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See Astley, Philip

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Philip Astley (1742–1814) by unknown engraver © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Astley, Philip (1742–1814), equestrian performer and circus proprietor, was born on 8 January 1742 at Newcastle under Lyme, one of three children of Edward Astley (fl. 1725–1772), cabinet-maker and veneer cutter. Apprenticed to the family trade at nine, the forthright Astley had a traumatic relationship with his father and when he was seventeen left to join the ...

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Banks, William [Richard] (fl. 1591–1637), showman, the exhibitor of a famous performing horse called Morocco or Marocco, is hard to identify precisely. This is perhaps because of the kind of cultural phenomenon the horse and his trainer represent. It is the horse's activities that are described in detail in the literature of ...

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Bannister, James (1758/9–1836), circus proprietor, is of unknown parentage and upbringing. He was one of the earliest circus owners to take his show, Bannister's Equestrian Troupe, on tour. In 1804 they were at Stamford in Lincolnshire for the mid-Lent fair and soon afterwards performed at ...

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Barnes [Barns], Arthur (1828–1908), acrobat, was born at Birchall Street, Birmingham, in April 1828, the son of Henry Barns (bap. 1792, d. 1866), an iron-founder, and his wife, Jane, née Williams (1794/1795–1872). He was first noted performing with ...

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Barry, Thomas (c. 1810–1857), clown, was born in Ireland about 1810. He was noted with Samwell's circus in Swansea in 1842, and as a white-faced ring clown at Astley's circus for long periods between 1843 and 1856. In 1844 he sailed the Thames...

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Batty, Thomas (c. 1832–1903), animal trainer and circus proprietor, was a nephew of William Batty, the lessee of Astley's Amphitheatre, London. Celebrated as a lion tamer, he is also said to have been the first to train an elephant to stand on its head. He had many life-threatening struggles with the lions he ‘tamed’: he had so many scars on one side of his body that, it was said, a half-crown could not be placed between them. He would enter the ring, clad in Lincoln green and long leather boots, with a short whip in his hand. The lions would spring at the bars of their cage with fierce snarls, and he would strike at their paws with his whip, provoking their fury. Someone in the audience would always entreat him not to enter the cage, but he would slip in and have a lively ten minutes or so. From about 1859 he performed on the continent. On one occasion, in ...

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W. P. Courtney

revised by S. J. Skedd

Berenger, Richard (bap. 1719, d. 1782), courtier and equestrian, was baptized on 17 December 1719 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, the eldest of the three sons of Moses Berenger, a wealthy London merchant, and Penelope, youngest daughter of Sir Richard Temple, third baronet (1634–1697)...

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Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne Butlin (1899–1980) by Elliott & Fry, 1961 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Butlin, Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne [Billy] (1899–1980), fairground proprietor and founder of holiday camps, was born in Cape Town, Cape Colony, where his parents had emigrated, on 29 September 1899, the elder child of William Butlin and Bertha Hill (d. 1933)...

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Cadman [Kidman], Robert (1711/12–1740), ropeslider, was born between 3 February 1711 and 2 February 1712, perhaps at or near Shrewsbury, Shropshire. A Robertus Cadman, son of Thomas Cadman, was baptized at Cannock, Staffordshire, on 9 September 1711. Nothing is known of his life until the 1730s, when ...

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Cairoli, (Humbert Jean) Charles [performing name Charlie Cairoli] (1910–1980), clown, was born in Affori, near Milan, Italy, on 15 February 1910, the son of Jean Marie Cairoli, who was Italian, and his wife, Eugenie Ricono, who was French. His parents, who were circus performers, were descendants of circus families with a solid background in circus skills and music. As the youngest child (he had a brother ten years his senior) ...

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James Seaton Methuen Chipperfield (1912–1990) by Peter Dunne, 1971 © News International Newspapers Ltd

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Chipperfield, James Seaton Methuen (1912–1990), circus proprietor and inventor of the safari park, was born on 17 July 1912 in a mahogany wagon on land belonging to Paul, third Baron Methuen, near Corsham, Wiltshire, the second son in the family of three sons and two daughters of ...

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Cinquevalli, Paul (1859–1918), juggler, was born at Lissa, in the Posen district of Prussia, on 30 June 1859. Cinquevalli was his stage name and also the name by which he was known. In his will he gives his name at birth as Emile Otto Paul Braun...

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Clarke, John Smith (1885–1959), politician, lion-tamer, and newspaper editor, was born on 4 February 1885 at 66 Albert Street, Jarrow, co. Durham, the thirteenth child of John Smith Clarke, circus entertainer, and his wife, Sally Ann Chiswell, who came from Gypsy stock. Only seven of the children survived childhood, and poverty stalked the family. ...

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Coan, John (1727/8–1764), sideshow performer, was born at Tivetshall, Norfolk. Although he has been known as the Norfolk Dwarf, both accounts of his development and pictorial representations of him reveal that he was not a dwarf but a midget. Coan appeared to grow normally in his early years but by the time he was exhibited at the ...

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Samuel Franklin Cody (1861–1913) by unknown photographer, 1912 [at the controls of his aeroplane Cathedral] Getty Images

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Cody [formerly Cowdery], Samuel Franklin (1861–1913), showman and aeronautical designer, was born on 6 March 1861 in Davenport, Iowa, USA, the fourth of five children of Samuel Franklin Cowdery (1833–1902), a former Union soldier and jobbing carpenter, and his wife, Phoebe Jane (1834–1900)...