built on.

In 1880, it was the location of a travelling entertainment, Alrato and Allen’s Grand Circus, which set up shop just before Christmas that year.

It promised visitors The Human Rocket! A Chinese Carnival! Fireworks! A Feast of Lanterns!

Reading that, just for a minute you can imagine the sky lit with colour, noise and illumination before darkness descended again, and folk crept home in the shadows of a Victorian night.