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21-June-2023 (John Huth)
21-June-2023 (John Huth)

Photographs supplied by Sandra Brown / Russell Byers / John Huth

The plaque was erected by the Hanging Rock community in appreciation of the support of Ashton`s Circus during the 150th anniversary celebrations.

It was dedicated in memory of Mary Ashton, who is buried in the cemetery. Mary was the wife of James Ashton, founder of Ashton's circus. 

Ashton's Circus is the longest-surviving circus in Australia, pre-dating most others in the English-speaking world. The circus was founded in Hobart, Tasmania in about 1849 by Thomas Mollor, and acquired in February 1850 by James Henry Ashton, a man schooled in the tradition of English circus and who had experienced the hard times of the nineteenth century. The circus operated as the Royal Amphitheatre or Royal Circus.

When founder James Henry Ashton died in 1889, his son Fred, then aged 22, inherited the circus. The circus continued to be handed down throughout the family, and today it is run by the 6th generation of Ashtons.


Address:Forest Way & Cemetery Road, Hanging Rock Cemetery , Hanging Rock, 2340
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -31.474737
Long: 151.184814
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Culture


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 7th November, 1998
Front Inscription

Ashtons Circus     Hanging Rock
1852                          1998

James Henry Ashton, the son of an English circus owner founded Jimmy Ashton's Royal Olympic Circus in Tasmania in the 1840s. After the discovery of gold at Hanging Rock, he visited the Goldfields in August 1852. During this visit his wife Mary (an equestrian rider) gave birth to a baby daughter Mary Ann Catherine, only to pass away 11 days later on the 27th August 1852 aged 19 years. The baby died at West Maitland two months later.  

In May 1853, James married Elizabeth Critchley of Hanging Rock and gave the first performance of his Royal Olympic Circus. The veteran showman whose circus was transported by a caravan of bullock wagons and approximately 100 packhorses remained on the diggings for fourteen days showing every night except Sunday. In an amazing display of showmanship James Henry Ashton would stand on the back of two horses as they galloped around the circus with a Miss Irvine and Mongo Mongo, one of his Aboriginal troupe on his shoulders. A native of Tamworth, Mongo Mongo was better known in the Northern areas of New South Wales as "Little Alick." Other  members of the performing troupe included Mr & Mrs McIvetel and Messrs Robertson and Devere.

On the 7th November 1998, Ashtons Circus returned to Hanging Rock to take part in the areas 150th Anniversary Celebrations. During the celebrations, the present proprietors of Ashton Circus, Doug and Phyllis Ashton (OAM) and their families unveiled this memorial in the grounds of the Hanging Rock cemetery in memory of Mary Ashton. 

Erected by the Hanging Rock community in appreciation of Ashtons Circus for their support during the 150th Anniversary Celebrations


Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au