Doughty’s Dogs on the West Pier

This postcard shows James Doughty and his dogs performing on the West Pier in Brighton in 1908.

James Doughty and his performing dogs on the West Pier, c1904
James Doughty and his performing dogs on the West Pier, c1904

After a long career as a travelling clown and showman, James Doughty came to settle in Brighton. He would carry on performing until he was in his 90s, although his dogs were doing much of the work at this point.

Doughty's Dogs
Doughty’s Dogs

This remarkable postcard shows a jumping dog in mid-flight through two hoops. It’s one of those magical images where the photographer has hit the shutter at the perfect moment to capture the excitement of the scene.

James Doughty of Brighton was a fascinating Brighton character and was performing as the oldest clown in Britain at the age of 94. He was such a legend of Brighton, he featured on postcards for tourists to send home. 

He ran away from school at the age of 13 to become a travelling performer and at 65 joined the circus in Brighton.

In 1911, at the age of 93, he married a woman of 25, Alice Zilpah. Apparently, his previous wife had been 25 years younger than him. He is said to have succeeded the famous clown Joseph Grimaldi at Drury Lane in 1851, taking over many of his wigs, props and songs. He died in March 1913 after entertaining many visitors to the now derelict West Pier for years. 

Doughty's Dogs
Doughty’s Dogs

Today we tend to use the phrase ‘jumping through hoops’ to describe carrying out complicated and annoying tasks to achieve a goal. But this photo is reminder that literally jumping through hoops can be a fast and enjoyable spectacle — especially when performed by a trained dog with an expectant audience.

By Kevin Bacon, Digital Manager

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