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Askey, Arthur Bowden (1900–1982), actor and entertainer, was born on 6 June 1900 at 29 Moses Street, Liverpool, the elder child and only son of Samuel Askey (d. 1958), secretary of the firm Sugar Products of Liverpool, and his wife, Betsy Bowden (...

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Arthur Bowden Askey (1900–1982) by Anthony Buckley, 1939 © Kenneth Hughes / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Atwell, (Una) Winifred (c. 1913–1983), pianist and entertainer, was born on 27 April c.1913 in Jubilee Street, Tunapuna, near Port of Spain, Trinidad, the only child of a chemist, Frederick Monroe Atwell (d. 1958), and a district nurse, Sarah Elizabeth (...

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(Una) Winifred Atwell (c. 1913–1983) by unknown photographer, 1957 collection of Stephen Bourne

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Beckman, Sir Martin (1634/5–1702), pyrotechnist and military engineer, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of Melcher Beckman and his wife, Christiana van Benningen. Their names and his profession suggest a Dutch origin.

By his own account Beckman left his native Sweden about 1645 in order to serve the English crown. His brother served as a royalist captain in the civil war and was royal engineer to the exiled ...

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Bellew [formerly Higgin], John Chippendale Montesquieu (1823–1874), popular preacher and public reader, was born at Lancaster on 3 August 1823. He was the only child of an infantry officer, Captain Robert Higgin (d. 1853) of the 12th regiment, who had married in 1822 a daughter of ...

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Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823) by Maxim Gauci, pubd 1821 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Belzoni, Giovanni Battista (1778–1823), performing artist and Egyptologist, was born on 5 November 1778 in Padua, the son of a barber, Giacomo Belzoni, and his wife, Teresa. He went to Rome aged sixteen to prepare himself for monastic orders; he claimed also to have studied hydraulics. The French invasion of ...

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Boruwlaski, Joseph [formerly Józef Boruslawski], styled Count Boruwlaski (1739–1837), travelling performer and memoirist, was born in November 1739 near Halicz, Galicia, Poland, the third son of a lower gentry family. The principal source for his life is his own memoirs, published in several editions between 1788 and 1820. When he was nine his father died, leaving a widow with five sons and one daughter. Three sons were very tall, but three children suffered from achondroplasia, an inherited condition in which the cartilage in the bones fails to grow. ...

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Bowman [née Bradford], Laura (1881–1957), musical entertainer, was born in Quincy, Illinois, USA, on 3 October 1881, the daughter of Charles Bradford (c.1850–c.1915), bartender, and his wife, Lois Adelaide, née Yeates (c.1850–1912). After being taken by her aunt for an education in ...