Sunday, 4 June 2017

for the Benefit of Mr.Kite

Hearing the song on the radio reminded me of the blogpost years ago.

William Batty was one of the most successful circus proprietors in Victorian England, and helped launch the careers of a number of leading Victorian circus personalities, such as Pablo Fanque, the versatile performer and later circus proprietor (best known today from his mention in The Beatles song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"), and W.F. Wallett, one of most celebrated clowns of the era. Also, while in operation for only two years, Batty's most lasting legacy is probably Batty's Grand National Hippodrome, also known as Batty's Hippodrome, an open-air amphitheate he erected in 1851 in Kensington Gardens, London,

About Pablo Fangue there is more to tell.
He was born in Norwich at lived there just as Jerome Nicholas Vlieland did at that time.
Church records suggest that he was born in 1810, one of at least five children born to John and Mary Darby (née Stamp) of Norwich.[ They were believed to have resided in Ber Street. When Fanque married in 1848, he said his late father's occupation was "butler" on his marriage certificate.

Since shortly after Fanque's death in 1871, biographers have disputed his date of birth. Since 2003 biographer Turner has popularized the belief that Fanque was born in 1796. The newspaper Era records on 14 May 1871 that Fanque's coffin bore the inscription "AGED 75 YEARS". Fanque's gravestone, located at the base of his late wife Susannah Darby's grave in Woodhouse Cemetery, Leeds (now St George's Field, part of the University of Leeds), reads "Also the above named William Darby Pablo Fanque who died May 4th 1871 Aged 75 Years".

But Fanque's age was recorded in the 1841, 1851 and 1871 censuses of England as indicating he was born in 1810. A birth register at St. Andrews Workhouse in Norwich reports the birth of a William Darby to John Darby and Mary Stamp at the workhouse on 1 April 1810. This is the birth year on a blue plaque commemorating Fanque's birth, which was installed by the city of Norwich near the purported location of his childhood residence.

Genealogists have noted a marriage record of John Darby and Mary Stamp on 27 March 1791 at St. Stephen's, Norwich. Records of children born to Darby and Stamp include John Richard on 4 Jul 1792, Robert on 27 Jul 1794, William on 28 Feb 1796, Mary Elizabeth on 18 Mar 1798, and William on 30 March 1810. The family has two burial records, William on 30 Apr 1797 and Mary Elizabeth on 10 Feb 1801. These indicate that the subject William was born in 1810, the second boy to have been given that name after his late brother died in 1797.

Based on the 1810 birth year, the young William Darby was apprenticed at age 11 to circus proprietor William Batty and made his first known appearance in a sawdust ring in Norwich on December 26, 1821, as "Young Darby." His acts included equestrian stunts and rope walking.[

Thomas Frost, in Circus Life and Circus Celebrities, wrote, "We find Batty in 1836 at Nottingham, with a company which included Pablo Fanque, a negro rope-dancer, whose real name was William Darby ..." Once established as a young adult, William Darby changed his professional name to Pablo Fanque. It appears that Fanque or his contemporaries often considered "Pablo" to be his surname.

Fanque made a highly successful London debut in 1847. Describing Fanque and his performance, The Illustrated London News wrote:

Beatles fame
A reproduction of the poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal from 1843 that inspired the Beatles' song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

In the late 20th century, John Lennon, in composing The Beatles' "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!," borrowed liberally from an 1843 playbill for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal.[ Lennon bought the poster from an antique shop in Sevenoaks, Kent, while shooting a promotional film for the song, "Strawberry Fields Forever", in Knole Park. Tony Bramwell, a former Apple employee, recalled, "There was an antique shop close to the hotel we were using in Sevenoaks. John and I wandered in and John spotted this Victorian circus poster and bought it."[ The poster advertises a performance in Rochdale and announces the appearance of "Mr. J. Henderson, the celebrated somerset thrower" and "Mr. Kite" who is described as "late of Wells's Circus." Lennon modifies the language, singing instead, "The Hendersons will all be there/Late of Pablo Fanque's Fair/What a scene!"

The title "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" is taken verbatim from the poster. The Mr. Kite referenced in the poster was William Kite, who is believed to have performed in Fanque's circus from 1843 to 1845.

The full text of the original poster is:
Grandest Night of the Season!
Evening, February 14, 1843.Mssrs. KITE and HENDERSON, in announcing the following Entertainments assure the Public that this Night's Production will be one of the most splendid ever produced in this Town, having been some days in preparation.
Mr. KITE will, for this night only, introduce theCELEBRATEDHORSE, ZANTHUS!Well known to be one of thebest Broke HorsesIN THE WORLD!!!Mr. HENDERSON will undertake the arduous Task ofTHROWING TWENTY-ONE SOMERSETS,ON THE SOLID GROUND.Mr. KITE will appear, for the first time this season,On the Tight Rope,When Two Gentlemen Amateurs of this Town willperform with him.Mr. HENDERSON will, for the first time in Rochdale,introduce his extraordinaryTRAMPOLINE LEAPSANDSOMERSETS!Over Men & Horses, through Hoops, over Garters,and lastly through aHogshead of REAL FIRE!In this branch of the profession Mr. H challengesTHE WORLD!For particulars see Bills of the day.JONES & CROSSKILL, PRINTERS AND BOOKSELLERS, YORKSHIRE STREET, ROCHDALE.

"Mr. J. Henderson" was John Henderson, a wire-walker, equestrian, trampoline artist, and clown. While the poster made no mention of "Hendersons" plural, as Lennon sings, John Henderson did perform with his wife Agnes, the daughter of circus owner Henry Hengler. The Hendersons performed throughout Europe and Russia during the 1840s and 1850s.
Being for the beneficence of Mr. Fanque

The "Benefit for Mr. Kite" was one of many benefits that Pablo Fanque held for performers in his circus, for others in the profession (who had no regular retirement or health benefits), and for community organizations. Fanque was a member of the Order of Ancient Shepherds, a fraternal organization affiliated with the Freemasons. It assisted families in times of illness or death with burial costs and other expenses. For example, an 1845 show in Blackburn benefitted the Blackburn Mechanics Institution and the Independent Order of Odd-fellows, offering a bonus to the Widows and Orphans Fund. Fanque held a similar benefit in Bury the following year. Writing in 2003, Turner could find nothing in the historical record regarding Fanque's circus activities in 1857 and 1858.

But Fanque was active during those years, holding at least two benefits among other performances. In 1857, in Bradford, he held a benefit for the family of the late Tom Barry, a clown. Brenda Assael, in The Circus and Victorian Society, writes that in March 1857, "Pablo Fanque extended the hand of friendship to Barry's widow and held a benefit in her husband's name at his Allied Circus in Bradford. Using the Era offices to transmit the money he earned from this event, Fanque enclosed 10 pounds worth of 'post office orders...being the profits of the benefit. I should have been better pleased had it been more, but this was the close of a very dull season.'" On 24 October 1858, The Herald of Scotland reported: "IN GLASGOW, 'Pablo Fanque's Cirrque Nationale' offered 'A Masonic Benefit.'"

Britain had abolished slavery in 1834 and it was still a legal institution in the United States when Britons made Fanque such a popular figure. The minutes of Edinburgh's Celtic Lodge No. 291 read, "28th February 1853. Deputation to Brother Pablo Fanque’s Amphitheatre. [A] few of the brethren met this evening in accordance with the resolution of the committee meeting of 23rd inst and accompanied the Right Worshipful Master to Brother Pablo’s Fanque’s Amphitheatre to patronage Luin on this occasion of his benefit[.] [T]he Celtic brethren met with several Sister Lodges and had much pleasure to attend."

In 1843, when clergy in Burnley were criticized in the Blackburn Mercury for attending performances of Fanque's circus, a reader responded:

Ministers of religion, of all denominations, in other towns, have attended Mr. Pablo Fanque's circus. Such is [his]character for probity and respectability, that wherever he has been once he can go again; aye and receive the countenance and support of the wise and virtuous of all classes of society. I am sure that the friends of temperance and morality are deeply indebted to him for the perfectly innocent recreation which he has afforded to our population, by which I am sure hundreds have been prevented from spending their money in revelling and drunkenness.

An 1846 Bolton newspaper story epitomized the public's high regard for Fanque in the communities he visited on account of his beneficence:

Several of the members of the "Widows and Orphans Fund" presented to Mr. Pablo Fanque a written testimonial, mounted in an elegant gilt frame...Mr. Pablo on entering the room was received with due respect. Mr. Fletcher presented an address...which concluded:...'and when the hoary hand of age should cease to wave over your head, at a good old age, may you sink into the grave regretted, and your name and acts of benevolence be remembered by future generations.'
Marriages and family
Fanque married Susannah Marlaw, the daughter of a Birmingham buttonmaker. They had two sons, one of whom was named Lionel. On 18 March 1848, his wife died in Leeds at an accident in the building where the circus was performing. Their son was performing a tightrope act before a large crowd at the Amphitheatre at King Charles Croft. The 600 people seated in the gallery fell with its collapse, but Susannah Darby was the only fatality. Heavy planks hit her on the back of the head. Reportedly, Fanque sought medical attention for his wife at the King Charles Hotel, but a surgeon pronounced her dead.

Years later a 4 March 1854 edition of the Leeds Intelligencer recalled the incident, while announcing the return of Pablo Fanque's Circus to Leeds:

"His last visit, preceding the present one, was unfortunately attended by a very melancholy accident. On that occasion he occupied a circus in King Charles's Croft and part of the building gave way during the time it was occupied by a crowded audience. Several persons were more or less injured by the fall of the timbers composing the part that proved too weak, and Mrs Darby, the wife of the proprietor, was killed. This event, which occurred on Saturday the 18th March 1848, excited much sympathy throughout the borough. A neat monument with an impressive inscription is placed above the grave of Mrs Darby, in the Woodhouse Lane Cemetery."

In June 1848, widower Fanque married Elizabeth Corker, a circus rider and daughter of George Corker of Bradford. Corker was 22 years old. With Corker, Fanque had two more sons, George (1854–1881) and Edward Charles "Ted" (1855–1937). Both joined the circus. Ted, known as Ted Pablo, also achieved acclaim as a boxer. A daughter, Caroline Susannah, died aged 1 year and 4 months and is buried in the same plot as Susannah and William, as recorded on the gravestone.

The 1861 census records Fanque as living with a woman named Sarah, 25, who is described as his wife. In 1871, just before he died, census records show him living again with his wife Elizabeth and his two sons, in Stockport.

In Warriston Cemetery in Edinburgh stands a tombstone dedicated to the memory of two of Fanque's children: Elizabeth Corker—William Batty Patrick Darby (13 months) and Elizabeth Darby (3 years). Both died in 1852, Elizabeth in Tuam, Ireland. Fanque performed in Edinburgh in the early 1850s.
Graves of Susannah and William Darby
Grave marker of William Darby

Pablo Fanque died of bronchitis at the Britannia Inn at 22 Churchgate in Stockport, England on 4 May 1871In the funeral procession to Woodhouse Lane Cemetery, Leeds, a band marched ahead of Fanque's hearse playing the "Dead March". Fanque's favourite horse followed, along with four coaches and mourners. Fanque is buried next to his first wife Susannah Darby.

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