Arthur Fenwick is central to our project in terms of material, and we are now very fond of him. We consider him as an important elder in our circus family, the Family La Bonche. We would love to have met him and hear his stories first hand. We all delight in the fact that he went off with the travelling folk; that he kept up the relationship with all these people for his whole life and that he made such an amazing collection for us to explore.
From Daily Mail, Monday, September 29, 1947
At the turn of the century, Arthur Fenwick, now a director of Fenwick’s, Ltd., Newcastle’s biggest store, left home in a green caravan with yellow wheels, and for six years he toured the country getting to know gypsies and show people and their ways.
He embarked on his wonderings in spite of parental opposition. “My father thought I should concentrate upon the business,” Mr. Fenwick told me.
When Arthur was 25 he obeyed his father’s wishes and went into the business, but he retained his interest in gypsies and circus people. Now he boasts one of the largest collections of circus books and pictures in the country.
“I shall always be interested in the wandering life,” said Mr. Fenwick. “It may be due to the fact that years ago my family were horse dealers in Yorkshire.”
Some years ago the Showmen’s Guild, qualifications for membership of which usually include birth in a caravan, made him the only lay member in Britain.
Here is a Poem about Arthur that is part of our Show.
By PP La Bonche
When our Arthur was just a lad,
He bought a caravan without telling his dad.
From a home of riches and plenty,
He ran off with the circus when he was nigh-on 20.
His caravan painted green with bright yellow wheels,
Was a home away from home it was ideal.
For six years he travelled far and wide,
With the circus folk by his side.
When he came home and back to work,
He lost the atmosphere of the cirque.
He set about collecting the memories he had,
Gathering posters, hand-bills and circus ads.
For the friends he made will always stay,
Keeping in touch, never to stray.
Re-uniting every year on the Town Moor,
In the Showman’s Guild he belonged for sure!
Here is a photo of Arthur Fenwick as an old man visiting his good friends on the Town Moor (Possibly Charlie Birch)