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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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Chapman [married name Sanger], Ellen (1830/31–1899), lion tamer, was the daughter of Harry Chapman, a peep-show proprietor. As a child she was brought up by the Manders family, at that time associated with George Wombwell's menagerie. She had no formal education: at her marriage, neither she nor her husband could sign their names. She performed at ...

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Ducrow, Andrew (1793–1842), equestrian performer, was born at the Nag's Head, 102 High Street, Southwark, Surrey, on 10 October 1793, the eldest of at least six children. His father, Peter Ducrow (c.1765–1815), a native of Bruges in west Flanders, and his mother, ...

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Fanque, Pablo [real name William Darby] (1796–1871), equestrian performer and circus proprietor, was born in Norwich on 28 February 1796, the third son of John Darby, a butler of African descent, and his wife, Mary, née Stamps. He was baptized on the same day because he was not expected to live. Orphaned at an early age, he was apprenticed to ...

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Gravelet, Jean-François Émile [performing names Blondin, Charles Blondin] (1824–1897), tightrope walker, was born on 28 February 1824 at Hesdin, near St Omer in France, the son of André Gravelet (c.1789–1832/3), himself a tightrope walker and a soldier in Napoleon's...

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Hengler, Jenny Louise (b. 1849), equestrian performer, was born on 23 March 1849, at Lewes, Sussex, the second daughter of the circus proprietor (Frederick) Charles Hengler (1820–1887) and his wife, Mary Ann Frances Sprake (c.1828–1902). She performed as a juvenile artiste in her father's arenas from an early age, her first recorded appearance being in the 1856–7 winter season at ...

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Maccomo, Martini (1835/1836–1871), lion tamer, was said to have been born in Angola, though it has also been suggested that he was a sailor born in Liverpool, or that he was Arthur Williams, a West Indian. He was recruited into British fairground life by ...

Article

Sandow, Eugen (1867–1925), strongman and physical culturist, was born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller in Königsberg, East Prussia, on 2 April 1867. According to conflicting sources he had an older brother or half-brother, and his father was either a prosperous jewel dealer or a greengrocer. His mother was Russian, or of Russian descent, and her maiden name, ...

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Joseph Knight

revised by Nilanjana Banerji

Wigan, Alfred Sydney (1814–1878), actor, whose father, James Wigan, a teacher of languages, was at one time secretary to the Dramatic Authors' Society, was born at Blackheath, Kent, on 24 March 1814. The actor and playwright Horace Wigan was his younger brother. His early career is obscure, his own accounts of it being contradictory. Since he exhibited some talent for music, he became 'a wandering minstrel', and sang at ...