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See Astley, Philip

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

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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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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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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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Cooke, William (1807/8–1886), circus manager, was the second son of Thomas Taplin Cooke (1782–1866) and Mary Ann (née Thorpe). He was twice married. His first wife was Mary Ann Spicer (1808/9–1874); they had five children, the eldest of whom, William Henry (1833/4–1905)...

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Croueste [formerly Crowhurst], Edwin (1841–1914), clown and circus proprietor, was the son of Alexander Crowhurst, a shoemaker, and his wife, Mary, née Finch, and was born at Bromley, Kent, on 23 May 1841. His first visit to the circus was in 1851, when he saw ...

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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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Pablo Fanque (1796–1871) by unknown photographer, c. 1860 V&A Images, The Victoria and Albert Museum

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Ginnett, (John) Frederick (1825–1892), equestrian performer and circus proprietor, was born in Lambeth, the eldest son of Jean Pierre Ginnett (d. 1861), the founder of Ginnett's circus, and his wife, Anne, née Partridge (d. 1877). (A John Frederick Jannett was baptized in ...

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Henderson, John (1822–1867), circus performer and proprietor, was born in London, the son of John Henderson, an actor. He was advertised as a rider with Price and Powell's circus at Bristol in 1842. After a spell with Pablo Fanque in Lancashire, he was with ...

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Hengler, (Frederick) Charles (1820–1887), circus proprietor, was the second of the four sons of Henry Michael Hengler (1784–1861), a circus rope-dancer, and his wife, Jane, née Pilsworth (c.1790–1869). He came from an established family of circus performers: his grandfather, (John) Michael Hengler (...

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(Frederick) Charles Hengler (1820–1887) by unknown photographer, c. 1880 V&A Images, The Victoria and Albert Museum

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Hengler, John Michael (1831–1919), tightrope walker and circus manager, was born on 10 July 1831 at Lambeth, London, the fourth son of Henry Michael Hengler (1784–1861) and his wife, Jane, née Pilsworth (c.1790–1869), of Dublin. (Frederick) Charles Hengler was his brother. The son of a famous circus rope-dancer, ...

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Hughes, Charles (1746/7–1797), equestrian and circus proprietor, about whose early life nothing is known, first came to notice as an accomplished rider performing at Philip Astley's British Riding School, Westminster Bridge Road, London, from June 1771 until 1772. During this time he performed with ...

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Bertram Wagstaff Mills (1873–1938) by Howard Coster, 1936 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mills, Bertram Wagstaff (1873–1938), circus proprietor, was born on 11 August 1873 at 53 City Road, London, the eldest son of Lewis Halford Lupton Mills, secretary to a joint-stock company, and his wife, Mary Fenn Mills (née Wagstaff). He left school by the age of fifteen, and began to work with his father, who had since become a proprietor of a coach building works and owned two small farms in ...

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Mills, Cyril Bertram (1902–1991), circus proprietor, was born on 27 February 1902 at 56 Norfolk Square, London, the elder son of Bertram Wagstaff Mills (1873–1938), circus proprietor, and his wife, Ethel Kate, née Notley. Educated at Harrow School and Cambridge, where he studied engineering at master's level, ...