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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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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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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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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 ...