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Angel, Edward (d. 1673), actor and comedian, first came to public notice in winter 1659–60, when he joined the troupe assembled by John Rhodes at the Cockpit in Drury Lane. Angel's earliest recorded appearance was as Florimel in Fletcher and Rowley's The Maid in the Mill...

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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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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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See Hogarth, Ann [real name Margaret Ann Gildart Jackson; married name Margaret Ann Gildart Bussell]

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Charles Coborn (1852–1945) by unknown photographer [in costume for the Monte Carlo song] Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection

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Coborn, Charles [real name Colin Whitton McCallum] (1852–1945), music-hall entertainer and songwriter, was born Colin Whitton McCallum on 4 August 1852 at 25 Sydney Square, Mile End, London, the son of Colin McCallum (1799–1872), shipbroker and freeman of the City of London...

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Sir Charles Blake Cochran (1872–1951) by Howard Coster, 1929 [[Left to right] and Beverley Nichols (1898-1983)] © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Cochran, Sir Charles Blake (1872–1951), impresario, was born on 25 September 1872 at 15 Prestonville Road, Brighton, Sussex, the fourth of the nine children of James Elphinstone Cochran (1840–1900), tea and cigar importer, and his wife, Matilda Arnold née Walton (1838–1929), daughter of a merchant navy officer and the widowed mother of a son by her first marriage. At the age of seven ...

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Dawson, Leslie [Les] (1931–1993), comedian, was born on 2 February 1931 in Thornton Street, Collyhurst, Manchester, the only child of Leslie Dawson (1905–1970), bricklayer, and his wife, Julia (c.1914–1957), daughter of David and Ellen Nolan. A small, chubby, solitary child, he grew up in some poverty in a ...

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Leslie Dawson (1931–1993) by R. Poplowski, 1973 Getty Images – R. Poplowski

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David Devant (1868–1941) by unknown photographer [detail] V&A Images, The Victoria and Albert Museum

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Devant, David [real name David Wighton] (1868–1941), conjuror and illusionist, was born on 22 February 1868 at 4 Boston Terrace, Holloway, London, eldest of the seven children of James Wighton, a Scottish artist, and his wife, Mary Ansell. After attending local schools he worked at several jobs before becoming a professional entertainer. His interest in magic was aroused when he was about twelve and was fuelled by visits to ...

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Du Val, Charles Henry (1846–1889), entertainer, was born at Platt Terrace, Rusholme, Manchester, on 27 October 1846, the youngest child and only son of Irish parents, John Du Val, a schoolmaster, and his wife, Eliza Ann, née Murray. He was educated in Manchester...

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Elliott, George Henry (1882–1962), black-face minstrel and music-hall entertainer, was born on 3 November 1882 at the George and Dragon inn, Blackwater Street, Rochdale, Lancashire. His publican father, Henry, was locally well known as a pianist, while his mother, Alice (née Gray)...

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Grossmith, George (1847–1912), entertainer and author, was born in London on 9 December 1847, the eldest of the three children of the journalist and entertainer, George Grossmith (1820–1880) and his wife, Louisa Emmeline Grossmith, née Weedon (d. 1882). While his father was alive he was referred to outside the family as ...

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George Grossmith (1847–1912) by Lock & Whitfield © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Hill, Alfred Hawthorne [Benny] (1924–1992), comedian, was born in Southampton on 25 January 1924, the younger son and second of three children of Alfred Hill (d. 1971), a former circus performer and the manager of a surgical appliance shop in Southampton, and his wife, ...

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Alfred Hawthorne Hill (1924–1992) by Bob Collins, c. 1957 © Bob Collins; collection National Portrait Gallery, London