Pablo Fanque’s visits to the North East

Pablo Fanque was a very famous Victorian circus artist. We are grateful to the author for this well researched contribution to our knowledge of circus in the North East in the 19th century.


When Madame La Bonche asked if I’d consider doing an article on Pablo Fanque in the North East for this website I did warn her not to get her hopes up, because nothing much happened. And once I’d been through my notes it was obvious I was right. But it then occurred to me that over a 27 year period Pablo was billed to appear in the North East on just six occasions and never with a show that he could call his own. On top of that, each visit came at a significant time in his life – particularly the one where he didn’t show up at all; and all this makes what follows interesting in its own way.

Quick points

So, where to start? The North East, Newcastle in particular, was an important stopping-off place for circus shows as they shuffled up and down the eastern side of England on their way to Scotland; with Edinburgh and Glasgow being popular hunting grounds. Although I’ve never looked into it I’d say it’s a safe bet that all the big names of the 19th century played Newcastle at some point. One big name, probably the biggest, played there for sure and that was Andrew Ducrow.

Please tell me you’ve heard of him! But for those who haven’t here’s a bit of background from “The Life and Art of Andrew Ducrow,” by A.H. Saxon (the best circus book money can buy, incidently – but that’s just my opinion):

“Among the many circus artists who embarked upon careers at the end of the eighteenth century, none was destined to achieve greater fame than Andrew Ducrow. The name of England’s most celebrated equestrian has long been familiar to historians of both the circus and the theatre, for in addition to managing Astley’s Amphitheatre from 1825 to 1841, Ducrow was an accomplished mime and actor of mute roles in melodramas who regularly performed on the stages of legitimate theatres – Drury Lane, Covent Garden, and any number of provincial theatres royal. He was also an animal trainer, contortionist and equilibrist; a tightrope dancer, choreographer, and costume designer; an early exhibitor of tableaux vivants; and the director of most of the spectacles produced by Astley’s during his tenure. It was as an equestrian, however, that Ducrow made his most enduring impression, appearing in a brilliant series of pantomimes on horseback that revolutionised the art of circus riding.”

Pablo with Andrew Ducrow

Ducrow was an occasional visitor to the North East, first appearing at the original Theatre Royal, Newcastle, during the Christmas holidays of 1829-1830; making another stopover in October 1830 en-route to Aberdeen. He returned for the Christmas Holidays of 1836-1837, performing in a temporary pavilion in the Spital, but this visit was marred by the death of his wife, compelling him to return to London with her body while the show continued.

The paths of Andrew Ducrow and Pablo Fanque crossed in 1839. Pablo had spent the summer season with Ducrow’s troupe at Astley’s Ampitheatre, London, and was retained for the winter tour up to Edinburgh. Ducrow was booked to play the new Theatre Royal and he arrived at Newcastle in November with both Pablo and “the infant Pablo” on the bill. This was Pablo’s son, Lionel.

The Newcastle Courant for November 29th 1839 recorded:

“There was an exhibition of slack rope tumbling, etc, by the Flying Indian”. Pablo was occasionally billed as the “Flying Indian” at this point in time and had performed as such during the summer season at Astley’s. The Courant of the following day contained an advertisement for Ducrow’s show: “Which will include several astonishing feats on tight rope by the infant Pablo.”

This was an interesting phase of Pablo’s career because it was three years before thsix years old and “considered by the press” to be a bit of a prodigy.

Pablo with William Batty

Pablo was a Batty apprentice and spent much of the 1830s touring with him. Batty would succeed Andrew Ducrow as proprietor of Astley’s – an event that precipitated Pablo’s solo career.

Batty visited Newcastle in August/September 1838, again en-route for Edinburgh. The only reference I can find for Fanque during this visit appears in an advertisement in the Northern Liberator, which refers to him as the “undaunted Rope Vaulter.”

Batty’s troupe travelled up to Newcastle from York, where the newspapers were far more enthusiastic. The York Herald talked of Pablo appearing on the Code Floxo (slack wire, presumably) and performing “astonishing leaps,” while:

“Master Pablo Fanque, the youngest performer in existence, bids fair soon to become a first-rate rider; he went through some daring and pleasing feats on a single horse, which astonished all present.”


“The varied and surprising feats of horsemanship, the docility and training of the ponies, the gymnastic exercises of the vaulters, and the surprising and daring agility of the Infant Pablo Fanque on the tight rope, gave the utmost satisfaction to the audience, which was evinced by loud and repeated bursts of applause.”

There he was again, young Lionel, performing with his dad, as he would be at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, the following year.

Pablo takes his own show to the North East, or does he?

Pablo began his own show in January 1842, but it took him until 1858 to turn his attention to the North East. That September Pablo’s circus was billed to appear at Northallerton, Stokesly, Guisborough, Redcar, Middlesborough, Stockton and Darlington. But just as he was about to head north he was declared bankrupt while his show was at Harrogate and his equipment was seized. So began a chaotic phase of Pablo’s life that would define him until his death; all of which is beyond the scope of this article.

Pablo takes the train to Newcastle

Rolling forward four years to April 1863 and we find Pablo heading to Newcastle from Manchester (presumably on a train). He had just finished the Easter holidays as “Director” of the so-called Alhambra Promenade Circus, at Portland Street, Manchester and within a few days he had opened at the Tyne Concert Hall, Newcastle.

Note the term “Director”. In short, Pablo had been forced to sell the rag-tag outfit he managed to put together once the dust of bankruptcy had settled. His show was then bulked up by the new owner, rebranded and sent on its way with Pablo at the helm, but now as an employee.

As observers more than 150 years later we are lucky that the Newcastle press took a real interest in this show, as the following cuttings reveal:

TYNE CONCERT HALL – This building, which has of late been used as a concert hall, has during the last fortnight, been converted by the lessee, Mr. G. Stanley, into an admirably fitted-up circus, and is now occupied for a short season by a very talented company of equestrians under the management of the renowned Pablo Fanque. Hitherto, the attendance has been very good; but when the merits of the company become wider known, no doubt the patronage of the public will increase. We can safely say that the performances are well worth witnessing, the company comprising some first-class artistes, both equestrian and contortionists. The clowns, too, are exceedingly clever, and Mr. Mitchell, by his pithy and telling jokes, has already made himself a great favourite with the audience. We hope the lessee will have a prosperous season.

Newcastle Daily Journal: April 22nd 1863

Newcastle-upon-Tyne – Royal Alhambra Circus – (proprietor, Mr. G. Stanley) – The Tyne concert hall, having closed for a short season, this building has been opened by a first-class equestrian company, under the management of Pablo Fanque, and amongst the artistes forming the company are the renowned and talented Delavanti family, Madame Carter, Miss Cooke, Young Stonette, Mr. Whitely (the great bare-back rider), Mr. Carter, Young Storey, Master Pablo, Signor Camillo, Mr. James Powell, and Miss Eliza Powell, Mr. Clifford Wallett, and that Prince of Jesters, Mr. Mitchell. Business since the opening has been excellent.

The Era: April 26th 1863

ALHAMBRA CIRCUS – TYNE CONCERT HALL – This place of amusement continues to receive a fair share of public patronage, and so it deserves to do, for the entertainment offered is of the highest order, respectably conducted, and the company, one and all, one of the best and most respectable that has appeared in Newcastle for many years past. It comprises artistes holding the highest position in their profession, and it would be difficult to find a clown superior to Mitchell. He nightly pours forth, to the great delight of his hearers, his seemingly inexhaustible store of “wise saws”, oddities, and original and side-splitting puns. A more accomplished equestrienne, too, than Mademoiselle Carter could not, we imagine, well be found; and for bold and daring horsemanship on a barebacked steed we have yet to see the equal of Whiteley.

The Delevanti Troupe are also exceedingly clever in their peculiar profession; and, in admiring their difficult feats, one is almost led to imagine that bone forms no portion of their bodily frame. They are worthy of the highest praise; and, indeed, we might enumerate the whole list of the artistes, and find special qualities worthy of comment.

We would, however, recommend the public of Newcastle, if it cares to witness genuine horsemanship, not to lose the opportunity of a speedy visit to the circus. Every comfort is paid to visitors in the way of accommodation, good order is preserved, and we don’t exaggerate too much in saying that Pablo Fanque has collected around him a number of artistes unequalled in talent by any other establishment of a similar character in the Kingdom. On Friday night, Sir John Fife patronises the entertainment.

Newcastle Daily Journal: April 28th 1863

THE ALHAMBRA CIRCUS – Pablo Fanque’s clever troupe of equestrians are still drawing crowded houses. The Delevanti troupe of acrobats are unrivalled in this country, and decidedly the cleverest we have seen in this town. Master George Delavanti, a youth of a few years of age, is one of the most daring riders we have ever witnessed, and his back-throw summersaults on horseback when at full speed is a wonderful feat. Miss Eliza Powell deserves a kind word for her graceful performances on horseback, and we must not forget to notice Mr. Powell, as a daring equestrian. The amusements of the evening are fully completed by the telling hits of Mr. Mitchell, the favourite clown, and while Mr. Egan and his wonderful dogs are an attraction. A visit to Mr. Fanque’s circus will gratify and amuse both young and old – on Tuesday evening, as will be seen by advertisement, our celebrated townsman Robert Chambers, is to be presented with a silver cup, which will doubtless draw a bumper audience.

Newcastle Guardian: May 2nd 1863

Here’s a question for all Tyneside readers. Who was Robert Chambers? I’d be genuinely interested to know. And this is what happened next to the “celebrated townsman”:

ALHAMBRA CIRCUS – PRESENTATION TO R. CHAMBERS – The most attractive part of the programme at the Alhambra Circus on Tuesday was the presentation of a silver goblet to Robert Chambers, the champion of the Thames and Tyne. All parts of the circus were crowded to excess, the gallery especially being crammed with hearty admirers of the Northern Oarsman. After the first part of the performances, the celebrated four-oared crew of the Tyne, viz., H. Clasper, E. Winship, R. Chambers, and J. Clasper, with a younger member of the Clasper family, who officiates as coxswain, were introduced by Mr. Mitchell, who, in the course of a prefatory speech, paid high compliments to Chambers and to Clasper. M. Pablo Fanque then handed the goblet to Chambers and said, “Chambers, I have the pleasure of presenting this to you, and I wish that you may live long to exercise that skill and ability of which you have given evidence, and that with honour to yourself and satisfaction to your friends”.

The audience, who had cheered Chambers and his companions to the echo, on their entrance to the arena, were enthusiastic in their plaudits as the cup was placed in the hands of the champion, who, we need scarcely say, received this handsome tribute to the prowess and integrity with characteristic modesty. In a few words, he thanked Mr. Fanque for the cup, and also expressed his acknowledgement to the audience for the manner in which he had been received.

  1. Clasper, in reply to a complimentary speech, also made a manly response, and said he would do all in his power to promote the honour of Tyneside. The gallant crew, who had entered to the air of “See, the Conquering Hero comes”, retired as the excellent band of the circus played the familiar strains of the “Keel Row”, with which the excitement of the crowded assembly rose so high that Chambers, H. Clasper, Winship, and J.H. Clasper, were obliged to return again into the ring, and bow their acknowledgements.

The cup bore a suitable inscription, and the presentation of it in the centre of the amphitheatre, crowded with the populace of his native town, must have been as gratifying to the champion as it was to those who witnessed the ceremony. The chaste and classic performances in the circle were resumed after the presentation, and afforded great gratification to the vast assemblage.

Newcastle Chronicle: May 9th 1863

Note: According to the Newcastle Daily Journal the inscription on the trophy presented to Chambers said: “Presented to Robert Chambers, the Champion of the Thames and Tyne, as a token of respect, by Pablo Fanque, at the Alhambra Circus, May 5, 1863”.

Shortly afterwards Pablo was tenting at Sunderland, where the show stopped “for twelve nights”, before moving on to North Shields, where the press pick up the story once more:

North and South Shields – Royal Alhambra Circus – During the past week this Circus, the proprietor of which is M. Pablo Fanque, has been opened in the Borough Road, North Shields, and has been well attended. The performances were well worth witnessing, the company comprising some first-class artistes, both equestrians and contortionists. The clowns, too, were exceedingly clever. The marquee was comfortably fitted up, and the whole affair is conducted in a most respectable manner. We understand that Mr. Pablo Fanque’s next visit is to South Shields.

The Era: June 7th 1863

ALHAMBRA CIRCUS – Pablo Fanque’s clever troupe of equestrians and contortionists are still drawing good houses at the spacious marquee, erected in the Cricket Ground, South Shields. We notice that this evening the entertainments are under the patronage of the Shields Pilots, Captains, Mates, and Seamen in Port; and that tomorrow (Friday) evening the Mayor (J.B. Dale, Esq.) accords his patronage.

North & South Shields Gazette: June 11th 1863

South Shields – Pablo Fanque’s Alhambra Circus – Pablo Fanque’s clever troupe of equestrians and contortionists opened in the Cricket Ground, Claypath Lane, on Monday, where they have been performing to good houses during the whole of the week. On Thursday evening the performances were under the patronage of the Shields Pilots, Captains, Mates, and Seamen in Port; and on Friday evening the Mayor of the Borough (J.B. Dale, Esq.), and the Artillery and Rifle Volunteers accorded their patronage.

The Era: June 14th 1863

Note: The above reference to the military is an interesting reminder of everyday life in those days. This was certainly a sector of society Pablo always looked to impress, in his never-ending quest for respectability. Besides, men in uniform drew crowds, particularly if they could be persuaded to bring their bands along to play in the evening – which happened a lot.

In the UK at this time the military were far more conspicuous than they are nowadays, particularly in the industrial areas. I think I’m right in saying (please correct me if not) that both the government and local industrialists feared the masses and the spectre of revolution seen in other parts of Europe, so put industrial areas such as the north east more-or-less under armed guard.

It seems there was a lot of military around South Shields in 1863. In another advertisement for another night at South Shields Pablo announces a benefit featuring:

“Captain Anderson, the officers, non-commissioned officers and members of the Sixth Durham Rifles.” Along with: “Captain Stevenson, the officers, non-commissioned officers and gunners of the Third Durham Artillery.”

Next stop for Pablo was Durham, where the local press obliged again:

THE ALHAMBRA CIRCUS – One of the best equestrian troupes that has visited Durham for some time past is that known as the Alhambra Circus, which arrived in this city on Monday last for the week. The performances, which are unusually daring and clever, are under the able direction of M. Pablo Fanque; and those of our readers who wish for a couple of hours’ pleasure and amusement will do well to visit the circus located in Parson’s field. There are several first-class clowns engage, one of who is of a somewhat philosophical turn of mind, and while he successfully appeals to the risible faculties, he does not fail in his appeals to the head and the heart of his audience by inculcating some useful truth. Last night the performances were under the patronage of the Mayor. The attendance during the week has been very fair, considering the unpropitious nature of the weather. The Alhambra Circus has been at Newcastle for some time past; while there it was most extensively and influentially patronised.

Durham County Advertiser: June 19th 1863

THE ALHAMBRA CIRCUS – Pablo Fanque’s celebrated equestrian establishment has been located in this city since Monday last. The exhibitions far surpass in point of attractiveness those of the generality of the itinerant troupes who are constantly flitting about the county without obtaining for themselves a “local habitation and a name”. Everything is on a proper and legitimate scale in the “Alhambra Circus”, and there is no pugilist or ex-pugilist to absorb the attention of the public and the profits of the establishment to the detriment of the accomplished horse-rider and skilful acrobat. The entertainments last night were under the patronage of the Mayor. The feats exhibited by Mr. Pablo Fanque’s company are surprisingly clever, and we would advise all who take an interest in these matters to avail themselves of the opportunity of visiting this far-famed establishment.

Durham Chronicle: June 19th 1863

THE ALHAMBRA CIRCUS – Mr. Pablo Fanque’s talented company of equestrians has been performing daily in Parson’s Field during the present week. This is decidedly the best exhibition of the kind which has been in Durham for some time past, and all who have visited the Alhambra Circus have been delighted with the performances. Two beautiful ponies trained by the proprietor himself, exhibit by their wonderful feats the great sagacity which the horse possesses, and the extent to which the faculties of this noble animal can be developed by kind treatment and careful and judicious management.

The amusing feats performed by the two French poodles equally exhibit the properties of the canine race. The acrobatic performances of Mr. Stonette and others are of a first class character, and have on each occasion been highly applauded. The varied displays of horsemanship are above average merit, and the horses themselves are in excellent condition, and do not exhibit that fagged and jaded look which so frequently distinguishes the poor animals belonging to the generality of itinerating circuses. Mr. Fanque’s establishment a most accomplished performer on the tight rope, and an amusing clown of a strongly philosophical turn of mind.

Durham Chronicle: Friday June 26th 1863

Pablo’s next stop was Darlington, where the Times reporter picked up on Pablo’s recent problems – little knowing that what he was looking at was an illusion:

PABLO FANQUE’S CIRCUS – After all the vicissitudes through which Pablo has passed, he can still congratulate himself on the possession of the best equestrian troupe in the country. Several establishments of the like have visited us of late, but none have so closely approached our standard of respectability coupled with talent as the one now performing in the Green-Tree Field. It is, without question, the most extensive and best ordered that has come under our notice. The animals are sleek and well-conditioned, being evidently looked after with watchful care by their master, and not left to hirelings. The performers are clever in their several lines, and carry themselves with the dignity that invariably accompanies a sense of character and talent. Besides, Pablo Fanque discards those sensational appendages which now appear to belong to every other circus travelling the Kingdom, in the shape of celebrities of the P.R. He loves horses; therefore keeps horses.

We remember him years and years ago, when his equestrian notoriety was such as to cause quite an excitement, wherever he went. No man, perhaps not even Rarey, knows better how to treat and train a horse. That is manifest to whoever witnesses his performances with his elegant trained steeds. Amongst his troupe, too, are the names of several who, at Astley’s, have whirled round the theatre thousands upon thousands of times; and now that that famous place no longer exists, they have joined themselves with perhaps their staunchest and most honourable friend. There are the Carters, the Powell’s, the Wallett’s, and many others – some of the finest horse-riders, others the most graceful tumblers, one or two the funniest of funny clowns, and all of them genial, hearty, and “at home”. We trust Mr. Fanque’s stay in Darlington has been remunerative. His enterprise certainly merits success. Last night, the performance was under the patronage of Lieut-Col. Scurfield and the Officers and men of the 15th Durham Rifle Corps. There was, we are happy to say, a first rate house – indeed, it was the fullest house we remember to have seen, and spoke for the popularity alike of the entertainment and of the volunteer corps.

Darlington & Stockton Times: July 4th 1863 5/5

Another interesting thing to note from the above is acronym “P.R.”, which stands for “Prize Ring” – i.e. boxers. While at Darlington Pablo’s advertising stated emphatically that he had “No prize fighters” on the bill, which opens up another thread of interest, so here goes. Skip this bit if you like:

Nineteenth century circus was prone to fads; something happening in society at large being incorporated into the entertainment. In the early 1860s it was boxing (or prize fighting).

To cut a long story short, in a Kent field in June 1861 Sam Hurst (a.k.a. the Stalybridge Infant) lost his English Championship title to Jem Mace (a.k.a. the Gypsy). It was an event that caused huge public interest. In August 1861 Mace placed the following announcement in the well know sports newspaper, Bell’s Life in London:

The Champion will be at home until the 25th inst., when he takes a tour round the eastern coast with M. Pablo Fanque’s Equestrian Circus”.

And before you could say “in the red corner”, every boxer of note was on the road with a circus. However, the fad didn’t last long and the sight of professional boxers beating locals to a pulp in the name of entertainment caused a bit of a stink among the great and the good.

Why the Darlington & Stockton Times praised our hero for discarding “those sensational appendages which now appear to belong to every other circus travelling the Kingdom, in the shape of celebrities of the P.R.” is ridiculous, given that he started the whole thing. But I doubt Pablo would have sent a “letter to the editor” pointing this out.

Anyway, moving swiftly on… Next stop, Stockton and the press adulation continued:

THE CIRCUS – Pablo Fanque’s Alhambra Circus has been amusing the multitude during the past week, and exhibiting their wonderful equestrian and other feats. The circus is situated in a field at the top of Dovecot-street, close to the Ropery-walk. The performances have been highly spoken of by our contemporaries, who compare the troupe to that of the celebrated Ducrow. We can speak very favourably of the company and the stud, which we believe to be as good, in their peculiar line, as any similar establishment we have seen. Swallow’s Circus was crowded nightly during the past winter, and cheap popular entertainments are sure to receive the patronage of a Stockton audience. The animals in this circus are of a beautiful symmetry, and exceedingly well trained. Especially the black and white spotted stallion, which performs with almost human intelligence, standing up on its hind legs and boxing with a mare like a prize fighter. We perceive that the troupe contains many names celebrated for equestrian and acrobatic feats.

Stockton Herald: July 10th 1863

While at Stockton Pablo openly displayed another aspect of his character, the fact that he was a Mason. How that happened is again beyond the scope of this piece, but wherever he went he was never shy of pointing this out and asking his brother Masons to rally round come benefit night.

An advertisement placed on another page of the Stockton Herald for July 10th announced “the benefit of Brother Pablo Fanque under the immediate patronage of Mr. T. Nelson, the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of the Tees Lodge, No. 749, of Free and Accepted Masons, and Mr. A.C. Knowles, the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of the Lodge of Philanthropy, No. 1242.”

What these people made of “Brother Pablo” is unclear, but if anyone out there can tell me I’m all ears. Not just here in the North East, but anywhere in the UK.

Next stop was Middlesboro and the following (boring) clipping is all I have for that:

Middlesboro – Circus – Pablo Fanque’s troupe of equestrians have performed here during the former part of this week to large assemblages. The clowns are very amusing, especially Mr. Mitchell, who is a real wit, and regales his audience with an inexhaustible fund of amusement.

Mdlle. C. Wallett, as a tight-rope dancer, is remarkably clever; while Mr. Wallett, Mr. Powell, and Miss Powell, as equestrians, have given satisfaction. Mr. Ricardo, as a gymnast, with his children, is also greeted with applause.

The Era: August 2nd 1863

Middlesboro was the final stopover on Pablo’s 1863 north east adventure, before the show turned south.

Pablo with other shows

Three years later the Pablo could only dream of running an outfit like the Alhambra Circus, as he found himself in seriously “reduced circumstances”, travelling with a few apprentices and a “trick” horse called Wallett. How he ended up like this is, again, beyond the scope of this article, but this was a period when he was taking work where he could get it. For the winter of 1865-1866 he found himself with Pinder’s circus at Station Bank, South Shields:

Pinder’s Circus, South Shields – This favourite place of amusement re-opens tonight (Saturday) after having undergone a thorough redecoration of a chaste and artistic style, with an entire new company of artistes of celebrity. Amongst those engaged we hear the name of Mr. Pablo Fanque.

The Era of December 24th

Pablo was performing “with his highly-trained steed Wallett, the Horse of Science… Acknowledged by the public and press to be the greatest trained animal in the world.” This, of course, was his trick horse and in case you are wondering what a trick horse is – they were generally taught to find hidden objects, “count”, do “basic arithmetic” and “tell the time.”

This was undoubtedly a tough time in Pablo’s life and he ended his time with the Pinders by placing the following advertisement:

Pablo Fanque, after fulfilling a three months’ engagement with the Brothers Pinder will be at liberty to accept an engagement after the 16th of March, for either a short or long period, for himself, four pupils, three ring horses, and one trick horse.

Two of the pupils are females, one thirteen years of age, the other seventeen. One is extremely clever as an equestrian. Two boys, one ten, the other sixteen years of age. One of them is a clever trick rider, throws forward somersaults on horseback and is a good tumbling clown.

Address, Pablo Fanque, Brothers Pinder’s Circus, South Shields, up to the 16th of March.

The Era: February 25th 1866

Later in 1866 Pablo found himself in the north east again. This time with Swallow’s circus as it headed for Scotland. Pablo joined the show in Macclesfield and travelled north, until:

BARNARD CASTLE – SWALLOW’S CIRCUS visited us on Saturday, and performed in the afternoon and evening to pretty good houses, considering the cold and unsettled weather. The performances were of the usual kind. The most noticeable feature of the entertainments were the feats of a splendid trick horse, trained by the celebrated Pablo Fanque. Some of the jokes of the clowns were rather stale, and the least said about the band the better.

Era, May 6th 1866

Which was followed by a stopover at Stockton:

Stockton – Swallow’s Cirque Variete – This establishment gave two performances on Wednesday, and was well attended. Pablo Fanque introduced a highly trained horse. Hartelli appeared on a horizontal bar. Mr. Barnes (clown) was full of humour, and his performing dogs were excellent. Mr Chappell (clown) also was well received by his old friends.

Mr. Godfrey, the horseman, gave a capital display of riding. Miss McDormont and Miss Cook received proof of approval for their graceful riding, and Young Washington was very clever at bending and gymnastics. There were other artistes also appeared and pleased.

The Era: May 27th 1866

And another at Seaham Harbour:

Seaham Harbour – Swallow’s Circus – Mr Swallow’s establishment paid us a visit on Saturday last, 9th inst. The Circus was well attended both in the afternoon and evening. Miss Cooke, Masters George and Congo and Mr. Godfrey. Mr. Barnes (the clown) introduces two very clever dogs. We must not forget to mention Messrs Hartelli and Pattison on the double trapeze, and Mr. Washington in his clever bending act.

The far-famed horse trainer, Mr. Pablo Fanque, introduces his trained pony “Glasgow”. The clowns (four in number) are both witty and clever.

The Era: June 17th 1866

And that was that. This is the last mention I can find for this period, but the show moved on to North Shields, Rothbury, Alnwick, Berwick and on into Scotland; never to return.

Pablo Fanque died in 1871.


About the author.

Find me here on Twitter:


I’m a former archive rat that once lived in the British Newspaper Library at Colindale until they shut the place down and turfed us rats out.

I have been studying Pablo for years as an academic exercise in social history rather than one driven by an enthusiasm for the circus as a whole. You know the thing… “Circus and its place in 19th century society” and all that jazz.

Am I an academic? Nope. I set up on Twitter in the hope of attracting fellow travellers; an experiment that has failed miserably so far, but I live in hope.

I am willing to share information and collaborate with fellow 19th century circus hunters; but I’m not going to get into all that genealogy stuff. Family researchers be warned.