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Pablo Fanque in Sheffield - Black Lives Matter


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In 1848 Britain’s first black circus-owner and horse-riding performer Mr Pablo Fanque (formerly of Astley’s Circus) and his ‘Talented Troup of Equestrians’ delighted crowds at the Adelphi Theatre, Blonk Street, dressed in 'Sumptuous Attire'. Great acts brought novelty to the town - including, it seems, one of its first interracial marriages...

Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time was guaranteed for all at High Bradfield Church on 14th June 1848, where the same Mr Pablo had changed into his wedding suit, tying the knot with Elizabeth Corker, daughter of publicans George and Martha Corker of the Wicker’s Bull and Oak. Plenty of refreshments for the guests, no doubt, being for the benefit of Mr Kite and other circus companions, and the Hendersons would ‘all be there’: Agnes Henderson (née Hengler) and John Henderson, who, according to Pablo’s Circus Royal posters, would let nothing stand in his way:

Over Men & Horses, through Hoops, over Garters and lastly through a Hogshead of REAL FIRE!

By the next year Pablo Fanque and his company brought an ‘Extraordinary and Classical’ Royal Amphitheatre spectacular to Blonk Street:

Royal Ampitheatre, Cattle-market.- This establishment, which has of late been known as the Adelphi Theatre,

has been undergoing extensive alterations, under the superintendence of Mr Pablo Fanque....the performances,

whether equestrian, gymnastic, or Samsonian, gave the greatest satisfaction...

                                  (The Era, 2 December 1849).

In the winter-attired audience, missing no opportunity for publicity, were the Levys (tailors and outfitters of High Street);

Whose Coats and whose Vests, are as varied and rare, 

As the talent which Pablo and Company do share.

And as for an Overcoat, we are sure you’ll find none

Which surpasses, for beauty, those of Levy and Son.

                                                            (A Visit to Pablo’s, Sheffield Independent 1849)

The English ‘General Tom Thumb’ (who lived at the Burgoyne Arms in the 1860s; see posts on this site) was reportedly a guest act at Pablo’s later performances. Pablo Fanque (real name William Darby) died in 1871 and is buried at Leeds.


Pablo Fanque (William Darby)





See @SheffLibrariescircus-show-of-shows-exhibition-guide.pd

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Does anyone know if Mr Kite’s (fondly-remembered Wine Bar on Devonshire Street) was named after the Beatles’ song, or the circus act, or just one of the ‘Kites’ who owned ale houses in old Sheffield?


On 02/11/2011 at 11:24, ceegee said:

Spot on Dunsbyowl - the bit that was missing was that Agnes was an equestrian artist and the wife of John Henderson. She was lodging with her daughter (Martha) Jane in Sydney Street in 1861, Her husband John was lodging in Soho mmmm Name John Henderson Age 37 Estimated Year of Birth 1824 Relationship to Head of Household Lodger Occupation Equestian Address 5, Spur Street District Strand, St Anne Soho Parish St Anne Administrative County London, Middlesex Birth Place London Birth County Middlesex



The Hendersons were of course "immortalised" in the Beatles (John Lennon) song "For the Benefit of Mr KIte" which appears on the Sgt Pepper album. Sadly their daughter died at the age of 21 and is buried with her father John in London's Highgate Cemetery. His body was exhumed from Ipswich Cemetery where he was first laid to rest in May 1867. His wife Agnes died on 10th October 1879, in Liverpool. She was buried in Toxteth Cemetery, Smithdown Road, with no surviving children

P.S. Can’t say ‘the Hendersons will all be there’ in 1861 - but Agnes Henderson (nee Hengler) was lodging on Sidney Street, while her equestrian brother John Michael Hengler is lodging at 99 Duke Street, alongside John Henry Cooke (1836-1917), who would be billed as ‘the Champion Equestrian of the Universe’, born in New York.

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