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Marquees - from the first beginnings to present day

Northamptonshire Marquees were at one time supplying marquees for hire without really knowing the origin of the name or even the history of the marquee. We also realised that not many other people knew these facts either so decided to rectify this by doing some research our own. The resulting three articles that we named, 'The Evolution of the Marquee' are the fruits of our research..

Marquee Evolution Part 3

Marquees - from canvas big tops to PVDF fabric. Research by Northamptonshire Marquees.

Perhaps the first biggest and most famous large tents, partly resulting from technical advances (see part 2) appeared in the United States from the 1920’s into the1950’s. This was the golden age of the ‘Big Top’. By the mid 50’s the largest Big Top of all ‘Big Bertha’, was owned by the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey. Measuring 206 feet by 286 feet, it could seat up to 10,000 people and needed Ten acres of level land in which to be installed.

Big Tops were manufactured from canvas but from the late 1950 onwards big strides have been made in fabric structures and todays marquees and tents are manufactures from ew hi-tech fabrics. Much of the research and development of these new fabrics resulted from a collaborations between architects and manufacturers such as that between Frei Otto and tent manufacturer Stromeyer and Co.
Big Bertha circus tent 1956Scenes from the period of huge circus tents

Today, most marquees (as can be seen at northamptonshiremarquees.co.uk) tend to be manufactured from PVC coated polyester. PVC polyester coated with fluorinated polymer lacquers (PVDF) are completely waterproof, last for 15-20 years and have enhanced 'clean-ability’. Another alternative used today is PFTE-coated glass cloth. Although more expensive, it is stronger and more durable, and can have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.

If you are ever standing in a hi-tech fabric structure such as one of northamptonshiremarquees.co.uk ‘Gala’ or ‘Capri’ marquees, just remember that the march from animal skin coated structures to PVC coated polyester has been a long and interesting one.

Scene inside Ringling Circus tent 1950Scene inside Ringling Circus tent under DeMille's movie lights in Sarasota, Florida 1950.

Elephants inside the Ringling big topA scene demonstrating the huge space inside the Ringling big top

ringling-elephants image courtesy of CNN