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All Bights Beserved. 



lb ? ?^ 


Popular amusements constitute so important a part 
of a nation^s social history that no excuse need be 
offered for the production of the present volume. 
The story of the old London fairs has not been 
told before, and that of the almost extinct race of 
the old showmen is so inextricably interwoven with 
it that the most convenient way of telling either was 
to tell both. An endeavour has been made, there- 
fore, to relate the rise, progress, and declension of 
the fairs formerly held in and about the metropolis 
as comprehensively and as thoroughly as the imper- 
fect records of such institutions render possible ; 
and to weave into the narrative all that is known of 

vi Preface, 

the personal history of the entertainers of the people 
who^ from the earliest times to the period when the 
London fairs became things of the past, have set 
up shows in West Smithfield, on the greens of 
Southwark, Stepney, and Camberwell, and in the 
streets of Greenwich and Deptford. Those who 
remember the fairs that were the last abolished, 
even in the days of their decline, will, it is thought, 
peruse with interest such fragments of the personal 
history of Gyngell, Scowton, Saunders, Richardson, 
Wombwell, and other showmen of the last half cen- 
tury of the London fairs, to say nothing of the 
earlier generations of entertainers, as are brought 
together in the following pages. 

The materials for a work of this kind are not 
abundant. The notices of the fairs to be found in 
records of the earlier centuries of their history are 
slight, and more interesting to the antiquary than 
to the general reader. Newspapers of the latter 
half of the seventeenth century, and the first half of 
the eighteenth, afford only advertisements of the 
amusements, and of the showmen of the former 
period we learn only the names. During the latter 

Preface. vii 

lialf of the last century^ the showmen seldom adver- 
tised in the newspapers, and few of their bills have 
been preserved. No showman has ever written his 
memoirs, or kept a journal ; and the biographers of 
actors who have trodden the portable stages of 
Scowton and Richardson in the early years of their 
professional career have failed to glean many 
incidents of their fair experiences. All that can be 
presented of the personal history of such men as 
Gyngell, Scowton, Richardson, and Wombwell, has 
been gathered from the few surviving members of 
the fraternity of showmen, and from persons who, 
at different periods, and in various ways, have been 
brought into association with them. If, therefore, 
no other merit should be found in the following 
pages, they will at least have been the means of 
preserving from oblivion all that is known of an 
almost extinct class of entertainers of the people. 



Origin of Fairs — Charter Fairs at Winchester and Chester — 
Croydon Fairs — Fairs in the Metropolis — Origin of Bar- 
tholomew Fair — Disputes between the Priors and the 
Corporation — The Westminster Fairs — Southwark Fair — 
Stepney Fair — Ceremonies observed in opening Fairs — 
Walking the Fair at Wolverhampton — The Key of the 
Fair at Croydon — Proclamation of Bartholomew Fair 


Amusements of the Fairs in the Middle Ages — Shows and 
Showmen of the Sixteenth Century — Banks and his 
Learned Horse — Bartholomew Fair in the time of Charles 
I. — Punch and Judy — Office of the Revels — Origin of 
Hocus Pocus — Suppression of Bartholomew Fair — Lon- 
don Shows during the Protectorate — A Turkish Rope- 
Dancer — Barbara Vanbeck, the Bearded Woman . * . 1& 

X Contents. 



Strolling Players in the Seventeenth Century — South wark 
Fair — Bartholomew Fair — Pepys and the Monkeys — Poh- 
chinello— Jacob Hall, the Rope-Dancer — Another Bearded 
Woman — Richardson, the Fire-Eater — The Cheshire 
Dwarf — Killigrew and the Strollers — Fair on the Thames 
— The Irish Giant — A Dutch Rope-Dancer — Music 
Booths — Joseph Clarke, the Posturer — William Philips, 
the Zany — WilUam Stokes, the Yaulter — A Show in 
Threadneedle Street 36 


Attempts to Suppress the Shows at Bartholomew Fair — A 
remarkable Dutch Boy — Theatrical Booths at the London 
Fairs — Penkethman, the Comedian— May Fair — Barnes 
and Finley — Lady Mary — Doggett, the Comedian — Simp- 
son, the Vaulter — Clench, the Whistler — A Show at 
Charing Cross — Another Performing Horse — Powell and 
Crawley, the Puppet-Showmen — Miles's Music-Booth — 
Settle and Mrs. My nn— South wark Fair — Mrs. Horton, 
the Actress — Bullock and Leigh — Penkethman and Pack 
— Boheme, the Actor — Suppression of May Fair — Wood- 
ward, the Comedian — A Female Hercules — Tiddy-dol, the 
Gingerbread Vendor ..... ^^ 


Bartholomew Fair Theatricals — Lee, the Theatrical Printer — 
Harper, the Comedian — Rayner and Pullen — Fielding, 
the Novelist, a Showman — Cibber's Booth — Hippisley, 
the Actor — Fire in Bartholomew Fair — Fawkes, the Con- 
juror — Royal Visit to Fielding's Booth — Yeates, the Show- 
man — Mrs. Pritchard, the Actress — Southwark Fair — 
Tottenham Court Fair — Ryan, the Actor — Hallam's 
Booth — Griffin, the Actor — Visit of the Prince of Wales 
to Bartholomew Fair — Laguerre's Booth — Heidegger — 
More Theatrical Booths — Their Suppression at Bartho- 
lomew Fair — Hogarth at Southwark Fair — Violante, the 
Rbpe-Dancer — Cadman, the Flying Man .... 102 

Contents, xi 


A new Race of Showmen — ^Yeates, the Conjuror — The Turkish 
Rope-Walker — Pan and the Oronutu Savage — The Cor- 
sican Fairy — Perry's Menagerie — The Riobiscay and the 
Double Cow — A Mermaid at the Fairs — Q-arrick at Bar- 
tholomew Fair — Yates's Theatrical Booth — Dwarfs and 
Giants — The Female Samson — Riots at Bartholomew 
Fair — Ballard's Animal Comedians — Evans, the Wire- 
Walker — Southwark Fair — Wax-work Show — Shuter, the 
Comedian — Bisset, the Animal Trainer — Powell, the Fire- 
Eater — Roger Smith, the Bell-Player — Suppression of 
Southwark Fair 147 


Yates and Shuter — Cat Harris — Mechanical Singing Birds — 
Lecture on Heads — Pidcock's Menagerie — ^Breslaw, the 
Conjuror — Reappearance of the Corsican Fairy — Graetano, 
the Bird Imitator — Rossignol's Performing Birds — Am- 
broise, the Showman — Brunn, the Juggler, on the Wire — 
Riot at Bartholomew Fair — Dancing Serpents — Flockton, 
the Puppet- Showman — Royal "Visit to Bartholomew Fair 
— Lane, the Conjuror — Hall's Museum — O'Brien, the 
Irish Giant — ^Baker's Theatre — Joel Tarvey and Lewis 
Owen, the popular Clowns 180 


Lady Holland's Mob — Kelham Whiteland, the Dwarf — Flock- 
ton, the Conjuror and Puppet-Showman — Wonderful 
Rams — Miss Morgan, the Dwarf — Flockton's Will — 
Gyngell, the Conjuror — Jobson, the Puppet-Showman — 
Abraham Saunders — Menageries of Miles and Polito — 
Miss Biffin— Philip Astley 198 


Edmund Kean — Mystery of his Parentage — Saunders's Circus 
— Scowton's Theatre — Belzoni — The Nondescript --Rich- 
ardson's Theatre — The Carey Family — Kean, a Circus 

xii Conte7its. 


Performer — Oxberry, the Comedian — James Wallack — 
Last Appearance of the Irish Giant— Miss Biffin and the 
Earl of Morton — Bartholomew Fair Incidents — Josephine 
G-irardelli, the Female Salamander — James England, the 
Flying Pieman — EUiston as a Showman — Simon Paap, 
the Dutch Dwarf — Ballard's Menagerie — A Learned Pig 
— Madame Gobert, the Athlete — Cartlich, the Original 
Mazeppa — Barnes, the Pantaloon — Nelson Lee — Cooke's 
Circus— The Gyngell Family 213 


Saker and the Lees — Richardson's Theatre — Wombwell, the 
Menagerist — The Lion Fights at Warwick — Maughan, the 
Showman — Miss Hipson, the Fat Girl — Lydia Walpole, 
the Dwarf — The Persian Giant and the Fair Circassian — 
Ball's Theatre — Atkins's Menagerie — A Mare with Seven 
Feet— Hone's "Visit to Richardson's Theatre — Samwell's 
Theatre — Clarke's Circus — Brown's Theatre of Arts — Bal- 
lard's Menagerie — Toby, the Learned Pig — William 
Whitehead, the Fat Boy — Elizabeth Stock, the Giantess 
— Chappell and Pike's Theatre — The Spotted Boy — 
Wombwell's "Bonassus" — Gouffe, the Man-Monkey — 
De Berar's Phantasmagoria — Scowton's Theatre — Death 
of Richardson 255 


Successors of Scowton and Richardson — Nelson Lee — Crow- 
ther, the Actor — Paul Herring — Newman and Allen's 
Theatre — Fair in Hyde Park — Hilton's Menagerie — Bar- 
tholomew Fair again threatened — Wombwell's Menagerie 
— Charles Freer — Fox Cooper and the Bosjesmans — De- 
struction of Johnson and Lee's Theatre — Reed's Theatre — 
Hales, the Norfolk Giant — Affray at Greenwich — Death 
of Wombwell — Lion Queens — Catastrophe in a Menagerie 
— World's Fair at Bayswater — Abbott's Theatre — Charlie 
Keith, the Clown — Robson, the Comedian — Manders's 
Menagerie — Macomo, the Lion-Tamer — Macarthy and the 
Lions — Fairgrieve's Menagerie — Lorenzo and the Tigress 
— Sale of a Menagerie — Extinction of the London Fairs — 
Decline of Fairs near the Metropolis — Conclusion . . 319 




Origin of Fairs — Charter Fairs at Winchester and Chester — 
Croydon Fairs — Fairs in the Metropolis — Origin of Bar- 
tholomew Fair — Disputes between the Priors and the 
Corporation — The Westminster Fairs — Southwark Fair — 
Stepney Fair — Ceremonies observed in opening Fairs — 
Walking the Fair at Wolverhampton — The Key of the 
Fair at Croydon— Proclamation of Bartholomew Fair. 

There can be no doubt that the practice of holding 
annual fairs for tbe sale of various descriptions of 
merchandise is of very great antiquity. The 
necessity of periodical gatherings at certain places 
for the interchange of the various products of 
industry must have been felt as soon as our ancestors 
became sufficiently advanced in civilisation to desire 


The Old Showmen^ 

articles whicli were not produced in every locality^ 
and for which^ owing to the sparseness of the 
scattered population^ there was not a demand in 
any single town that would furnish the producers 
with an adequate inducement to limit their business 
to one place. Most kinds of agricultural produce 
might be conveyed to the markets held every week 
in all the towns^ and there disposed of; but there 
were some commodities, such as wool, for example, 
the entire production of which was confined to one 
period of the year, while the demand for many 
descriptions of manufactured goods in any one 
locality was not sufficient to enable a dealer in them 
to obtain a livelihood, unless he carried his wares 
from one town to another. What, therefore, the 
great fair of Nishnei-Novgorod is at the present 
day, the annual fairs of the English towns were, on 
a less extensive scale, during the middle ages. 

One of the most ancient, as well as the most 
important, of the fairs of this country was that held 
on St. Gileses Hill, near Winchester. It was 
chartered by William I., who granted the tolls to 
his cousin, William Walkelyn, Bishop of Win- 
chester. Its duration was originally limited to one 
day, but William II. extended it to three days, 
Henry I, to eight, Stephen to fourteen, and Henry 
II. (according to Milner, or Henry III., as some 

And the Old London Fairs. 

authorities say) to sixteen. Portions of the tolls 
were,, subsequently to the date of the first charter^ 
assigned to the priory of St. Swithin, the abbey of 
Hyde, and the hospital of St. Mary Magdalene. 
On tbe eve of the festival of St. Giles, on wbich 
day the fair commenced, the mayor and bailifls of 
Winchester surrendered the keys of the four gates 
of the city, and with them their privileges, to tlie 
officers of the Bishop ; and a court called the 
Pavilion, composed of the Bishop^s justiciaries, was 
invested with authority to try all causes during the 
fair. The jurisdiction of this court extended seven 
miles in every direction from St. Gileses Hill, and 
ooUectors were placed at all the avenues to the fair 
to gather the tolls upon the merchandise taken 
there for sale. All wares offered for sale within 
this circle, except in the fair, were forfeit to the 
Bishop ; all the shops in the city were closed, and 
no business was transacted within the prescribed 
limits, otherwise than in the fair. It is probable, 
however, that most of the shopkeepers had stalls 
on the fair ground. 

This fair was attended by merchants from all 
parts of England, and even from France and 
Flanders. Streets were formed for the sale of 
different commodities, and distinguished by them, 
us the drapery, the pottery, the spicery, the stan- 

B 2 

The Old Showmen^ 

nary^ etc. The neighbouring monasteries had also 
their respective stations^ which they held under the 
Bishop^ and sometimes sublet for a term of years. 
Milner says that the fair began to decline, as a place 
of resort for merchants, in the reign of Henry VI., 
the stannary, that is, the street appointed for the sale 
of the products of the Cornish mines, being un- 
occupied. Prom this period its decline seems to 
have been rapid, owing probably to the commercial 
development which followed the extinction of 
feudalism ; though it continued to be an annual mart 
of considerable local importance down to the present 

The description of this fair will serve, in a great 
measure, for all the fairs of the middle ages. Some 
of them were famous marts for certain descriptions 
of produce, as, for examples, Abingdon and Hemel 
Hempstead for wool, Newbury and Eoyston for 
cheese, Guildford and Maidstone for hops, Croydon 
and Kingston summer fairs for cherries ; others for 
manufactured goods of particular kinds, as St. 
Bartholomew's, in the metropolis, for cloth (hence 
the local name of Cloth Fair), and Buntingford for 
hardwares. More usually, the fair was an annual 
market, to which the farmers of the district took 
their cattle, and the merchants of the great towns 
their woollen and linen goods, their hardwares and 

And the Old London Fairs. 5 

earthenwares^ and the silks, laces, furs, spices, etc., 
which they imported from the Continent. These, 
as at Winchester, were arranged in streets of booths, 
fringed with the stalls of the pedlars and the pur- 
veyors of refreshments, for the humbler frequenters 
of the fair. The farmers, the merchants, and the 
customers of both, resorted to the more commodious 
and better-provided tents, in which, as Lydgate 
wrote of Eastcheap in the fifteenth century, 

" One cried ribs of beef, and many a pie ; 
Pewter pots they clattered on a heap ; 
There was harp, pipe, and minstrelsy." ^ 

Of equal antiquity with the great fair at Win- 
chester were the Chester fairs, held on the festivals 
of St. John and St. Werburgh, the tolls of which 
were granted to the abbey of St. Werburgh by 
Hugh Lupus, second Earl of Chester and nephew 
' of William I. There was a curious provision in 
this grant, that thieves and other oiBfenders should 
€njoy immunity from arrest within the city during 
the three days that the fair lasted. Frequent 
disputes arose out of this grant between the 
abbots of St. Werburgh and the mayor and cor- 
poration of the city. In the reign of Edward IV., 
the abbot claimed to have the fair of St. John 
held before the gates of the abbey, and that no 

The Old Showmen^ 

goods should be exposed for sale elsewhere during 
the fair ; while the mayor and corporation contended 
for the right of the citizens to sell their goods as 
usual^ anywhere within the city. The citizens 
carried the point in their favour, and the abbot was 
induced to agree that the houses belonging to the 
abbey in the neighbourhood of the fair should not 
be let for the display of goods until those of the 
citizens were occupied for that purpose. Disputes 
between the abbey and the city concerning the fair 
of St. Werburgh continued until 1513, when, by 
an award of Sir Charles Booth, the abbey was 
deprived of its interest in that fair. 

Croydon Pair dated from 1276, when the interest 
' of Archbishop Kilwardby obtained for the town 
he right of holding a fair during nine days, begin- 
ning on the vigil of St. Botolph, that is, on the 
16th of May. In 1314, Archbishop Eeynolds 
obtained for the town a similar grant for a fair 
on the vigil and morrow of St. Matthew^s day ; and 
in 1343, Archbishop Stratford obtained a grant of 
a fair on the feast of St. John the Baptist. The 
earliest of these fairs was the first to sink into 
insi^ificance ; but the others survived to a very 
recent period in the sheep and cattle fair, held in 
latter times on the 2nd of October and the two 
following days, and the cherry fair, held on the 5th 

And the Old Londoii Fairs, 

of July and the two following days. Whatever 
may have been the relative importance of these 
fairs in former times^ the former, though held at 
the least genial season, was, for at least a century 
before it was discontinued, the most considerable 
fair in the neighbourhood of the metropolis ; while 
the July fair lost the advantage of being held in the 
summer, through the contracted limits within which 
its component parts were pitched. These were the 
streets between High Street and Surrey Street, and 
included the latter, formerly called Butcher Row ; 
and the only space large enough for anything of 
dimensions exceeding those of a stall for the sale of 
toys or gingerbread, was that at the back of the 
Corn Market, on which the cattle-market was 
formerly held. 

The first fair established in the metropolis was 
that which, originally held within the precincts of the 
priory of St. Bartholomew, soon grew beyond its 
original limits, and at length came to be held on 
the spacious area of West Smithiield. The origin 
of the fair is not related by Maitland, Entick, 
Northouck, and other historians of the metropolis, 
who seem to have thought a fair too light a 
matter for their grave consideration ; and more 
recent writers, who have made it the subject of 
special research, do not agree in their accounts of 

The Old Showmen^ 

it. According to the report made by the city 
solicitor to the Markets Committee in 1840, ^^at the 
earliest periods in which history makes mention of 
this subject, there were two fairs, or markets, held 
on the spot where Bartholomew Fair is now held, 
or in its immediate vicinity. These two fairs were 
originally held for two entire days only, the fairs 
being proclaimed on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 
and continued during the day of St. Bartholomew 
and the next morrow ; both these fairs, or markets, 
were instituted for the purposes of trade; one of 
them was granted to the prior of the Convent of St. 
Bartholomew, ^and was kept for the clothiers of 
England, and drapers of London, who had their 
booths and standings within the churchyard of the 
priory, closed in with walls and gates, and locked 
every night, and watched, for the safety of their 
goods and wares.^ The other was granted to the 
City of London, and consisted of the standing of 
cattle, and stands and booths for goods, with pick- 
age and stallage, and tolls and profits appertaining 
to fairs and markets in the field of West Smith- 

Nearly twenty years after this report was made, 
and when the fair had ceased to exist, Mr. Henry 
Morley, searching among the Guildhall archives for 
information on the subject, found that the fair 

And the Old London Fairs, 

originated at an earlier date than had hitherto been 
supposed ; and that the original charter was granted 
by Henry I. in 1133 to Prior Rayer^ by whom the 
monastery of St. Bartholomew was founded. E-ayer 
whose name was Latinised into Raherus^ and has 
been Anglicised by modern writers into Kahere^ was 
originally the King's jester^ and a great favourite of 
his royal master^ who^ on his becoming an Au- 
gustine monk_, and^ founding the priory of St. Bar- 
tholomew^ rewarded him with the grant of the rents 
a^nd tolls arising out of the fair for the benefit of the 
brotherhood. The prior was so zealous for the 
good of the monastery that^ perhaps also because he 
retained a hankering after the business of his for- 
mer profession^ he is said to have annually gone 
into the fair^ and exhibited his skill as a juggler, 
giving the largesses which he received from the 
spectators to the treasury of the convent. 

It was admitted by the report of 1840 that 
documents in the office of the City solicitor 
afforded evidence of conflicting opinions on the 
subject in former times ; and it seems probable that 
the belief in the two charters attributed to Henry 
II. and the dual character of the fair had its origin 
in the disputes which arose from time to time, 
during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth 
centuries, between the civic and monastic authorities 

lo The Old Shoimneiu 

as to the right to the tolls payable on goods carried 
into that portion of the fair which was held in 
Smithfield^ beyond the precincts of the priory. The 
latter claimed these^ on the ground of the grant of 
the fair ; the City claimed them, on the ground that 
the land belonged to the corporation. The dispute 
was a natural one, whether Henry II. had granted 
the Smithfield tolls to the City or not ; and there is 
evidence on record that it arose again and again, 
until the dissolution of monasteries at the Re- 
formation finally settled it by disposing of one of 
the parties. 

In ] 295 a dispute arose between the prior of St. 
Bartholomew's and Ralph Sandwich, custos of the 
City, the former maintaining that, as the privileges 
of the City had become forfeited to the Crown, the 
tolls of the fair should be paid into the Exchequer. 
Edward I., who was then at Durham, ordered that 
the matter should be referred to his treasurer and the 
barons of the Exchequer ; but, while the matter was 
pending, the disputants grew so warm that the 
City authorities arrested some of the monks, and 
confined them in the Tun prison, in Cornhill. They 
were released by command of the King, but there- 
upon nine citizens forced the Tun, and released all the 
other prisoners, by way of resenting the royal inter- 
ference. The rioters were imprisoned in their turn. 

And the Old London Fairs, 1 1 

and a fine of twenty thousand marks was imposed 
upon the City ; but the civic authorities proposed a 
compromise^, and, for a further payment of three * 
thousand marks, Edward consented to pardon the 
offenders, and to restore and confirm the privileges 
of the City. 

The right of the City to the rents and tolls of the 
portion of the fair held beyond the precincts of the 
priory was finally 'decided in 1445, when the Court 
of Aldermen appointed four persons as keepers of 
the fair, and of the Court of Pie-powder, a tribunal 
instituted for the summary settlement of all disputes 
arising in the fair, and deriving its name, it is 
supposed, from fieds poudreSy because the litigants 
had their causes tried with the dust of the fair on 
their feet. 

At the dissolution of monasteries, in the reign of 
Henry VIII., the tolls which had been payable to 
the priory of St. Bartholomew were sold to Sir 
John Kich, then Attorney- General ; and the right 
to hold the fair was held by his descendants until 
1830, when it was purchased of Lord Kensington 
by the Corporation of London, and held thereafter 
by the City chamberlain and the town clerk in trusty 
thus vesting the rights and interests in both fairs in 
the same body. 

Westminster Fair, locally termed Magdalen^ s, was 

12 The Old Showmefi^ 

established in 1257, by a charter granted by Henry 
III. to the abbot and canons of St. Peter^s, and 
was held on Tothill Fields, the site of which is now 
covered by the Westminster House of Correction 
and some neighbouring streets. 

The three days to which it was originally limited, 
were extended by Edward III. to thirty-one ; but 
hke fair was never so well attended as St. Bar- 
tholomew's, and fell into disuse soon afterwards. 

There was another fair held in the adjoining 
parish of St. James, the following amusing notice 
of which in Machyn's diary is the earliest I have 
been able to find : — 

"The XXV. day of June [1560], Saint James 
fayer by Westminster was so great that a man 
<30uld not have a pygg for money ; and the bear 
wiflfes had nother meate nor drink before iiij of 
cloke in the same day. And the chese went very 
well away for Id, q, the pounde. Besides the great 
<ind mighti armie of beggares and bandes that were 
there. ^' Beyond the fact that it was postponed in 
1603 on account of the plague, nothing more is 
recorded concerning this fair until 1664, in which 
year it was suppressed, " as considered to tend rather 
to the advantage of looseness and irregularity than 
to the substantial promoting of any good, common 
a;nd beneficial to the people/' 

And the Old London Fairs. 13 

South wark Pair, locally known as Lady Fair, 
was established in 1462 by a charter granted by 
Edward IV. to the City of London^ in the following^ 
terms : — 

^^ We have also granted to the said Mayor, Com- 
monalty^ and Citizens, and their successors for ever, 
that they shall and may have yearly one fair in the 
town aforesaid, for three days, that is to say, the 
7th, 8th, 9th days of September, to be holden, to- 
gether with a Court of Pie-Powders, and with all 
the liberties to such fairs appertaining : And that 
they may have and hold there at their said Courts, 
before their said Minister or deputy, during the 
said three days, from day to day, hour to hour, and 
from time to" time, all occasions, plaints, and pleas 
of a Court of Pie-Powders, together with all sum- 
mons, attachments, arrests, issues, fines, redemp- 
tions, and commodities, and other rights whatso- 
ever, to the said Court of Pie-Powders in any way 
pertaining, without any impediment, let, or hin- 
drance of Us, our heirs or successors, or other our 
officers and ministers soever/^ 

This charter has sometimes been referred to as 
granting to the Corporation the right to hold a fair 
in West Smithfield, in addition to the fair the tolls 
of which were received by the priory of St. Bartho- 
lomew ; but that " the town aforesaid " was South- 

14 The Old Showmen^ 

wark is shown by a previous clause^ in which it is 
stated that ^^to take away from henceforth and 
utterly to abolish all and all manner of causes^ oc- 
casions, and matters whereupon opinions, ambigui- 
ties, varieties, controversies, and discussions may 
arise,^^ the King " granted to the said Mayor and 
Commonalty of the said City who now be, and their 
successors, the Mayor and Commonalty and Citi- 
zens of that City for the time being and for ever, 
the town of Southwark, with its appurte- 

The origin of Camberwell Fair is lost in the mist 
of ages. In the evidence adduced before a petty 
sessions held at Union Hall in 1823, on the subject 
of its suppression, it was said that the custom of 
holding it was mentioned in the ^ Domesday Book,^ 
but the statement seems to have been made upon 
insufficient grounds. It commenced on the 9th of 
August, and continued three weeks, ending on St. 
Gileses day ; but, in modern times, was limited, like 
most other fairs, to three days. It seems to have 
been originally held in the parish churchyard, but 
this practice was terminated by a clause in the 
Statute of Winchester, passed in the thirteenth 
year of the reign of Edward I. It was then re- 
moved to the green, where it was held until its 
suppression. Peckham Fair seems to have been 

And the Old London Fairs. 15 

irregular^ and merely supplementary to Camber- 
well Fair. 

Stepney Pair was of less ancient date. In 1664 
Charles 11.^ at the instance of the Earl of Cleveland, 
then lord of the manor of Stepney^ granted a 
patent for a weekly market at Ratcliff Cross, and 
an annual fair on Michaelmas day at Mile End 
Oreen, or any other places within the manor of 
Stepney. The keeping of the market and fair, with 
all the revenues arising from tolls, etc., was given 
by the same grant, at the Earl of Cleveland's re- 
quest, to Sir William Smith and his heirs for ever. 
The right continued to vest in the baronet^s de- 
scendants for several years, but long before the 
suppression of the fair it passed to the lord of the 
manor, which, in 1720, was sold by the representa- 
tives of Lady Went worth to John Wicker, Esquire, 
of Horsham, in Sussex, whose son alienated it in 
1754. It is now possessed by the Colebrooke 

The ceremonies observed in opening fairs evince 
the importance which attached to them. On the 
eve of the ^^ great fair ^^ of Wolverhampton, held on 
the 9th of July, there was a procession of men in 
armour, preceded by musicians playing what was 
known as the ^^fair tune,'' and followed by the 
steward of the deanery manor and the peace-officers 

1 6 The Old Shoimnen^ 

of the town. The custom is said to have originated 
with the fair, when Wolverhampton was as famous 
as a mart of the wool trade as it now is for its iron- 
mongery, and merchants resorted to the fair, which 
formerly lasted fourteen days, from all parts of 
England. The necessity of an armed force for the 
maintenance of order during the fair in those days 
is not improbable. This custom of ^^ walking the 
fair,^^ as it was called, was discontinued in 1 789, 
and has not since been revived. 

The October fair at Croydon was opened as soon 
as midnight had sounded by the town clock, or, in 
earlier times, by that of the parish church ; the 
ceremony consisting in the carrying of a key, called 
^^ the key of the fair,^^ through its principal avenues. 
The booth-keepers were then at liberty to serve 
refreshments to such customers as might present 
themselves, generally the idlers who followed the 
bearer of the key; and long before daylight the 
field resounded with the bleating of sheep, the 
lowing of cattle, the barking of dogs, and the 
shouting of shepherds and drovers. 

The metropolitan fair of St. Bartholomew was 
opened by a proclamation, which used to be read at 
the gate leading into Cloth Fair by the Lord 
Mayor's attorney, and repeated after him by a 
sheriflf^s officer, in the presence of the Lord Mayor,. 

A7td the Old London Fairs. ij 

aldermen^ and sheriffs. The procession then per- 
ambulated Smithfield, and returned to the Mansion 
House^ where^ in the afternoon, those of his lord- 
ship^s household dined together at the sword- 
bearer^s table, and so concluded the ceremony. 



Amusements of the Fairs in the Middle Ages — Shows and 
Sliowmen of the Sixteenth Century — Banks and his 
Learned Horse — Bartholomew Fair in the time of 
Charles I. — Punch and Judy — Office of the Revels — 
Origin of Hocus Pocus — Suppression of Bartholomew 
Fair — London Shows during the Protectorate — A Turkish 
Rope-Dancer —^Barbara Vanbeck, the Bearded Woman. 

Numerous illuminations of manuscripts in the 
Harleian collection, many of which were reproduced 
in Strutt's work on the sports and pastimes of the 
English people, having established the fact that 
itinerant professors of the art of amusing were in 
the habit of tramping from town to town, and 
village to village, for at least two centuries before 
the Norman Conquest of this country, there can be 
no doubt that the fairs were so many foci of 
attraction for them at the times when they were 

The Old London Fairs, 19 

respectively held. As we are told that the minstrels 
and glee-men flocked to the towns and villages 
which grew up under the protection of the baronial 
castles when the marriage of the lord, or the coming 
of ago of the heir, furnished an occasion of popular 
revelry, and also when the many red-letter days of 
the mediaeval calendar came round, we may be sure 
that they were not absent from Bartlemy fair even 
in its earliest years. 

Glee-men was a term which included dancers, pos- 
turers, jugglers, tumblers, and exhibitors of trained 
performing monkeys and quadrupeds ; and, the mas- 
culine including the feminine in this case, many of 
these performers were women and girls. The illumi- 
nations which have been referred to, &,Hd which con- 
stitute our chief authority as to the amusements of the 
fairs during the middle ages, introduce us to female 
posturers and tumblers, in the act of performing the 
various feats which have been the stock in trade of 
the acrobatic profession down to the present day. 
The jugglers exhibited the same feats with balls and 
knives as their representatives of the nineteenth 
century; what is professionally designated ^^the 
shower,^^ in which the balls succeed each other 
rapidly, while describing a semi-circle from right to 
left, is shown in one of the Harleian illuminations. 

Balancing feats were also exhibited, and in one of 


20 The Old Showmen^ 

these curious illustrations of the sights which 
delighted our fair-going ancestors, the balancing of 
a cart-wheel is represented — a trick which might 
have been witnessed not many years ago in the 
streets of London, the performer being an elderly 
negro, said to have been the father of the well- 
known rope-dancer, George ChristoflF, who repre- 
sented the Pompeian performer on the corde 
elastique, when Mr. Oxenford^s version of The Last 
Days of Pompeii was produced at the Queen^s 

Performing monkeys, bears, and horses appear in 
many of the mediaeval illuminations, and were 
probably as popular agents of public amusement in 
the earliest years of Bartlemy fair as they can be 
shown, from other authorities, to have been in the 
sixteenth century. That monkeys were imported 
rather numerously for the amusement of the public, 
may be inferred from the fact of some Chancellor of 
the Exchequer of the middle ages having subjected 
them to an import duty. Their agility was displayed 
chiefly in vaulting over a chain or cord. Bears 
were taught to feign death, and to walk erect after 
their leader, who played some musical instrument. 
Horses were also taught to walk on their hind legs, 
and one drawing in the Harleian collection shows a 
horse in this attitude, engaged in a mimic fight with 
a man armed with sword and buckler. 

And the Old London Fairs. 2 1 

All these performances seem to have been conti- 
nued, by successive generations of performers, down 
to the time of Elizabeth. Eeginald Scot, writing 
in 1584, gives a lengthy enumeration of the tricks 
of the jugglers who frequented the fairs of the latter 
part of the sixteenth century. Among them are 
most of the common tricks of the present day, and 
not the least remarkable is the decapitation feat, 
which many of my readers have probably seen 
performed by the famous wizards of modern times 
at the Egyptian Hall. Three hundred years ago, it 
was called the decollation of St. John the Baptist^ 
and was performed upon a table, upon which stood 
a dish to receive the head. The table, the dish, 
and the knife used in the apparent decapitation 
were all contrived for the purpose, the table having 
two holes in it, one to enable the assistant who 
submitted to the operation to conceal his head, the 
other, corresponding to a hole in the dish, to 
receive the head of another confederate, who was 
<3oncealed beneath the table, in a sitting position ; 
while the knife had a semi-circular opening in the 
blade to fit the neck. Another knife, of the ordinary 
kind, was shown to the spectators, who were pre- 
vented by a sleight of hand trick from observing 
the substitution for it of the knife used in the trick. 
The engraving in Malcolm^ s work shows the man 

22 The Old Showmen^ 

to be operated upon lying upon the table^ apparently 
headless, while the head of the other assistant 
appears in the dish. 

That lusus naturce, and other natural curiosities, 
had begun to be exhibited by showmen in the 
reign of Elizabeth, may be inferred from the 
allusions to such exhibitions in The Tempest, when 
Caliban is discovered, and the mariners speculate 
upon his place in the scale of animal being. It 
seems also that the practice of displaying in front 
of the shows large pictures of the wonderful feats, 
or curious natural objects, to be seen within, pre- 
vailed in the sixteenth century, and probably long 
before ; for it is distinctly alluded to in a passage 
in Jonson^s play of Tlie Alchymist, in which the 
master of the servant who has filled the house with 
searchers for the philosopher's stone, says, 

** What should my knave advance 
To draw this company ? He hung out no banners 
Of a strange calf with five legs to be seen, 
Or a huge lobster with six claws." 

Some further glimpses of the Bartlemy fair 
shows of the Elizabethan period are afforded in the 
induction or prologue to another play of Jonson's, 
namely, the comedy of Bartholomew Fair, acted in 
1614. ^^ He,'' says the dramatist, speaking of him- 

And the Old London Fairs. 23 

self, *^^has ne^er a sword and buckler-man in his 
fair; nor a juggler with a well-educated ape to 
come over the chain for the King of England^ and 
back again for the Prince, and sit still on his 
haunches for the Pope and the King of Spain /^ 
The sword and buckler-man probably means a per- 
former who took part in such a mimic combat of 
man and horse, as is represented in the illumination 
which has been referred to. The monkey whose 
Protestant proclivities are noted in the latter part 
of the passage is mentioned in a poem of Davenant^s,, 
presently to be quoted. 

We cannot suppose absent from the metropolitan 
fairs the celebrated performing horse, Morocco, and 
his instructor, of whom Sir Walter Raleigh says^ 
" If Banks had lived in older times, he would have 
shamed all the enchanters in the world ; for who- 
soever was most famous among them could never 
master or instruct any beast as he did.^' That 
Shakspeare witnessed the performances of Morocco, 
which combined arithmetical calculations with salta- 
tory exercises, is shown by the allusion in Loveh^ 
Labour Lost, when Moth puzzles Armado with 
arithmetical questions, and says, ^^ The dancing horse 
will tell you." Sir Kenelm Digby states that the 
animal ^^ would restore a glove to the due owner 
after the master tiad whispered the man^s name in 

24 The Old Showmen^ 

his ear ; and would tell the just number of pence 
in any piece of silver coin newly showed him by 
his master/^ 

Banks quitted England for the Continent with 
his horse in 1608^ and De Melleray^ who witnessed 
the performance of the animal in the Rue St. 
Jacques^ in Paris^ says that Morocco could not only 
tell the number of francs in a crown, but knew that 
the crown was depreciated at that time, and knew 
the exact amount of the depreciation. From Paris, 
Banks travelled with his learned horse to Orleans, 
where the fame which they had acquired brought 
him under the imputation of being a sorcerer, and 
he had a narrow escape of being burned at a stake 
in that character. Bishop Morton says that he 
cleared himself by commanding his horse to " seek 
out one in the press of the people who had a 
crucifix on his hat ; which done, he bade him kneel 
down unto it, and not this only, but also to rise 
up again, and to kiss it. ^ And now, gentlemen,^ 
(quoth he), ^ I think my horse hath acquitted both 
me and himself;^ and so his adversaries rested 
satisfied; conceiving (as it might seem) that the 
devil had no power to come near the cross .^^ 

We next hear of Banks and his horse at Prank- 
fort- on -the-Maine, where Bishop Morton saw them, 
and heard from the former the story of his narrow 

And the Old London Fairs, 25 

escape at Orleans. Their further wanderings can- 
not be traced ; and_, though it has been inferred^ 
from a passage in a burlesque poem by Jonson_, 
that Banks was burned as a sorcerer^ the grounds 
which the poet had for assigning such a dreadful 
end for the famous horse- charmer are unknown^ 
and may have been no more than an imperfect 
recollection of what he had heard of the Orleans 

A hare which played the tabor is alluded to by 
Jonson in the comedy before mentioned ; and this 
performance also was not unknown to earlier times^ 
one of the illuminations copied by Strutt showing 
it to have been exhibited in the fifteenth century. 
When Jonson wrote his comedy, the amusing 
classes_, encouraged by popular favour, were raising 
their heads again, after the sore discouragement of 
the Vagrancy Act of Elizabeth^s reign, which 
scheduled jugglers and minstrels with strolling 
thieves, gipsy fortune-tellers, and itinerant beggars. 
Elizabeth^s tastes seem to have inclined more to 
bull-baiting and bear-baiting than to dancing and 
minstrelsy, juggling and tumbling ; and, besides 
this, there was a broad line drawn in those days, 
and even down to the reign of George III., as will 
be hereafter noticed, between the upper ten thou- 
sand and the masses, as to the amusements which 

26 The Old Showmen^ 

might or ought to be permitted to the former and 
denied to the latter. 
A^iy"^ " In the succeeding reign the operation of the 
Vagrancy Act was powerfully aided by the rise of 
the Puritans^ who regarded all amusements as 
worldly vanities and snares of the Evil One^ and 
indulgence in them as a coquetting with sin. As 
yet they lacked the power to suppress the fairs and 
close the theatres^ though their will was good to 
whip and imprison all such inciters to sin and 
agents of Satan as they conceived minstrels^ actors, 
and showmen to be ; and Bartholomew Fair showed 
no diminution of popular patronage even in the 
reign of Charles I. 

^^ Hither/' says the author of a scarce pamphlet, 
printed in 1641, ^^ resort people of all sorts and 
conditions. Christchurch cloisters are now hung 
full of pictures. It is remarkable, and worth your 
observation, to behold and hear the strange sights 
and confused sounds in the fair. Here, a knave in 
a fooPs coat, with a trumpet sounding, or on a 
drum beating', invites you to see his puppets. 
There, a rogue like a wild woodman, or in an antic 
shape like an incubus, desires your company to 
view his motion \ on the other side, hocus pocus, 
with three yards of tape or ribbon in his hand, 
showing his art of legerdemain, to the admiration 

And the Old London Fairs, 27 

and astonishment of a company of cockoloaches. 
Amongst these^ you shall see a gray goosecap (as- 
wise as the rest)^ with a ^ What do ye lack ?^ in his 
mouthy stand in his booth shaking a rattle, or 
scraping on a fiddle, with which children are so 
taken, that they presently cry out for these fop- 
peries : and all these together make such a dis- 
tracted noise, that you would think Babel were not 
comparable to it. 

^^ Here there are also your gamesters in action : 
some turning of a whimsey, others throwing for 
pewter, who can quickly dissolve a round shilling 
into a three-halfpenny saucer. Long Lane at this 
time looks very fair, and puts out her best clothes, 
with the wrong side outward, so turned for their 
better turning off; and Cloth Pair is now in great 
request : well fare the ale-houses therein, yet better 
may a man fare (but at a dearer rate) in the pig- 
market, alias pasty-nook, or pie-corner, where pigs 
are all hours of the day on the stalls, piping hot, 
and would cry, (if they could speak,) ^ Come, eat 



The puppets and '^ motions/^ alluded to in the 
foregoing description were beginning to be a very 
favourite spectacle, and none of the puppet plays 
of the period were more popular than the serio- 
comic drama of Punch and Judy, attributed to 


' 28 The Old Showmen^ 

Silvio Plorillo, an Italian comic dramatist of the 
time. According to the original version of the 
story^ which has undergone various changes^ some 
of which have been made within the memory of the 
existing generation^ Punch, in a paroxysm of 
jealousy^ destroys his infant child, upon which 
Judy, in revenge, belabours him with a cudgel. 
The exasperated hunchback seizes another stick, 
beats his wife to death, and throws from the 
window the two corpses, which attracts the notice 
of a constable, who enters the house to arrest the 
murderer. Punch flies, but is arrested by an officer 
of the Inquisition, and lodged in prison j but con- 
trives to escape by bribing the gaoler. His sub- 
sequent encounters with a dog, a doctor, a skeleton, 
and a demon are said to be an allegory, intended to 
convey the triumph of humanity over ennui, disease, 
death, and the devil ; but, as there is nothing alle- 
gorical in the former portion of the story, this seems 

The allegory was soon lost sight of, if it was ever 
intended, and the latter part of the story has long 
been that which excites the most risibility. As 
usually represented in this country during the last 
fifty years, and probably for a much longer 
period. Punch does not bribe the gaoler, but 
-evades execution for his crimes by strangling the 

And the Old London Fairs, 29 

hangman with his own noose. Who has not ob- 
served the delight, venting itself in screams of 
laughter, with which young and old witness the 
comical little wretches fight with the constable, the 
wicked leer with which he induces the hangman to 
put his neck in the noose by way of instruction, 
and the impish chuckling in which he indulges 
while strangling his last victim ? The crowd 
laughs at all this in the same spirit as the audience 
at a theatre applauds furiously while a policeman is 
bonneted and otherwise maltreated in a pantomime 
or burlesque. The tightness of the matrimonial 
noose, it is to be feared, materially influences the 
feeling with which the murder of a faithless wife is 
regarded by those whose poverty shuts out the 
prospect of divorce. And Punch is such a droll, 
diverting vagabond, that even those who have wit- 
nessed his crimes are irresistibly seduced into 
laughter by his grotesque antics and his cynical 
bursts of merriment, which render him such a 
strange combination of the demon and the buffoon. 

The earliest notices of the representation in Lon- 
don of ^ Punches Moral Drama,^ as an old comic 
song calls it, occur in the overseer^s books of St. 
Mai'tin^s in the Fields for 1666 and 1667, in which 
are four entries of sums, ranging from twenty-two 
shillings and sixpence to fifty-two shillings and six- 

30 The Old Showmen^ 

pence^ as ^^Rec. of Punchinello, ye Italian popet 
player, for his booth at Charing Cross/^ 

Hocus pocus, used in the Bartholomew Fair pam- 
phlet as a generic term for conjurors, is derived 
from the assumed name of one of the craft, of whom 
Ady, in ^A Candle in the Dark,^ wrote as fol- 
lows : — 

^^ I will speak of one man more excelling in that 
craft than others, that went about in King Jameses 
time, and long since, who called himself the King^s 
Majestie^s most excellent Hocus Pocus ; and so 
was he called because at playing every trick he 
used to say, Hocus pocus tontus talontus, vade celeri- 
ter jubeo — a dark composition of words to blind the 
eyes of the beholders/^ 

All these professors of the various arts of popular 
entertainment had, at this period, to pay an annual 
licence duty to the Master of the Eevels, whose 
ojQSce was created by Henry VIII. in 1546. Its 
jurisdiction extended over all wandering minstrels 
and every one who blew a trumpet publicly, except 
^^ the King^s players/^ The seal of the office, used 
under five sovereigns, was engraved on wood, and 
was formerly in the possession of the late Francis 
Douce, by whose permission it was engraved for 
Chalmerses ^Apology for the Believers in the 
Shakspeare MSS.,^ and subsequently for Smith's 

And the Old London Fairs. 3 1 

'Ancient Topography of London/ The legend 
round it was^ ^^ sigill : offic : jocor : mascae : et 
EEVELL : DNis eeg/^ The Long Parliament abo- 
lished the oflBce, which^ indeed^ would have been a 
sinecure under the Puritan rule^ for in 1647 the 
entertainers of the people were forbidden to ex- 
ercise their vocation^ the theatres were closed^ the 
May-poles removed, and the fairs shorn of all their 
wonted amusements, and reduced to the status of 
annual markets. 

There is, in the library of the British Museum, a 
doggrel ballad, printed as a broad-sheet, called 
The Dagonizing of Bartholomew Fair, which de- 
scribes, with coarse humour, the grossness of which 
may be attributed in part to the mingled resentment 
and contempt which underlies it, the measures taken 
by the civic authorities for the removal from the fair 
of the showmen who had pitched there, in spite of 
the determination of the LordMayor and the Court of 
Aldermen, to suppress with the utmost rigour every- 
thing which could move to laughter or minister to 
wonder. Among these are mentioned a fire-eating 
conjuror, a ^^ Jack Pudding,^' and ^^ wonders made of 
wax,^^ being the earliest notice of a wax-work 
exhibition which I have been able to discover. 

Whether the itinerant traders who were wont to 
set up their stalls in the fairs of Smithfield, and 

32 The Old Showmeii^ 

Westminster^ and Southwark, found it worth their 
while to do so during the thirteen years of the 
banishment of shows^ there is nothing to show ; 
but we are not without evidence that the showmen 
were able to follow their vocation without the fairs. 
Evelyn^ who was a lover of strange sights, records 
in his diary that, in 1 654, — ^^ I saw a tame lion 
play familiarly with a lamb ; he was a huge beast, 
and I thrust my hand into his mouth, and found 
his tongue rough, like a cat^s ; also a sheep with six 
legs, which made use of five of them to walk ; and 
a goose that had four legs, two crops, and as many 

Three years later, two other entries are made, 
concerning shows which he witnessed. First we 
have, ^^June 18th. At Greenwich I saw a sort of 
cat, brought from the East Indies, shaped and 
snouted much like the Egyptian racoon, in the body 
like a monkey, and so footed ; the ears and tail like 
a cat, only the tail much longer, and the skin 
variously ringed with black and white; with the 
tail it wound up its body like a serpent, and so got 
up into trees, and with it wrap its whole body round. 
Its hair was woolly like a lamb ; it was exceedingly 
nimble, gentle, and purred as does the cat.^^ This 
animal was probably a monkey of the species called 
by Cuvier, the toque \ it is a native of the western 

And the Old London Fairs, 33 

regions of India, and one of the most amusing, as 
well as tlie most common, of the simial tenants of 
modem menageries. 

*^ August 15th. Going to London with some 
company, we stept in to see a famous rope-dancer, 
called The Turk, I saw even to astonishment the 
«agility with which he performed ; he walked bare- 
footed, taking hold by his toes only of a rope almost 
perpendicular, and without so much as touching 
it with his hands ; he danced blindfold on the high 
rope, and with a boy of twelve years old tied to one 
of his feet about twenty feet beneath him, dangling 
as he danced, yet he moved as nimbly as if it had 
been but a feather. Lastly he stood on his head, on * 
the top of a very high mast, danced on a small rope 
that was very slack, and finally flew down the 
perpendicular on his breast, his head foremost, his 
legs and arms extended, with divers other ac- 

" I saw the hairy woman, twenty years old, whom 
I had before seen when a child. She was bom at 
Augsburg, in Germany. Her very eyebrows were 
combed upwards, and all her forehead as thick and 
even as grows on any woman^s head, neatly dressed ; 
a very long lock of hair out of each ear ; she had 
also a most prolix beard, and moustachios, with 
long locks growing on the middle of her nose, like 


34 The Old Showmen^ 

an Iceland dog exactly^ the colour of a bright brown, 
fine as well-dressed flax. She was now married, 
and told me she had one child that was not hairy-;, 
nor were any of her parents or relations. She was 
very well shaped, and played well on the harpsi- 

This extraordinary creature must have been more 
than twenty years of age when Evelyn saw her, for 
the engraved portrait described by Granger bears 
the following inscription : — ^^ Barbara Vanbeck, wife 
to Michael Vanbeck, born at Augsburg, in High 
Germany j daughter of Balthasar and Anne Ursler. 
Aged 29. A.D. 1651. R. Gaywood f. London.^^ 

Another engraved portrait, in the collection of 
the Earl of Bute, represents her playing tha 
harpsichord, and has a Dutch inscription, with the 
words — ^^ Isaac Brunn delin. et sc. 1653.^^ One of 
Gaywood's prints, which, in Granger^s time, was in 
the possession of Fredericks, the bookseller, at Bath, 
had the following memorandum written under the 
inscription : — ^^ This woman I saw in Ratcliffe 
Highway in 1668, and was satisfied she was a 
woman. John Bulfinch.^^ Granger describes her 
from the portraits, as follows : — ^^ The face and 
hands of this woman are represented hairy all over. 
Her aspect resembles that of a monkey. She has a 
very long and large spreading beard, the hair of 

And the Old London Fairs. 35 

wticli hangs loose and flowing like the hair of the 
head. She is playing on the organ. Vanbeck 
married this frightful creature on purpose to carry 
her about for a show.^^ 



Strolling Players in the Seventeenth Century — Southwark 
Fair — Bartholomew Fair — Pepys and the Monkeys — Poli- 
chinello — ^Jacob Hall, the Rope-Dancer — Another Bearded 
Woman — Eichardson, the Fire-Eater — The Cheshire Dwarf 
— KiUigrew and the Strollers — Fair on the Thames — The 
Irish Giant — A Dutch Rope-Dancer — Music Booths — 
Joseph Clark, the Posturer — William Philips, the Zany — 
William Stokes, the Vaulter — A Show in Threadneedle 

The period of the Protectorate was one of 
suffering and depression for the entertaining classes^ 
who were driven into obscure taverns and back 
streets by the severity with which the anti-recreation 
edicts of the Long Parliament were enforced^ and 
even then were in constant danger of Bridewell 
and the whipping-post. Performances took place 
occasionally at the Red Bull theatre^ in St. John 

The Old London Fairs. 37 

Street, West Smithfield, when the actors were able 
to bribe the subordinate officials at Whitehall to 
connive at the infraction of the law ; but sometimes 
the fact became known to some higher authority 
who had not been bribed, or whose connivance 
could not be procured, and then the performance 
was interrupted by a party of soldiers, and the actors 
marched off to Bridewell, where they might esteem 
themselves fortunate if they escaped a whipping as 
well as a month^s imprisonment as idle vagabonds. 

Unable to exercise their vocation in London, the 
actors travelled into the country, and gave dramatic 
performances in bams and at fairs, in places where 
the rigour of the law was diminished, or the edicts 
rendered of no avail, by the magistrates^ want of 
sympathy with the pleasure-abolishing mania, and 
the readiness of the majority of the inhabitants to 
assist at violations of the Acts. In one of his wan- 
derings about the country. Cox, the comedian, shod 
a horse with so much dexterity, in the drama that 
was being represented, that the village blacksmith 
offered him employment in his forge at a rate of 
remuneration exceeding by a shilling a week the 
ordinary wages of the craft. The story is a good 
illustration of the realistic tendencies of the theatre 
two hundred years ago, especially as the practice 
which then prevailed of apprenticeship to the stage 

38 The Old Showmen^ 

renders it improbable that Oox had ever learned the 
art of shoeing a horse with a view to practising it 
as a craftsman. 

The provincial perambulations of -actors did not^ 
however, owe their beginning to the edicts of the 
Long ParUament, there being evidence that com- 
panies of strolling players existed contemporaneously 
with the theatres in which Burbage played Richard 
III. and Shakespeare the Ghost in Hamlet, In a pro- 
logue which was written for some London apprentices 
when they played TIig Hog hath lost his Fear I in 
1614, their want of skill in acting and elocution is 
honestly admitted in the following lines — 

" We are not half so skilled as strolling players, 
Who could not please here as at country fairs." 

In the household book of the Clifford family, 
quoted by Dr. Whitaker in his ' History of Craven/ 
there is an entry in 1633 of the payment of one 
pound to ^^ certain itinerant players/^ who seem to 
have given a private representation, for which they 
were thus munificently remunerated ; and two years 
later, an entry occurs of the payment of the same 
amount to " a certain company of roguish players 
who represented A Neio Way to pay Old DebtSy^ 
the adjective being used, probably to distinguish 
this company, as being unlicensed or unrecognized. 

And the Old London Fairs. 39 

from tlie strolling players who had permission to 
<5all themselves by the name of some nobleman, and 
to wear his livery. The Earl of Leicester main- 
tained such a company, and several other nobles of 
that period did the same^ the actors being known as 
my Lord Leicester's company, or as the case might 
be_, and being allowed to perform elsewhere when 
their services were not required by their patron. 

The depressed condition of actors at this period 
is amusingly illustrated by the story of Griffin and 
Ooodman occupying the same chamber, and having 
but one decent shirt between them, which they wore 
in turn, — a destitution of linen surpassed only by 
that which is said to have characterised the ragged 
regiment of Sir John Palstaff, who had only half a 
«hirt among them all. The single shirt of the two 
actors was the occasion of a quarrel and a sepa- 
ration between them, one of the twain having worn 
it out of his turn, under the temptation of an 
assignation with a lady. What became of the shirt 
upon the separation of their respective interests in 
it, we are not told. 

The restoration of monarchy and the Stuarts was 
followed immediately by the re-opening of the 
theatres and the resumption of the old popular 
amusements at fairs. Actors held up their heads 
again ; the showmen hung out their pictured cloths 

40 The Old Showmefij 

in Smithfield and on the Bowling Green in 
Southwark ; the fiddlers and the ballad- singers 
re-appeared in the streets and in houses of public 
entertainment. Charles II. entered London^ amidst 
the jubilations of the multitude^ on the 29th of May^ 
1660; and on the 13th of September following^ 
Evelyn wrote in his diary as follows : — 

^^ I saw in Southwark, at St. Margaret^s Fair, 
monkeys and apes dance, and do other feats of 
activity, on the high rope ; they were gallantly clad 
a la monde, went upright, saluted the company, 
bowing and pulling off their hats ; they saluted one 
another with as good a grace as if instructed by a 
dancing master ; they turned heels over head with 
a basket having eggs in it, without breaking any y 
also, with lighted candles in their hands, and on 
their heads, without extinguishing them, and with 
vessels of water without spilling a drop. I also saw 
an Italian wench dance and perform all the tricks 
on the high rope to admiration ; all the Court went 
to see her. Likewise, here was a man who took up 
a piece of iron cannon of about 400 lb. weight with 
the hair of his head only.^' 

Evelyn and Pepys have left no record of the 
presence of shows at Bartholomew Fair in the first 
year of the Restoration, nor does the collection of 
Bartholomew Fair notabilia in the library of the 

And the Old Loiidon Fairs, 41 

British Museum furnish any indication of them; 
but Pepys tells us that on the 31st of August^ in the 
following year^ he went ^^ to Bartholomew Fair, and 
there met with my Ladies Jemima and Paulina, 
with Mr. Pickering and Mademoiselle, at seeing the 
monkeys dance, which was much to see, when they 
could be brought to do it, but it troubled me to sit 
among such nasty company/^ Few years seem 
to have passed without a visit to Bartholomew Fair 
on the part of the gossiping old diarist. In 1663 
he writes, under date the 7th of September, ^^To 
Bartholomew Fair, where I met Mr. Pickering, and 
he and I went to see the monkeys at the Dutch 
house, which is far beyond the other that my wife 
and I saw the other day ; and thence to see the 
dancing on the ropes, which was very poor and 
tedious. ^^ 

In the following year two visits to this fair are 
recorded in Pepys^ diary, as follows : — 

^^ Sept. 2. To Bartholomew Fair, and our boy with 
us, and there showed him the dancing on ropes, and 
several others the best shows.^^ ^^ Sept. 7. With 
Creed walked to Bartholomew Fair, — this being the 
last day, and there I saw the best dancing on ropes 
that I think I ever saw in my life.^^ In the two 
following years the fairs and other amusements of 
London were interrupted by the plague, to the 

42 The Old Shoimuen^ 

serious loss and detriment of the entertaining 
classes. Puncli and other puppets were the only 
amusements of 1665 and 1666 ; and Pepys records 
that, on the 22nd of August in the latter year — the 
year of the great fire_, — he and his wife went in a 
coach to Moorfields^ "and there saw Polichinello^ 
which pleases me mightily/^ 

In 1667 the fear of the plague had passed away^ 
and the public again patronised the theatres and 
other places of amusement. "To Polichinello/^ 
writes Pepys on the 8th of Aprils "and there had 
three times more sport than at the play, and so 
home.^^ To compensate himself for having missed 
Bartholomew Fair two years running on account of 
the plague, he now went three times. "Went 
twice round Bartholomew Fair/^ he writes in his 
diary on the 28th of August, "which I was glad to 
see again, after two years missing it by the plague.^^ 
" 30th. To Bartholomew Fair, to walk up and 
down, and there, among other things, found my 
Lady Castlemaine at a puppet-play. Patient Grizill, 
and the street full of people expecting her coming 
out.-"^ " Sept. 4. With my wife and Mr. Hewer to 
Bartholomew Fair, and there saw Polichinello.^^ 

The fair probably offered better and more various 
amusements every year, for Pepys records five visits 
in 1 668, when we first hear of the celebrated rope- 

And the Old London Fairs, 43 

dancer, Jacob Hall. ^^ August 27. With my wife 
and W. Batelier and Deb. ; carried them to Bar- 
tholomew Fair, where we saw the dancing of the 
ropes, and nothing else, it being late.^^ ^^ 29. Met 
my wife in a coach, and took her and Mercer [her 
maid] and Deb. to Bartholomew Fair; and there 
did see a ridiculous obscene little stage -play called 
Marry Audrey [Merry Andrew], a foolish thing, 
but seen by everybody : and so to Jacob HalFs 
dancing of the ropes, a thing worth seeing, and 
mightily followed/^ ^^Sept. 1. To Bartholomew 
Fair, and there saw several sights ; among others, 
the mare that tells money and many things to 
admiration, and among others come to me, when 
she was bid to go to him of the company that most 
loved to kiss a pretty wench in a corner. And this 
did cost me 126^. to the horse, which I had flung 
him before, and did give me occasion to kiss a 
mighty hellejille, that was exceeding plain, but fort 
helle," ^^4. At noon my wife, and Deb. and 
Mercer, and W. Hewer and I, to the fair, and there 
^t the old house, did eat a pig, and was pretty 
merry, but saw no sights, my wife having a mind 
to see the play of Bartholomew Fair with puppets.^^ 
^^7, With my Lord Brouncker (who was this day 
in unusual manner merry, I believe with drink,) 
Minnes, and W. Pen to Bartholomew Fair; and 

44 The Old Show7nen^ 

there saw the dancing mare again, which to-day I 
found to act much worse than the other day, she 
forgetting many things, which her master beat her 
for, and was mightily vexed ; and then the dancing 
of the ropes, and also a little stage play, which was 
very ridiculous/^ 

Perhaps a better illustration of the difference be- 
tween the manners and amusements of the seven- 
teenth century and those of the nineteenth could 
not be found than that which is afforded by the 
contrast between the picture drawn by Pepys and 
the fancy sketch which the reader may draw for 
himself by giving the figures introduced the names 
of persons now living. Let the scene be Green- 
wich Fair, as we all remember it, and the incidents 
the Secretary to the Admiralty, accompanied by 
his wife and her maid, going there in his carriage ; 
stopping on the way to witness the vagaries of 
Punch ; meeting the Mistress of the Kobes at a 
a marionette performance in a tent -, and after- 
wards, as we shall presently find Pepys doing, 
drinking in a public-house with a rope-dancer, 
reputed to be the paramour of a lady of rank, whom 
our supposed secretary may have met the evening 
before at Buckingham Palace. 

Pepys relates that he went, in the same year, ^^ to 
Southwark Fair, very dirty, and there saw the 

And the Old London Fairs. 45 

puppet-show of Whittington, which was pretty to 
see ; and how that idle thing do work upon people 
that see it^ and even myself too ! And thence to 
Jacob HalFs dancing of the ropes^ where I saw 
such action as I never saw before^ and mightily 
worth seeing; and here took acquaintance with a 
fellow that carried me to a tavern, whither come 
the music of this booth, and bye and bye Jacob 
Hall himself, with whom I had a mind to speak, to 
hear whether he had ever any mischief by falls in 
his time. He told me, ^ Yes, many, but never to 
the breaking of a limb ;^ he seems a mighty strong 
man. So giving them a bottle or two of wine, I 
away with Payne, the waterman. He, seeking me 
at the play, did get a link to light me, and so light 
me to the Bear, where Bland, my waterman, waited 
for me with gold and other things he kept for me^ 
to the value of £40 and more, which I had about 
me, for fear of my pockets being cut. So by link- 
light through the bridge, it being mighty dark, but 
still weather, and so home.^^ Jacob Hall was as 
famous for his handsome face and symmetrical form 
as for his skill and grace on the rope. He is said 
to have shared with Harte, the actor, the favours of 
Nell Gwynne, and afterwards to have been a pen- 
sioned favourite of the profligate Countess of 
Castlemaine. His portrait in Grammont^s ^Me- 

46 The Old Showmen^ 

moirs ^ was engraved from an unnamed picture by 
Van Oost, first said to represent the famous rope- 
dancer by Ames, in 1748. 

A passage in one of Davenant's poems affords 
some information concerning tbe character of the 
shows which formed the attraction of the fairs at 
this period. 

" Now vaulter good, and dancing lass 
On rope, and man that cries, Hey, pass ! 
And tumbler young that needs but stoop, 
Lay head to heel, to creep through hoop ; 
And man in chimney hid to dress 
Puppet that acts our old Queen Bess, 
And man that, while the puppets play, 
Tlrrough nose expoundeth what they say; 
And white oat-eater that does dwell 
In stable small at sign of Bell, 
That lifts up hoof to show the pranks 
Taught by magician styled Banks ; 
And ape led captive still in chain 
Till he renounce the Pope and Spain ; 
All these on hoof now trudge from town, 
To cheat poor turnip-eating clown." 

The preceding chapter will have rendered the 
allusions intelligible to the reader of the present 

Among the shows of this period was another 
bearded woman^ whom Pepys saw in Holborn, to- 

And the Old London Fairs. 47 

wards the end of 1668. ^^ She is a little plain 
woman^^^ he writes, *^a Dane; her name, Ursula 
Dyan ; about forty years old ; her voice like a little 
girFs ; with a beard as much as any man I ever 
saw, black almost, and grizzly ; it began to grow at 
about seven years old, and was shaved not above 
seven months ago, and is now so big as any man^s 
almost that I ever saw ; I say, bushy and thick. 
It was a strange sight to me, I confess, and what 
pleased me mightily.^^ There was a female giant, 
too, of whom Evelyn says, under date the 13th of 
February, 1669, ^^ I went to see a tall gigantic 
woman, who measured six feet ten inches at 
twenty-one years old, born in the Low Countries. ^^ 

Salamandering feats are not so pleasant to wit- 
ness as the performances of the acrobat and the 
gymnast, but they create wonder, and, probably, 
were wondered at more two hundred years ago than 
at the present time, when the scientific principles 
on which their success depends are better under- 
stood. The earliest performer of the feats which 
made Girardelli and Chabert famous half a century 
ago seems to have been E-ichardson, of whom the 
following account is given by Evelyn, who wit- 
nessed his performance in 1672 : — 

^^ I took leave of my Lady Sunderland, who was 
going to Paris to my lord, now ambassador there. 

48 The Old Showmen^ 

She made me stay dinner at Leicester House, and 
afterwards sent for Ricliardson, the famous fire- 
eater. He devoured brimstone on glowing coals 
before us, chewing and swallowing them ; he 
melted a beer-glass and eat it quite up ; then, 
taking a live coal on his tongue, he put on it a raw 
oyster, the coal was blown on with bellows till it 
flamed and sparkled in his mouth, and so remained- 
till the oyster gaped and was quite boiled. Then 
he melted pitch and wax with sulphur, which he 
drank down as it flamed ; I saw it flaming in his 
mouth, a good while ; he also took up a thick piece 
of iron, such as laundresses use to put in their 
smoothing-boxes, when it was fiery hot, held it 
between his teeth, then in his hands and threw it 
about like a stone ; but this I observed he cared not 
to do very long ; then he stood on a small pot, and, 
bending his body, took a glowing iron with his 
mouth from between his feet without touching the 
pot or ground with his hands ; with divers other 
prodigious feats. ^^ 

There are few notices of the London fairs in con- 
temporary memoirs and journals, and as few adver- 
tisements of showmen have been preserved by 
collectors of such literary curiosities, between the 
last visit to Southwark Fair recorded by Pepys and 
the period of the Revolution. The public mind was 

And the Old London Fairs. 49 

•agitated during this time by plots and rumours of 
plots^ by State trials and Tower Hill executions, 
which alternately excited men to rage and chilled 
them with horror. Giants and dwarfs, and mon- 
strosities of all kinds, seem to have been more run 
after, under the influence of these events, than 
puppets and players. Take the following as an 
. ^example, an announcement which was printed in 

^^ At Mr. Croomes, at the signe of the Shoe and 
Slap neer the Hospital-gate, in West Smithfield, is 
to be seen Tlie Wonder of Nature , viz., A girl about 
sixteen years of age, born in Cheshire, and not 
much above eighteen inches long, having shed the 
teeth seven several times, and not a perfect bone in 
any part of her, onely the head, yet she hath all her 
senses to admiration, and discourses, reads very well, 
sings, whistles, and all very pleasant to hear. God 
save the King ! " 

The office of Master of the Revels, which had 
been held by Thomas Killigrew, the Court jester, 
was conferred, at his death, upon his son, who 
leased the licensing of ballad-singers to a bookseller 
named Clarke, as appears from the following an- 
nouncement, which was inserted in the London 
Gazette in 1682 : — 

^^ Whereas Mr. John Clarke, of London, book- 

50 The Old Showmen^ 

seller, did rent of Charles Killigrew, Esq., the 
licensing of all ballad- singers for five years ; which 
time is expired at Lady Day next. These are, there- 
fore, to give notice to all ballad-singers, that take 
out licenses at the office of the revels, at Whitehall; 
for singing and selling of ballads and small books, 
according to an ancient custom. And all persons 
concerned are hereby desired to take notice of, and 
to suppress, all mountebanks, rope-dancers, prize- 
players, ballad- singers, and such as make show of 
motions and strange sights, that have not a license 
in red and black letters, under the hand and seal 
of the said Charles Killigrew, Esq., Master of the 
Eevels to his Majesty.^^ 

The only entertainment of which I have found 
an announcement for this year is the following : — 
'^ At Mr. Saffry^s, a Dutch- woman^s Booth, over 
against the Greyhound Inn, in West Smithfield, 
during the time of the fair, will be acted the 
incomparable Entertainment calPd The Irish Evi- 
dence, with the Humours of Teige. With a Variety 
of Dances. By the first Newmarket Company.^^ 
Further glimpses of the fair are afforded, however, 
by the offer of a reward for ^^ the three horses stolen 
by James Rudderford, a mountebank, and Jeremiah 
March, his clown ;^^ and the announcement that^ 
^^ The German Woman that dancM where the Italian 

And the Old London Fairs. 5 1 

Tumbler kept his Booth.^ being over against the 
Swan Tavern^ by Hosier Lane end in Bartholomew 
Fair, is run away from her Mistress, the Fifth of 
this instant ; She is of a Brownish complexion, with 
Brown Hair, and between 17 and 18 years of Age ; 
if any person whatsoever can bring Tidings to one 
Mr. Honeys, at the Duke of Albemarle^s Head, at 
the end of Duck Lane, so that her Mistress may 
have her again, they shall be rewarded to their own 

In the winter of 1683-4, an addition was tempo- 
rarily made to the London fairs by the opportunity 
which the freezing of the Thames afforded for 
holding a fair on the ice. The river became frozen 
on the 23rd of December, and on the first day of 
1684 the ice was so thick between the bridges that 
long rows of booths were erected for the sale of 
refreshments to the thousands of persons who con- 
gregated upon it. Evelyn, who visited the strange 
scene more than once, saw ^^ people and tents 
selling all sort of wares, as in the City.^^ The 
frost becoming more intense when it had endured 
a month, the sports of horse-racing and bull-baiting 
were presented on the ice ; and sledges and skaters 
were seen gliding swiftly in every direction^ with, 
as Evelyn relates, ^^puppet-plays and interludes, 
tippling, and other lewd places/^ The ice was so 

E 2 

5 2 The Old Showmen J 

thick that the booths and stalls remained even when 
thaw had commenced, but the water soon rendered 
it disagreeable to walk upon, and long cracks 
warned the purveyors of recreation and refection to 
retreat to the land. The fair ended on the 5th of 

It was during the continuance of this seventeenth 
century Frost Fair that Evelyn saw a human sala- 
mander, when he dined at Sir Stephen Fox^s, and 
*' after dinner came a fellow who eat live charcoal, 
glowingly ignited, quenching them in his mouth, 
and then champing and swallowing them down. 
There was a dog also which seemed to do many 
rational actions.^^ The last sentence is rather 
obscure; the writer probably intended to convey 
that the animal performed many actions which 
seemed rational. 

During the Southwark Fair of the following year, 
there was a giant exhibited at the Catherine Wheel 
Inn, a famous hostelry down to our own time. 
Printers had not yet corrected the irregular spelling 
of the preceding century, as appears from the fol- 
lowing announcement : — " The Gyant, or the Miracle 
of Nature, being that so much admired young man, 
aged nineteen years last June, 1684. Born in 
Ireland, of such a prodigious height and bigness, 
and every way proportionable, the like hath not 

And the Old London Fairs. ^'^ 

been seen since the memory of man. He hath been 
several times shown at Court, and his Majesty was. 
pleased to walk under his arm, and he is grown 
very much since; he now reaches ten foot and a 
half, fathomes near eight foot, spans fifteen inches ; 
And is believed to be as big as one of the Gyants 
in Guild- Hall. He is to be seen at the Sign of the 
Catherine Wheel in Southwark Fair. Vivat B^ex,,^^ 

There was probably also to be seen at this fair 
the Dutch woman of whom an author quoted by 
Strutt says that, ^^ when she first danced and vaulted 
on the rope in London, the spectators beheld her 
with pleasure mixed with pain, as she seemed every 
moment in danger of breaking her neck.^^ About 
this time, there was introduced at the London fairs, 
an entertainment resembling that now given in the 
music-halls, in which vocal and instrumental music 
was alternated with rope- dancing and tumbling. 
The shows in which these performances were given 
were called music-booths, though the musical ele- 
ment was far from predominating. The musical 
portion of the entertainment was not of the highest 
order, if we may trust the judgment of Ward, the 
author of the London Spy, who says that he '' had 
rather have heard an old barber ring Whittington^s 
bells upon the cittern than all the music these 
houses aJSbrded.^^ 

54 The Old Showmen^ 

Such dramatic performances as were given in the 
booths at this time seem to have been^ in a great 
measure^ confined to the puppet-plays so often 
mentioned in the memoirs and diaries of the period. 
Granger mentions one Philips^ who^ in the reign 
of James TI., ^^was some time fiddler to a puppet- 
show ; in which capacity^ he held many a dialogue 
with Punch, in much the same strain as he did 
afterwards with the mountebank doctor_, his master, 
upon the stage. This Zany, being regularly edu- 
cated, had the advantage of his brethren/^ Besides 
the serio-comic drama of Punch and Judy, many 
popular stories were represented by the puppets of 
those days, which set forth the fortunes of Dick 
Whittington and the sorrows of Griselda, the 
vagaries of Merry Andrew and the humours of 
Bartholomew Fair, as dehneated by the pen of Ben 
Jonson. It is a noteworthy circumstance, as show- 
ing the estimation in which the Smithfield Fair was 
held by the upper and middle classes at this period, 
and for more than half a century afterwards, that 
the summer season of the patent theatres, which 
closed at that time, always concluded with a repre- 
sentation of Jonson^ s now forgotten comedy. 

A slight general view of Bartholomew Fair in 
1685, with some equally slight and curious moral- 
ising on the subject, is presented by Sir Robert 

And the Old London Fairs. 55 

Soutliwell^ in a letter addressed to his son, the 
Honourable Edward Southwell, who was then in 
London with his tutor, Mr. Webster. 

^^ I think it not now/^ says Sir Robert, ^^ so 
proper to quote you verses out of Persius, or to talk 
of Caesar and Euclid, as to consider the great 
theatre of Bartholomew Pair, where I doubt not but 
you often resort, and ^twere not amiss if you couM 
convert that tumult into a profitable book. You 
wou'd certainly see the garboil there to more ad- 
vantage if Mr. Webster and you wou^d read, or 
couM see acted, the play of Ben Jonson, called 
Bartholomew Pair : for then afterwards going to the 
spot, you wou^d note if things and humours were the 
same to day, as they were fifty years ago, and take 
pattern of the observations which a man of sense 
may raise out of matters that seem even ridiculous. 
Take then with you the impressions of that play, 
and in addition thereunto, I should think it not 
amiss if you then got up into some high window, in 
order to survey the whole pit at once. I fancy then 
^ovi will say, Toius mundus agit Jiistrionem, and 
then you wou^d note into how many various shapes 
human nature throws itself, in order to buy cheap 
and sell dear, for all is but traffick and commerce, 
some to give, some to take, and all is by exchange, 
to make the entertainment complete. 

56 The Old Showmen^ 

" The main importance of this fair is not so much 
for merchandize, and the supplying what people 
really want ; but as a sort of Bacchanalia, to gratifie 
the multitude in their wandering and irregular 
thoughts. Ilere you see the rope-dancers gett 
their living meerly by hazarding of their lives, and 
why men will pay money and take pleasure to see 
such dangers, is of seperate and philosophical 
consideration. You have others who are acting 
fools, drunkards, and madmen, but for the same 
wages which they might get by honest labour, and 
live with credit besides. 

^^ Others, if born in any monstrous shape, or have 
children that are such, here they celebrate their 
misery, and by getting of money, forget how odious 
they are made. When you see the toy-shops, and 
the strange variety of things, much more imper^ 
tinent than hobby-horses or gloves of gingerbread, 
you must know there are customers for all these mat- 
ters, and it wouM be a pleasing sight cou^d we see 
painted a true figure of all these impertinent minds, 
and their fahtastick passions, who come trudging 
hither, only for such things. ^Tis out of this 
credulous crowd that the ballad-singers attrackt an 
assembly, who listen and admire, while their con- 
federate pickpockets are diving and fishing for 
their prey. 

And the Old London Fairs. 57 

^^ ^Tis from those of this number who are more^ 
refined, that the mountebank obtains audience and 
credit, and it were a good bargain if such customers^ 
had nothing for their money but words^ but they 
are best content to pay for druggs, and medicines, 
which commonly doe them hurt. There is one 
corner of this Elizium field devoted to the eating of 
pig, and the surfeits that attend it. The fruits of 
the season are everywhere scattered about, and 
those who eat imprudently do but hasten to the 
physitian or the churchyard.^' 

In 1697, William Philips, the zany or Jack Pud- 
ding mentioned by Granger, was arrested and 
publicly whipped for perpetrating, in Bartholoniew 
Fair, a jest on the repressive tendencies of the 
Government, which has been preserved by Prior in a 
poem. It seems that he made his appearance on 
the exterior platform of the show at which he was 
engaged, with a tongue in his left hand and a black 
pudding in his right. Professing to have learned 
an important secret, by which he hoped to profit, he 
communicated it to the mountebank, as related by 
Prior, as follows : — 

" Be of your patron's mind whate'er he says ; 
Sleep very much, think httle, and talk less : 
Mind neither good nor bad, nor right nor wrong ; 
But eat your pudding, slave, and hold your tongue." 

58 The Old Showmen^ 

Mr. Morley conjectures that this Philips was the 
W. Phillips who wrote the tragedy of the Revengefid 
Queen, published in 1698^ and who was supposed to 
be the author of another^ Alcamenes and Menelippa, 
and of a farce called Britons, Strike Home, which was 
acted in a booth in Bartholomew Fair. But worth 
more than all these plays would now be, if it could 
be discovered, the book published in 1688, of which 
only the title-page is preserved in the Harleian 
collection, viz., ^ The Comical History of the famous 
Merry Andrew, W. Phill., Giving an Account of 
his Pleasant Humours, Various Adventures, Cheats^ 
Frolicks, and Cunning Designs, both in City and 

The circus was an entertainment as yet unknown. 
The only equestrian performances were of the kind 
given by Banks, and repeated, as we learn from 
Davenant and Pepys, by performers who came after 
him, of whom there was a regular succession down 
to the time of Philip Astley. The first entertainer 
who introduced horses into vaulting acts seems to 
have been William Stokes, a famous vaulter of the 
reigns of the latter Stuarts. He was the author of 
a manual of the art of vaulting, which was pub- 
lished at Oxford in 1652, and contains several en- 
gravings, showing him in the act of vaulting over 
a horse, over two horses, and leaping upon them, 

A77d the Old London Fairs. 59 

in one alighting in the saddle^, and in another upon 
the bare back of the horse^ a la Bradbury, 

Another of the great show characters of this 
period was Joseph Clark, the posturer, who 
according to a notice of him in the Transactions of 
the Royal Philosophical Society, '^ had such an 
absolute command of all his muscles and joints that 
he could disjoint almost his whole body/^ His per- 
formance seems to have consisted chiefly in the 
imitation of every kind of human deformit}^ ; and he 
is said to have imposed so completely upon Molins, 
a famous surgeon of that period, as to be dismissed 
by him as an incurable cripple. His portrait in 
Tempest^s collection represents him in the act of 
shouldering his leg, an antic which is imitated by a 

Clark was the ^^ whimsical fellow, commonly 
known by the name of the Posture-master,^^ men- 
tioned by Addison in the *" Guardian,^ No. 102. He 
was the son of a distiller in Shoe Lane, who 
designed him for the medical profession, but a brief 
experience with John Coniers, an apothecary in 
Fleet Street, not pleasing him, he was apprenticed 
to a mercer in Bishopsgate Street. Trade suited 
him no better than medicine, it would seem, for he 
afterwards went to Paris, in the retinue of the Duke 
of Buckingham, and there first displayed his powers 

6o The Old Showmen^ 

as a posturer. He died in 1690^ at his house in 
Pall Mall^ and was buried in the church of St. 
Martin-in-the -Fields. Many portraits of him, in 
different attitudes, are extant in the British Mu- 

Monstrosities have always been profitable subjects 
for exhibition. Shakespeare tells us, and may be 
presumed to have intended the remark to convey 
his impression of the tendency of his own generation, 
that people would give more to see a dead Indian 
than to relieve a lame beggar ; and the profits of 
the exhibition of Julia Pastrana and the so-called 
Kostroma people show that the public interest in 
such monstrosities remains unabated. But what 
would ^^ City men '^ say to such an exhibition in 
Threadneedle Street ? I take the following an- 
nouncement from a newspaper of June, 1698 ; — 

^^At Moncrieff^s Coffee-house, in Threadneedle 
Street, near the Royal Exchange, is exposed to view, 
for sixpence a piece, a Monster that lately died there, 
being Humane upwards and bruit downwards, 
wonderful to behold : the like was never seen in 
England before, the skin is so exactly stuffed that 
the whole lineaments and proportion of the Monster 
are as plain to be seen as when it was alive. And 
a very fine Civet Cat, spotted like a Leopard, and is 
now alive, that was brought from Africa with it» 

And the Old Lofidon Fairs. 6i 

They are exposed to view from eight in the morning 
to eight at night. '^ 

At the King^s Head^ in West Smithfield, there 
was this year exhibited " a little Scotch Man, which 
has been admired by all that have yet seen him, he 
TDeing but two Foot and six Inches high ; and is 
near upon 60 years of Age. He was marryM 
several years, and had Issue by his Wife, two sons 
{one of which is with him now). He Sings and 
Dances with his son, and has had the Honour to be 
shewn before several Persons of Note at their 
Houses, as far as they have yet travelled. He 
formerly kept a Writing school ; and discourses of 
the Scriptures, and of many Eminent Histories, very 
wisely ; and gives great satisfaction to all spectators; 
and if need requires, there are several Persons in 
this town, that will justifie that they were his 
Schollars, and see him Marry 'd.^^ 

In the same year, David Oornwell exhibited, at 
the Ram's Head, in Fenchurch Street, a singular 
lad. advertised as ^^the Bold Grimace Spaniard,^^ 
who was said to have ^Hiv^d 15 years among wild 
creatures in the Mountains, and is reasonably sup- 
posed to have been taken out of his cradle an Infant, 
by some savage Beast, and wonderfully preservM, 
till some Comedians accidentally passM through 
those parts, and perceiving him to be of Human 

62 The Old Showmen^ 

Eace, pursu'd him to his Cave, where they caught 
him in a Net. They found something wonderful in 
his Nature^ and took him with them in their Travels 
through Spain and Italy, He performs the fol- 
lowing surprising grimaces^ viz._, He lolls out his 
Tongue a foot long, turns his eyes in and out at 
the same time ; contracts his Face as small as an 
Apple ; extends his Mouth six inches^ and turns it 
into the shape of a Bird^s Beak^ and his eyes like to 
an OwPs ; turns his mouth into the Form of a Hat 
cockM up three ways ; and also frames it in the 
manner of a four-square Buckle ; licks his Nose 
with his Tongue^ like a Cow; rolls one Eyebrow 
two inches up^ the other two down ; -changes his 
face to such an astonishing Degree, as to appear 
like a Corpse long buryM. Altho^ bred wild so 
long, yet by travelling with the aforesaid Comedians 
18 years, he can sing wonderfully fine, and accom- 
panies his voice with a thorow Bass on the Lute. 
His former natural Estrangement from human 
conversation obliged Mr, Gornwell to bring a Jack- 
anapes over with him for his Companion, in whom 
he takes great Delight and Satisfaction." 

How many of these show creatures were impostors,, 
and how many genuine eccentricities of human 
nature, it is impossible to say. Barnum^s revelations 
have made us sceptical. But the numerous adver- 

And the Old London Fairs, 63 

tisements of this kind in the newspapers of the 
period show that the passion for monstrosities was 
as strongly developed in the latter half of the 
seventeenth century as at the present day. 

Barnes and Appleby^s booth for tumbling and 
rope-dancing appears from the following adver- 
tisement^ extracted from a newspaper of 1699^ to 
have attended Bartholomew Fair the previous 
year : — 

"At Mr. Barneses and Mr. Appleby^s Booth;, 
between the Crown Tavern and the Hospital Gate^ 
over against the Cross Daggers, next to Miller^s 
Droll Booth, in West Smithfield, where the English 
and Dutch Flaggs, with Barneses and the two Ger- 
man Maidens^ pictures, will hang out, during the 
time of Bartholomew Fair, will be seen the most 
excellent and incomparable performances in Dancing 
on the Slack Eope, "Walking on the Slack Rope, 
Vaulting and Tumbling on the Stage, by these five, 
the most famous Companies in the Universe, viz.. 
The English, Irish, High German, French, and 
Morocco, now united. The Two German Maidens^ 
who exceeded all mankind in their performances, 
are within this twelvemonth improved to a Miracle.^^ 

In this year I find the following advertisement 
of a music booth, which must have been one of the 
earliest established : — 

64 The Old Showmen^ 

^^ Thomas Dale, Drawer at the Crown Tavern at 
Aldgate, keepeth the Turk^s Head MusicJc Booth, in 
Smithfield Rounds, over against the Greyhound Inn 
during the time of Bartholomew Fair, Where is a 
Olass of good Wine, Mum, Syder, Beer, Ale, and 
all other Sorts of Liquors, to be Sold ; and where 
you will likewise be entertained with good Musick, 
Singing, and Dancing. You will see a Scaramouch 
Dance, the Italian Punches Dance, the Quarter 
Staff, the Antick, the Countryman and Country- 
woman's Dance, and the Merry Cuckolds of Hogs- 

^^ Also a young Man that dances an Entry, Sala- 
brand, and Jigg, and a Woman that dances with 
Six Naked Rapiers, that we Challenge the whole 
Fair to do the like. There is likewise a Young 
Woman that Dances with Fourteen Glasses on the 
Backs and Palms of her Hands, and turns round 
with them above an Hundred Times as fast as a 
Windmill turns; and another Young Man that 
Dances a Jigg incomparably well, to the Admiration 
of all Spectators. Vivat Rex/^ 

James Miles, who announced himself as from 
Sadler's Wells, kept the Gun music-booth in the 
fair, and announced nineteen dances, among which 
were ^^ a dance of three bullies and three Quakers ; " 
a cripples' dance by six persons with wooden legs 

And the Old Londo7i Fairs, 65 

and crutclies, ^^ in imitation of a jovial crew ; ^^ a 
dance with swords, and on a ladder, by a young 
woman, ^^ witH that variety that she challenges all 
her sex to do the like ; ^^ and a new entertainment, 
" between a Scaramouch, a Harlequin, and a Punch- 
inello, in imitation of bilking a reckoning/^ We 
shall meet with James Miles again in the next 
chapter and century. 


Attempts to Suppress the Shows at Bartholomew Fair — A 
remarkable Dutch Boy — Theatrical Booths at the London 
Fairs — Penkethman, the Comedian — May Fair — Barnes 
and Finley — Lady Mary — ^Doggett, the Comedian — Simp- 
son, the Vaulter — Clench, the Whistler — A Show at 
Charing Cross — Another Performing Horse — Powell and 
Crawley, the Puppet- Showmen — Miles's Music-Booth — 
Settle and Mrs. Mynn — Southwark Fair — Mrs. Horton, the 
Actress — Bullock and Leigh — Penkethman and Pack — 
Boheme, the Actor — Suppression of May Fair — ^Woodward, 
the Comedian — ^A Female Hercules — Tiddy-dol, the Ginger- 
bread Vendor. 

So early as the close of the seventeenth century^ 
one hundred and fifty years before the fair was 
abolished, we find endeavours being made, in" 
emulation of the Puritans, to banish every kind of 
amusement from Bartholomew Fair, and limit it to 
the purposes of an annual market. In 1700, the 

The Old Lofidon Fairs. 67 

Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen resolved that 
no booths should be permitted to be erected in 
Smithfield that year ; but on the 6th of August it 
was announced that ^^ the lessees of West Smithfield 
having on Friday last represented to a Court of 
Aldermen at Guildhall^ that it would be highly 
injurious to them to have the erection of all booths 
there totally prohibited, the right honourable Lord 
Mayor and the Court of Aldermen have, on con- 
sideration of the premises, granted licence to erect 
•some booths during the time of Bartholomew Fair 
now approaching; but none are permitted for 
music- booths, or any that may be means to promote 
debauchery/^ And, on the 23rd, when the Lord 
Mayor went on horseback to proclaim the fair, he 
ordered two music-booths to be taken down im- 

On the 4th of June, in the following year, the 
grand jury made a presentment to the following 
effect ;—" Whereas we have seen a printed order 
of the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen, the 25th 
June, 1700, to prevent the great profaneness, vice, 
and debauchery, so frequently used and practised 
in Bartholomew Fair, by strictly charging and 
commanding all persons concerned in the said fair, 
and in the sheds and booths to be erected and built 
therein or places adjacent, that they do not let, set, 

F 2 

68 The Old Showmen^ 

or liire^ or use any booth, shed, stall, or other erec- 
tion whatsoever to be used or employed for in- 
terludes, stage-plays, comedies, gaming-places, lot- 
teries, or music meetings : and as we are in- 
formed the present Lord Mayor and Court of 
Aldermen have passed another order to the same 
effect on the 3rd instant, we take this occasion to 
return our most hearty thanks for their religious 
care and great zeal in this matter; we esteeming 
a renewing of their former practices at the Fair a 
continuing one of the chiefest nurseries of vice next 
to the play-houses ; therefore earnestly desire that 
the said orders may be vigorously prosecuted, and 
that this honourable Court would endeavour that 
the said fair may be employed to those good ends 
and purposes it was at first designed/' 

This presentment deserves, and will repay, the 
most attentive consideration of those who would 
know the real character of the amusements pre- 
sented at the London fairs, and the motives and 
aims of those who endeavoured to suppress them. 
The grand jury profess to be actuated by a desire 
to diminish profanity, vice, and debauchery; and, 
if this had been their real and sole object, nothing 
could have been more laudable. But, like those 
who would suppress the liquor traffic in order to 
prevent drunkenness, they confounded the use with 

And the Old London Fairs. 69 

the abuse of the thing which they condemned, and 
sought to deprive the masses of every kind of 
amusement, because some persons could not parti- 
cipate therein without indulging in vicious and 
debasing pleasures. It might have been supposed 
that Bartholomew Fair was pre-eminently a means 
and occasion of vice and debauchery, and that its 
continuance was incompatible with the maintenance 
of public order and the due guardianship of public 
morals, if the grand jury had not coupled with 
their condemnation an expression of their opinion 
that it was not so bad as the theatres. In that 
sentence is disclosed the real motive and aim of 
those who sought the suppression of the amuse- 
ments of the people at the London Fairs. 

That the morals and manners of that age were 
of a low standard is undeniable; but they would 
have been worse if the fairs had been abolished, 
and the theatres closed, as the fanatics of the day 
willed. Men and women cannot be made pious or 
virtuous by the prohibition of theatres, concerts, 
and balls, any more than they can be rendered 
temperate by suppressing the public sale of beer, 
wine, and spirits. Naturally, a virtuous man, with- 
out being a straight-laced opponent of " cakes and 
ale,^^ would have seen, in walking through a fair, 
much that he would deplore, and desire to amend ; 

70 The Old Showmen^ 

but such a man would have the same reflections 
inspired by a visit to a theatre or a music-hall, or 
any other amusement of the present day. He 
would not, however, if he was sensible as well as 
virtuous, conclude from what he saw and heard 
that all public amusements ought to be prohibited. 
To suppress places- of popular entertainment be- 
cause some persons abuse them would be like 
destroying a garden because a snail crawls over the 
foliage, or an earwig lurks in the flowers. 

The London fairs were attended this year by a 
remarkable Dutch boy, about eight or nine years 
of age, whose eyes presented markings of the iris 
in which sharp-sighted persons, aided perhaps by 
a considerable development of the organ of wonder^ 
read certain Latin and Hebrew words. In one 
eye, the observer read, or was persuaded that he 
could read, the words JDeiis mens ; in the other, in 
Hebrew characters, the word Elohim. The boy*s 
parents, by whom he was exhibited, affirmed that 
his eyes had presented these remarkable peculiari- 
ties from his birth. Great numbers of persons, 
including the most eminent physiologists and 
physicians of the day,- went to see him; and the 
learned, who examined his eyes with great attention, 
were as far from solving the mystery as the crowd 
of ordinary sight-seers. Some of them regarded 

And the Old London Fairs. 7 1 

the case as an imposture, but they were unable to- 
suggest any means by which such a fraud could 
be accomplished. Others regarded it as " almost ^^ 
supernatural, a qualification not very easy to under- 
stand. The supposed characters were probably 
natural, and only to be seen as Roman and Hebrew 
letters by imaginative persons, or those who viewed 
them with the eye of faith. Wliatever their nature,, 
the boy^s sight was not affected by them in the 
slightest degree. 

The theatrical booths attending the London fairs 
began at this time to be more numerous, and to 
present an entertainment of a better character than 
had hitherto been seen. The elder Penkethman 
appears to have been the first actor of good position 
on the stage who set the example of performing 
in a temporary canvas theatre during the fairs, and 
it was soon followed by the leading actors and 
actresses of the royal theatres. In a dialogue on 
the state of the stage, published in 1702, and 
attributed to Gildon, Critick calls Penkethman " the 
flower of Bartholomew Fair, and the idol of the 
rabble ; a fellow that overdoes everything, and 
spoils many a part with his^own stuff.^^ He had 
then been ten years on the stage, having made 
his first appearance at Drury Lane in 1692, as the 
tailor, a small part in The Volunteers. Four years 

72 The Old Showmen^ 

later^ we find him playing, at the same theatre, such 
parts as Snap in Love\s Last Shift, Dr. Pulse in 
The Lost Lover, and Nick Froth in The Cornish 

What the author of the pamphlet just quoted says 
of this actor receives confirmation and illustration 
from an anecdote told of him, in connection with 
the first representation of Farquhar^s Recruiting 
Officer at Drury Lane in 1706. Penkethman, who 
played Thomas Appletree, one of the rustic recruits, 
when asked his name by Wilks, to whom the part 
of Captain Plume was assigned, replied, ^^Why, 
don^t you know my name. Bob ? T thought every 
fool knew that/^ 

^^ Thomas Appletree,^^ whispered Wilks, assuming 
the ofiice of prompter. 

^^ Thomas Appletree ! '' exclaimed Penkethman, 
aloud. " Thomas Devil ! My name is Will Pen- 
kethman.^^ Then, turning to the gallery, he ad- 
dressed one of the audience thus : — " Hark you, 
friend ; don^t you know my name ? ^^ 

" Yes, Master Pinkey," responded the occupant of 
a front seat in the gallery. ^^ We know it very well.^^ 

The theatre was soon in an uproar : the audience 
at first laughed at the folly of Penkethman and the 
evident distress of Wilks ; but the joke soon grew 
tiresome, and they began to hiss. Penkethman 

And the Old London Fairs. 73 

saw his mistake^ and speedily changed displeasure 
into applause by crying out, with a loud nasal twang, 
and a countenance as ludicrously melancholy as he 
"Could make it, ^^ Adzooks ! I fear I am wrong ! ^^ 

Barnes, the rope-dancer, had at this time lost his 
former partner, Appleby, and taken into partnership 
an acrobat named Pinley. They advertised their 
show in 1701 at Bartholomew Fair as, ^^Her 
Majesty^s Company of B;0pe Dancers/^ They had 
two German girls ^Hately arrived from Prance ;^^ 
and it was announced that ^^ the famous Mr. Barnes, 
of whose performances this kingdom is so sensible. 
Dances with 2 Children at his feet, and with Boots 
and Spurs. Mrs. Finley, distinguished by the name 
of Lady. Mary for her incomparable Dancing, has 
much improved herself since the last Fair. You 
will likewise be entertained with such variety of 
Tumbling by Mr. Finley and his Company, as was 
never seen in the Fair before. Note, that for the 
conveniency of the Gentry, there is a back-door in 
Smithfield Rounds .^^ 

They were not without rivals, though the absence 
of names from the following advertisement renders 
it probable that the ^^ famous company ^^ calculated 
upon larger gains from anonymous boasting than 
they could hope for from the announcement of their 
names : — 

74 The Old Showfuen^ 

" At the Great Booth over against the Hospital 
Grate in Bartholomew Fair, will be seen the Famous 
Company of Rope Dancers, they being the Greatest 
Performers of Men, Women, and Children that can 
be found beyond the Seas, so that the world cannot 
parallel them for Dancing on the Low Rope, Vault- 
ing on the High Rope, and for Walking on the 
Slack and Sloaping Ropes, out- doing all others to 
that degree, that it has highly recommended them, 
both in Bartholomew Fair and May Fair last, to all 
the best persons of Quality in England. And by all 
are owned to be the only amazing Wonders of the 
World in every thing they do : It is there you will 
see the Italian Scaramouch dancing on the Rope, 
with a Wheel-barrow before him, with two Children 
and a Dog in it, and with a Duck on his Head who 
sings to the Company, and causes much Laughter. 
The whole entertainment will be so extremely 
fine and diverting, as never was done by any but 
this Company alone/^ 

Doggett, whom Cibber calls the most natural actor 
of the day, and whose name is associated with the 
coat and badge rowed for annually, on the 1st of 
August, by London watermen^ s apprentices, was 
here this year, with a theatrical booth, erected at the 
end of Hosier Lane, where was presented, as the 
advertisements tell us, " A New Deoll calFd the 

And the Old London Fairs. 75 

DiSTEESSED Virgin or ihe Unnatural Parents, Being 
a True History of the Fair Maid of the West, or the 
Loving Sisters. With the Comical Travels of Poo?- 
Trusty, in Search of his Master^ s Daughter , and his 
Encounter with Three Witches, Also variety of 
Comick Dances and So7igs, with Scenes and Machines 
never seen before, Vivat Regina.'^ Doggett was at 
this time manager of Drury Lane. 

Miller, the actor, also had a theatrical booth in 
the fair, and made the following announcement : — 

^^ Never acted before. At Miller^ s Booth, over 
against the Cross Daggers, near the Grown Tavern, 
during the time of Bartholomew Fair, will be pre- 
sented an Excellent New Droll, calFd The Tempest, 
or the Distressed Lovers, With the English Hero 
and the Island Princess, and the Comical Humours 
of the Inchanted Scotchman-, or Jockey and the 
Three Witches, Showing how a Nobleman of 
England was cast away upon the Indian Shore, and 
in his Travel found the Princess of the Country, with 
whom he fell in Love, and after many Dangers and 
Perils, was married to her ; and his faithful Scotch- 
man, who was saved with him, travelling through 
Woods, fell in among Witches, when between ^em 
is abundance of comical Diversions. There in the 
Tempest is Neptune, with his Triton in his -Chariot 
drawn with Sea Horses and Mair Maids singings 

76 The Old Shozvjuen^ 

With variety of Entertainment^ performed by the 
best Masters ; the Particulars would be too tedious 
to be inserted here. Vivat Bcgina.^' 

The similarity of the chief incidents in the dramas 
presented by Doggett and Miller is striking. In 
both we have the troubles of the lovers^ the comical 
adventures of a man-servant^ and the encounter with 
witches. We shall find these incidents reproduced 
again and again^ with variations, and under different 
titles, in the plays set before Bartholomew audiences 
of the eighteenth century. 

May Fair first assumed importance this year, 
when the multiplication of shows of all kinds caused 
it to assume dimensions which had not hitherto 
distinguished it. It was held on the north side of 
Piccadilly, in Shepherd^s Market, White Horse 
Street, Shepherd^s Court, Sun Court, Market Court, 
an open space westward, extending to Tyburn Lane 
(now Park Lane), Chapel Street, Shepherd Street, 
Market Street, Hertford Street, and Carrington 
Street. The ground-floor of the market-house, 
usually occupied by butchers^ stalls, was appro- 
priated .during the fair to the sale of toys and 
gingerbread ; and the upper portion was * converted 
into a theatre. The open space westward was 
covered with the booths of jugglers, fencers, and 
boxers, the stands of mountebanks, swings, round- 

And the Old London Fairs. 77 

abouts^ etc.^ while the sides of the streets were 
occupied by sausage stalls and gambliug tables. 
The first-floor windows were also^ in some instances, 
made to serve as the proscenia of puppet shows. 

I have been able to trace only two shows to this 
fair in 1702, namely Barnes and Finley^s and 
Miller's, which stood opposite to the former, and 
presented "an excellent droll called Grisjpin and 
Crispianus : or, A Shoemaker a Prince; with the 
best machines, singing and dancing ever yet in the 
fair/' A great concourse of people attended from 
all parts of the metropolis ; an injudicious attempt 
on the part of the local authorities to exclude 
persons of immoral character, which has always been 
found impracticable in places of public amusement,, 
resulted in a. serious riot. Some young women 
being arrested by the constables on the allegation 
that they were prostitutes, they were rescued by a 
party of soldiers ; and a conflict was begun, which 
extended as other constables calfeie up, and the 
" rough '' element took part with the rescuers of the 
incriminated women. One constable was killed, 
and three others dangerously wounded before the 
figlft end^. ' The man by whose hand the constable 
fell contrived to escape ; but a butcher who had 
been active in the affray was arrested, and convicted, 
and sufiered the capital penalty at Tyburn. 

78 The Old Showmen^ 

In the following year, the fair was presented as a 
nuisance by the grand jury of Middlesex; but it 
continued to be held for several years afterwards. 
Barnes and Finley again had a show at Bartholomew 
Fair, to which the pubhc were invited to " see my 
Lady Mary perform such steps on the dancing-rope 
as have never been seen before/^ The young lady 
thus designated, and whose performance attracted 
crowds of spectators to Barnes and Pinley^s show, 
was said to be the daughter of a Florentine noble, 
and had given up all for love by eloping with Finley. 
By the companion of her flight she was taught to 
dance upon the tight rope, and for a few years was 
an entertainer of considerable popularity ; but, ven- 
turing to exhibit her agility and grace while 
enceinte, she lost her balance, fell from the rope, 
and died almost immediately after giving birth to a 
stillborn child. 

Bullock and Simpson, the former an actor of 
some celebrity at Drury Lane, joined Penkethman 
this year in a show at Bartholomew Fair, in which 
Jejphtha's Rash Vow was performed, Penkethman 
playing the part of Toby, and Bullock that of 
Ezekiel. Bullock is described in the pam|||^et 
attributed to Gildon as ^^ the best comedian who 
has trod the stage since Nokes and Leigh, and a 
fellow that has a very humble opinion of himself.^^ 

And the Old JLondon Fairs. 79 

So mucli modesty must have made him a rara avis 
among actors, who have, as a rule, a very exalted 
opinion of themselves. He had been six years on 
the stage at this time, having made his first ap- 
pearance in 1696, at Drury Lane, as Sly in Love's 
Last Shift. His ability was soon recognised; and 
in the same year he played Sir Morgan Blunder in 
The Younger Brother, and Shuffle in The Cornish 
Comedy, Parker and Doggett also had a booth 
this year at the same fair, playing Bateman ; or, the 
Vnhapjpy Marriage, with the latter comedian in the 
part of Sparrow. 

Penkethman at this time, from his salary as an 
actor at Drury Lane, his gains from attending Bar- 
tholomew and Southwark Pairs with his show, and 
the profits of the Eichmond Theatre, which he 
either owned or leased, was in the receipt of a con- 
siderable income. ^^ He is the darling of Portuna- 
tus,^^ says Downes, writing in 1708, ^*^and has 
gained more in theatres and fairs in twelve years 
than those who have tugged at the oar of acting 
th^se fifty .^^ He did not retire from the stage, 
however, until 1724. 

^llipe of the minor shows of this period must 
now be noticed. A bill of this time — the date 
cannot always be fixed — invites the visitors to 
Bartholomew Pair to witness "the wonderful per- 

8o The Old Showmen^ 

formances of that most celebrated master Simpson,, 
the famous vaulter^ who being lately arrived from 
Italy, will show the world what vaulting is/^ The 
chroniclers of the period have not preserved any 
record, save this bill, of this not too modest per- 
former. A more famous entertainer was Clench, a 
native of Barnet, whose advertisements state that 
he ^^ imitates horses, huntsmen, and a pack of 
hounds, a doctor, an old woman, a drunken man, 
bells, the flute, and the organ, with three voices, by 
his own natural voice, to the greatest perfection,^^ 
and that he was '^ the only man that could ever 
attain so great an art/^ He had a rival, however, 
in the whistling man, mentioned in the ^ Spectator,^ 
who was noted for imitating the notes of all kinds 
of birds. Clench attended all the fairs in and 
around London, and at other times gave his per- 
formance at the corner of Bartholomew Lane, be- 
hind the old Exchange. 

To this period also belongs the following curious 
announcement of ^^ a collection of strange and 
wonderful creatures from most parts of the world,, 
all alive,^^ to be seen over against the Mews Gate^ 
Charing Cross, by her Majesty^ s permission. 

"The first being a little Black Many being but 
3 foot high, and 32 years of age, straight and pro- 
portionable every way, who is distinguished by the 

And the Old London Fairs. 8i 

Name of the Bldch Prinoe, and has been shewn 
before most Kings and Princes in Christendom. 
The next being his wife, the Little Woman, not 
3 foot high, and 30 years of Age, straight and pro- 
portionable as any woman in the Land, which is 
commonly called the Fairy Queen ; she gives gene- 
ral satisfaction to all that sees her, by Diverting 
them with Dancing, being big with Child. Like- 
wise their little Turkey Horse, being but 2 foot odd 
inches high, and above 12 years of Age, that shews 
several diverting and surprising Actions, at the 
Word of Command. The least Man, Woman, and 
Horse that ever was seen in the World Alive. The 
Horse being hejpt in a box. The next being a 
strange Monstrous Female Creature that was taken 
in the woods in the Deserts of Ethiopia in Prester 
John's Country, in the remotest parts of Africa. 
The next is the noble Picary, which is very much 
admirM by the Learned. The next being the noble 
Jack-call, the Lion^s Provider, which hunts in the 
Forest for the Lion^s Prey. Likewise a small 
Egyptian Panther, spotted like a Leopard. The 
next being a strange, monstrous creature, brought 
from the Coast of Brazil, having a Head like a 
Child, Legs and Arms very wonderful, with a Long 
Tail like a Serpent, wherewith he Feeds himself, as 
an Elephant doth with his Trunk. With several 

82 The Old Showmen^ 

other Rarities too tedious to mention in this 

^^ And as no such Collection was ever shewn in 
this Place before^ we hope they will give you con- 
tent and satisfaction, assuring you, that they are 
the greatest Earities that ever was shewn alive in 
this Kingdom, and are to be seen from nine o^ clock 
in the Morning, till 10 at Night, where true At- 
tendance shall be given during our stay in this 
Place, which will be very short. Jjonq live the 
Queen /^ 

The proprietors of menageries and circuses are 
always amusing, if not very lucid, when they set 
forth in type the attractions of their shows. The 
owner of the rarities exhibited over against the 
Mews Gate in the reign of Queen Anne was no ex- 
ception to the rule. The picary and the jack-call 
may be readily identified as the peccary and the 
jackal, but ^^ a strange monstrous female creature ^^ 
defies recognition, even with the addition that it 
was brought from Prester John^s country. The 
Brazilian wonder may be classified with safety with 
the long-tailed monkeys, especially as another and 
shorter advertisement, in the ^ Spectator,^ describes 
it a little more explicitly as a satyr. It was, 
probably, a spider monkey, one variety of which is 
said, by Huml^oldt, to use its prehensile tail for the 
purpose of picking insects out of crevices. 

And the Old London Fairs, S3 

The Harleian Collection contains the followinsr 
announcement of a performing horse : — 

^^To be seen, at the Ship, upon Great Tower 
Hill, the finest taught horse in the world. He 
fetches and carries like a spaniel dog. If you hide 
a glove, a handkerchief, a door-key, a pewter 
basin, or so small a thing as a silver two-pence, he 
will seek about the room till he has found it ; and 
then he will bring it to his master. He will also 
tell the number of spots on a card, and leap 
through a hoop; with a variety of other curious 

Powell, the famous puppet- showman mentioned 
in the ^ Spectator,' in humorous contrast with the 
Italian Opera, never missed Bartholomew Fair, 
where, however, he had a rival in Crawley, two of 
whose bills have been preserved in the Harleian 
Collection. Pinkethman, another ^^ motion-maker,'^ 
as the exhibitors of these shows were called, and 
also mentioned in the ^ Spectator,' introduced on 
his stage the divinities of Olympus ascending and 
descending to the sound of music. Strutt, who 
says that he saw something of the same kind at a 
country fair in 1760, thinks that the scenes and 
figures were painted upon a flat surface and cut out, 
like those of a boy's portable theatre, and that 
motion was imparted to them by clock-work. This 

G 2 

§4 The Old Showmen^ 

Tie conjectures to have been the character also of 
the representation, with moving figures, of the 
camp before Lisle, which was exhibited, in the 
reign of Anne, in the Strand, opposite the Globe 
Tavern, near Hungerford Market. 

One of the two bills of Crawl ey^s show which 
have been preserved was issued for Bartholomew 
Fair, and the other for Southwark Fair. The 
former is as follows : — 

^^At Crawley^s Booth, over against the Crown 
Tavern in Smithfield, during the time of Bartho- 
lomew Fair, will be presented a little opera, called 
the Old Creation of the World, yet newly revived ; 
with the addition of Noah's flood; also several 
fountains playing water during the time of the play. 
The last scene does present Noah and his family 
-coming out of the ark, with all the beasts two by 
two, and all the fowls of the air seen in a prospect 
sitting upon trees ; likewise over the ark is seen 
the sun rising in a most glorious manner: more- 
over, a multitude of angels will be seen in a double 
rank, which presents a double prospect, one for the 
sun, the other for a palace, where will be seen six 
angels ringing of bells. Likewise machines de- 
scending from above, double, with Dives rising 
out of hell, and Lazarus seen in Abraham^s bosom, 
besides several figures dancing jiggs, sarabands. 

And the Old London Fairs, 85 

and country dances, to the admiration of the spec- 
tators; with the merry conceits of Squire Punch 
and 8ir John SjpendallJ^ This curious medley was 
^^ completed by an entertainment of singing, and 
dancing with several naked swords by a child of 
eight years of age/^ In the bill for Southwark 
Fair we find the addition of ^^the ball of little 
dogs,^^ said to have come from Louvain, and to 
perform "by their cunning tricks wonders in the 
world of dancing. You shall see one of them named 
Marquis of Gaillerdain, whoso dexterity is not to be 
compared; he dances with Madame Poucette his 
mistress and the rest of their company at the sound 
of instruments, all of them observing so well the 
cadence that they amaze everybody ; ^^ it is added 
that these celebrated performers had danced before 
Queen Anne and most of the nobility, and amazed 

James Miles, who has been mentioned in the last 
chapter, promised the visitors, in a bill preserved in 
the Harleian Collection, that they should see "a 
young woman dance with the swords, and upon a 
ladder, surpassing all her sex.^^ Nineteen different 
dances were performed in his show, among which 
he mentions a "wrestlers^ dance ^^ and vaulting 
upon the slack rope. Respecting this dancing with 
swords, Strutt says that he remembered seeing " at 

86 The Old Showmeii^ 

Flockton's^ a mucli noted but very clumsy juggler, 
a girl about eighteen or twenty years of age, who 
came upon the stage with four naked swords, two 
in each hand; when the music played, she turned 
round with great swiftness, and formed a great 
variety of figures with the swords, holding them 
overhead, down by her sides, behind her, and oc- 
casionally she thrust them in her bosom. The 
dance generally continued ten or twelve minutes; 
and when it was finished, she stopped suddenly, 
without appearing to be in the least giddy from the 
coni^ant reiteration of the same motion/^ 

The ladder-dance was performed upon a light 
ladder, which the performer shifted from place to 
place, ascended and descended, without permitting 
it to fall. It was practised at Sadler's Wells at 
the commencement of the last century, and revived 
there in 1770. Strutt thought it originated in the 
stilt-dance, which appears, from an illumination of 
the reign of Henry III., to have been practised in 
the thirteenth century. 

Mrs. Mynn appears as a Bartholomew Fair 
theatrical manageress in 1707, when Settle, then 
nearly sixty years of age, and in far from flourishing 
circumstances, adapted to her stage his spectacu- 
lar drama of the 8ie(^e of Troy, which had been 
produced at Drury Lane six years previously. 

And the Old London Fairs. 87 

Settle^ who was a good contriver of spectacles^ 
though a bad dramatic poet^ reduced it from five 
acts to three^ striking out four or five of the 
dramatis jpersoncBy cutting down the serious portions 
of the dialogue^ and giving greater breadth as well 
^s length to the comic incidents^ without which no 
Bartholomew audience would have been satisfied. 
As acted in her theatrical booths it was printed by 
Mrs. Mynn^ with the following introduction : — 

^^ A Printed Publication of an Entertainment 
performed on a Smithfield Stage^ which, how gay or 
richly soever set off, will hardly reach to a higher 
Title than the customary name of a Droll^ "inay seem 
somewhat neiu. But as the present undertaking, the 
worJc of ten Months' preparation, is so extraordinary 
u Performance, that without Boast or Vanity we may 
modestly say, In the whole several Scenes, Move- 
mentSj and Machines, it is no ways Inferiour even 
to any one Opera yet seen in either of the Royal 
Theatres; ive are therefore under some sort of 
Necessity to tnake this Publication, thereby to give 
ev'n the meanest of our audience a full Light into all 
the Object they will there meet in this Expensive 
Entertainment ; the Proprietors of which have 
adventured to make, under some small Hopes, That 
as they yearly see some of their happier Brethren 
Undertakers in the Fair, more cheaply obtain even 

88 The Old Showmen^ 

Die Engrost Smiles of the Gentry and Quality at so 
much an easier Price ; so on the other side their own 
more costly Projection (though less Favourites) might 
possibly attain to that good Fortune, at least to 
attract a little share of the good graces of the more 
Honourable part of the Audience, and perhaps he 
able to purchase some of those smiles which elsewhere 
have been thus long the prof user Donation of par- 
ticidar Affection and Favour J ^ 

In the following year^ Settle arranged for Mrs. 
Mynn the dramatic spectacle of Whittington, long 
famous at Bartholomew Fair^ concluding with a 
mediaeval Lord Mayor^s cavalcade, in which nine 
different pageants were introduced. 

In 1708, the first menagerie seems to have ap- 
peared at Bartholomew Fair^ where it stood near 
the hospital gate, and attracted considerable at- 
tention. Sir Hans Sloane cannot be supposed 
to have missed such an opportunity of studying 
animals little known, as he is said to have constantly 
visited the fair for that purpose, and to have retained 
the services of a draughtsman for their representa- 

The first menagerie in this country was un- 
doubtedly that^ which for several centuries^ was 
maintained in the Tower of London, and the be- 
ginning of which may be traced to the presentation 

And the Old London Fairs. 89 

of three leopards to Henry III. by the Emperor of 
Germany, in allusion to the heraldic device of the 
former. Several royal orders are extant which show 
the progress made in the formation of the menagerie 
and furnish many interesting particulars concerning 
the animals. Two of these documents, addressed 
by Henry III. to the sheriffs of London, have 
reference to a white bear. The first, dated 1253, 
directs that fourpence a day should be allowed for the 
animaPs subsistence; and the second, made in the 
following year, commands that, ^^ for the keeper of 
our white bear, lately sent us from Norway, and 
which is in our Tower of London, ye cause to be 
had one muzzle and one iron chain, to hold that bear 
without the water, and one long and strong cord to 
hold the same bear when fishing in the river of 

Other mandates, relating to an elephant, were 
issued in the same reign, in one of which it is di- 
rected, ^^ that ye cause, without delay, to be built at 
our Tower of London, one house of forty feet long,, 
and twenty feet deep, for our elephant j providing 
that it be so made and so strong that, when need be 
it may be fit and necessary for other uses.^^ We 
learn from Matthew Paris that this animal was 
presented to Henry by the King of France. It 
was ten years old, and ten feet in height. It lived 

90 The Old Showmen^ 

till the forty-first year of Henry^s reign^ in which 
year it is recorded that^ for the maintenance of the 
elephant and its keeper, from Michaelmas to St. 
Yalen tineas Day, immediately before it died, the 
charge was nearly seventeen pounds — a considerable 
sum for those days. 

Many additions were made to the Tower 
menagerie in the reign of Edward III. ; and notably 
a lion and lioness, a leopard, and two wild cats. 
The office of keeper of the lions was created by 
Henry VI., with an allowance of sixpence a day for 
the keeper, and a like sum ^^for the maintenance of 
every lion or leopard now being in his custody, 
or that shall be in his custody hereafter.^^ This 
office was continued until comparatively recent 
times, when it was abolished with the menagerie, a 
step which put an end likewise to the time-honoured 
hoax, said to have been practised upon country 
cousins, of going to the water side, below London 
Bridge, to see the lions washed. 

The building appropriated to the keeping and 
exhibition of the animals was a wide semi-circular 
edifice, in which were constructed, at distances of a 
few feet apart, a number of arched ^^ dens,^^ divided 
into two or more compartments, and secured by 
strong iron bars. Opposite these cages was a 
gallery of corresponding form, with a low stone 

And the Old London Fairs, 9 1 

parapet^ and approaclied from the back by a flight 
of steps. This was appropriated exclusively to the 
accommodation of the royal family^ who witnessed 
from it the feeding of the beasts and the combats 
described by Mr. Ainsworth in the romance which 
made the older portions of the Tower familiar 
ground to so many readers. 

The menagerie which appeared in Smithfield in 
1708^ and the ownership of which I have been un- 
able to discover^ was a very small concern; but 
with the showman^ s knowledge of the popular love 
of the marvellous^ was announced as ^^ a Collection 
of Strange and Wonderful Creatures/* which in- 
cluded "the Noble Casheware, brought from the 
Island of Java in the East Indies^ one of the 
strangest creatures in the Universe^ being half a 
Bird^ and half a Beast^ reaches 16 Hands High from 
the Ground, his Head is like a Bird, and so is his 
Feet, he hath no hinder Claw, Wiiigs, Tongue, nor 
Tail; his Body is like to the Body of a Deer; 
instead of Feathers, his fore-part is covered with 
Hair like an Ox, his hinder-part with a double 
Feather in one Quill ; he Eats Iron, Steel, or Stones ; 
he hath 2 Spears grows by his side.^* 

There is now no difficulty in recognising this 
strange bird as the cassowary, the representative in 
the Indian islands of the ostrich. There was also a 

92 The Old Show7nen^ 

leopard from Lebanon, an eagle from Russia, a 
'^ posoun ^' (opossum ? )from Hispaniola, and, besides 
a " Great Mare of the Tartarian Breed/^ whicli 
^^ had the Honour to be showed before Queen Anne, 
Prince George, and most of the Nobility,^^ ^^a little 
black hairy Monster, bred in the Desarts of Arabia, 
a natural EuflF of Hair about his Face, walks upright, 
takes a Glass of Ale in his Hand and drinks it off; 
and doth several other things to admiration/^ This 
animal was probably a specimen of the maned 
colobus, a native of the forests of Sierra Leone, and 
called by Pennant the full-bottomed monkey, in 
allusion to the full-bottom periwig of his day. 

A pamphlet was published in 1710, with the title. 
The Wonders of England, purporting to contain 
^^Doggett and Penkethman^s dialogue with Old 
Nick, on the suppression of Bartholomew Fair,^' and 
accounts of many strange and wonderful things; 
but it was a mere " catch-penny,^^ as such produc- 
tions of the Monmouth Street press were called, not 
containing a line about the suppression of the fair, 
and the title, as Hone observes, " like the showmen^s 
painted cloths in the fair, pictures monsters not 
visible within/^ 

The lesser sights of a fair in the first quarter of 
the eighteenth century are graphically delineated by 
Gay, in his character of the ballad singer, in ^^ The 

And the Old London Fairs. 93 

Shepherd^s Week/^ bringing before the mind^s eye 
the stalls, the lotteries, the mountebanks, the tum- 
blers, the rope-dancers, the raree-shows, the puppets, 
and ^^ all the fun of the fair/^ 

" How pedlers' stalls with glittering toys are laid, 
The various fairings of the country maid. 
Long silken laces hang upon the twine, 
And rows of pins and amber bracelets shine ; 
How the tight lass knives, combs, and scissors spies, 
And looks on thimbles with desiring eyes. 
Of lotteries next with tuneful note he told. 
Where silver spoons are won, and rings of gold. 
The lads and lasses trudge the street along. 
And all the fair is crowded in his song. 
The mountebank now treads the stage, and sells 
His piUs, his balsams, and his ague-spells ; 
Now o'er and o'er the nimble tumbler springs, 
And on the rope the venturous maiden swings ; 
Jack Pudding, in his party-coloured jacket. 
Tosses the glove, and jokes at every packet. 
Of raree-shows he simg, and Punch's feats. 
Of pockets picked in crowds, and various cheats." 

The theatrical booths, of which we have only 
casual notices or records during the seventeenth 
century and the first dozen years of the eighteenth, 
became an important feature of the London fairs 
about 1714, from which time those of Bartholomew 
and Southwark were regularly attended by many of 

94 The Old Showmen^ 

the leading actors and actresses of Drury Lane, 
Covent Garden, the Haymarket, Lincoln's Inn Fields, 
and Goodman^ s Fields theatres, down to the middle 
of the century, excepting those years in which na 
theatrical booths were allowed to be put up in 
Smithfield. The theatrical companies which attended 
the fairs were not, however, drawn entirely from the 
London theatres. Three or four actors associated 
in the proprietorship and management, or were 
engaged by a popular favourite, and the rest of the 
company was recruited from provincial theatres, or 
from the strolling comedians of the country fairs. 

The London fairs were not, therefore, neglected 
by metropolitan managers in quest of talent, who, 
by witnessing the performances in booths on 
Smithfield or Southwark Green, sometimes found 
and transferred to their own boards, actors and 
actresses who proved stars of the first magnitude. 
It wasin Bartholomew Fair that Booth found Walker, 
the original representative of Captain Macheath, 
playing in the Siege of Troy ; and in Southwark 
Fair, in 1714, that the same manager saw Mrs. 
Horton acting in Cupid and Psyche, and was so 
pleased with her impersonation that he immediately 
ofiered her an engagement at Drury Lane, where 
she appeared the following season as Melinda, in 
the Recruiting Officer. She made her first appear- 

And the Old London Fairs. 95 

ance in 1713^ as Marcia in GatOy with a strolling^ 
company then performing at Windsor ; and is said 
to have been one of the most beautiful women that 
ever trod the stage. 

Penkethman^s company played the Constant 
Lovers in Southwark Fair in the year that proved so 
fortunate for Mrs. Horton^ the comedian himself 
playing Buzzard^ and Bullock taking the part 
of Sir Timothy Littlewit. In the foUowing^ 
year^ as we learn from a newspaper paragraph 
^^ a great play-house ^^ was erected in the middle 
of Smithfield for "the King^s players/^ beings 
^^the largest ever built.^^ In 1717 Bullock did not 
accompany Penkethman, but set up a booth of his 
own^ in conjunction with Leigh ; while Penkethman 
formed a partnership} with Pack^ and produced the 
new " droll^^^ Twice Married and a Maid Still, in 
which the former personated Old Merriwell ; Pack, 
Tim; Quin^ Vincent; Ryan, Peregrine; Spiller, 
Trusty; and Mrs. Spiller, Lucia. Penkethman^s 
booth received the honour of a visit from the Prince 
of Wales. On the evening of the 13th of September, 
the popular favourite and several of the company 
were arrested on the stage by a party of constables, 
in the presence of a hundred and fifty of the nobility 
and gentry ; but, pleading that they were " the 
King^s servants,^^ they were released without being 

96 The Old Showmen^ 

subjected to the pains and penalties of va- 

In 1719^ BuUocVs name appears alone as the 
proprietor of the theatrical booth set up in Bird- 
cage Alley, for Southwark Fair, and in which the 
Jew of Venice was represented, with singing and 
dancing, and Harper^s representation of the freaks 
and humours of a drunken man, which, having been 
greatly admired at Lincoln^s Inn Fields, where he 
and Bullock were both then engaged, could not 
fail to delight a fair audience. It was in this year 
that Boheme made his first appearance, as Menelaus 
in the Siege of Troy, in a booth at Southwark, 
where he was seen and immediately engaged by 
the manager of Lincoln^s Inn Fields, where he ap- 
peared the following season as Worcester in Henry 
IV., and subsequently as the Ghost in Hamlet, York 
in Richard II,, Pisanio in Cymheline, Brabantio in 
Othello, etc. 

The theatres at this time were closed during the 
continuance of Bartholomew Fair, the concourse of 
all classes to that popular resort preventing them 
from obtaining remunerative audiences at that time, 
while the actors could obtain larger salaries in 
booths than they received at the theatres, and some 
realised large amounts by associating in the owner- 
ship of a booth. The Haymarket company pre- 

And^ the Old London Fairs, 97 

seated the Beggar's Opera, at Bartholomew and 
Southwark Fairs in 1720; and Penkethman had 
his booth at both fairs^ this year without a partner. 

May Fair^ which had long been falling into dis- 
repute, now ceased to be held. It was presented 
by the grand jury of Middlesex four years suc- 
cessively as a nuisance ; and the county magistrates 
then presented an address to the Crown, praying 
for its suppression by royal proclamation. Pennant, 
who says that he remembered the last May Fair, 
describes the locality as '*^ covered with booths, 
temporary theatres, and every enticement to low 
pleasure. ^^ A more particular description was given 
in 1774, in a communication from Carter, the anti- 
quary, to the ^^ Gentleman^ s Magazine.^' 

^^ A mountebank^s stage,^^ he tells us, ^^ was 
erected opposite the Three Jolly Butchers public- 
house (on the east side of the market area, now 
the King^s Arms). Here Woodward, the inimitable 
comedian and harlequin, made his first appearance 
as Merry Andrew; from these humble boards he 
soon after made his way to Covent Garden Theatre. 
Then there was ' beheading of puppets.^ In a coal- 
shed attached to a grocer^s shop (then Mr. Frith^s, 
now Mr. Frampton^s), one of these mock executions 
was exposed to the attending crowd. A shutter 
was fixed horizontally, on the edge of which^ after 

98 The Old Showmen^ 

many previous ceremonies^ a puppet laid its head, 
and another puppet instantly chopped it off with 
an axe. In a circular stair-case window, at the 
north end of Sun Court, a similar performance took 
place by another set of puppets. In these repre- 
sentations, the late punishment of the Scottish 
chieftain (Lord Lovat) was alluded to, in order to 
gratify the feelings of southern loyalty, at the 
expense of that further north. 

^^In a fore one-pair room, on the west side of 
Sun Court, a Frenchman submitted to the curious 
the astonishing strength of the ^ strong woman/ his 
wife. A blacksmiths anvil being procured from 
White Horse Street, with three of the men, they 
brought it up, and placed it on the floor. The 
woman was short, but most beautifully and deli- 
cately formed, and of a most lovely countenance. 
She first let down her hair (a light auburn), of a 
length descending to her knees, which she twisted 
round the projecting part of the anvil, and then, 
with seeming ease, lifted the ponderous weight some 
inches from the floor. After this, a bed was laid in 
the middle of the room ; when, reclining on her 
back, and uncovering her bosom, the husband 
ordered the smiths to place thereon the anvil, and 
forge upon it a horse-shoe ! This they obeyed, by 
taking from the fire a red-hot piece of iron, and 

And the Old London Fairs. 99 

ivith their forging hammers completing the shoe, 
with the same might and indiflference as when in 
the shop at their constant labour. The prostrate 
fair one appeared to endure this with the utmost 
composure, talking and singing during the whole 
process; then, with an effort which to the by- 
standers seemed like some supernatural trial, cast 
the anvil from off her body, jumping up at the 
same moment with extreme gaiety, and without the 
least discomposure of her dress or person. That no 
trick or collusion could possibly be practised on the 
occasion was obvious, from the following evidence : — 
the audience stood promiscuously about the room, 
among whom were our family and friends ; the 
smiths were utter strangers to the Frenchman, but 
known to us; therefore, the several efforts of strength 
must have proceeded from the natural and sur- 
prising power this foreign dame was possessed of. 
She next put her naked feet on a red-hot sala- 
mander, without receiving the least injury; but 
this is a feat familiar with us at this time. 

^^Here, too, was ^Tiddy-dol.^ This celebrated 
vendor of gingerbread, from his eccentricity of 
€haracter, and extensive dealings in his way, was 
always hailed as the king of itinerant tradesmen. 
In his person he was tall, well made, and his 
features handsome. He affected to dress like a 


loo The Old Showmen^ 

person of rank; white gold-laced suit of clothes^ 
laced ruffled shirty laced hat and feather^ white silk 
stockings^ with the addition of a fine white apron. 
Among his harangues to gain customers, take this 
as a specimen : — ^ Mary, Mary, where are you now^ 
Mary ? I live, when at home, at the second house 
in Little Ball Steet, two steps underground, with 
a wiscum, riscum, and a why-not. Walk in, ladies 
and gentlemen; my shop is on the second-floor 
backwards, with a brass knocker at the door. Here 
is your nice gingerbread, your spice gingerbread; 
it will melt in your mouth like a red-hot brick-bat^ 
and rumble in your inside like Punch and his wheel- 
barrow/ He always finished his address by singing 
this fag-end of some popular ballad : — Ti-tid-dy, ti- 
ti, ti-tid-dy, ti-ti, ti-tid-dy, ti-ti, tid-dy, did-dy, dol- 
lol, ti-tid-dy, ti-tid-dy, ti-ti, tid-dy, tid-dy, dol. 
Hence arose his nick -name of ^ Tiddy-dol/ ^^ 

In Hogarth^ s picture of the execution of the idle 
apprentice at Tyburn, Tiddy-dol is seen holding up 
a cake of gingerbread, and addressing the crowd in 
his peculiar style, his costume agreeing with the 
foregoing description. His proper name was Ford, 
and so well-known was he that, on his once being 
missed for a week from his usual stand in the Hay- 
market, on the unusual occasion of an excursion to 
a country fair, a ^^ catch-penny ^^ account of his 

And the Old London Fairs, loi 

alleged murder was sold in the streets by thousands. 
In 1721 J as appears from a paragraph in the ^Lon- 
don Journal^ of May 27th, "the ground on which 
May Fair formerly stood is marked out for a large 
square, and several fine streets and houses are to be 
built upon it/' 


Bartholomew Fair Theatricals — Lee, the Theatrical Printer — 
Harper, the Comedian — Rayner and Pullen — Fielding, the 
Novelist, a Showman — Cibher's Booth — Hippisley, the 
Actor — Fire in Bartholomew Fair — Fawkes, the Conjuror — 
Roj^al Visit to Fielding's Booth — Yeates, the Showman — 
Mrs. Pritchard, the Actress — Southwark Fair — Tottenham 
Court Fair — Ryan, the Actor — Hallam's Booth — Griffin, 
the Actor — Visit of the Prince of Wales to Bartholomew 
Fair — Laguerre's Booth — Heidegger — More Theatrical 
Booths — Their Suppression at Bartholomew Fair — Hogarth 
at Southwark Fair — Violante, tlie Rope-Dancer — Cadman, 
the Flying Man. 

The success of the theatrical booths at the London 
fairs induced Lee, a theatrical printer in Blue Maid 
Alley, Southwark, and son-in-law of Mrs. Mynn, 
to set up one, which we first hear of at Bartho- 
lomew Pair in 1725, when the popular drama of the 
Unnatural Parents was represented in it. Lee 

The Old London Fairs. 103 

subsequently took into partnership in Ms mana- 
gerial speculation the popular comedian^ Harper, 
in conjunction with whom he produced, in 1728, a 
musical drama with the strange title of the Qualcers' 
Opera, which, as well as the subject, was suggested 
by the extraordinary popularity of Gay^s Beggars' 
Opera, the plot being derived from the adventures 
of the notorious burglar made famous in our time 
by Mr. Ainsworth^s romance of ^ Jack Sheppard/ 
It was adapted for the fairs from a drama published 
in 1725 as The Prison-breaker, ^^ as intended to be 
acted at the Theatre Royal, Lincoln^s Inn Fields." 

Fielding, the future novelist, appeared this year,, 
and in several successive years, as a Bartholomew 
Fair showman, setting up a theatrical booth in 
George Yard. He was then in his twenty-third 
year, aristocratically connected and liberally edu- 
cated, but almost destitute of pecuniary resources,^ 
though the son of a general and a judge^s daughter, 
and the great grandson of an earl, while he was as 
gay as Sheridan and as careless as Goldsmith. On 
leaving Eton he had studied law two years at Leyden, 
but was obliged to return to England through the 
failure of the allowance which his father bad pro- 
mised, but was too improvident to supply. Finding 
himself without resources, and becoming acquainted 
with some of the company at the Haymarket, he 

I04 The Old Skowmejt^ 

found the means, in conjunction with Reynolds^ the 
actor, to set up a theatrical booth in the locality 
mentioned, and afterwards, during South wark Fair, 
at the lower end of Blue Maid Alley, on the 

Fielding and Reynolds drew their company from 
the Haymarket, and produced the Beggars' Opera, 
with ^^all the songs and dances, set to music, as 
performed at the theatre in Lincoln/'s Inn Fields/^ 
Their advertisements for Southwark Fair inform 
the public that ^^ there is a commodious passage for 
the quality and coaches through the Half Moon 
Inn, and care will be taken that there shall be 
lights, and people to conduct them to their places/^ 

In the following year Fielding and Reynolds had 
separate shows, the former retaining the eligible 
site of George Yard for Bartholomew Fair, and 
producing CoUey^s Beggars' Wedding, an opera in 
imitation of Gay^s, which had been originally acted 
in Dublin, and afterwards at the Haymarket. 

Reynolds, one of the Haymarket company, set up 
his booth between the hospital gate and the Crown 
Tavern, and produced the same piece under the 
title of Hunter f that being the name of the principal 
character. He had the Haymarket band and 
scenery, with Ray, from Drury Lane, in the princi* 
pal part, and Mrs. Nokes as Tippit. Both he and 

And the Old London Fairs, 105 

Fielding announced Hulett for Chaunter^ the king 
of the beggars, and continued to do so during the 
fair ; but the comedian could not have acted several 
times daily in both booths, and as he did not return 
to the Haymarket after the fair, but joined the 
Lincoln^s Inn Fields company, he was probably 
secured by Fielding. 

Bullock, who had now seceded from the Lincoln^s 
Inn Fields company and joined the new establish- 
ment in Goodman^s Fields, under the management 
of Odell, also appeared at Bartholomew Fair this 
year without a partner, producing Dorastus and 
Faunia, and an adaptation of Doggett^s Country 
Wake with the new title of Flora, announcing it, in 
deference to the new taste, as being ^^ after the 
manner of the Beggars^ Ojoera.'^ Eayner and 
PuUen^s company performed, at the Black Boy Inn, 
near Hosier Lane, an adaptation of Gay^s opera, the 
dashing highwayman being personated by Powell, 
Polly by Mrs. Rayner, and Lucy by Mrs. Pullen. 

In 1730, Fielding had a partner in Gates, a 
Drury Lane comedian, and again erected his theatre 
in George Yard, which site was retained for him 
during the whole period of his Bartholomew Fair 
experience. They produced a new opera, called 
the Generous Free-mason, which was written by 
William Rufus Chetwood, many years prompter at 

io6 The Old Showmen^ 

Drury Lane. Gates personated Sebastian, and 
Fielding took the part of Clerimont himself. Miss 
Gates was Maria. After the opera there were 
'^several entertainments of dancing by Mons. de 
Luce, Mademoiselle de Lorme, and others, parti- 
cularly the Wooden Shoe Dance, Perrot and Pie- 
rette, and the dance of the Black Joke." 

Reynolds was there again, with the historical 
drama of Scipio^s Triumph and the pantomime of 
Harlequin's Contrivance, Lee and Harper pre- 
sented Robin Hood, and Penkethman and Giffard 
the historical drama of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw. 
Penkethman had retired from the stage in 1724^ 
and it is doubtful whether he lent his name on this 
occasion to Giffard, who was then lessee of Good- 
man^ s Fields, or the latter had taken the younger 
Penkethman into partnership with him. 

Among the minor shows this year was a collec- 
tion of natural curiosities, advertised as follows : — 

^^ These are to give notice to all Ladies, Gentle- 
men, and others. That at the end of Hosier Lane, 
in Smithfield, are to be seen, during the Time of 
the Fair, Two Rattle Snakes, one a very large 
size, and rattles that you may hear him at a quarter 
of a mile almost, and something of Musick, that 
grows on the tails thereof ; of divers colours, forms, 
and shapes, with darts that they extend out of their 

And the Old London Fairs. 107 

mouths^ about two inclies long. They were taken 
on the Mountains of Leamea. A Fine Creature^ of 
a small size^ taken in Mocha^ that burrows under 
ground. It is of divers colours^ and very beautifuL 
The Teeth of a Dead Battle Snake^ to be seen 
and handled, with the Battles. A Sea Snail, taken 
on the Coast of India. Also, the Horn of a Flying 
Buck. Together with a curious Collection of Ani- 
mals and Insects from all Parts of the World. To 
be seen without Loss of Time.^^ 

Bullock did not appear as an individual manager 
in the following year, having associated himself 
with Cibber, Griffin, and Hallam. The thea- 
trical booth of which they were joint proprietors 
stood near Hosier Lane, where the tragedy of 
Tamerlane the Great was presented, the hero 
being played by Hallam, and Bajazet by Cib- 
ber. The entertainment must have been longer 
than usual, for it comprised a comedy. The Miser, 
adapted from L'Avare of Moliere, in which Griffin 
played Lovegold, and Bullock was Cabbage; and a 
pantomime or ballet, called a Ridotto al fresco. 
Miller, Mills, and Gates, whose theatre was over 
against the hospital gate, presented the Banished 
General, a romantic drama, playing the principal 
parts themselves. 

Gates having joined Miller and Mills, Fielding 

io8 The Old Showmen^ 

had for partners this year Hippisley and Hall, the 
former of whom appeared at Bartholomew Fair for 
the first time. He kept a coffee-house in Newcastle 
Court, Strand, which was frequented by members 
of the theatrical profession. Chetwood wrote for 
them a romantic drama called Tlfie Emperor of 
€hina, in which the pathetic and the comic ele- 
ments were blended in a manner to please fair 
audiences, whose sympathies were engaged by the 
sub-title, Love in Distress and Virtue Rewarded. 
Hippisley played Shallow, a Welsh squire on his 
travels ; Hall, his servant, Robin Booby ; young 
Penkethman, Sir Arthur Addleplot ; and Mrs. 
Egleton, a chambermaid, Loveit. 

A fire occurred this year in one of the smaller 
booths, and, though little damage was done, the 
alarm caused so much fright to the wife of Fawkes, 
the conjuror, whose show adjoined the booth in 
which the fire broke out, as to induce premature 
parturition. This is the only fire recorded as 
having occurred in Bartholomew Fair during the 
seven centuries of its existence. 

I have found no Bartholomew Fair advertisement 
of Lee and Harper for this year ; but at Southwark 
Fair, where their show stood on the bowling green, 
behind the Marshalsea Prison, they presented Bate- 
man, with a variety of singing and dancing, and a 

And the Old London Fairs, 109 

pantomimic entertainment called the Harlot^s Fro- 
gress. A change of performance being found ne- 
cessary^ they presented the "celebrated droll ^^ of 
Jephtha's Bash Vow, in which Harper played the 
strangely incongruous part of a Captain Bluster. 

" To which,^^ continues the advertisement^ " will 
be added^ a new Pantomime Opera (which the Town 
has lately been in Expectation to see perform^) 

"The Fall of Phaeton. Wherein is shown the 
Rivalship of Phaeton and Epaphus; their Quarrel 
about Lybia, daughter to King Merops^ which 
causes Phaeton to go to the Palace of the Sun^ to 
know if Apollo is his father, and for Proof of it 
requires the Guidance of his Father^s Chariot, 
which obtained, he ascends in the Chariot through 
the Air to light the World ; in the Course the 
Horses proving unruly go out of their way and set 
the World on Eire ; Jupiter descends on an Eagle, 
and with his Thunder-bolt strikes Phaeton out of 
the Chariot into the River Po. 

" The whole intermixed with Comic Scenes be- 
tween Punch, Harlequin, Scaramouch, Pierrot, and 

"The Part of Jupiter by Mr. Hewet; Apollo, 
Mr. Hulett; Phaeton, Mr. Aston; Epaphus, Mr. 
Nichols; Lybia, Mrs. Spiller; Phathusa, Mrs. Wil- 

no The Old Showmen, 

liamson; Lampetia, Mrs. Canterel; Phebe, Mrs. 
Spellman ; Clymena^ Mrs. Fitzgerald. 

"N.B. We shall begin at Ten in the Morning 
and continue Playing till Ten at Night. 

" N.B. The true Book of the Droll is printed and 
sold by G. Lee in Bluemaid AUey^ Southwark^ and 
all others (not printed by him) are false.^^ 

Fawkes^ the conjuror^ whose show has been inci- 
dentally mentioned, located it, in the intervals 
between the fairs, in James Street, near the Hay- 
market, where he this year performed the mar- 
vellous flower trick, by which the conjuror, Stodare, 
made so much of his fame a few years ago at the 
Egyptian Hall. Fawkes had a partner. Pinchbeck, 
who was as clever a mechanist as the former was a 
conjuror ; and no small portion of the attractiveness 
of the show was due to Pinchbeck^ s musical clock, 
his mechanical contrivance for moving pictures, and 
which he called the Venetian machine (something, 
probably, like the famous cyclorama of the Colos- 
seum), and his ^^ artificial view of the world,^^ with 
dioramic effects. Feats of posturing were exhibited 
between Fawkes^s conjuring tricks and the exhibi- 
tion of Pinchbeck^s ingenious mechanism. 

In 1732, Fielding had Hippisley alone as a 
partner in his theatrical enterprise, and presented 
the historical drama of The Fall of Essex, followed 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 1 1 

by an adapted translation (his own work) of lie 
Medecin malgre Lui of Moliere^ under the title of 
The Forced Physician. The Prince and Princess of 
Wales visited Fielding's theatre on the 30th of 
August^ and were so much pleased with the per- 
formances that they witnessed both plays a second 

Lee and Harper presented this year the Siege of 
Bethulia, "containing the Ancient History of Judith 
and Holofernes, and the Comical Humours of Eus- 
tego and his man Terrible/^ Holofernes was repre- 
sented by MuUart, Judith by Spiller (so say the 
advertisements ; perhaps the prefix " Mrs/^ was 
inadvertently omitted by the printer), and Rustego 
by Harper. As this was the first year in which this 
curious play was acted by Lee and Harper^s com- 
pany, the earlier date of 1721, assigned to SetchePs 
print of Bartholomew Fair, is an obvious error, as 
the title of this play is therein represented on the 
front of Lee and Harper's show. It is not easy to 
understand how such an error can have obtained 
currency, it being further proclaimed by the intro- 
duction of a peep-show of the siege of Gibraltar, 
which occurred in 1728. 

SetcheFs print was a copy of one which adorned 
a fan fabricated for sale in the fair, and had ap- 
pended to it a description, ascribed to Caulfield, 

112 The Old Showmen^ 

the author of a collection of ^ Remarkable Cha- 
racters/ The authorship of the descriptive matter 
is doubtful, however, as it asserts the portrait of 
Fawkes to be the only one in existence; while 
Caulfield, in his brief notice of the conjuror, men- 
tions another and more elaborate one, Lee and 
Harper^s booth is conspicuously shown in the print, 
with a picture of the murder of Holofernes at the 
back of the exterior platform, on which are Mullart, 
and (I presume) Mrs. Spiller, dressed for Holo- 
fernes and Judith, and three others of the company, 
one in the garb of harlequin, another dancing, and 
the third blowing a trumpet. Judith is costumed 
in a head-dress of red and blue feathers, laced 
stomacher, white hanging sleeves, and a flounced 
crimson skirt ; while Holofernes wears a flowing 
robe, edged with gold lace, a helmet and cuirass, 
and brown buskms. 

Fawkes^ s show also occupies a conspicuous place 
with its pictured cloth, representing conjuring and 
tumbling feats, and Fawkes on the platform, doing 
a conjuring trick, while a harlequin draws attention 
to him, and a trumpeter bawls through his brazen 
instrument of torture an invitation to the spectators 
to ^^ walk up 1 ^^ Near this show is another with a 
picture of a woman dancing on the tight rope. The 
scene is filled up with the peep-show before men- 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 1 3 

tioned, a swing of the four-carred kind, a toy-stall, 
a sausage-stall, and a gin-stall — one of those in- 
centives to vice and disorder which were permitted 
to be present, perhaps ^^for the good of trade," 
when amusements were banished. 

In 1733, Fielding and Hippisley^s booth again 
stood in George Yard, where they presented the 
romantic drama of Love and Jealousy, and a ballad 
opera called The Cure for Govetousness, adapted by 
Fielding from Les Fourheries de Scapin of Moliere. 
In this piece Mrs. Pritchard first won the popu- 
larity which secured her an engagement at Drury 
Lane for the ensuing season, as, though she had 
acted before at the Haymarket and Goodman^s 
Fields, she attracted little attention until, in the 
character of Loveit, she sang with Salway the duet, 
'' Sweet, if you love me, smiling turn," which was 
received with so much applause that Fielding and 
Hippisley had it printed, and distributed copies in 
the fair by thousands. Hippisley played Scapin 
in this opera, and Penkethman, announced as the 
^^ son of the late facetious Mr. William Penketh- 
man," Old Gripe. There was dancing between the 
acts, and the Ridotto alfresco afterwards; and the ad- 
vertisements add that, ^^to divert the audience during 
the filling of the booth, the famous Mr. Phillips 
will perform his surprising postures on the stage." 


114 The Old Showmen, 

The newspapers of the time inform us that they 
had '^ crowded audiences/^ and that ^^ a great 
number of the nobility intend to honour them with 
their presence/^ which they probably did. All 
classes then went to Bartholomew Pair, as in 
Pepys^ time ; the gentleman with the star on his 
coat in SetcheFs print was said to be Sir Robert 

Gibber^ Griffin, Bullock, and Hallam again ap- 
peared in partnership, and repeated the perfor- 
mances which they had found attractive in the 
preceding year. Gibber played Bajazet in the 
tragedy, and Mrs. Gharke, his youngest daughter, 
Haly. This lady appeared subsequently on the 
scene as the proprietress of a puppet-show, and 
finally as the keeper of a sausage- stall. Griffin 
played Lovegold in the Miser, as he had done the 
preceding winter at Drury Lane ; but none of the 
Drury actresses performed this year in the fairs, 
and Miss Raftor^s part of Lappet was transferred to 
Mrs. Roberts. 

Lee and Harper presented Jephtha\^ Rash Vow, 
in which Hulett appeared; and Miller, Mills, and 
Oates, the tragedy of Jane Shore, in which Miss 
Oates personated the heroine; her father, Tim 
Hampwell; and Ghapman, Gaptain Blunderbuss. 
After the tragedy came a new mythological en- 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 1 5 

tertainment^ called the Garden of Venus; and tlie 
advertisements state that^ '' To entertain the Com- 
pany before the Opera begins^ there will be a variety 
of Rope-Dancing and Tumbling by the best Per- 
formers ; particularly the famous Italian Woman, 
Mademoiselle De Reverant and her Daughter, who 
gave such universal satisfaction at the Publick Act 
at Oxford; the celebrated Signer Morosini, who 
never performed in the Fair before ; Mons. Jano 
and others, and Tumbling by young River and Miss 
Derrum, a child of nine years old/^ De Reverant is 
not au Italian name, and it is to be hoped, for the 
sake of the lady^s good name and the managements 
sense of decorum, that the prefix of Mademoiselle 
was an error of the printer. Jano was a performer 
at Sadler^ s Wells, and other places of amusement 
in the vicinity of the metropolis, where tea-gardens 
and music-rooms were now becoming numerous. 

Tottenham Court fair, the origin of which I have 
been unable to trace, emerged from its obscurity 
this year, when Lee and Harper, in conjunction with 
a third partner named Petit, set up a show there, 
behind the King^s Head, near the Hampstead Road. 
The entertainments were Bateman and the Bidotto 
alfresco. The fair began on the 4 th of August. 

Petit^s name is not in the advertisements for 
Southwark Pair, where Lee and Harper gave the 

I 2 

] 1 6 The Old Showmen^ 

same performance as at Tottenham Court. A new 
a^spirant to popular favour appeared this year on 
Southwark Green, namely, Yeates^s theatrical booth, 
in which a ballad opera called The Harlofs Progress 
was performed, with ^' Yeates, junior^s, incomparable 
dexterity of hand : also a new and glorious prospect, 
or a lively view of the installation of His Royal 
Highness the Prince of Orange. 

" Note. — At a large room near his booth are to be 
seen, without any loss of time, two large ostriches, 
lately arrived from the Deserts of Arabia, being 
male and female. ^^ 

Fawkes, the conjuror, was now dead, but Pinch- 
beck carried on the show, in conjunction with 
his late partner^ s son, and issued the following 
announcement : — 

^^ This is to give notice, that Mr, Pinchbeck and 
Fawkes, who have had the honour to perform before 
the Boyal Family, and most of the Nohility and. 
Gentry in the Kingdom with great applause, during 
the time of Southwark Fair, will divert the PuhlicJc 
with the following surprising Entertainments, at their 
great Theatrical Room, at the Queen^s Arms, join- 
ing to the Marshalsea Gate. First, the surprising 
Tumbler from Frankfort in Germany, who shows 
several astonishing things by the Art of Tumbling ; 
the like never seen before since the memory of man. 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 1 7 

Secondly, the diverting and incomparable dexterity 
of hand, performed by Mr. Pinchbeck, who causes 
a tree to grow out of a flower-pot on the table, which 
blossoms and bears ripe fruit in a minute ; also a 
man in a maze, or a perpetual motion, where he 
makes a little ball to run continually, which would 
last was it for seven years together only by the 
word of command. He has several tricks entirely 
new, which were never done by any other person 
than himself. Third, the famous little posture- 
master of nine years old, who shows several 
astonishing postures by activity of body, different 
from any other posture-master in Europe.^^ 

The fourth and fifth items of the programme were 
Pinchbeck's musical clock and the Venetian machine. 
The advertisement concludes with the announcement 
that ^^ while the booth is filling, the little posture- 
master will divert the company with several wonders 
on the slack rope. Beginning every day at ten 
o^clock in the morning, and ending at ten at night .^' 
As Pinchbeck now performed the conjuring tricks 
for which his former partner had been famous, and 
the latter' s son does not appear as a performer, it is 
probable that young Fawkes was merely a sleeping 
partner in the concern, his father having accumulated 
by the exercise of his profession, a capital of ten 
thousand pounds. 

1 1 8 The Old Showmen^ 

It was in this year that Highmore^ actuated by 
the spirit which in recent times has prompted the 
prosecution of music-hall proprietors by theatrical 
managers^ swore an information against Harper as 
an offender under the Vagrancy Act^ which con- 
demned strolling players to the same penalties as 
wandering ballad- singers and sturdy beggars. 
Why^ it may be asked^ was Harper selected as the 
scape-goat of all the comedians who performed in 
the London fairs, and among whom were Gibber, 
Bullock, Hippisley, Hallam, Ryan, Laguerre, Chap- 
man, Hall, and other leading actors of the theatres 
royal ? There is no evidence of personal animosity 
against Harper on Highmore^s part, but it is not 
much to the latter^s credit that he was supposed to 
have selected for a victim a man who was thought 
to be timid enough to be frightened into sub- 

Harper was arrested on the J 2th November, and 
taken before a magistrate, by whom he was 
committed to Bridewell, as a vagrant, on evidence 
being given that he had performed at Bartholomew 
and Southwark Fairs, and also at Drury Lane. He 
appealed against the decision, and the cause was 
tried in the Court of King^s Bench, before the 
Lord Chief Justice, on the 20th. Eminent counsel 
were retained on both sides, the prosecution insisting 

And the Old London Fairs. 119 

that tlie appellant had brought himself under the 
operation of the Vagrancy Act by ^^ wandering from 
place to place ^^ in the exercise of his vocation ; a,nd 
counsel for the appellant contending that^ as Harper 
was a householder of Westminster and a freeholder of 
Surrey, it was ridiculous to represent him as a 
vagabond, or to pretend that he was likely to 
become chargeable as a pauper to the parish in 
which he resided. ^^ My client/' said his counsel, 
^^ is an honest man, who pays his debts, and injures 
no man, and is well esteemed by many gentlemen 
of good condition/^ The result was, that Harper 
was discharged on his own recognizances to be of 
good conduct, and left Westminster Hall amidst the 
acclamations of several hundreds of persons, whom 
his popularity had caused to assemble. 

In the following year, the managerial arrange- 
ments for the fairs again received considerable 
modification. The partnership of Miller, Mills, and 
Oates was dissolved, and the last-named actor again 
joined Fielding, while Hippisley joined Bullock and 
Hallam, and Hall formed a new combination with 
Eyan, Laguerre, and Chapman. Harper's partner- 
ship with Lee was dissolved by the latter' s death, 
and the fear of having his recognizances estreated 
seems to have prevented him from appearing at the 
fairs. Fielding and Oates presented Don Carlos and 

1 20 The Old Skowmefi^ 

the ballad opera of The Constant Lovers, in which 
Gates played Ragout^ his daughter Arabella^ and 
Mrs. Pritchard, in grateful remembrance of her Bar- 
tholomew Fair triumph of the preceding year^ Chloe. 
Hippisley^ Bullock, and Hallam presented Fair 
Rosamond, followed by The Impostor, in which 
Vizard was played by Hippisley, Balderdash by 
Bullock, and Solomon Smack by Hallam^s son. 
During the last week of the fair, Hippisley gave, as 
an interlude, his diverting medley in the character 
of a drunken man, for which impersonation he was 
long as celebrated as Harper was for a similar 

Eyan, Laguerre, Chapman, and Hall gave what 
appears a long programme for a fair, and suggests 
more than the ordinary amount of '^ cutting down.^^ 
The performances commenced with Don John, in 
which the libertine prince was played by Ryan, and 
Jacomo by Chapman. After the tragedy came a 
ballad opera. The Barre^i Island, in which Hall 
played the boatswain, Laguerre the gunner, and 
Penkethman the coxswain. The performances con- 
cluded with a farce. The Fai^ier Nicked, in which 
Laguerre was Merry, Penkethman the farrier^s man,, 
ar.d Hall an ale-wife. 

At Southwark Fair this year, Lee's booth, now 
conducted by his widow, stood in Axe and Bottle 

And the Old London Fairs. 121 

Yard, and presented the Siege of Troy, '^ whicli/^ 
says the advertisement, ^^ in its decorations, ma- 
chinery, and paintings, far exceeds anything of the 
like kind that ever was seen in the fairs before, the 
scenes and clothes being entirely new. All the 
parts to be performed to the best advantage, by 
persons from the theatres. The part of Paris by 
Mr. Hulett; King Menelaus, Mr. Eoberts; Ulysses,. 
Mr. Aston ; Simon, Mr. Hind ; Captain of the 
Guard, Mr. Mackenzie ; Bustle the Cobler, Mr. 
Morgan; Butcher, Mr. Pearce; Taylor, Mr. Hicks; 
Cassandra, Mrs. Spiller ; Venus, Mrs. Lacy ; Helen, 
Mrs. Purden ; Cobler^s Wife, Mrs. Morgan. With 
several Entertainments of Singing and Dancing by 
the best masters. 

"N.B. There being a puppet-show in Mermaid 
Court, leading down to the Green, called The Siege 
of Troy ; These are to forewarn the Publick, that 
they may not be imposed on by counterfeits, the 
only celebrated droll of that kind was first brought 
to perfection by the late famous Mrs. Mynns, and 
can only be performed by her daughter, Mrs. Lee.'^ 

Mrs. Lee seems to have had a formidable rival in 
another theatrical booth, which appeared anony- 
mously, and from this circumstance, combined with 
the fact of its occupying the site on which Lee and 
Harper^s canvas theatre had stood for several sue- 

122 The Old Showmen^ 

cessive years, may not unreasonably be regarded as 
the venture of Harper. All I have found con- 
cerning it is the bill^ which^ as being a good 
specimen of the announcements issued by the 
proprietors of the theatrical booths attending the 
London fairs^ is given entire. 

^^ At the Great Theatrical Booth 

On the Bowling-Green behind the Marshalsea^ down 
Mermaid-Court next the Queen^s-Arms Tavern^ 
during the Time of Southwark Fair^ (which began 
the 8th instant and ends the 21st)^ will be presented 
that diverting Droll calFd^ 

TJie True and Ancient History of 
Maudlin, the Merchant's Daughter of Bristol^ 


Her Constant Lover Antonio^ 
Who she followM into Italy, disguising herself in 
Man^s Habit ; shewing the Hardships she underwent 
by being Shipwreck'don the coast of Algier, where 
she met her Lover, who was doomM to be burnt at 
a Stake by the King of that Country, who fell in 
Love with her and proffer' d her his Crown, which 
she despised, and chose rather to share the Fate of 
her Antonio than renounce the Christian Religion 
to embrace that of their Impostor Prophet, Ma- 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 23 

With the Comical Humours of 

'Roger, Antonio^s Man_, 

And variety of Singing and Dancing between the 

Acts by Mr. Sandham^ Mrs. Woodward^ and Miss 


^' Particularly^ a new Dialogue to be sung by Mr. 
Excell and Mrs. Fitzgerald. Written by the Author 
of Bacchus one day gaily striding, &c. and a hornpipe 
hj Mr. Taylor. To which will be added a new 
Entertainment (never performed before) called 
The Intriguing Harlequin 


Any Wife better than None. 

With Scones^ Machines^ and other Decorations 

proper to the Entertainment.^^ 

Pinchbeck and Fawkes had a booth this year on 
the Bowling Green, where the entertainments of the 
preceding year were repeated^ the little posturer 
being again announced as only nine years of age. 
Pinchbeck had a shop in Fleet Street at this time^ 
(mentioned in the thirty-fifth number of the ^ Ad- 
venturer^)^ and_, perhaps^ an interest in the wax 
figures exhibited by Fawkes at the Old Tennis 
Court, as " the so much famed piece of machinery, 
consisting of large artificial wax figures five foot 
high, which have all the just motions and gestures 

1 24 The Old Showmen^ 

of human life, and have been for several years 
shewn at Bath and Tunbridge Wells, and no where 
else, except this time two years at the Opera Eoom 
in the Haymarket ; and by them will be presented 
the comical tragedy of Horn Thumb. With several 
scenes out of The Tragedy of Tragedies, and dancing 
between the acts. To which will be added, an 
entertainment of dancing called The Necromancer : 
or, Harlequin Dr. Faustus, with the fairy song and 
dance. The clothes, scenes, and decorations are 
entirely new. The doors to be opened at four, 
and to begin at six o^ clock. Pit 2s. 6d. Gallery Is. 
Tickets to be had at Mr. Chenevix^s toy-shop, over 
against Suffolk Street, Charing Cross ; at the Tennis 
Court Coffee House; at Mr. Edward Pinchbeck^ s, 
at the Musical Clock in Fleet Street ; at Mr. Smithes, 
a perfumer, at the Civet Cat in New Bond Street 
near Hanover Square ; at the little man^s fan-shop 
in St. Jameses Street/^ 

Fawkes and Pinchbeck seem to have speculated 
in exhibitions and entertainments of various de- 
scriptions, for besides this marionette performance 
and the conjuring show, there seems to have been 
another show, which appeared at Bartholomew 
Fair this year, as their joint enterprise, and for 
which Fielding wrote a dramatic trifle called The 
Humours of Govent Garden. It was probably a 

And the Old London Fairs. 125 

performance of puppets, like that at the Old Tennis 

The licences granted by the Corporation for 
mountebanks, conjurors, and others, to exercise their 
avocations at Bartholomew Fair had hitherto ex- 
tended to fourteen days ; but in 1735 the Court of 
Aldermen resolved — ^^ That Bartholomew Pair shall 
not exceed Bartholomew eve, Bartholomew day, and 
the next morrow, and shall be restricted to the sale of 
goods, wares, and merchandises, usually sold in fairs, 
and no acting shall be permitted therein/^ There 
were, therefore, no shows this year; and, as the 
Licensing Act had rendered all unlicensed enter- 
tainers liable to the pains and penalties of vagrancy, 
and Sir John Barnard was known to be determined 
to suppress all such ^^ idle amusements ^^ as dancing, 
singing, tumbling, juggling, and the like, the toy- 
men, the vendors of gingerbread, the purveyors of 
sausages, and the gin-stalls had the fair to them- 

There seems no evidence, however, that there was 
less disorder, or less indulgence in vice, in Bartho- 
lomew Fair this year than on former occasions. 
'^ Lady HoUand^s mob,^^ as the concourse of roughs 
was called which anticipated the official procla- 
mation of the fair by swarming through the streets 
adjacent to Smithfield on the previous night, as- 

1 26 The Old Showmen^ 

sembled as usual, shoutings ringing bells, and break- 
ing lamps, as had been tlie annual wont from the 
time of the Long Parliament, though the association 
of Lady Ho]land^s name with these riotous proceed- 
ings is a mystery which I have not been able to 
unravel. Nor is there any reason for supposing 
that drunkenness was banished from the fair with 
the shows ; for, though it is probable that a much 
smaller number of persons resorted to Smithfield, it 
is certain that gin-stalls constituted a greater temp- 
tation to excessive indulgence in alcoholic fluids, in 
the absence of all means of amusement, than the 
larger numbers that visited the shows were exposed 
to. The idea of promoting temperance by depriving 
the people of the choice between the public-house 
and the theatre or music-hall is the most absurd 
that has ever been conceived. 

It was on the 15th of March, in this year, that 
Eyan, the comedian and Bartholomew Fair thea- 
trical manager, was attacked at midnight, in Great 
Queen Street, by a footpad, who fired a pistol in 
his face, inflicting injuries which deprived him of 
consciousness, and then robbed him of his sword, 
which, however, was afterwards picked up in the 
street. Ryan was carried home, and attended by a 
surgeon, who found his jaws shattered, and several 
teeth dislodged. A performance was given at 

And the Old London Fairs. 127 

Govent Garden for Ms benefit on fbe 19th, when 
he had a crowded house, and the play was the 
ProvoTced Husband, with Hallam as Lord Townly, 
and the farce the School for Women, which was new, 
in the Eobertsonian sense, being adapted from 
Moliere. Hippisley played in it. The Prince of 
Wales was prevented by a prior engagement from 
attending, but he sent Eyan a hundred guineas. 
The wounded actor was unable to perform until 
the 25th of April, when he re-appeared as Bellair 
in a new comedy. Popple's Double Deceit, in which 
Sir William Courtlove was personated by Hippisley, 
Gaylifie by Hallam, and Jerry by Chapman. 

Smithfield presented its wonted fair aspect on the 
eve of Bartholomew, 1736, the civic authorities 
having seen the error of their ways, and testified 
their sense thereof by again permitting shows to be 
erected. Hippisley joined Fielding this year, and 
they presented Don Carlos and the Cheats of Scapin, 
Mrs. Pritchard re-appearing in the character of 
Loveit. Hallam and Chapman joined in partner- 
ship, and produced Fair Roso.mond and a ballad 

Fielding had at this time an income of two 
hundred a year, besides what he derived from trans- 
lating and adapting French plays for the London 
stage, and the profits of his annual speculation in 

128 The Old Showmen, 

Smithfield. But^ if lie had had three times as much, 
he would have been always in debt^ and occasionally 
in difficulties. Besides being careless and extrava- 
gant in his expenditure, he was generous to a fault. 
His pocket was at all times a bank upon which 
friendship or distress might draw. One illustration 
of this trait in his character T found in an old 
collection of anecdotes published in 1787. Some 
parochial taxes for his house in Beaufort Buildings, 
in the Strand, being unpaid, and repeated appli- 
cation for payment having been made in vain, he 
was at last informed by the collector that further 
procrastination would be productive of unpleasant 

In this dilemma. Fielding, having no money, 
obtained ten or twelves guineas of Tonson, on ac- 
count of some literary work which he had then in 
hand. He was returning to Beaufort Buildings, 
jingling his guineas, when he met in the Strand an 
Eton chum, whom he had not seen for several years. 
Question and answer followed quickly as the friends 
shook each other^s hands with beaming eyes, and 
then they adjourned to a tavern, where Fielding 
ordered dinner, that they might talk over old times. 
Care was given to the winds, and the hours flew on 
unthought of, as the showman and his old school- 
fellow partook of " the feast of reason, and the flow 

A7id the Old London Fairs. 129 

of soul/^ Fielding^s friend was ^^ hard up/^ and 
the fact was no sooner divulged than his purse 
received the greater part of the money for which 
the future novelist had pledged sheets of manuscript 
as yet unwritten. 

It was past midnight when Fielding, raised b}^ 
wine and friendship to the seventh heaven, reached 
home. In reply to the questions of his sister, who 
had anxiously awaited his coming, as to the cause 
of his long absence, he related his felicitous meeting 
with his former chum. ^^ But, Harry,^^ said Amelia, 
^^the collector has called twice for the rates. '^ 
Thus brought down to earth again, Fielding looked 
grave ; it was the first time he had thought of the 
rates since leaving Tonson^s shop, and he had spent 
at the tavern all that he had not given to his friend. 
But his gravity was only of a mementos duration. 
^^ Friendship/- said he, " has called for the money, 
and had it ; let the collector call again.^^ A second 
application to Tonson enabled him, however, to 
satisfy the demands of the parish as well as those 
of friendship. 

It was in this year that the Act for licensing 
plays was passed, the occasion — perhaps I should 
say, the pretext — being the performance of Field- 
ing^s burlesque, Pasquin, Ministers had had their 
eyes upon the stage for some time, and it must 


130 The Old Showmen^ 

be admitted that the political allusions that were 
indulged in on the stage were strongs and often 
spiced with personalities that would not be tolerated 
at the present day. It is doubtful, however, whether 
the Act would have passed the House of Commons, 
but for the folly of Criffard, manager of Goodman's 
Fields, and sometimes of a booth in Bartholomew 
Fair. He had a burlesque offered him, called the 
Golden Princess , so full of gross abuse of Parliament, 
the Privy Council, and even the King, that, im- 
pelled by loyalty, and suspecting no ulterior aims 
or sinister intention, he waited upon Sir Robert 
Walpole, and laid before him the dreadful manu- 
script. The minister praised Giffard for his loyalty, 
while he must have inwardly chuckled at the 
egregious folly and mental short-sightedness that 
could be so easily led into such a blunder. He 
purchased the manuscript, and made such effective 
use of it in the House of Commons that Parliament 
was as completely gulled as Giffard had been, and 
the Dramatic Licensing Bill became law. 

In the following year, Hallam appeared at Bar- 
tholomew Fair without a partner, setting up his 
show over against the gate of the hospital, and 
presenting a medley entertainment, comprising, as 
set forth in the bills, ^^ the surprising performances 
of M. Jano, M. Raynard, M. Baudouin, and Myn- 

And the Old London Fairs. 131 

heer Vander Huff. Also a variety of rope-dancers, 
tumblers, posture-masters, balance-masters, and 
comic dancers ; being a set of the very best per- 
formers that way in Europe. The comic dances to 
be performed by M. Jano, M. Baudouin, M. Peters, 
and Mr. Thompson; Madlle. De Frano, Madlle. Le 
Roy, Mrs. Dancey, and Miss Dancey. To which 
will be added, the Italian Shadows, performed by 
the best masters from Italy, which have not been 
seen these twenty years. The whole to conclude 
with a grand ballet dance, called Le Badinage 
€hampetre. With a complete band of music of haut- 
boys, violins, trumpets, and kettle-drums. All the 
decorations entirely new. To begin every day at 
one o^clock, and continue till eleven at night ."'^ 
Close to this booth was Yeates^s, in which The 
Lover his own Rival was performed by wax figures, 
nearly as large as life, after which Yeates^s son 
performed some juggling feats, and a youth whose 
name does not appear in the bills gave an acrobatic 

In 1738, Hallam^s booth occupied the former site 
of Fielding's, in George Yard, the entertainment 
consisted of the operatic burlesque. The Dragon of 
Wantley, performed by the Lilliputian company from 
Drury Lane. During the filling of the booth a 
posturing performance was given by M. Rapinese. 

K 2 

132 The Old Showmen^ 

'"^The passage to the booth/^ says the advertise- 
ments, ^^is commodiously illuminated by several 
large moons and lanthorns, for the conveniency of 
the company, and that persons of quality^s coaches 
may drive up the yard/^ Penkethman had this 
year a booth, where Hallam^s had stood the pre- 
ceding year, and presented Tine Man's Bewitched and 
The Country Wedding, 

Hallam^s booth attended Tottenham Court Fair 
this year, standing near the turnpike, and present- 
ing a new entertainment called The Mad Lovers, 
At South wark Fair Lee^s theatrical booth stood on 
the bowling-green, and presented Merlin, the 
British Enchanter, and The Country Farmer, con- 
cluding with a mimic pageant representing the 
Lord Mayor^s procession in the old times. 

In 1739, Bartholomew Fair was extended to four 
days, and there was a proportionately larger attend- 
ance of theatrical booths. Hallam^s stood over 
against the hospital gate, and presented the panto- 
mime of Harlequin tiirned Philoso'pher and the farce 
of The Sailor's Wedding, with singing and dancing. 
Hippisley, Chapman, and Legar had a booth in 
George Yard, where they produced The Top of the 
Tree, in whicb a famous dog scene was introduced, 
and the mythological pantomime of Perseus and An- 
dromeda. Bullock, who had made his last appearance 

And the Old London Fairs. 133 

^t Covent Garden in the preceding April, had the 
largest booth in the fair, and assumed the part of 
Judge Balance in a new pantomimic entertainment 
called The Enca'pes of Harlequin by Sea and Land, 
which was preceded by a variety of humorous songs 
and dances. Phillips, a comedian from Drury 
Lane, joined Mrs. Lee this year in a booth at the 
corner of Hosier Lane, where they presented a 
medley entertainment, comprising the " grand 
scene ^^ of Gupid and. Psyche, a scaramouch dance 
by Phillips and others (said to have been given, 
with great applause, on forty successive nights, at 
the Opera, Paris), a dialogue between Punch and 
Columbine, a scene of a drunken peasant by Phil- 
lips, and a pantomimic entertainment called Gohim- 
hine Goitrtesan, in which the parts of Harlequili 
and Columbine were sustained by Phillips and his 

In 1740, Hallam, whose show stood opposite the 
hospital gate, presented The Ramhling Lover; and 
Yeates, whose booth was next to Hallam^ s, the pan- 
tomime of Orpheus and Eurydice, The growing 
taste for pantomime, which is sufficiently attested 
by the play-bills of the period, induced Hippisley 
and Chapman, whose booth stood in George Yard, 
to present, instead of a tragedy or comedy, a panto- 
mime called Harlequin Scapin, in which the popular 

134 The Old Showmen^ 

embodiment of MoHere's humour was adapted with 
success to pantomimic requirements. Hippisley 
played Scapin^ Chapman was Tim, and Yates, who 
made his first appearance at Bartholomew Fair, 
Slyboots. After the pantomime came singing and 
dancing by Gates, Yates, Mrs. Phillips, and others, 
^^ particularly a new whimsical and diverting dance 
called the Spanish Beauties.^^ The performances 
concluded with a new musical entertainment called 
The Farting Lovers, Fawkes and Pinchbeck also 
had a theatrical booth this year in conjunction with 
a partner named Terwin. 

This year the fair was visited again by the Prince 
of Wales, of which incident an account appeared 
many years afterwards in the ^New European 
Magazine.^ The shows were all in full blast and 
the crowd at its thickest, when, says the narrator, 
'^ the multitude behind was impelled violently for- 
wards ; a broad blaze of red light, issuing from a 
score of flambeaux, streamed into the air ; several 
voices were loudly shouting, ' room there for Prince 
George ! Make way for the Prince ! ' and there 
was that long sweep heard to pass over the ground 
which indicates the approach of a grand and cere- 
monious train. Presently the pressure became 
much greater, the voices louder, the light stronger, 
and as the train came onward, it might be seen that 

And the Old Londoii Fairs. 135 

it consisted^ firstly, of a party of the yeomen of the 
guard, clearing the way ; then several more of them 
bearing flambeaux, and flanking the procession ; 
while in the midst of all appeared a tall, fair, and 
handsome young man, having something of a plump 
foreign visage, seemingly about four and thirty, 
dressed in a ruby-coloured frock-coat, very richly 
guarded with gold lace, and havmg his long flowing 
hair curiously curled over his forehead and at the 
sides, and finished with a very large bag and courtly 
queue behind. The air of dignity with which he 
walked, the blue ribbon and star and garter with 
which he was decorated, the small three-cornered 
silk court hat which he wore, whilst all around him 
were uncovered; the numerous suite, as well of 
gentlemen as of guards, which marshalled him 
along, the obsequious attention of a short stout 
person, who, by his flourishing manner seemed to 
be a player, — all these particulars indicated that the 
amiable Frederick, Prince of Wales, was visiting 
Bartholomew Fair by torch-light, and that Manager 
Rich was introducing his royal guest to all the 
entertainments of the place. 

" However strange this circumstance may appear 
to the present generation, yet it is nevertheless 
strictly true; for about 1740, when the drolls in 
Smithfield were extended to three- weeks and a 

136 The Old Showmen^ 

montli^ it was not considered as derogatory to 
persons of the first rank and fashion to partake in 
the broad humour and theatrical amusements of the 
place. It should also be remembered^ that many 
an eminent performer of the last century unfolded 
his abilities in a booth ; and that it was once con- 
sidered as an important and excellent preparation 
to their treading the boards of a theatre royal." 

The narrator then proceeds to describe the duties 
of the leading actor in a Bartholomew Fair theatre, 
from which account there is some deduction to be 
made for the errors and exaggerations of a person 
writing long after the times which he undertakes to 
describe, and who was not very careful in his re- 
searches, as the statement that the fair then lasted 
three weeks or a month suflSciently attests. The 
picture which he gives was evidently drawn from 
his knowledge of the Richardsonian era, which he 
endeavoured to make fit into the Bartholomew Fair 
experiences of the very different showmen of the 
reign of George II. 

*^ I will,^' he says, assuming the character of an 
actor of the period he describes, ^^as we say, take 
you behind the scenes. First, then, an actor mus 
sleep in the pit, and wake early to throw fresh saw- 
dust into the boxes ; he must shake out the dresses, 
and wind up the motion-jacks ; he must teach the 

And the Old London Fairs, 137 

dull ones how to act, rout up the idlers from the 
straw, and redeem those that happen to get into 
the watch-house. Then, sir, when the fair begins, 
he should sometimes walk about the stage grandly, 
and show his dress ; sometimes he should dance 
with his fellows ; sometimes he should sing ; some- 
times he should blow the trumpet; sometimes he 
should laugh and joke with the crowd, and give 
them a kind of a touch-and-go speech, which keeps 
them merry, and makes them come in. Then, sir, 
he should sometimes cover his state robe with a 
great coat, and go into the crowd, and shout op- 
posite his own booth, like a stranger who is struck 
with its magnificence : by the way, sir, that^s a 
good trick, — I never knew it fail to make an 
audience; and then he has only to steal away, 
mount his stage, and strut, and dance, and sing, 
and trumpet, and roar over again.^^ 

Griffin and Harper drop out of the list of show- 
men at the London fairs in this year. Griffin 
appeared at Drury Lane for the last time on the 
12th of February, and died soon afterwards, with 
the character of a worthy man and an excellent 
actor. He made his first appearance at Lincoln^ s 
Inn Fields, as Sterling in The Perplexed Lovers ^ in 
1714. Harper, the jolly, facetious low comedian, 
suffered an attack of paralysis towards the close of 

The Old Showmen^ 

1739, and, though he survived till 1742, he never 
appeared again on the stage. 

In the following year, Hippisley and Chapman 
presented A Devil of a DiiJce ; and Hallam relied 
for success upon Fair Rosamond. Lee and Wood- 
ward, whose booth stood opposite the hospital gate, 
produced Darius, King of Persia, ^^ with the comical 
humours of Sir Andrew Aguecheek at the siege of 
Babylon/^ Anachronisms of this kind were com- 
mon at theatrical booths in those days, when comic 
Englishmen of one type or another were constantly 
introduced, without regard to the scene or the 
period of the drama to be represented. Audiences 
were not sufficiently educated to be critical in such 
matters, and managers could plead the example of 
Shakspeare, who was then esteemed a greater 
authority than he is considered to be at the present 
day. Yates made his first appearance as a show- 
man this year, in partnership with Turbutt, who 
set up a booth opposite the King^s Head, and pro- 
duced a pantomime called Thamas Koidi Khan, 
founded on recent news from the East. An epi- 
logue, in the character of a drunken English sailor, 
was spoken by Yates, of whom Churchill wrote, — 

" In characters of low and vulgar mould, 
Where nature's coarsest features we behold ; 
Where, destitute of every decent grace. 

And the Old London Fairs. 139 

Unmanner'd jests are blurted in your face ; 
There Yates with justice strict attention draws. 
Acts truly from himself, and gains applause." 

There was a second and smaller booth in the 
name of Hallam, in whicli tumbling and rope- 
dancing were performed ; but whether belonging ta 
the actor or to another showman of the same name 
is uncertain. Fawkes and Pinchbeck exhibited the 
latter^s model of the Siege of Carthagena, with 
which a comic dramatic performance was com- 

The office of Master of the Revels was held at 
this time by Heidegger^ a native of Zurich^ who 
was also manager of the Italian Opera. He was 
one of the most singular characters of the time^ and 
as remarkable for his personal ugliness as for the 
eccentricity of his manners. The profanity of his 
language was less notable in that age than his 
candour. Supping on one occasion with a party of 
gentlemen of rank^ the comparative ingenuity of 
different nations became the theme of conversation, 
when the first place was claimed by Heidegger for 
his compatriots. 

^^ I am myself a proof of what I assert,^ ^ said he. 
^^ I was born a Swiss^ and came to England with- 
out a farthings where I bave found means to gain 
five thousand a year and to spend it. Now, I defy 

140 The Old Showmen^ 

the most able Englisliman to go to Switzerland and 
either to gain that income, or to spend it there /^ 

He was never averse to a joke upon his own ugli- 
ness, and once made a wager with Lord Chester- 
field that the latter would not be able, within a 
certain given time, to produce a more ugly man in 
all London. The time elapsed; and Heidegger 
won the wager. Yet he could never be persuaded 
to have his portrait painted, even though requested 
by the King, and urged by all his friends to comply 
with the royal wish. The facetious Duke of Mon- 
tagu, the concoctor of the memorable bottle-con- 
juror hoax at the Haymarket, had recourse to 
stratagem to obtain Heidegger^s likeness, which 
afterwards gave rise to a laughable adventure. He 
gave a dinner at tlie Devil Tavern, near Temple 
Bar^ to several of his friends and acquaintances, 
selecting those whom he knew to be the least 
accessible to the effects of wine, and the most likely 
to indulge in vinous conviviality. Heidegger was 
one of the guests, and, in a few hours after dinner, 
became so very much inebriated that he was carried 
out of the room in a state of insensibility, and laid 
upon a bed. 

An artist in wax, a daughter of the famous Mrs. 
Salmon, was ready to play her part in the plot, and 
quickly made a mould of Heidegger^s face in 

And the Old London Fairs, 14 1 

plaster. From this a mask was made ; and all that 

remained to be done was to learn from his valet 

what clothes he would wear on a certain night, and 

procure a similar suit and a man of the same 

stature. All this *the Duke accomplished before a 

masked ball took place, at which the King had 

promised to be present, and the band of the Opera 

House was to play in a gallery. The night came ; 

and as the King entered, accompanied by the 

Countess of Yarmouth, Heidegger directed the 

band to play the national anthem. He had scarcely 

turned his back, however, when the counterfeit 

Heidegger told them to play "Charlie over the 


Consternation fell upon all the assembly at the 

sound of the treasonable strains ; everybody looked 

at everybody else, wondering what the playing of a 

Jacobite air in the presence of the King might 

presage. Heidegger ran to the orchestra, and 

swore, stamped, and raved, accusing the musicians 

of being drunk, or of being bribed by some secret 

enemy to bring about his ruin. The treasonable 

melody ceased, and the loyal strains of the national 

anthem saluted the royal ears. Heidegger had no 

sooner left the room, however, than his double 

stepped forward, and standing before the music* 

gallery, swore at the musicians as Heidegger had 

142 The Old Skowmefij 

done, imitating his voice, and again directed them 
to play ^^ Charlie over the water/^ The musicians, 
knowing his eccentricity, and likewise his addiction 
to inebriety, shrugged their shoulders, and obeyed. 
Some officers of the Guards resented the affront to 
the King by attempting to ascend to the gallery for 
the purpose of kicking the musicians out ; but the 
Duke of Cumberland, who, as well as the King and 
his fair companion, was in the plot, interposed and 
calmed them. 

The company were thrown into confusion, how- 
ever, and cries of " shame ! shame ! " arose on every 
side. Heidegger, bursting with rage, again rushed 
in, and began to rave and swear at the musicians. 
The music ceased ; and the Duke of Montagu per- 
suaded Heidegger to go to the King, and make an 
apology for the band, representing that His Majesty 
was very angry. The counterfeit Heidegger im- 
mediately took the same course, and, as soon as 
Heidegger had made the best apology his agitation 
would permit, the former stepped to his side and 
said, " Indeed, sire, it was not my fault, but that 
deviPs in my likeness.^^ Heidegger faced about, 
pale and speechless, staring with widely dilated 
eyes at his double. The Duke of Montagu then 
told the latter to take off his mask, and the frolic 
ended; but Heidegger swore that he would never 

A7id the Old London Fairs, 143 

attend any public entertainment again, unless that 
witch, the wax- work woman, broke the mould and 
melted the mask before him. 

In 1 742, the first place in Bartholomew Fair was 
again held, but for the last time, by Hippisley and 
Chapman, who revived the ever-popular Scapin in 
what they called *^^ the most humorous and diverting 
droll, called Scaramouch Scapin or the Old Miser 
caught in a Sach/^ the managers playing the same 
characters as in 1740. Hallam had made his last 
appearance at the fair in the preceding year, and his 
booth was now held by Turbutt and Yates, who set 
it up opposite the hospital gate, and produced The 
Loves of King Edward IV, and Jane Shore, Yates 
personated Sir Anthony Lackbrains, Turbutt was 
Captain Blunderbuss, and Mrs. Yates, Flora. A new 
aspirant to public favour appeared in Goodwin, whose 
booth stood opposite the White Hart, near Cow Lane, 
and presented a three act comedy, called The Intri- 
guing Footman, followed by a pantomimic entertain- 
ment " between a soldier, a sailor, a tinker, a tailor, 
and Buxom Joan of Deptford.^^ Fawkes and Pinch- 
beck announced that " Punches celebrated company 
of comical tragedians from the Haymarket,^^ would 
perform The Traged^y of Tragedies, ^^ being the most 
comical and whimsical tragedy that was ever tra- 
gedized by any tragical company of comedians. 

144 ^/^^ Old Shonnnen^ 

called The Humours of Covent Garden, by Henry 
Fielding, Esq/' 

In 1743, the erection of theatrical booths in 
Smithfield was prohibited by a resolution of the 
Court of Aldermen, and the interdict was repeated 
in the following year. The prohibition did not 
extend to Southwark Fair, however, though held by 
the Corporation ; for Yates was there in the former 
year, with a strong company from the theatres royal 
playing Lore for Love, with Woodward as Tattle, 
Macklin as Ben, Arthur as Foresight, Mrs. Yates as 
Mrs. Frail, and Miss Bradshaw as Miss Prue. The 
after-piece was The Lying Valet, in which Yates 
appeared as Sharp, and his wife as Kitty Pry. 

It was in 1744 that the famous Turkish wire- 
walker appeared at Bartholomew Fair, where he 
performed without a balancing-pole, at the height 
of thirty-fiye feet. He juggled while on the wire 
with what were supposed to be oranges ; but this 
feat lost much of its marvellousness on his dropping 
one of them, which revealed by the sound that it 
was a painted ball of lead. He had formidable 
rivals m the celebrated Violantes, man and wife, the 
latter of whom far exceeded in skill and daring the 
famous Dutch woman of the latter years of the 
seventeenth century. These Italian artistes, like 
the Turk, performed at a considerable height, which. 

And the Old London Fairs, 145 

wMle it does not require greater skill, gives the 
performance a much more sensational character. 

Violante is the slack-rope performer introduced 
by Hogarth in his picture of Southwark Fair. The 
following feat is recorded of the artiste by Malcolm, 
in his ^ Londinium Redivivus/ in connection with the 
building of the church of St. Martin-in-the - Fields : — 
" Soon after the completion of the steeple, an ad- 
venturous Italian, named Violante, descended from 
the arches, head foremost, on a rope stretched 
across St. Martinis Lane to the Royal Mews ; the 
princesses being present, and many eminent per- 
sons.^' Hogarth has introduced, in the background 
of his picture, another performer ofithis feat, namely, 
Cadman, who lost his life in 1740 in an attempt to 
descend from a church steeple in Shrewsbury. The 
epitaph on his gravestone sets forth the circum- 
stances of the catastrophe as follows : — 

" Let this small monument record the name 
Of Cadman, and to future times proclaim 
Here, by an attempt to fly from this high spire, 
Across the Sabrine stream, he did acquire 
His fatal end, 'Twas not for want of skill. 
Or courage to perform the task, he fell : 
No, no— a faulty cord, being drawn too tight, 
Hurried his soul on high to take her flight, 
Which bid the body here beneath good night." 


146 The Old Showmen. 

The fairs of London were in the zenith of their 
fame during the period embraced in this chapter. 
During the second quarter of the eighteenth century, 
they were resorted to by all classes of the people, 
even by royalty ; and the theatrical booths by which 
they were attended boasted the best talent in the 
profession. They were not only regarded as the 
nurseries of histrionic ability, as the provincial 
theatres afterwards came to be regarded, but wit- 
nessed the efforts to please of the best actors of the 
London theatres, when in the noon of their success 
and popularity. Gibber, Quin, Macklin, Woodward, 
Shuter, did not disdain to appear before a Bartho- 
lomew Fair audience, nor Fielding to furnish them 
with the early gushings of his humour. The in- 
imitable Hogarth made the light of his peculiar 
genius shine upon them, and the memories of the 
old showmen are preserved in more than one of his 


A new Race of Showmen — Yeates, the Conjuror — The 
Turkish Rope- Walker — Pan and the Oronutu Savage — 
The Corsican Fauy — Perry's Menagerie — The Riobiscay 
and the Double Cow — A Mermaid at the Fairs— Garrick 
at Bartholomew Fair — Yates's Theatrical Booth — Dwaifs 
and Giants — The Female Samson — Riots at Bartholoniew 
Fair — Ballard's Animal Comedians — Evans, the Wire- 
Walker — Southwark Fair — Wax-wt)rk" Showv-Shuter, the 
Comedian — Bisset, the Animal Trainer — Powell, the Fire- 
Eater — Roger Smith, the Bell-Player — Suppression of 
Southwark Fair. 

The limitation of Bartholomew Fair to three days, 
and the interdiction of theatrical booths in two 
successive years, was a serious blow, regarding tlie 
matter from the professional point of view, to the 
interests of the fair. Though actors worked hard 
during the twelve or eighteen days of the fair, they 
earned higher salaries during that time than they 

L 2 

148 The Old Showmen^ 

would have received at the theatres^ and looked 
forward to Bartholomew- tide as the labourer to 
harvest. Though the theatres remained open during 
the fair when theatrical booths and puppet-shows 
were interdicted by the Court of Aldermen, actors 
missed their extra earnings, and managers found 
their receipts considerably diminished. In these 
we have only a passing interest ; but the glory of 
the fairs began to wane when the great actors 
ceased to appear on the boards of the canvas 
theatres, for the nobility and gentry withdrew their 
patronage when the luminaries of Drury Lane and 
Covent Garden were no longer to be seen, and fairs 
began to be voted low by persons of rank and 

The removal of the interdict on theatrical booths 
had little or no effect in arresting the progress of the 
decadence which had commenced; for the three 
days to which Bartholomew Pair remained limited did 
not afford to actors engaged at the London theatres^ 
opportunities for earning money sufficient to induce 
them to set up a portable theatre, which, except for 
South wark Fair, they could not use again until the 
following year. The case was very different when 
the fair lasted two or three weeks, and the theatres 
were closed during the time ; but when its duration 
was contracted to three days, the attendance of a 

And the Old London Fairs. 149 

tlieatrical company could be made remunerative only 
for inferior artistes who strolled all through the year 
from one fair to another. 

Towards the middle of the last century, therefore, 
a new race of showmen came prominently before the 
visitors to the London fairs, and two or three only 
of the names familiar to fair audiences afterwards 
re-appeared in the bills of the temporary theatres. 
Even these had, with the exception of Mrs. Lee, 
come into notice only since the fair, by being limited 
to three days, had lost its attractiveness for actors 
of the theatres royal. The site made famous by 
Fielding was occupied in 1746 by a new mana- 
ger, Hussey, who presented a drama of Shakspeare^s 
(without announcing the title), sandwich-like, 
between the two parts of a vocal and instrumental 
concert, concluding the entertainment with a 
pantomime called The Schemes of Harlequiuy in 
which Eayner was Harlequin, and his daughter, who 
did a tight-rope performance, probably Columbine. 
Eayner was an acrobat at Sadler^ s Wells, where his 
daughter danced on the tight rope. The pantomime 
concluded with a chorus in praise of the Duke of 
Cumberland, whose victory at CuUoden in the pre- 
ceding year had finally crushed the hopes of the 
disaffected Jacobites. 

The younger Yeates joined Mrs. Lee in a 

150 The Old Shovomen^ 

theatrical booth facing the hospital gate^ where they 
presented Ijcyve in a Labyrinth, a musical entertain- 
ment called Harlequin Invader, and ^^ stiflF and slack 
rope-dancing by the famous Dutch woman/' This 
can scarcely be the woman who did such wonders 
on the rope about the time of the Kevolution, though 
Madame Saqui performed on the rope at a very 
advanced age ; she may have been the same, for she 
does not appear again, but, considering that she is 
spoken of as a woman at the time of her first 
appearance in England, it is more probable that the 
rope-dancer of Mrs. Lee^s booth was another Dutch 
woman, perhaps a daughter of the elder and more 
famous performer. 

Adjoining Mrs. Lee^s booth was one of which 
Warner and Fawkes were the proprietors, and in 
which a drama called The Ha/ppy Hero was per- 
formed, followed by a musical entertainment called 
Harlequin Incendiary, in which the parts of Harle- 
quin and Columbine were sustained by a couple 
named Gushing, who afterwards appeared at Covent 
Garden. Warner personated Clodpole, a humorous 
rustic. Not to be outdone in loyalty by Hussey, he 
concluded the performance by singing a song in 
praise of the victor of CuUoden. 

Entertainers are, as a class, loyal, under whatever 
dynasty or form of government they live, providing 

And the Old London Fairs, 151 

that it does not interfere with the exercise of their 
profession; and in this instance their sympathies 
accorded with the popular political creed. 

In the following year^ Hussey's booth again stood 
in George Yard, and presented Tamerlane the Gtreaty 
with singing and ^^ several curious equilibres on the 
slack rope by Mahomet Achmed Vizaro Mussulmo, 
a Turk just arrived from Constantinople, who not 
only balances without a pole, but also plays a variety 
of Excellent airs on the violin when on the slack 
rope, which none can perform in England but him- 
self/^ Though said to have just arrived from 
Constantinople, this Turk was probably the same 
that had performed at Bartholomew Fair three years 

Warner disconnected himself from Pawkes this 
year, and joined Yeates and Mrs. Lee, whose booth 
stood in the same position as before, presenting the 
Siege of Troy, and an entertainment of singing and 
dancing. Adjoining it stood a new show, owned by 
Godwin and Reynolds, with ^^ a curious collection of 
wax-work figures, being the richest and most 
beautiful in England ; '^ and a panoramic view of 
the world, ^^ particularly an accurate and beautiful 
prospect of Bergen-op-Zoom, together with its 
fortifications and adjacent forts, and an exact re- 
presentation of the French besieging it, and the 

J 5 2 The Old Showmen 

Dutch defending it from tteir batteries^ etc/^ The 
movements of this exhibition were effected by 
clock-work. Opposite the Greyhound was another 
new venture^ Chettle^s, in which a pantomimic 
entertainment called Frolicsome Lasses was pre- 
sented, with singing and dancing between the acts, 
and a display of fireworks at the end. 

The only theatrical booth at Southwark Fair this 
year seems to have been Mrs. Lee^s, in which the 
entertainments were the same as at Bartholomew 
Fair. In Mermaid Lane was exhibited ^^ the 
strange and wonderful monstrous production of 
Nature, a#ea-elephant head, having forty-six teeth, 
some of them ten inches long, fluted, and turning 
up like a ram^s horn.^^ 

The shows increased in number and variety, 
though the theatrical booths could no longer boast 
of the great names of former years. George Yard 
was occupied in 1748 by a new theatre, owned by 
Bridges, Cross, Barton, and Vaughan, from the 
theatres royal, who availed of the interest created 
by recent events to present a new historical drama 
called The Northern Heroes, followed by dancing 
and a farce called The Volunteers, founded on the 
^ Adventures of Roderick Eandom.^ Smollett was 
now running Fielding hard in the race of fame, and 
the new managers were keen in turning his popu- 

And the Old London Fairs. 153 

larity to account for their own interests. This 
booth was the most important one in the fair, and 
the charge for admission ranged from sixpence to 

Hussey^s booth, at which the prices ranged from 
sixpence to two shillings, stood opposite the gate 
of the hospital. The entertainments consisted of 
the comedy of The Constant Quaker, singing and 
^lancing, including "a new dance called Punches 
Maggot, or Footers Vagaries,^^ and a pantomime 
called Harlequin's Frolics. 

In Lee and Yeates^s booth, opposite the Grey- 
hound, T/^e Unnatural Parents was revived, "shew- 
ing the manner of her (the heroine) being forced 
to wander from home by the cruelty of her parents, 
and beg her bread; and being weary, fell into a 
slumber, in a grove, where a goddess appears to 
her, and directs her to a nobleman^s house ; ho\y 
she was there taken in as a servant, and at length, 
for her beauty and modest behaviour, married to 
a gentleman of great fortune, with her return to 
her parents, and their happy reconciliation. Also 
the comical humours and adventures of Trusty, her 
father^s man, and the three witches.^^ Then follow 
the dramatis personce, which show a strong company. 
" With the original dance performed by three wild 
cats of the wood. With dancing between the acts 

154 The Old Showmen^ 

by Mr. Adams and Mrs. Ogden. A good band of 
music is provided, consisting of kettle-drums, trum- 
pets, French horns, hautboys, vioHns, etc. To 
begin each day at twelve o^ clock. The scenes and 
clothes are entirely new, and the droll the same 
that was performed by Mrs. Lee fifteen years ago, 
with great applause. ^^ 

Near Cow Lane stood another new theatrical 
booth, that of Cousins and Keynolds, at which the 
charges for admission ranged from threepence to a 
shilling. Here the romantic drama of Tlfie Blind 
Beggar ofBethnal Green was presented, with dancing 
between the acts, an exhibition of life-size wax 
figures, representing the Court of Maria Theresa, 
and the performance of the Italian sword-dancers, 
"who have had the honour of performing before 
the Prince of Wales, with great applause.^' 

Among the minor shows was one at "the first 
house on the pavement, from the end of Hosier 
Lane,^^ where the sights to be seen were a camel, 
a hyaena, a panther, " the wonderful and surprising 
satyr, calFd by Latin authors, Pan,^^ and a " young 
Oronutu savage .^^ On the pavement, at the end of 
Cow Lane, was a smaller show, the charge for 
admission to which was threepence, consisting of a 
large hog, said to weigh a hundred and twenty 
stones^ and announced as " the greatest prodigy in 

And the Old London Fairs. 155 

Nature ; ^^ and an ^^ amazing little dwarf, being the 
smallest man in the world/^ 

Bartholomew Fair was visited this year for the 
first time by the female dwarf who obtained such 
wide-spread celebrity as the Corsican Fairy. It 
will be seen from the following copy of the bill 
issued by her exhibitors that she was not shown in 
a booths but in a room hired for the purpose : — 

^^ To the Nobility and Gentry, and to all who are 
Admirers of the Extraordinary Productions of 

^^ There is to be seen in a commodious Apart- 
ment, at the Corner of Cow Lane^ facing the Sheep- 
Pens, West Smithfield, During the short time of 
Bartholomew Fair, 


the Amazing Corsican Faiey, who has had the 
Honour of being shown three Times before their 

"1^^ She was exhibited in Cockspur Street, 
Haymarket, at two shillings and sixpence each 
Person; but that Persons of every Degree may have 
a Sight of so extraordinary a Curiosity, she will be 
shown to the Gentry at sixpence each, and to 
Working People, Servants, and Children at Three- 
pence, during this Fair. 

156 The Old Showmen^ 

"This most astonishing Part of the Hnman Species 
was born in the Island of Corsica^ on the Mountain 
of Stata Ota^ in the year 1743. She is only thirty- 
four Inches high^ weighs but twenty-six Pounds, 
and a Child of two Years of Age has larger Hands 
and Feet. Her surprising Littleness makes a strong 
Impression at first Sight on the Spectator's Mind. 
Nothing disagreeable^ either in Person or Conver- 
satiqn, is to be found in her; although most of 
Nature's Productions, in Miniature, are generally so 
in both. Her Form affords a pleasing Surprise, 
her Limbs are exceedingly well proportioned, her 
admirable Symmetry engages the attention; and, 
upon the whole, is acknowledged a perfect Beauty. 
She is possessed of a great deal of Vivacity of 
Spirit; can speak Italian and French, and gives the 
inquisitive Mind an agreeable Entertainment. In 
short, she is the most extraordinary Curiosity ever 
known, or ever heard of in History ; and the Curious, 
in all countries where she has been shown, pro- 
nounce her the finest Display of Human Nature, in 
Miniature, they ever saw. 

" *:fc* She is to be seen by any Number of Persons, 
from Ten in the Morning till Nine at Night.'' 

Hussey's theatrical booth attended Southwark 
Fair, where it stood on the bowling-green, the enter- 

And the Old London Fairs, 157 

tainments being the same as in Smithfield. Lee 
and Yeates can scarcely have been absent from a 
scene with which the former had been so long and 
intimately associated. Yeates took a benefit this 
year at the New Wells^ near the London Spa, Clerk- 
enwell, where a concert was followed by a per- 
formance of the Beggar^ s Operay with the heneficiaiTe 
as Macheath and his wife as Polly, and the farce of 
Miss in her TeenSy in which the part of Captain 
Flash was sustained by the former, and that of Miss 
Biddy by his wife. The place was probably un- 
licensed for theatrical performances, as the dramatic 
portion of the entertainment was announced to be 
free to holders of tickets for the concert. 

Tottenham Court Fair was continued this year for 
fourteen days, but does not appear to have been 
attended by any of the shows which contributed 
so much to the attractiveness of the fairs of Smith- 
field and Southwark Green. The only advertise^ 
ment of the entertainments which I have been able 
to find mentions a ^^ great theatrical booth,^^ but it 
was devoted on the day to which the announcement 
relates to wrestling and single-stick playing. As a 
relic of a bygone time, it is curious enough to 
merit preservation : — 

^^For the entertainment of all lovers and en- 
couragers of the sword in its different uses, and for 

158 The Old Showmen^ 

the benefit of Daniel French, at the great theatrical 
booth at Tottenham Court, on Monday the 14th 
instant, will be revived a country wake. Three 
men of Gloucestershire to play at single-stick against 
three from any part, for a laced hat, value fifteen 
shillings, or half a guinea in gold \ he that breaks 
most heads fairly in three bouts, and saves his own, 
to have the prize; half-a-crown for every man 
breaking a head fairly, besides stage-money. That 
gentlemen may not be disappointed, every gamester 
designing to engage is desired to enter his name 
and place of abode with Mr. Fuller, at the King's 
Head, next the booth, before the day of sport, or he 
will not be admitted to play, and to meet by eight 
in the morning to breakfast and settle the play for 
the afternoon. Money will be given for the en- 
couragement of wrestling, sword and dagger, and 
other diversions usual on the stage, besides stage- 
money. That no time may be lost, while two are 
taking breath, two fresh men shall engage. The 
doors to be opened afc twelve o'clock, and the sport 
to begin precisely at three in the afternoon. Note, 
there will be variety of singing and dancing for 
prizes, as will be expressed in the bills and papers 
of the day. Hob, clerk of the revel.'' 

Newspapers of this year contain advertisements 
of several shows which probably visited the London 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 59 

Fairs, where thejr were sufficiently announced by 
their pictures. There are no fewer than three 
menageries, all on a small scale. The best seems 
to have been Perry^s, advertised as follows : — 
^^ This is to give notice to all Gentlemen, Ladies, and 
others, that Mr. Perry^s Grand Collection of Living 
Wild Beasts is come to the White Horse Inn, Fleet 
Street, consisting of a large he-lion, a he-tiger, a 
leopard, a panther, two hyenas, a civet cat, a jackall, 
or lion^s provider, and several other rarities too 
tedious to mention. To be seen at any time of the 
day, without any loss of time. Note. — This is the 
only tiger m England, that baited being only a com- 
mon leopard.^^ The note alludes to a recent baiting 
of a leopard by dogs, the animal so abused being 
described in the announcements of the combat as a 

The second menagerie under notice was adver- 
tised as follows : — 

" To be seen, at the Flying Horse, near the 
London workhouse, Bishopsgate Street, from eight 
in the morning till nine at night, the largest col- 
lection of living wild creatures ever seen in Europe. 
1. A beautiful large he-tiger, brought from Ben- 
gal by Captain Webster, in the Ann. He is very 
tame, and vastly admired. 2. A beautiful young 
leopard, from Turkey. 3. A civet cat, from Guinea. 

i6o The Old Showmen^ 

4. A young man-tiger, from Angola. 5. A won- 
derful hyaena, from the coast of Guinea. 6. A 
right man-tiger, brought from Angola by Captain 
D'Abbadie, in the Portfield Indiaman. This is a 
very curious creature, and the only one that has 
been seen in England for several years. It comes 
the nearest to human nature of any animal in the 
world. With several others too tedious to mention.-*^ 
Perry seems to have been in error in announcing 
that he had the only tiger in England ; though the 
one exhibited at the Flying Horse may have been a 
more recent importation. The " man-tigers " of the 
latter collection were probably gorillas, though those 
animals seem to have been lost sight of subse- 
quently until attention was recalled to them by 
M. Du ChaiUu. 

The third collection was advertised as follows : — 
^^ To be seen, at the White Swan, near the Bull 
and Gate, Holborn, a collection of the most curious 
living wild creatures just arrived from different parts 
of the world. 1 . A large and beautiful young camel 
from Grand Cairo, in Egypt, near eight feet high,, 
though not two years old, and drinks water but once 
in sixteen days. 2. A surprising hyaena, from the 
coast of Guinea. 3. A beautiful he-panther, from 
Buenos Ay res, in the Spanish West Indies. 4. A 
young Riobiscay, from Russia : and several other 

And the Old London Fairs, i6i 

creatures, too tedious to mention. Likewise a 
travelling post-chaise from Switzerland, which, 
without horses, keeps its stage for upwards of fifty 
miles a day, without danger to the rid^r. At- 
tendance from eight in the morning till eight at 
night/^ What the riobiscay was is now beyond 
conjecture; but the panther from Buenos Ayres 
was, of course, a jaguar, the panther being limited 
to the eastern hemisphere. This collection was 
exhibited in Holborn early in the year, and re- 
moved at Easter to the Rose and Crown, near 
the gates of Greenwich Park. 

There was a bovine monstrosity shown this year 
as a "double cow,^^ probably at the fairs, as the 
following paragraph, extracted from a newspaper 
of the time, refers to a second locality : — 

^^As we are well assured that that most won- 
derful living curiosity, the double cow, has given 
uncommon satisfaction to the several learned bodies 
by whom it has hitherto been seen, we hope the fol- 
lowing account and description of it will not be dis- 
agreeable to our readers. This wonderful prodigy 
was bred at Cookfield in Sussex, being one entire 
beautiful cow, from the middle of whose back issues 
the following parts of the other cow, viz., a leg with 
the blade-bone quite perfect, and about two feet 
long ; the gullet, bowels, teats, and udder, from which 


1 62 The Old Showmen, 

udder^ as well as from the udder of the perfect cow, 
it gives milk in great plenty, though more than a 
yard asunder ; and what is very extraordinary, and 
has astonished the most curious observers, is the 
discontinuation of the back-bone about sixteen 
inches from the shoulder. This wonderful beast is 
so healthy as to travel twenty miles a day, is ex- 
tremely gentle, and by all the gentlemen and ladies 
who have already seen it is thought as agreeable as 
astonishing. It is now shewn in a commodious 
room, facing Craigg^s Court, Charing Cross, at one 
shilling each person.^^ 

There was also exhibited at the Heath Cock,^ 
Charing Cross, ^^ a surprising young Mermaid, 
taken on the coast of Aquapulca, which, though the 
generality of mankind think there is no such thing, 
has been seen by the curious, who express their 
utmost satisfaction at so uncommon a creature, 
being half like a woman, and half like a fish, and is 
allowed to be the greatest curiosity ever exposed to 
the public view.^^ 

In 1749, there was again a large muster of shows 
on the ancient arena of West Smithfield. Yates re- 
appeared as a theatrical manager, and in some mea- 
sure restored the former repute of the fair. Gates 
and Miss Hippisley being members of his company. 
His booth stood in George Yard, where he played 

And the Old London Fairs. 163 

Gormandize Simple, while Gates personated Jupiter 
and Miss Hippisley " the wanton chambermaid, 
Dorothy Squeezepurse, in ^^a New, Pleasant, and 
Diverting Droll, called the Descent of the Heathen 
Gods, with the Loves of Jupiter and Alcmena ; or, 
Cuckoldom no Scandal. Interspersed with several 
Diverting Scenes, both Satyrical and Comical, 
particularly the Surprising Metamorphosis of 
Jwpiter and Mercury, the very remarkable Tryal 
before Judge Puzzlecause, with many Learned 
Arguments on both sides, to prove that One can't 
be Two. Likewise the Adventures and whimsical 
Perplexities of Gormandize Simple the Hungarian 
Footman ; with the wonderful Conversation he had 
with, and the dreadful Drubbing he received from. 
His Own Apparition ; together with the Intrigues of 
Dorothy Squeezepurse the Wanton Chambermaid.'^ 

Opposite the George stood the theatrical booth of 
the elder Yeates, who had been absent from the 
fair for a few years, and whom Mr. Henry Morley 
confounds with his son, now in partnership with 
Warner and Mrs. Lee. He produced The Blind 
Beggar of Bethnal Green, with singing and dancing 
between the acts^ and the pantomime of The Amours 
of Harlequin. Cross and Bridges, whose booth stood 
opposite the gate of the hospital, produced a new 
drama, called The Fair Lunatic, ^^ founded on a 

H 2 

164 The Old Skowfnen^ • 

story in real life, as related in the memoirs of the 
celebrated Mrs. Constantia Phillips/^ with dancing 
by Master Matthews and Mrs. Annesley. Next to 
this booth stood that of Lee, Teates, and Warner, in 
which was revived the " true and ancient history of 
Whittington, Lord Mayor of London/^ as performed 
in Lee^s booth fourteen years before, with singing 
and dancing between the acts. Gushing whom we 
have seen playing Harlequin three years before in 
Warner and Fawkes^s booth, but who was now 
performing at Covent Garden, set up a booth oppo- 
site the King^s Head, and produced King John, the 
part of Lady Gonstance being sustained by Miss 
Yates, a Drury Lane actress, while Gushing^ s wife 
personated Prince Arthur, and the manager the 
mirth-provoking Sir Lubberly Lackbrains. 

At a house in Hosier Lane (No. 20), a performing 
Arabian pony was exhibited. There were also 
shows in the fair, which did not advertise, and the 
memory of which has, in consequence, not been pre- 
served. Of one, owned by a person named Phillips, 
the only record is a very brief newspaper report of 
a fatal accident, occasioned by the breaking down 
of the gallery, by which four persons were killed, . 
and several others severely injured. 

Garrick, who had married the dancer Violette 
two months previously, took his bride to Bartholomew 

And the Old London Fairs. 165 

Fair, where they visited the theatrical booth of Yates, 
which was the best in the fair. He was one of the 
few great actors of the period who had not per- 
formed in the fair ; and was probably impelled by 
curiosity^ rather than by the expectation of seeing" 
good acting, though it was not many years since he 
had made his first appearance on any stage at 
Goodman^s Fields, playing Harlequin at a mementos 
notice when Yates was seized with a sudden indis- 
position as he was about to go on the stage. The 
crowd pressing upon his wife and himself very 
unpleasantly as he approached the portable theatre^ 
he called out to Palmer, the Drury Lane bill-sticker^ 
who was acting as money-taker at the booth, to 
protect them. ^^ I can^t help you here, sir,^^ said 
Palmer, shaking his head. '^ There aren^t many 
people in Smithfield as knows Mr. Garrick.^^ 

It was probably not at Yates^s booth, but at one 
of much inferior grade, that the money-taker 
rejected Garrick's offer to pay for admission, with 
the remark, ^^ We never take money of one another.^^ 
The story would be pointless if the incident occurred 
at any booth in which dramatic performances were 
given by comedians from the principal London 

We now approach a period when a new series of 
strenuous efforts for the suppression of the London 

1 66 The Old Showmen^ 

fairs was commenced by persons wlio would will- 
ingly have suppressed amusements of every kind, 
and were aided in their endeavours by persons who 
had merely a selfish interest in the matter. In the 
summer of 1750, a numerously signed petition of 
graziers, cattle salesmen, and inhabitants of Smith- 
field was presented to the Court of Aldermen, 
praying for the suppression of Bartholomew Pair, on 
the ground that it annoyed them in their occupations, 
and afforded opportunities for debauchery and riot. 
The annual Lord Mayor^s procession might have 
been objected to on the same grounds, and the civic 
authorities well knew that the riots which had 
sometimes occurred in the fair had been occasioned 
by their own acts, in the execution of their edicts 
for the exclusion of puppet-shows and theatrical 
booths. Their action to this end was generally 
taken so tardily that booths were put up before the 
proprietors received notice of the intention of the 
Court of Aldermen to exclude them ; and then the 
tardiness of the owners in taking them down, and 
the sudden zeal of the constables^ produced quarrels 
and fights, in which the bystanders invariably took 
the part of the showmen. 

The revenues which the Corporation derived from 
rents and tolls durmg the fair constituted an 
element of the question which could not be over- 

And the Old London Fairs. 167 

looked, and which kept it in a state of oscillation 
from year to year. The civic authorities would 
have been willing enough to suppress the fair, if the 
question of finance had not been involved. If the 
fair was abolished, sonte other source of revenue 
would have to be found. So they compounded with 
their belief that the fair was a fount of disorder 
and immorality by again limiting its duration 
to three days, and excluding theatrical booths and 
puppet-shows, while abstaining from interference 
with the gambling-tables and the gin-stalls. 

Giants and dwarfs, and learned pigs and perform- 
ing ponies had now the fair to themselves, though 
their showmen probably took less money than they 
did when the theatrical booths and puppet-shows 
attracted larger numbers of people. Henry Blacker, 
a native of Cuckfield, in Sussex, twenty-seven years 
of age, and seven feet four inches in height, ex- 
hibited himself at the Swan, in Smithfield, during 
the three days to which the fair was restricted in 
1751. The principal show seems to have been one 
containing two dwarfs, a remarkable negro, a 
female one-horned ,|*hinoceros, and a crocodile, said 
to have been the first ever seen alive in this 
country. The more famous of the two dwarfs was 
John Coan, a native of Norfolk, who at this time 
was twenty-three years of age, and only three feet 

1 68 The Old Showmen^ 

two inches in height^ and of thirty-four pounds 
weight. His fellow pigmy was a Welsh lad, four- 
teen years of age, two feet six inches in height, and 
weighed only twelve pounds. The negro could 
throw back his clasped hands over his head and 
bring them under his feet, backward and forward;, 
and was probably ^^the famous negro who swings 
his arihs about in every direction,^^ mentioned in 
the ^Adventurer/ 

The exclusion of the theatrical booths and puppet- 
shows from the fair produced, in the following year, 
a serious disturbance in Smithfield, in the suppres- 
sion of which Birch, the deputy-marshal of the 
City, received injuries which proved fatal. This 
resistance to their edict did not, however, deter the 
civic authorities from applying the same rule to 
Southwark Fair, which was this year limited to 
three days, and diminished of its attractions by the 
exclusion of theatrical booths and puppet-shows. 
The principal shows were Teates^s, which stood in 
George Yard, and consisted of an exhibition of wax 
figures, the conjuring tricks of young Yeates, and 
the feats on the slack wire of a performer named 
Steward ; and the female Samson^s, an Italian 
woman, who exhibited feats of strength in a booth 
opposite the Greyhound, similar to those of the 
French woman seen by Carter at May Fair, with 

And the Old Lofidon Fairs. 169 

the addition of supporting six men while resting on 
two chairs only by the head and heels. 

Towards the close of this year a man named 
Ballard brought from Italy a company of per- 
forming dogs and monkeys^ and exhibited them as 
a supplementary attraction to the musical enter- 
tainments then given at a place in the Haymarket, 
called Mrs. Midnight^s Oratory. The Animal Co- 
medians, as they were called, became famous 
enough to furnish the theme of an ^ Adventurer.^ 
The author states that the repeated encomiums on 
their performances induced him to be present one 
evening at the entertainment, when he ^^was 
astonished at the sagacity of the monkies ; and 
was no less amazed at the activity of the other 
quadrupeds — I should have rather said, from a view 
of their extraordinary elevations, bipeds. 

"It is a peculiar happiness to me as an Adven- 
turer,^^ he continues, " that I sally forth in an age 
which emulates those heroick times of old, when 
nothing was pleasing but what was unnatural. 
Thousands have gaped at a wire-dancer daring to 
do what no one else would attempt ; and thousands 
still gape at greater extravagances in pantomime 
entertainments. Every street teems with incredi- 
bilities; and if the great mob have their little 
theatre in the Haymarket, the small vulgar can 

: 70 The Old Showmen^ 

boast their cheaper diversion in two enormous 
bears^ that jauntily trip it to the light tune of a 
Caledonian jig. 

^^ That the intellectual faculties of brutes may be 
exerted beyond the narrow limits which we have 
hitherto assigned to their capacities^ I saw a suffi- 
cient proof in Mrs. Midnight^s dogs and monkies. 
Man diflTers less from beasts in general^ than these 
seem to approach man in rationality. But while I 
applaud their exalted genius, I am in pain for the 
rest of their kindred, both of the canine and cer- 
copithecan species.^^ The writer then proceeds to 
comment humorously upon the mania which the 
exhibition had created for teaching dogs and mon- 
keys to perform the tricks for which the Animal 
Comedians were famous. ^^ Every boarding-house 
romp and wanton school-boy/^ he says, "is em- 
ployed in perverting the end of the canine crea- 

The contributor of this paper seems to have had 
a familiar acquaintance with the shows attending 
the London fairs, for it was he, whoever he was, 
who wrote the third number of the ^ Adventurer,^ 
in which, giving the details of a scheme for a pan- 
tomime, he says that he has '^not only ransacked 
the fairs of Bartholomew and Southwark, but 
picked up every uncommon animal, every prodigy 

And the Old London Fairs. 171 

of nature, and every surprising performer, that has 
lately appeared within the bills of mortality/^ He 
proceeds to enumerate them, and to assign parts in 
his intended entertainment for ^^ the Modern Colos- 
sus,^^ " all the wonderful tall men and women that 
have been lately exhibited in this town/^ "the 
Female Sampson/^ " the famous negro who swings 
his arms about in every direction/' "the noted ox, 
with six legs and two bellies/^ " the beautiful pan- 
ther mare,^^ "the noted fire-eater, smoking out of 
red-hot tobacco pipes, champing lighted brimstone, 
and swallowing his infernal mess of broth,^^ "the 
most amazing new English Chien Savant/^ "the 
little woman that weighs no more than twenty- 
three pounds/^ " the wonderful little Norfolk man,^* 
^^ the fellow with Stentorian lungs, who can break 
glasses and shatter window-panes with the loudness 
of his vociferation,^^ and " the wonderful man who 
talks in his belly, and can fling his voice into any 
part of a room/^ Incidentally he mentions also 
"the so much applauded stupendous ostrich,^^ 
"the sorcerer^s great gelding,^' " the wire dancer,^^ 
and dancing bears. 

The showmen^s bills and advertisements of the 
period enable us to identify most of the wonders 
enumerated by this writer. The female Samson 
and the wire-walker had been seen that year in the 

lyi The Old Showmen^ 

fairs^ the famous negro and tlie Norfolk dwarf the 
year before, and the Corsican fairy and the double 
cow in 1748. The fire-eater was probably Powell^ 
though I have seen no advertisement of that human 
salamander earlier than 1 760. 

The Bartholomew Fair riot was repeated in 1753, 
when Buck, the successor of the unfortunate Birch, 
was very roughly handled by the rioters, and 
severely bruised. This tumult was followed by an 
accident to a wire-walker, named Evans, who, by 
the breaking of his wire, was precipitated to the 
ground, breaking one of his thighs and receiving 
other injuries. This was the year of the demon- 
stration against the claim of the Corporation to levy 
tolls upon the goods of citizens, as well as upon 
those of strangers, during the time of Bartholomew 
Fair. Richard Holland, a leather-seller in Newgate 
Street, had, in the preceding year, refused the toll 
demanded on a roll of leather with which he had 
attempted to enter the fair, and, on the leather 
being seized by the collector, had called a con- 
stable, and charged the impounder with theft. The 
squabble resulted in an action against the Corpora- 
tion, which was not tried, however, till 1754, when 
the judge pronounced in favour of the citizens. 

While the action was pending, HoUand^s cart 
was driven through the fair with a load of hay, and 

And the Old London Fairs. 173 

was not stopped by tlie collector of the tolls, who 
had, probably, been instructed to hold his hand 
until the matter was determined. The horses' 
heads were decorated with ribbons, and on the 
leader's forehead was a card, upon which the follow- 
ing doggrel lines were written in a bold, round 
hand : — 

" My master keeps me well, 'tis true, 
And justly pays whatever is due ; 
Now plainly, not to mince the matter, 
No toll he pays but with a halter." 

On each side of the load of hay hung a halter, and 
a paper bearing the following announcement : — 

** The time is approaching, if not already come. 
That all British subjects may freely pass on ; 
And not on pretence of Bartholomew Fair 
Make you pay for your passage, with all you bring near. 
When once it is try'd, ever after depend on, 
'Twill incur the same fate as on Finchley Common. 
Give Caesar his due, when by law 'tis demanded. 
And those that deserve with this halter be hanged." 

The disturbances occasioned by the interference 
of the authorities with the entertainers of the fair- 
goers were not renewed in 1754^ though the ele- 
ments of disorder seem to have been present in 
tolerable strength; for on a swing breaking down 
in Smithfield, without any person being seriously 

174 ^^^ Old Showmen^ 

hurt^ a number of persons broke up the apparatus^ 
and throwing the wreck into a heap^ set it on fire. 
Every swing in the fair was then attacked and 
wrecked in succession, and the frames and broken 
cars thrown upon the blazing pile^ which soon sent 
a column of fire high into the air, to the immense 
danger of the many combustible erections on every 
side. To keep up the fire, all the tables and benches 
of the sausage- vendors were next seized, and cast 
upon it ; and the feeble police of that period was 
inadequate to the prevention of this wholesale 
destruction, which seems to have gone on without 
a check. 

The exclusion of theatrical entertainments from 
Southwark Fair was not maintained in 1755, when 
Warner set up a booth on the bowling-green, in 
conjunction with the widow of Yeates (who had died 
about this time), and revived the favourite London 
fair drama of The Unnatural Parents, In the 
following year, Warner^s name appears alone, as the 
proprietor of a ^^ great tiled booth,^^ in which he 
produced Tlve Lover's Metamorphosis, with dancing 
between the acts, and a pantomimic entertainment 
called The Stratagems of Harlequin. 

In 1757, Yates and Shuter, the former engaged at 
ihe time at Drury Lane, and the latter at Covent 
Garden, tried the experiment of a variety entertain- 

And the Old London Fairs, 175 

ment, at the large concert-room of the Greyhound 
Inn^ in Smithfield^ ^^ during the short time of Bar-^ 
tholomew Pair/^ as all bills and advertisements had 
announced since the duration of the fair had been 
hmited to three days. By this device^ they evaded 
the edict of the Lord Mayor and the Court of Al- 
dermen^ which applied only to temporary erections 
in Smithfield. They did not repeat the experiment 
in Southwark^ where the only booth advertised was 
Warner^s, with '^ a company of comedians from the 
theatres/^ in The Intriguing Lover and Harlequin's 

Yates and Shuter re- appeared at the Greyhound 
next year, when they presented Woman turned 
Bully y with singing and dancing between the acts, 
and a representation of the storming of Louisbourg. 
Theatrical representations were this year permitted 
or connived at in the fair, for Dunstall and Vaughan 
set up a booth in George Yard, associating with 
them in the enterprise the more experienced Warner, 
and announcing ^^a select company from the theatres 
royal/^ The Widow Bewitched was performed, with 
an entertainment of singing and dancing. Next 
door to the George Inn was an exhibition of wax- 
work, the chief feature of which was a collection of 
figures representing the royal family of Prussia. 

Southwark Fair was this year extended to four 

176 The Old Showmen^ 

days^ so fitful and varying was the policy of the Court 
of Aldermen with regard to the fairs^ which^ while 
they professed to regard them as incentives to idle- 
ness and vice^ they encouraged in some years as much 
as they restricted in others. The names of Dunstall 
and Vaughan do not appear in the bills issued by 
Warner for this fair^ but the comedy performed was 
the same as at Bartholomew Fair, followed by a re- 
presentation of the capture of Louisbourg, concluding 
with a procession of colours and standards, and a 
song in praise of the heroes of the victory. 

Yates and Shuter again attended Bartholomew 
Fair in the following year. Mr. Henry Morley 
claims for the latter the invention of the showman^s 
device of announcing to the players, by a cant word, 
that there was another audience collected in front, 
and that the performances might be drawn to a 
close as soon as possible. Shuter's mystic words 
are said to have been ^^ John Audley," shouted from 
the front. The practice appears, however, to have 
been in operation in, the earliest days of Sadler^s 
Wells, where, according to a description of the 
place and the entertainments given by Macklin, in 
a conversation recorded in the fortieth volume of 
the ^European Magazine,^ the announcement was 
made in the query, ^^ Is Hiram Fisteman here ? ^^ 

It was about this time that the " cat^s opera ^^ was 

And the Old London Fairs, 177 

announced by the famous animal-trainer, Bisset, 
whose pupils, furred and feathered, were regarded 
as one of the most wonderful exhibitions ever wit- 
nessed. Bisset was originally a shoemaker at Perth, 
where he was born in 1721, but, on coming to 
London, and entering the connubial state, he com- 
menced business as a broker, and accumulated a 
little capital. Having read an account of a per- 
forming horse, which was exhibited at the fair of 
St. Germain in 1739, he was induced to try his own 
skill in the teaching of animals upon a dog, and 
afterwards upon a horse, which he bought for the 
purpose. Succeeding with these, he procured a 
couple of monkeys, one of which he taught to play 
a barrel-organ, while the other danced and vaulted 
on the tight-rope. 

Oats are generally regarded as too susceptible of 
nervous excitement to perform in public, though 
their larger relatives, lions, tigers, and leopards, 
have been taught to perform a variety of tricks 
before spectators, and cats are readily taught to 
perform the same tricks in private. Bisset aimed 
at something higher than the exhibition of the leap- 
ing feats of the species, and succeeded in teaching 
three cats to play the dulcimer and squall to the 
notes. By the advice of Pinchbeck, with whom he 
had become acquainted, he hired a large room in 


178 The Old Showmen^ 

tlie Hajmarket^ and announced a public performance 
of the ^^ cat^s opera/^ supplemented by the tricks of 
the horse^ the dog^ and the monkeys. Besides the 
-prgan-grinding and rope-dancing performance^ the 
monkeys took wine together, and rode on the horse, 
pirouetting and somersaulting with the skill of a 
practised acrobat. One of them also danced a 
minuet with the dog. 

The ^^^cat^s opera ^^ was attended by crowded 
houses, and Bisset cleared a thousand pounds by 
the exhibition in a few days. He afterwards taught 
a hare to walk on its hind legs, and beat a drum ; 
a feathered company of canaries, linnets, and spar- 
rows to spell names, tell the time by the clock, etc.; 
half-a-dozen turkeys to execute a country dance ; 
and a turtle (according to Wilson, but probably a 
tortoise) to write names on the floor, having its feet 
blackened for the purpose. After a successful 
season in London, he sold some of the animals, and 
made a provincial tour with the rest, rapidly ac- 
cumulating a considerable fortune. Passing over to 
Ireland in 1775, he exhibited his animals in Dublin 
and Belfast, afterwards establishing himself in a 
public -house in the latter city. There he remained 
until 1783, when he reappeared in Dublin with a 
pig, which he had taught to perform all the tricks 
since exhibited by the learned grunter^s successors 

And the Old London Fairs, 179 

at all the fairs in the kingdom. He was on his 
way to London with the pig when he became ill at 
Chester^ where he shortly afterwards died. 

The question of suppressing both Bartholomew 
and Southwark Fairs was considered by the Court 
of Common Council in 1760^ and the City Lands 
Committee was desired to report upon the tenures 
of the fairs, with a view to that end. Counsels 
opinion was taken^ and the committee reported the 
result of the inquiry^ upon which the Court resolved 
that Southwark Fair should be abolished henceforth, 
but that the interests of Lord Kensington in the 
revenues of Bartholomew Fair prevented the same 
course from being pursued in Smithfield. The latter 
fair was voted a nuisance, however, and the Court 
expressed a determination to abate it with the 
utmost strictness. Shuter produced a masque, called 
The Triumjph of Hymenj in honour of the approach- 
ing royal nuptials ; it was the production of a for- 
gotten poet named Wignell, in a collected edition 
of whose poems it was printed in 1762. Among 
the minor entertainers of this year at Bartholomew 
Fair were Powell, the fire-eater, and Eoger Smith, 
who gave a musical performance upon eight beUs, 
two of which were fixed upon his head-gear, and 
one upon each foot, while two were held in each 



Yates and Shuter — Cat Harris — Mechanical Singing Birds — 
Lecture on Heads — Pidcock's Menagerie — Breslaw, the 
Conjuror — Reappearance of the Corsican Fairy — Gaetano, 
the Bird Imitator — Bossignol's Performing Birds — ^Am- 
broise, the Showman — Brunn, the Juggler, on the Wire — 
Riot at Bartholomew Fair — Dancing Serpents — Flockton, 
the Puppet- Showman — Royal Visit to Bartholomew Fair — 
Lane, the Conjuror — Hall's Museum — O'Brien, the Lish 
Oiant — Baker's Theatre — ^Joel Tarvey and Lewis Owen, 
the popular Clowns. 

The relations between Yates and Shuter in the last 
two or three years of their appearance as show- 
men at Bartholomew Fair are somewhat doubtfiil ; 
but all the evidence that I have been able to obtain 
points to the conclusion that they did not co-operate 
subsequently to 1758. In 1761 they seemed to 
have been in rivalry, for the former's name appears 

The Old London Fairs. i8i 

singly as the director of the ^^ company of comedians 
from both the theatres ^^ that performed in the 
concert-room at the Greyhound^ while an advertise- 
ment of one of the minor shows of the fair describes 
it as located in George Yard, "leading to Mr. 
Shuter^s booth/^ I have not, however, been able 
to find an advertisement of Shuter's booth. 

Yates^s company performed Tlie Fair Bride, which 
the bills curiously describe as "containing many 
surprising Occurrences at Sea, which could not 
possibly happen at Land. The Performance will be 
highly enlivened with several entertaining Scenes 
between England, France, Ireland, and Scotland, in 
the diverting Personages of *Ben Bowling, an En- 
glish Sailor ; Mons. Soup-Maigre, a French Captain ; 
O^Plannaghan, an Irish Officer; MTherson, a Scotch*^ 
Officer. Through which the Manners of each Nation 
will be characteristically and humorously depicted. 
In which will be introduced as singular and curious 
a Procession as was ever exhibited in this Nation. 
The objects that comprise the Pageantry are both 
Exotic and British. The Principal Figure is the 
Glory and Delight of OLD ENGLAND, and Envy 
of our ENEMIES. With Variety of Entertain- 
ments of Singing and Dancing. The whole to con- 
clude with a Loyal Song on the approaching Mar- 
riage of our great and glorious Sovereign King 

i82 The Old Showmen^ 

GEORGE and the Princess CHARLOTTE of Meck- 

There were two shows in George Yard^ in one of 
which ^Hhe famous learned canary bird^^ was 
exhibited^ the other consisting of a moving picture 
of a city, with an artificial cascade, and ^^a 
magnificent temple, with two mechanical birds 
which have all the exact motions of living animals ; 
they perform a variety of tunes, either singular or 
in concert. During the performance, the just 
swelling of the throat, the quick motions of the bills, 
and the joyous fluttering of the wings, strike every 
spectator with pleasing astonishment/^ 

Shuter seems to If^ve been the last actor who 
played at Bartholomew Fair while engaged at a 
permanent theatre. Some amusing stories are told 
of his powers of mimicry. When Foote introduced 
in a comedy a duet supposed to be performed by 
two cats, in imitation of Bisset^s feline opera, he 
engaged for the purpose one Harris, who was famous 
for his power of producing the vocal sounds 
peculiar to the species. Harris being absent one 
day from rehearsal, Shuter went in search of him, 
and not knowing the number of the house in which 
Cat Harris, as he was called, resided, he began to 
perform a feline solo as soon as he entered the court 
in which lived the man of whom he was in search. 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 83 

Harris opened his window at the sound, and 
responded with a beautiful meeyow, 

'^ You are the man ! ^^ said Shuter. ^^ Come 
along ! We can^t begin the cats^ opera without 

There is a story told of Shutery however^ which is 
strongly suggestive of his ability to have supplied 
Cat Harris's place. He was travelling in the 
Brighton stage-coach on a very warm day, with 
four ladies, when the vehicle stopped to receive a 
sixth passenger, who could have played Falstaff 
without padding. The faces of the ladies elongated 
at this unwelcome addition to the number, but 
Shuter only smiled. When the stout gentleman 
was seated, and the coach was again in motion, 
Shuter gravely inquired of one of the ladies her 
motive for visiting Brighton. She replied, that her 
physician had advised sea-bathing as a remedy for 
mental depression. He turned to the others, and 
repeated his inquiries ; the next was nervous, the 
third bilious — all had some ailment which the sea 
was expected to cure. 

^^ Ah ! '^ sighed the comedian, " all your com- 
plaints put together are nothing to mine. Oh, 
nothing ! — mine is dreadful but to think of.'' 

^^ Indeed, sir ! " said the stout passenger, with a 
look of astonishment. ^' What is your complaint ? 
you look exceedingly well." 

1 84 The Old Showmen^ 

"Ah, sir ! ^^ responded Shuter, shaking his head, 
*^ looks are deceitful ; you must know, sir, that, three 
days ago, I had the misfortune to be bitten by a 
mad dog, for which I am informed sea-bathing is 
the only cure. For that purpose I am going to 
Brighton ; for though, as you observe, I am looking 
well, yet the fit comes on in a moment, when I bark 
like a dog, and endeavour to bite every one near 

" Lord have mercy on us ! ^^ ejaculated the stout 
passenger, with a look of alarm. " But, sir, you 
are not in earnest — you — *^ 

'^ Bow-wow-wow ! ^^ 

" Coachman ! coachman ! Let me out ! — let me 
out, I say ! ^' 

" Now, your honour, what's the matter ? " 

^^ A mad dog is the matter ! — hydrophobia 
is the matter ! open the door !" 

^^ Bow-wow- wow ! " 

" Open the door ! Never mind the steps. Thank 
God, I am safe out ! Let those who like ride inside; 
1^11 mount the roof." 

So he rode to Brighton outside the coach, much 
to the satisfaction of Shuter and his fair companions 
who were very merry at his expense, the former re- 
peating at intervals his sonorous how-wow-wow ! 

Theatrical booths and puppet-shows were again 

And the Old London Fairs. - 185 

prohibited in 1762, and, as the jugglers, the acrobats, 
and the rope-dancers who attended the fairs did 
not advertise their performances, only casual notices 
are to be found in the newspapers of the period of 
the amusements which that generation flocked into 
Smithfield in the first week of September to witness, 
and which lead them somewhat earlier to the greens 
of Camberwell and Stepney. Some of the enter- 
tainers of the period are mentioned in an anonymous 
poem on Bartholomew Fair, which appeared in 
1763. The names are probably fictitious. 

" On slender cord Volante treads ; 
The earth seems paved with human heads : 
And as she springs aloft in air, 
Trembling they crouch below for fear. 

A well-made form Querpero shows, 
Well-skilled that form to discompose ; 
The arms forget their wonted state ; 
Standing on earth, they bear his weight ; 
The head falls downward 'twixt the thighs, 
The legs mount upward to the skies 
And thus this topsy-turvy creature 
Stalks, and derides the human nature. 

Agyrta, famed for cup and ball, 
Plays sleight of hand, and pleases all : 
The certainty of sense in vain 
Philosophers in schools maintain , 
This man your sharpest wit defies, 
He cheats your watchful ears and eyes. 

1 86 The Old Showmen^ 

Ah, 'prentice, well your pockets fence, 
And yet he steals your master s pence." 

In 1765^ ^^the celebrated lecture on heads ^^ was 
advertised to be given^ during the time of Bartho- 
lomew Fair^ ^^ in a large and commodious room near 
the end of Hosier Lane.'^ The name of the lecturer 
was not announced^ but the form of the advertise- 
ment implies that the lecture was Steevens^s. The 
lecturer may, however, have been only an imitator 
of that famous humorist ; for the newspapers of 
the preceding week inform us that a similar 
announcement was made at Alnwick, where the 
audience, finding that the lecturer was not 
Steevens, regarded him as an impostor, and de- 
manded the return of their money, with a threat of 
tossing him in a blanket. The lecturer attempted 
to vindicate himself, but the production of a blanket 
completed his discomfiture, and he surrendered, 
returning to the disappointed audience the money 
which they had paid for admission. 

In 1 769, the chief attraction of the London fairs 
was Pidcock^s menagerie, which was the largest 
and best which had ever been exhibited in a tempo- 
rary erection, the animals being hired from Crosses 
collection at Exeter Change. Pidcock exhibited 
his animals at Bartholomew Fair for several suc- 
<jessive years, and was succeeded by Polito, whose 

And the Old London Fairs. 187 

zoological collection attracted thousands of spec- 
tators every year. 

Breslaw^ the conjuror^ appeared in 1772^ in a 
large room in Cockspur Street^ where his tricks of 
legerdemain were combined with a vocal and 
instrumental concert by three or four Italians, imi- 
tations by a young lady announced as Miss Rose of 
*^ many interesting parts of the capital actresses in 
tragedy and comedy,^^ and imitations by an Italian 
named Gaetano of the notes of the* blackbird, thrush, 
canary, linnet, bull-finch, sky-lark, and nightingale. 
In 1774, the entertainment was given on alternate 
days in the large ball-room of the King^s Arms, 
opposite the Royal Exchange. In 1775, it was 
given in Cockspur Street only, and in the following 
year at Marylebone Gardens. He then appears to 
have been absent from London for a couple of years, 
^s he always was during a portion of each year, 
when he made a tour through the provinces. 

Caulfield says that Breslaw was superior to 
Fawkes, "both in tricks and impudence,^^ and 
relates an anecdote, which certainly goes far to 
bear out his assertion. Breslaw, while exhibiting 
at Canterbury, requested permission to display his 
cunning a little longer, promising the Mayor that 
if he was indulged with the required permission, he 
would give the receipts of one night for the benefit 

1 88 The Old Showme^i^ 

of the poor. The Mayor acceded to the proposition, 
and Breslaw had a crowded house ; hearing nothing 
about the money collected on the specified evening, 
the Mayor called upon Breslaw, and, in as delicate 
a manner as possible, expressed his surprise. 

"Mr. Mayor,^' said the conjuror, "I have dis- 
tributed the money myself.^^ 

" Pray, sir, to whom ? '^ inquired the Mayor, still 
more surprised. 

'' To my own company, than whom none can be 
poorer/^ replied Breslaw. 

^' This is a trick ! '^ exclaimed the Mayor in* 

" Sir,^^ returned the conjuror, " we live by 

In 1773, the Corsican fairy reappeared, having 
probably made the tour of Europe since her first 
exhibition in London in 1748, which has been over- 
looked by some writers, though there is no doubt 
that the girl exhibited at the latter date was the 
same person. Two years later, the Turkish rope- 
dancer, who had displayed his feats in 1744, re- 
appeared at Bartholomew Fair. In the same year, 
Kossignol exhibited his performing birds at Sadler^s 
Wells, and afterwards at the Smock Alley theatre, in 
Dublin. He returned to Sadler's Wells in 1776, 
where his clever feathered company attracted as 

And the Old London Fairs. 1 89 

many spectators as before. Twelve or fourteen 
•canaries and linnets were taken from their cages, 
and placed on a table^ in ranks, with paper 
<5aps on their heads, and tiny toy muskets under 
their left wings. Thus armed and accoutred, they 
marched about the table, until one of them, leaving 
the ranks, was adjudged a deserter, and sentenced 
to be shot. A mimic execution then took place, 
one of the birds holding a lighted match in its claw, 
and firing a toy cannon of brass, loaded with powder. ^ 
The deserter fell, feigning death, but rose again at 
the command of Eossignol. 

Breslaw had formidable competitors this year in 
Ambroise and Brunn, who gave a variety enter- 
tainment in a large room in Panton Street, of which 
we have the following account in their adver- 
tisements : — 

^^ On the part of Mr. Ambroise, the manager of 
the Omhres Chinoises, will be performed all those 
scenes which, upon repeated trial, have had a 
general approbation, with new pieces every day; 
the whole to be augmented with a fourth division. 
By the particular desire of the company, the danses 
de caractere in the intervals are performed to 
the astonishment of all, and to conclude with the 
comic of a magician, who performs metamorphoses, 
^tc. He had the honour to represent this spec- 

I go The Old Showmen^ 

tacle before his Most Christian Majesty Louis XVI. 
and the Koyal Family; likewise before His Serene- 
Highness the Prince d^ Orange and the whole Court, 
with an approbation very flattering for the per- 

^^ The Saxon Brunn^ besides various tricks of his 
dexterity, will give this day a surprising circular 
motion with three forks and a sword; to-morrow, 
with a plate put horizontally upon the point of a 
knife, a sword fixed perpendicularly, on the top of 
which another plate, all turning with a remarkable 
swiftness; and on Saturday the singular perform- 
ance with a bason, called the Olag of Manfredonia ; 
a]l which are of his own invention, being the non 
plus ultra for equilibriums on the wire. The ap- 
plause they have already received makes them hope 
to give an equal satisfaction to the company for the 
future. To begin at seven precisely. Admittance, 
five shillings. ^^ 

In 1778, a foreigner exhibited in Bartholomew 
Fair the extraordinary spectacle of serpents danc- 
ing on silken ropes to the sound of music, which 
performance has never, I believe, been repeated 
since. The serpents exhibited by Arab and Hindoa 
performers, of whose skill an example was afforded 
several years ago in the Zoological Gardens in the 
Regent^s Park, dance on the ground. It was in this 

And the Old London Fairs, 191 

year that the fair was visited by the Duke and 
Duchess of Gloucester^ who entered at Giltspur 
Street^ and passing the puppet-shows of Flockton 
and Jobson, the conjuring booths of Lane and Robin- 
son, and several other shows the names only of whose 
proprietors — Ives, Basil, Clarkson, — have been 
preserved, rode through Cow Lane into Hol- 

This year appears to have been the first in which 
puppet-shows were allowed to be set up in Smith- 
field after being excluded for several years \ as in 
1776 a more than ordinary degree of irritation was 
produced by their exclusion, '^ Lady Holland^ s mob ^' 
proclaiming the fair without any restriction, and a 
disturbance arising afterwards, in the course of 
which the windows of nearly every house round 
Smith field were broken by the rioters. Flockton 
and Job son attended the fair regularly for many 
years. ' The former used to perform some conjuring 
tricks on the outside of his show to attract an au- 
dience, but Strutt says that he was a very poor con- 
juror. Lane^s performances were varied by pos- 
turing and dancing by his two daughters. The 
following doggrel appears in one of his bills : — 

*' It will make you laugh, it will drive away gloom, 
To see how the egg it will dance roimd the room ; 

192 The Old Showmen^ 

And from another egg a bird there will fly, 
Which makes the company all for to cry, 
* O rare Lane ! cockalorum for Lane ! well done, Lane ! 

You are the Man ! ' " 

One of the chief shows of the fair in 1779 was 
the fine collection of preserved animals of Hall, of 
the City Road^ who was famous for his skill in that 
art. This museum did not prove so attractive as 
Pidcock^s menagerie, however, the frequenters of 
the fair preferring to see the animals living; and 
in the following year even the expedient of parading 
a stuffed zebra round the fair did not attract spec- 
tators enougli to induce Hall to attend again. His 
museum remained open in the City Road, however, 
for many years. 

Breslaw, the conjuror, had a room in 1 779 at the 
King^s Head, near the Mansion House, as well as 
in Cockspur Street (opposite the Haymarket), and 
a bill of this year sbows, better than any of his 
earlier announcements, the nature of the tricks which 
he performed. His exposition of ^^ how it is done ^^ 
was probably not more intelligible than Dr. Lynn^s. 
'^Between the different parts,^' says the bill, ^^Mr. 
Breslaw will discover the following deceptions in 
such a manner, that every person in the company 
shall be capable of doing them immediately for 
their amusement. First, to tell any lady or gentle- 

And the Old London Fairs. 193 

man the card that they fix on, without asking any 
'questions. Second, to make a remarkable piece of 
money to fly out of any gentleman^s hand into a 
lady^s pocket-handkerchief, at two yards distance. 
Third, to change four or five cards in any lady^s or 
gentleman^s hand several times into different cards. 
Fourth, to make a fresh egg fly out of any person^s 
pocket into a box on the table, and immediately to 
fly back again into the pocket.^^ 

Breslaw had Rossignol in his company at this 
time, as will be seen from the following pro- 
gramme : — " 1 . Mr. Breslaw will exhibit a variety 
of new magical card deceptions, particularly he 
will communicate the thoughts from one person to 
another, after which he will perform many new de- 
ceptions with letters, numbers, dice, rings, pocket- 
pieces, &c., &c. 2. Under the direction of Sieur 
Changee, a new invented small chest, consisting of 
three divisions, will be displayed in a most extra- 
ordinary manner. 3. The famous Rossignol, from 
Naples, will imitate various birds, to the astonish- 
ment of the spectators. 4. Mr. Breslaw will exhibit 
several new experiments on six different metals, 
watches, caskets, gold boxes, silver machineries, 
&c., &c.^^ 

Rossignol (said to be an assumed name) after- 
wards obtained an engagement at Covent Garden 


194 The Old Showmen^ 

Theatre^ where he attracted attention by an imita- 
tion of the violin with his mouth ; but, being 
detected in the use of a concealed instrument, he 
lost his reputation, and we hear of him no more. 
Breslaw filled up the vacancy in his company by 
engaging No villi, who played ^^ at one time on the 
German flute, violin, Spanish castanets, two pipes, 
trumpet, bassoon, bass, Dutch drum,", and violin- 
cello, never attempted before in this kingdom/^ I 
have not been able to discover anything that would 
throw some light upon the manner in which this 
extraordinary performance was accomplished. He 
engaged for his London season this year a large 
room in Panton Street, probably the one in which 
Ambroise and Brunn performed in 1775. The 
entertainment commenced, as before, with a vocal 
and instrumental concert, between the parts of 
which lyrical and rhetorical imitations were given by 
^^ a young gentleman, not nine years of age ; " the 
concluding portion consisting of the exhibition of 
Breslaw^s ^^ new invented mechanical watches, sym- 
pathetic bell, pyramidical glasses, magical card 
deceptions, &c., &c.,^^ and particularly ^^a new grand 
apparatus and experiments never attempted before 
in this kingdom.^' 

It was in this year that the famous Irish giant, 
Patrick O^Brien, first exhibited himself at Bartholo- 

And the Old London Fairs. 195 

mew Fair, being then nineteen years of age, and 
over eight feet high. His name was Cotter, that of 
O^Brien being assumed when he began to exhibit 
himself, to accord with the representation that he 
was a descendant of the ancient royal race of Mun- 
ster. His parents, who were both of middle height 
only, apprenticed him to a bricklayer ; but, at the 
age of eighteen, his extraordinary stature attracted 
the attention of a showinan, by whom he was induced 
to sign an agreement to exhibit himself in England 
for three years, receiving a yearly salary of fifty 
pounds. Soon after reaching England, however, on 
his refusing his asseilt to a proposed cession of his 
person to another showman, his exhibitor caused 
him to be arrested at Bristol for a fictitious debt, 
and lodged in the city goal. 

Obtaining his release, and the annulment of the 
contract, by the interposition of a benevolent in- 
habitant of Bristol, he proceeded to London, and 
exhibited himself on his own account in Bartholo- 
mew Pair, realising thirty pounds by the experiment 
in three days. He exhibited in this fair four or five 
successive years, but, as he made money, he changed 
the scene of his ^^ receptions,^^ as they would now 
be called, to public halls in the metropolis, and the 
assembly-rooms of provincial hotels. He attained 
the height of eight feet seven inches, and was pro- 

o 2 

T96 The Old Showmen^ 

portionately stout, but far from symmetrical; and 
so deficient in stamina that the effort to maintain an 
upright attitude while exhibiting himself was pain- 
ful to him. 

Theatrical booths again appeared at Bartholomew 
Fair in 1782, when Mrs. Baker, manageress of the 
Rochester Theatre, took her company to Smithfield. 
Tradition says that Elizabeth Inchbald was at this 
time a member of Mrs. Baker's company, but I 
have not been able to discover any ground for the 
belief. The diary of the actress would ha-ve set the 
matter at rest; but she destroyed it before her 
death, and Boaden's memoirs of her were based 
chiefly upon her letters. They show her to have 
performed that year at Canterbury, and it is within 
the limits of probability that she may have per- 
formed at Rochester also ; though it would still re- 
main doubtful whether she accompanied Mrs. Baker 
to Bartholomew Fair. According to Boaden, she 
proceeded to Edinburgh on the termination of her 
Canterbury engagement. 

Lewis Owen, who was engaged by Mrs. Baker as 
clown for her Bartholomew Fair performances, was 
a young man of reputable family and good educa- 
tion, who had embraced the career of a public 
entertainer from choice, as more congenial to his 
tastes and habits than any other. His eccentric 

And the Old London Fairs. 197 

manners and powers of grimace, joined with a 
considerable fund of natural wit^ caused him to be 
speedily recognised as a worthy successor of Joel 
Tarvey, who, after amusing more than one 
generation, as the Merry Andrew of various shows 
and places of amusements, had died at Hoxton of 
extreme old age in 1777. 


Lady Holland's Mob — Kelham Whiteland, the Dwarf — Flock- 
ton, the Conjuror and Puppet- Showman — Wonderful Rams 
— Miss Morgan, the Dwarf — Flockton's Will — Gyngell, 
the Conjuror — Jobson, the Puppet- Showman — Abraham 
Saunders — Menageries of Miles and Polito— Miss Biffin- 
Philip Astley. 

While the character of the theatrical entertainments 
presented at the London fairs declined from the 
middle of the eighteenth century, when Yates and 
Shuter ceased to appear in Smithfield ^^ during the 
short time of Bartholomew Fair^^^ the various other 
shows underwent a gradual improvement. Mena- 
geries became larger and better arranged, while with 
the progress of zoological science, they were ren- 
dered better media for its diffusion. Panoramas and 
mechanical exhibitions began to appear, and, though 
it is impossible to estimate the degree in which 

The Old London Fairs. 199 

such agencies were instrumental in educating the 
people^ it is but fair to allow them some share in 
the intellectual progress of the latter half of the 

The good or evil arising from the amusements of 
any class of the people can only be fairly judged by 
comparing the amusements with those of other 
classes at the same period; and those who will 
study the dramas and novels, and especially the 
newspapers of the last century, will not find more to 
commend in the manners and pursuits of the upper 
and middle classes than in those of the lower orders 
of society, as exemplified in the London fairs. The 
hand that painted Gin Lane for the contemplation 
of posterity left an instructive picture of the morals 
and manners of the upper strata of society in the 
' Rake's Progress ^ and the ^Midnight Conversation/ 

The amusements of the people partake of the 
mutability of all mundane matters, and the news- 
papers of the period show that the London fairs had 
begun, at the beginning of the last quarter of the 
eighteenth century, to be regarded by the educated 
portion of society much less favourably than they 
had been in earlier times. When St. James's 
ceased to patronize them, Bloomsbury voted them 
low, and Cornhill declared them a nuisance. 
Journalists, having as yet no readers in the slums. 

200 The Old Showmen^ 

and therefore writing exclusively for St. Jameses, or 
Bloomsbury, or Cornliill, as the case might be, 
adapted their tone to the views current in those 
sections of London society. If we first place a 
paragraph of the 'Times^ of the present day recording 
a cock-fight or a pugilistic contest, by the side of a 
report of a similar encounter in a journal of thirty 
years ago, we shall have no difficulty in under- 
standing why Bartholomew Fair was described by 
the ^Morning Chronicle^ in 1784 in language so 
different to that used by Pepys and Evelyn a 
century before. 

After recounting the misdoings of "Lady 
Holland^s mob/^ the paragraphist tells his readers 
that — 

"The elegant part of the entertainment was 
confined to a few booths. At the Lock and Key,, 
near Cloth Fair, a select company performed the 
musical opera of the Foot Soldier, with Columbine's 
escape from Smithfield. Mr. Flockton, whose 
name can never be struck off Bartholomew roll, had 
a variety of entertainments without and within- 
The King's conjuror, who takes more money from 
out the pocket than he puts in, made the lank- 
haired gentry scratch their pates; the walking 
French puppet-show had hired an apartment, with 
additional performers ; Punch and the Devil, in his 

And the Old London Fairs. 20 r 

little moving theatre, were performing without 
doors, to invite the company into the grand theatre. 
Men with wooden mummies in show-boxes wera 
found straggling about the fair ; tall women in 
cellars, dropping upon their knees to be kissed by 
short customers ; dwarfs mounted on stools for the 
same civil purposes ; and men without arms writ^ 
ing with their feet/^ 

The sneering tone, and the disposition to write 
down the fair, perceptible in this account, are more 
strongly exhibited in the ^ Public Advertiser ^ of the 
5th of September, in the following year : — 

^^ Saturday being Bartholomew Fair day, it was,, 
according to annual custom, ushered in by Lady 
HoUand^s Mob, accompanied with a charming band 
of music, consisting of marrow-bones and cleavers, 
tin kettles, &c., &c., much to the gratification of 
the inhabitants about Smithfield ; great preparations 
were then made for the reception of the Lord 
Mayor, the Sheriffs, and other City officers, who,, 
after regaling themselves with a cool tankard at Mr. 
Akerman^s, made their appearance in the fair about 
one o^ clock, to authorise mimic fools to make real 
ones of the gaping spectators. The proclamation 
being read, and the Lord Mayor retiring, he was 
saluted by a flourish of trumpets, drums, rattles, 
salt -boxes, and other delightful musical instruments. 

202 The Old Showmen^ 

The noted Flockton, and the notorious Job son, with 
many new managers, exhibited their tragic and 
comic performers, as did Penley his drolls. There 
were wild beasts from all parts of the world roaring, 
puppets squeaking, sausages frying. Kings and 
Queens raving, pickpockets diving, round-abouts 
twirling, hackney coaches and poor horses driving, 
and all Smithfield alive-o ! The Learned Horse 
paid his obedience to the company, as did about a 
score of monkeys, several heautiful young ladies of 
forty. Punches, Pantaloons, Harlequins, Columbines, 
three giants, a dwarf, and a giantess. These were 
not all who came to Smithj&eld to gratify the 
public j there were several sleight-of-hand men and 
fire-eaters ; the last, however, were not quite so 
numerous as those who eat of the deliciously 
flavoured sausages and oysters with which the fair 
abounded. The company were remarJcahly genteel 
and crowded, and the different performances went 
off with loud and unbounded bursts of applause; 
they will be repeated this day and to-morrow for 
the last times this season.'^ Reports similar in 
tone to the foregoing continued to appear in the 
newspapers for many years. 

That the fairs were visited at and from this time 
almost exclusively by the lower orders of society is 
tolerably obvious from the fact that, though the 

And the Old Lofidon Fairs. 203 

number and variety of the shows were greater^ and 
advertising was more largely resorted to every year 
as a medium of publicity^ the showmen had ceased to 
use the columns of the London press for this pur- 
pose. Bills were given away in the fair^ or 
displayed on the outsides of the shows^ but few of 
these have been preserved^ though the few extant 
are the only memorials of the London fairs during 
several years. 

The only bill of 1787 which I have succeeded in 
finding announces a dwarf with the remarkable 
name of Kelham Whiteland; he is said to have 
been born at Ipswich^ but his height, strange to 
say, is not stated, a blank being left before the 
word inches. Probably he was growing, and his 
exhibitor deemed it advisable, as a matter of finan- 
cial economy, to have a large number of bills 
printed at one time. 

Flockton, who was the leading showman of this 
period, was the sole advertiser of 1789, when he 
put forth the following announcement : — 

'^Mr. Flockton^ s Most Grand and Unparallelled 
Exhibition. Consisting, first, in the display of the 
Original and Universally admired Italian Fantoc- 
cini, exhibited in the same Skilful and Wonderful 
Manner, as well as Striking Imitations of Living 
Performers, as represented and exhibited before the 

204 The Old Showmen^ 

Eoyal Family, and tlie most illustrious Characters 
in this Kingdom. Mr. Flockton will display his 
inimitable Dexterity op Hand, Different from all 
pretenders to the said Art. To which will be per- 
formed an ingenious and Spirited Opera called The 
Padlock. Principal vocal performers, Signer Gio- 
. vanni Orsi and Signora Vidina. The whole to 
conclude with his grand and inimitable Musical 
Clock, at first view, a curious organ, exhibited 
three times before their Majesties.^^ 

In this clock nine hundred figures were said to 
be shown at work at various trades. 

In the following year, two wonderful rams were 
exhibited in Bartholomew Fair. One of them had 
a single horn, growing from the centre of the fore- 
head, like the unicorn of the heralds \ the other had 
six legs. One of the principal shows of this year 
was advertised as " the Original Theatre (Late the 
celebrated Yates and Shuter, of facetious Memory),, 
Up the Greyhound Inn Yard, the only real and 
commodious place for Theatrical Performances, 
The Performers selected from the most distin- 
guished Theatres in England, Scotland, &c. The 
Eepresentation consists of an entirely New Piece, 
called. The Spaniard Well Drub^d, or the British 
Tar This clap-trap drama concluded 
with '^a Grand Procession of the King, French 

And the Old London Fairs. 205 

Heroes, Guards, Municipal Troops, &c., to the 
Champ de Mars, to swear to the Eevolution Laws, 
as established by the Magnificent National As- 
sembly, on the 14th of July, 1790/' There was 
^^ hornpipe dancing by the renowned Jack Bowling,^' 
and an ^^Olio of wit, whim, and fancy, in Song, 
Speech, and Grimace/' 

Two years later, the London Fairs were visited 
by a couple of dwarfs, almost as famous in their 
day as Tom Thumb and his Lilliputian bride in our 
own. These were Thomas Allen, described in the 
bill of the show as ^^ the most surprising small man 
ever before the public,'' and who had previously 
been exhibited at the Lyceum, where he was visited 
by the Duke of York and the Duke of Clarence; 
and, again to quote the bill, which seems to have 
been based on the announcements of the Corsican 
Fairy, some of the passages being identical, — 

" Miss Morgan, the Celebrated Windsor Fairy, 
known in London and Windsor by the Addition of 
LADY MORGAN, a Title which His Majesty was 
pleased to confer on her. 

^^ This unparallelled Woman is in the 35th year 
of her age, and only 18 pounds weight. Her form 
aflTords a pleasing surprise, and her admirable sym- 
metry engages attention. She was introduced to 
their Majesties at the Queen's Lodge, Windsor, on 

2o6 The Old Showmen^ 

Saturday the 4th of August^ 1781^ by the recom- 
mendation of the late Dr. Hunter ; when they were 
pleased to pronounce her the finest Display of 
Human Nature in miniature they ever saw. — But 
we shall say no more of these great Wonders of 
Nature : let those who honour them with their 
visits^ jiidge for themselves. 

" Let others boast of stature, or of birth, 
This glorious Truth shall fill our souls with mirth : 
' That we now are, and hope, for years, to sing, 
The Smallest subject of the Greatest King ! ' 

Admittance to Ladies and Gentlemen, 1^. 
Children, Half Price. 

<' *5^* In this and many other parts of the King- 
dom, it is too common to show deformed persons, 
with various arts and deceptions, under denomina- 
tions of persons in miniature, to impose on the 

^^ This little couple are, beyond contradiction, the 
most wonderful display of nature ever held out to 
the admiration of mankind. 

^^ N.B. The above Lady^s mother is with her, and 
will attend at any Lady or Gentleman^s house, if 

Flockton died in 1794, at Peckham, where he 
had lived for several years in comfort and respecta- 
bility, having realised what was then regarded as a 

And the Old London Fairs. 207 

considerable fortune. He had attended the London 
Fairs, and many of the chief provincial ones, for 
many years, retiring to his cottage at Peckham in 
the winter. His representation of Punch was not 
only superior in every way to that of the open air 
puppet shows, but famous for the introduction of a 
struggle between the mimic representative of the 
Prince of Darkness and a fine Newfoundland dog, 
in which the canine combatant seized the enemy by 
the nose, and finally carried him ofi" the stage. 

Plockton had no children, and probably no other 
relatives, for he bequeathed his show, with all the 
properties pertaining to it, to Gyngell, a clever per- 
former of tricks of sleight of hand, and a widow 
named Flint, both of whom had travelled with it for 
several years ; and between these two persons and 
other members of his company he divided the whole 
of his accumulated gains, amounting to five thou- 
sand pounds. His successors were announced next 
Bartholomew Fair as ^^ the Widow Flint and Gyn- 
gell, at Flockton's original Theatre, up the Grey- 
hound Tard.^^ Gyngell exhibited his conjuring 
tricks, and performed on the musical glasses ; and 
his wife sang between this part of the entertain- 
ment and the exhibition of the fantoccini and 
Flockton^s celebrated clock, which seems either to 
have been over-pufied by its original exhibitor, or 

2o8 The Old Showmen^ 

to have fallen out of repair^ for it was now said to 
contain five hundred figures, instead of the nine 
hundred originally claimed for it. Perhaps, how- 
ever, the larger number was a misprint. 

Widow Flint seems to have died soon after 
Flockton, or to have disposed of her share in the 
show to Gyngell; for the bill of 1795 is the only 
one I have found with her name as co -proprietor. 
Gyngell attended the London fairs, and the princi- 
pal fairs for many miles round the metropolis, for 
thirty years after Flockton^s death, and is spoken 
of by persons old enough to remember him as a 
quiet, gentlemanly man. 

Jobson, the puppet- showman, who had been in 
the field as long as Flockton, was prosecuted in 
1797, with several other owners of similar shows, 
for making his puppets speak, which was held to be 
an infraction of the laws relating to theafcrical 
licences. This circumstance proves Strutt to have 
been in error in describing Flockton as the last of 
the ^^ motion -masters,^^ the latter having been dead 
three years when his contemporaries were pro- 
secuted. I have not found Jobson^s name among 
the showmen at the London fairs in later years, 
however; and Gyngell^s puppets appear to have 
dropped out of existence with the musical clock, 
during the early years of his career as a showman. 

And the Old London Fairs. 209 

The suppression of Bartholomew Fair was 
strongly urged upon the Court of Common Council 
in 1798^ and the expediency of the measure was 
referred by the Court to the City Lands Committee, 
but nothing came of the discussion at that time. 
It was proposed to limit the duration of the fair to 
one day, but this suggestion was rejected by the 
Court of Common Council on the ground that the 
limitation would cause the fair to be crowded to an 
extent that would be dangerous to life and limb. 
It is doubtful, however, whether the showmen 
would have found the profits of one day sufficient to 
induce them, had the experiment been tried, to 
incur the expense of putting up their booths. 

The fair went on as before, therefore, and Row« 
landson^s print sets before us the scene which it 
presented in 1 799 as thoroughly and as vividly as 
Setche?s engraving has done the Bartholomew Fair 
of the first quarter of the century. Gyngell^s 
^^ grand medley ^^ (a name adopted from Jobson) 
was there ; and the menageries of Miles and Polito, 
the Italian successor of Pidcock, and very famous 
in his day ; and Abraham Saunders, whom we meet 
with for the first time, with the theatre which he 
appears to have sometimes substituted for the 
circus, perhaps when an execution had deprived 
him of his horses, or a bad season had obliged him 


2IO The Old Showmen J 

to sell them; and Miss Biffin^ who, having been 
born without arms, painted portraits with a brush 
affixed to her right shoulder, and exhibited herself 
and her productions at fairs as the best mode of 
obtaining patronage. 

Down to the end of the last century there are no 
records of a circus having appeared at the London 
fairs. Astley is said to have taken his stud and 
company to Bartholomew Fair at one time, but I 
have not succeeded in finding any bill or advertise- 
ment of the great equestrian in connection with 
fairs. The amphitheatre which has always borne 
his name (except during the lesseeship of Mr. 
Boucicault, who chose to call it the Westminster 
Theatre, a title about as appropriate as the Maryle- 
bone would be in Shoreditch), was opened in 1780, 
and he had previously given open air performances 
on the same site, only the seats being roofed over. 
The enterprising character of Astley renders it not 
improbable that he may have tried his fortune at 
the fairs when the circus was closed, as it has 
usually been during the summer ; and he may not 
have commenced his season at the amphitheatre 
until after Bartholomew Pair, or have given there a 
performance which he was accustomed to give in 
the afternoon at a large room in Piccadilly, where 
the tricks of a performing horse were varied with 

And the Old London Fairs. 211 

^jonjuring and Ombres Chinoises, a kind of shadow 

But though Astley^s was the first circus erected 
in England, equestrian performances in the open 
air had been given before his time by Price and 
Sampson. The site of Dobney^s Place, at the back 
of Penton Street, Islington, was, in the middle of 
the last century, a tea-garden and bowling-green, 
to which Johnson, who leased the premises in 1767, 
added the attraction of tumbling and rope-dancing 
performances, which had become so popular at 
Sadler^s Wells. Price commenced his equestrian 
performances at this place in 1770, and soon had a 
rival in Sampson, who performed similar feats in a 
field behind the Old Hats public-house. It was not 
until ten years later, according to the historians of 
Lambeth, that Philip Astley exhibited his feats of 
horsemanship in a field near the Halfpenny Hatch, 
forming his first ring with a rope and stakes, after 
the manner of the mountebanks of a later day, and 
going round with his hat after each performance to 
collect the largesses of the spectators, a part of the 
business which, in the slang of strolling acrobats 
and other entertainers of the public in bye-streets 
and market-places, and on village greens, is called 
^' doing a nob.^^ 

This remarkable man was born in 1742, at New- 

p 2 

212 The Old Showmen. 

castle-under-Lyme^ where his father carried on the 
business of a cabinet maker. He received little or 
no education — ^no uncommon thing at that time^ — 
and, having worked a few years with his father, 
enlisted in a cavalry regiment. His imposing ap- 
pearance, being over six feet in height, with the 
proportions of a Hercules, and the voice of a Stentor, 
attracted attention to him; and his capture of a 
standard at the battle of BmsdorflF, made him 
one of the celebrities of his regiment. While 
serving in the army, he learned many feats of horse- 
manship from an itinerant equestrian named Johnson, 
and often exhibited them for the amusement of his 
comrades. On his discharge from the army, being 
presented by General Elliot with a horse, he bought 
another in Smithfield, and with these two animals 
gave the open air performances in Lambeth, which 
have been mentioned. 


Edmund Kean — Mystery of his Parentage — Saunders's Cir- 
cus — Scowton's Theatre — Belzoni — The Nondescript— 
Eichardson's Theatre— The Carey Family— Kean, a Circus 
Performer — Oxberry, the Comedian — James Wallack— 
Last Appearance of the Irish Giant— Miss Biffin and the 
Earl of Morton — Bartholomew Fair Incidents — ^Josepliine 
GirardeUi, the Female Salamander — James England, the 
Flying Pieman — Elliston as a Showman — Simon Paap, the 
Dutch Dwarf — Ballard's Menagerie — A Learned Pig— 
Madame Gobert, the Athlete — CartHch, the Original 
Mazeppa — Barnes, the Pantaloon — Nelson Lee — Cooke's 
Circus — The Gyngell Family. 

With the present century commenced a period of 
the history of shows and showmen specially inter- 
esting to the generation which remembers the Lon- 
don fairs as they were forty or fifty years ago, and 
to which the names of Gyngell, Scowton, Samwell, 
Hichardson, Clarke, Atkins, and Wombwell have a 

214 T^^ Old Showmen^ 

familiar sound. It introduces us^ in its earliest 
years, to the celebrated Edmund Kean, ^^ tlie strip- 
ling known in a certain wayfaring troop of Atellanoe 
by the name of Carey/^ as Raymond wrote, and 
whom we find performing at the London fairs, 
sometimes tumbling in Saunders^s circus, and some- 
times playing juvenile characters in the travelling 
theatres of Scowton and Richardson. The early life 
of this remarkable man is as strange as any that has 
ever afforded materials for the biographer, and the 
mystery surrounding his parentage as inscrutable 
a problem as the authorship of the letters of Junius. 
Phippen, the earliest biographer of Kean, says 
that he was born in 1788, and was the illegitimate 
offspring of Aaron Kean, a tailor, and Anne Carey, 
an actress. Proctor, whose account is repeated by 
Hawkins, states that his parentage was unknown,, 
but that, according to the best conclusion he was 
able to form, he was the son of Edmund Kean, a 
mechanic employed by a London builder, and Anne 
Carey, an actress. Raymond says, on the authority 
of Miss Tidswell, who was many years at Drury Lane 
Theatre, that he was the son of Edward Kean, a 
carpenter, and Nancy Carey, the actress. While 
these various writers agree as to the name and pro- 
fession of the future great tragedian^s mother, and 
the patronymic of his father, they give us the choice 

And the Old London Fairs, 215 

of three baptismal names for tlie latter, and at least 
two occupations. There seems no doubt^ however^ 
that his father, whether he was a carpenter or a 
tailor, was the brother of Moses Kean, a popular 
reciter and imitator of the leading actors at the 
beginning of the present century. 

No register of his birth or baptism has ever been 
discovered, and it is even a matter of doubt whether 
he was born in Westminster or in Southwark. Miss 
Tidswell seems to have been the only person who 
possessed any knowledge of his birth and parentage 
that was ever revealed, a circumstance which caused 
her to be suspected of herself standing in the ma- 
ternal relationship to him. Kean, when a child;, 
called her sometimes mother, and sometimes aunt ; 
but^ according to her own account, she was in no 
way related to him, but had adopted him on hi» 
being deserted by his real mother, Anne Carey. 

His first appearance in public was made in the 
character of a monkey, in the show of Abraham 
Saunders, at Bartholomew Pair, probably in 1801. 
He was then twelve or thirteen years of age, and 
already innured to a wandering and vagabond mode 
of life ; being in the habit of absenting himself 
for days together from the lodging of Miss Tids- 
well, in order to visit the fairs, and sleeping 
under the trees in St. Jameses Park, to avoid being 

2 1 6 The Old Showmen^ 

locked up by his guardian^ and thus prevented from 
gazing at the parades of Saunders and Scowton on 
the morrow. 

Proctor says, somewhat vaguely, though probably 
with as much exactness as the materials for a 
memoir of Kean^s boyhood render possible, that 
when about fourteen years of age, he was sometimes 
in Richardson^s company, and sometimes in Scowton^s 
or Saunders^s ; and that, besides tumbling in the 
circus of the latter, he rode and danced on the 
tight-rope. In performing an equestrian act at 
Bartholomew Pair, he once fell from the pad, and 
hurt his legs, which never quite recovered from the 
effects of the accident. 

In 1803, another notability of the age made his 
appearance at Bartholomew Pair, namely, Belzoni, 
afterwards famous as an explorer of the pyramids 
and royal tombs of Egypt. He was a remarkably 
handsome and finely proportioned man, and of almost 
gigantic stature, his height being six feet six inches. 
His muscular strength being proportionate to his 
size, he was engaged by Gyngell to exhibit feats of 
strength, as the young Hercules, alias the Patago- 
nian Samson, in which character he lifted four men 
of average weight off the ground, and held out 
prodigious weights at arm^s length. He afterwards 
went to Edmonton Pair, where he performed in a 

And the Old London Fairs. 217 

field behind the Bell Inn. Of his engagements 
during the following six or seven years we have no 
account, but in 1810 he sustained the character 
of Orson at the Edinburgh theatre, when he was 
hissed for not being sufficiently demonstrative in 
his attentions to the maternal bear. Five years 
later, he was exploring the pyramids and sarcophagi 
of Egypt, as assistant to the British Consul at 
Alexandria, and in 1820 his name was famous. 

In the same year that Belzoni performed his feats 
of strength in GyngelFs show, there was exhibited 
in Bartholomew Fair, together with a two-headed 
calf, and a double-bodied calf, '' a surprising large 
fish, the Nondescript,'' which ''surprising in- 
habitant of the watery kingdom was,'' according 
to the bill, '' drawn on the shore by seven horses and 
about a hundred men. She measured twenty-five 
feet in length and about eighteen in circumference, 
and had in her belly when found, one thousand 
seven hundred mackerel." 

The first mention of Richardson's theatre in the 
annals of the London Fairs occurs in 1804. Of his 
early career there is no record ; probably it did not 
diff'er much from that' of his pupil, Kean, or his 
successor, Nelson Lee, or of the famous ''roving 
English clown," Charlie Keith, and numerous others 
whose lives have been passed in wandering from 

21 8 The Old Showmefi^ 

place to place, amusing the pubKc as actors, jugglers, 
conjurors, acrobats, etc. Whatever his antecedents 
may have been, there is no doubt as to his character^ 
all who knew him concurring in representing him 
as illiterate and ignorant, but possessing a large 
fund of shrewdness and common sense ; irritable in 
temper, but agreeable in his manners so long as 
nothing occurred to excite his irascibility ; sensitive 
to any unprovoked insult, which he never failed ta 
revenge, but always ready and willing to lend a 
helping hand to those who had been less fortunate 
than himself. 

Many stoi^ies are current among showmen and 
the theatrical profession of Richardson^s goodness 
of heart and his occasional eccentricities of conduct. 
On one occasion, while his portable theatre was at 
St. Albans, a lir^ occurred in the town, and many 
small houses were destroyed, the poor tenants 
of which by that means lost all their furni- 
ture, and almost everything they possessed. A 
subscription was immediately opened for their 
relief, and a public meeting was held to promote 
the benevolent purpose. Eichardson attended, and 
when the Mayor, who presided, had read a list of dona- 
tions, varying in amount from five shillings to twice 
as many pounds, he advanced to the table, and pre- 
sented a Bank of England note for a hundred pounds. 

A7id the Old London Fairs, 219 

'^ To wliom is the fund indebted for this muni- 
ficent donation ?^^ inquired the astonished Mayor. 

^^ Put it down to Muster Richardson^ the show- 
man/^ replied the donor^ who then walked quietljr 
from the room. 

He often paid the ground- rent of the poorer 
proprietors of travelling shows^ booths^ and stalls,, 
whose receipts, owing to bad weather, had not 
enabled them to pay the claims of the owner of the 
field, and who, but for Richardson^s kindness, would 
hare been obliged to remain on the ground, losing 
the chance of making money elsewhere, until they 
could raise the required sum. He never seemed to- 
expect repayment in such cases, and never referred 
to them afterwards. Saunders, who seems to have 
passed through an unusually long life in a chronic 
condition of impecuniosity, once borrowed ten 
pounds of him, and honourably and punctually re- 
paid the money at the appointed time. Richardson 
seemed surprised, but he took the money, and made 
no remark. No very long time elapsed before 
Saunders wanted another loan, when, to his surprise, 
Richardson met his application with a decided 

^^ T paid you honourably the money you lent me^ 
before,^^ observed Saunders, with an aggrieved 

^20 The Old Showmen^ 

"That's it. Muster Saunders/' rejoined Richard- 
son. "You did pay me that money, and I was 
never more surprised in my life ; and I mean to 
take care you don't surprise me again, either in 
that way, or any oilier ivay," 

In recruiting his company, he preferred actors 
who had learned a trade, such being, in his opinion, 
steadier and more to be depended upon than those 
who, like Kean, had been strollers from childhood. 
His pay-table was the head of the big drum, and 
his way of discharging an actor or musician with 
whom he was dissatisfied was to ask him, when 
giving him his week's salary, to leave his name and 
address with the stage-manager, who was also 
wardrobe-keeper and scene-shifter. This post was 
held for many years by a man named Lewis, who 
was also the general servant of Richardson's "living 
carriage," and at his winter quarters. Woodland 
Cottage, Horsemonger Lane, long since pulled 
down, the site being occupied by a respectable 
row of houses, called Woodland Terrace. 

He always strengthened his company, and pro- 
duced his best dresses, for the London fairs, where 
his theatre, decked with banners and a good dis- 
play of steel and brass armour, presented a striking 
appearance. His wardrobe and scene- waggon were 
always well stocked, and the dresses were not, as 

And the Old London Fairs. 221 

some persons imagined, the off-castings of the 
theatres^ but were made for him^ and, having to be 
worn by dayUght, were of really excellent quality. 
Cloaks were provided for the company to wear on 
parade when the weather happened to be wet. 

It was a frequent boast of E-ichardson, that many 
of the most eminent members of the theatrical pro- 
fession had graduated in his company, and it is 
known that Edmund Kean, James Wallack, Ox- 
berry, and Saville Faucit were of the number. 
Kean always acknowledged that he made his first 
appearance in a principal part as Young Nerval in 
Richardson^s theatre ; but it is obvious from what 
is known of his, boyhood that he must have been in 
the company several years before he could have 
essayed that character. So far as can be made out 
from his supposed age, he seems to have joined 
Richardson^s company in 1804, to the early part 
of which year we must assign the story told by 
Davis, who was afterwards associated in partnership 
with the younger Astley in the lesseeship of the 

"I was passing down Great Surrey Street one 
morning,^^ Davis is reported to have said, " when 
just as I came to the place where the Riding 
House now stands, at the corner of the Magdalen as 
they call it, I saw Master Saunders packing up his 

^22 The Old Showmen^ 

traps. His booths you see, had been standing there 
for some three or four days, or thereabouts ; and on 
the parade-waggon I saw a slim young chap with 
marks of paint — and bad paint it was, for all the 
world like raddle on the back of a sheep — on 
his face, tying up some of the canvas. And when 
I had shook hands with Master Saunders, he turns 
him right round to this young chap, who had just 
threw a somerset behind his back, and says, ^ I say, 
you Mr. King Dick, if you don^t mind what you^re 
arter, and pack up that wan pretty tight and nimble, 
we shan^t be oiff afore to-morrow ; and so, you mind 
your eye, my lad.^ That Mr. King Dick, as Master 
Saunders called him, was young Carey, that^s now 
your great Mr. Kean.^^ 

Kean^s engagement with Richardson brings us to 
a portion of his personal history which is involved 
in the profoundest mystery. His biographers state 
that his mother, Anne Carey, was at the time a 
member of Richardson^ s company, that Kean was 
unaware of the fact when he engaged, and that he 
left the troupe not very long afterwards, in con- 
sequence of his mother claiming and receiving his 
salary, the last circumstance being said to rest on 
the authority of Kean himself. Not much credence 
is due to the story on that account ; for the great 
actor exercised his imagination on the subject of 

And the Old London Fairs. 223 

Tiis origin and antecedents as freely as the Josiah 
Bounderby of the inimitable Dickens. But the 
results of a patient search among the gatherings 
relating to Bartholomew Fair in the library of the 
British Museum clearly prove that Kean^s mother 
was^ when a member of Richardson^s company, the 
wife of an actor named Carey. 

The only Careys whose names are to be found in 
/any of the bills of Richard son^s theatre which have 
been preserved were a married couple, who for 
many years, including the whole period of Kean^s 
engagement, sustained the principal parts in those 
wonderful melodramas for which the establishment 
was so famous. If these people were Kean^s parents, 
what becomes of the story which has been told by 
his biographers, on the authority of Miss Tidswell ? 
That they assumed to be his parents is undoubted, 
and it is equally beyond doubt that the relationship 
was unquestioned by Richardson, and the claims 
founded upon it acquiesced in by Kean. 

" Windsor Pair,^^ said Richardson, in relating the 
story of Kean's professional visit to Windsor Castle, 
^^ commenced on a Friday, and after all our impedi- 
ments we arrived safe, and lost no time in erecting 
our booth. We opened with Tom Thumb and the 
Magic Oak. To my great astonishment, I received 
^ note from the Castle, commanding Master Carey 

224 ^^^ Old Showmen^ 

to recite several passages from different plays before 
his Majesty King George the Third at the Palace. 
I was highly gratified at the receipt of the above 
note \ but I was equally perplexed to comply with 
the commands of the King. The letter came to me 
on Saturday night ; and as Master Carey^s wardrobe 
was very scanty^ it was necessary to add to it before 
he could appear in the presence of royalty. My 
purse was nearly empty, and to increase my dilem- 
ma, all shops belonging to Jews were shut, and the 
only chance we had left was their being open on 
Sunday morning. 

^^ Among the Jews, however, we at last purchased 
a smart little jacket, trousers, and body linen ; we 
tied the collar of his shirt through the button-holes 
with a piece of black ribbon ; and when dressed in 
his new apparel. Master Carey appeared a smart 
little fellow, and fit to exhibit his talents before any 
monarch in the world. The King was highly de- 
lighted with him, and so were all the nobility who 
were present. Two hours were occupied in recita- 
tions ; and his abilities were so conspicuous to every 
person present that he was pronounced an astonish- 
ing boy, and a lad of great promise. The present 
he received for his performance was rather small, 
being only two guineas, though, upon the whole, it 
turned out fortunate for the family. The principal 

And the Old London Fairs. 225 

conversation in Windsor for a few days was about 
the talents displayed by Master Carey before the 
King. His mother^ therefpre, took advantage of 
the circumstance, and engaged the market-hall for 
three nights for Edmund^s recitations. This was 
an excellent speculation, and the hall overflowed 
with company every night. 

^^ Mrs. Carey joined me on the following Monday 
at Ewell Pair; and all the family, owing to their 
great success, came so nicely dressed that I scarcely 
knew them. Mrs. Carey and her children did not 
quit my standard during the summer. After a 
short "period, I again got my company together, and 
with hired horses went to Waltham Abbey. I took 
a small theatre in tjiat town, the rent of which was 
fifteen shillings per week. It was all the money 
too much. My company I considered very strong, 
consisting of Mr. Vaughan, Mr. Thwaites, Master 
Edmund, his mother, and the whole of his family, 
Mr. Saville Faucit, Mr. Grosette, Mr. and Mrs. 
Jefferies, Mr. Reed, Mrs. Wells, and several other 
performers, who are now engaged at the different 
theatres in the kingdom. Notwithstanding we 
acted the most popular pieces, the best night 
produced only nine shillings and sixpence. Starva- 
tion stared us in the face, and our situation was 
so truly pitiable that the magistrate of the town, 


2 26 The Old Showmen^ 

out of compassion for our misfortunes, bespoke a 

It is singular that Eichardson does not mention 
Carey^ his chief actor, in this communication ; but 
the words ^^ the whole of his family '^ must be sup- 
posed to include Carey and, I believe, a daughter. 
In every bill of the period the names of Mr. H. 
Carey and Mrs. H. Carey appear as the repre- 
sentatives of the heroes and heroines of the Richard- 
«onian drama \ and the absence of any direct men- 
tion of the former is much less remarkable than the 
fact that he has been altogether ignored by every bio- 
grapher of Kean, while the supposed mother of the 
tragedian is invariably styled Miss Carey. 

It is exceedingly improbable that the mystery 
involved in these discrepancies and contradictions 
will now ever be cleared up in a satisfactory manner. 
One thing alone, amidst all the confusion and 
obscurity, seems certain ; namely, that the Careys 
were in Richardson's company before Kean joined ' 
it, and that, whether or not he believed them to be 
his parents, he dropped their acquaintance when he 
threw off their authority. Raymond says that when 
Kean, after his marriage, visited Bartholomew Fair, 
he was recognised by Carey, who was standing on 
the parade of Richardson's theatre, and ran down 
the steps to greet him ; the tragedian seemed morti- 

And the Old Londo7i Fairs. 22*] 

:fied, treated the strolling actor coldly^ and ^^ slunk 
away^ literally like a dog in a fair/^ 

In pondering the probabilities of the ease, it is 
obvious that considerable allowance must be made 
for the obscurity which envelopes the origin of 
Kean's existence. Their only authority being Mis& 
Tidswell, it is natural that the biographers should 
suppose the woman who passed for Kean^s mother 
^th Richardson and his company to be the Nancy 
Carey of her story, and mention her as Miss Carey. 
But the evidence of the bills, which cannot have 
been known to them, forces upon us the re-con- 
sideration of the story of Kean^s parentage which 
has hitherto passed current. Miss TidswelPs story 
can be reconciled with the facts only by the hypo- 
thesis that Anne Carey, subsequently to Kean^s 
birth, became the wife of H. Carey, the sameness of 
name being due to cousinship, or perhaps merely a 
coincidence. Kean^s illegitimacy may have been 
known to Richardson, whose knowledge of the 
circumstance would explain the reason of his speak- 
ing of Mrs. Carey as the mother of Master Carey, 
while he says nothing to warrant the supposition 
that he regarded her husband as the lad^s father. 

But everything about Kean^s early life is 
mysterious and obscure. How and when did he 
acquire the classical lore which he seems fco have 

Q 2 

228 The Old Showme^i^ 

possessed ? Certainly not while lie was roaming the 
streets of London, frequenting all the fairs, and 
practising flip-flaps ; nor while travelling with 
Saunders, Scowton, and Eichardson, and rejoicing 
in the cognomen of Mr. King Dick. As little 
likely does it seem that he could have acquired it at 
that subsequent period of his life when the leisure 
which his profession left him was passed in 
disreputable taverns, in low orgies with the worst 

^^Tou see this inequality in the bridge of my 
nose ? ^^ he once observed to Benson Hill, the 
author of a couple of amusing volumes of theatrical 
anecdotes and adventures. ^^ It was dealt me by a 
demmed pewter pot, hurled from the hand of Jack 
Thurtell. We were borne, drunk and bleeding, to 
the watch-house, for the night. When T was taken 
out, washed, plastered, left to cogitate on any lie, of 
an accident in a stage fight, I told it, and was 
believed, for the next day I dined with the Bishop 
of Norwich. ^^ 

My task does not, however, require me to follow 
Kean^s fortunes from the time when he left 
Eichardson^s company, and obtained an engagement 
at a provincial theatre. The date is uncertain, but 
his name does not appear in the bills of 1807, and 
he had probably turned his back on the travelling 
theatre in the preceding year. 

And the Old London Fairs. 229 

Patrick O^Brien, the Irish giant^ exhibited him- 
-self for the last time in 1804, when he advertised as 
follows : — 

^^ Just arrived in town, and to be seen in a commo- 
dious room, at No. 11^ Haymarket, nearly opposite 
the Opera House, the celebrated Irish Giant, Mr. 
O^Brien, of the Kingdom of Ireland, indisputably 
the tallest man ever shown ; is a lineal descendant 
of the old puissant king, Brien Boreau, and has, in 
person and appearance, all the similitudes of that 
great and grand potentate. It is remarkable of this 
family, that, however various the revolutions in point 
of fortune and alliance, the lineal descendants there- 
of have been favoured by Providence with the original 
size and stature, which have been so peculiar to 
their family. The gentleman alluded to measures 
nearly nine feet high. Admittance one shilling.^^ 

O^Brien had now realised a considerable fortune, 
and he resolved to retire from the public gaze. 
Having purchased an old mansion near Epping, and 
►on the borders of the forest, he took up his abode 
there, keeping a carriage and pair of horses, and 
living quietly and unostentatiously the brief re- 
mainder of* his life. He died in 1806, in his forty- 
seventh year, when his servants made use of his 
fame and his wardrobe for their own emolument, 
.dressing a wax figure in his clothes, and exhibiting 

230 The Old Showmen^ 

it at rooms in the Haymarket^ the Strand, and other 
parts of the metropolis. 

The rival theatres of Richardson and Scowton 
attended Bartholomew Pair in 1807, when the 
former produced a romantic and highly sensational 
drama, called The Monk and the Murderer, in which 
Carey played the principal character. Baron 
Montaldi, and his wife that of Emilina, the Baron's 
daughter. The following announcement appears in 
the head of the bill : — 

^^Mr. Richardson has the honour to inform the 
Public, that for the extraordinary Patronage he has 
experienced, it has been his great object to con- 
tribute to the convenience and gratification of his 
audience. Mr. R. has a splendid collection of 
Scenery, unrivalled in any Theatre; and, as they 
are painted and designed by the first Artists in 
England, he hopes with such Decorations, and a 
Change of Performances each day, the Public will 
continue him that Patronage it has been his greatest 
pride to deserve.' ' 

The scenery of the drama comprised a Gothic hall 
in the Baron's castle, a rocky pass in Calabria, a 
forest, a rustic bridge, with a distant view of the 
castle, a Gothic chamber, and a baronial hall, 
decorated with banners and trophies. In the fourth 
scene a chivalric procession was introduced, and in 

And the Old London Fairs. 231 

the last a combat with battle-axes. The drama 
was followed^ as usual, by a pantomime entitled 
Mirth and Magic, which concluded with a " grand 
panoramic view of Gibraltar^ painted by the first 

Saunders was there^ with a circas, and seems to 
have attended the fair with considerable regularity. 
He was often in difficulties, however, and on one 
occasion, after borrowing a trick horse of Astley, 
his stud was taken in execution for debt, and the 
borrowed horse was sold with the rest. Some time 
afterwards, two equestrians of Astley^s company 
were passing a public-house, when they recognised 
Billy, harnessed to a cart which was standing 
before the door. Hearing their voices, the horse 
erected his ears, and, at a signal from one of them, 
stood up on his hind legs, and performed such 
extraordinary evolutions that a crowd collected to 
witness them. On the driver of the cart coming 
from the public-house, an explanation of Billyhs 
appearance in cart-harness was obtained with the 
observation that ^^ he was a worry good ^orse, but 
so full o^ tricks that we calls ^im the mountebank. ^^ 
Billy, I scarcely need say, was returned to his stall 
in Astley^s stables very soon after this dis« 
CO very. 

Miss Biffin was still attending the fairs, painting 

232 The Old Showmen 

portraits with her right shoulder^ and in 1808 
attracted the attention of the Earl of Morton^ who 
sat to her for his likeness^ and visited her ^^ living 
carriage ^^ several times for that purpose. In order 
to test her ability^ he took the portrait away with 
him, after each sitting, and thus became satisfied 
that it was entirely the work of her own hand, or 
rather shoulder. Finding that the armless little 
lady really possessed artistic talent, he showed the 
portrait to George III., who was pleased to direct 
that she should receive instruction in drawing at 
his expense. 

The Earl of Morton corresponded with this 
remarkable artist during a period of twenty years. 
She was patronised by three successive sovereigns, 
and from William IV. she received a small pension. 
She then yielded to the wish of the Earl of Morton 
that she should cease to travel, and settled at 
Birmingham, where, several years afterwards, she 
married, and resumed, as Mrs. Wright, the pursuit 
of her profession. 

Ballard^s menagerie held a respectable position 
between the time of Polito and Miles and that of 
Womb well and Atkins. The newspapers of the 
period do not inform us, however, from whose me- 
nagerie it was that the leopard escaped which 
created so much consternation one summer night 

And the Old London Fairs. 233 

in 18] 0. The caravans were on their way to 
Bartholomew Pair, when, between ten and eleven 
o^ clock at night, while passing along Piccadilly, the 
horses attached to one of them were scared by some 
noise, or other cause of alarm, and became restive. 
The caravan was overturned and broken, and a 
leopard and two monkeys made their escape. The 
leopard ran into the basement of an unfinished 
house near St Jameses Church, and one of the mon- 
keys into an oyster-shop, the proprietor of which, 
hearing that a leopard was loose, immediately closed 
the door. What became of the other monkey is not 

The keepers ran about, calling for a blanket and 
cords, to secure the leopard; but every person they 
accosted shut their doors, or took to their heels, on 
learning the purpose for which such appliances were 
required. After some delay, a cage was backed 
against the opening by which the leopard had 
entered the building, below which it growled 
threateningly as it crouched in the darkness. With 
some risk and diflGlculty, it was got into the cage, 
but not until it had bitten the arm of one of the 
keepers so severely that he was obliged to pro- 
ceed to St. George^ s hospital for surgical aid. 

Malcolm, describing Bartholomew Fair as it was 
seventy years ago, says, — ^' Those who wish to form 

234 The Old Showmen^ 

an idea of this scene of depravity may go at eleven 
o^ clock in the evening. They may then form some 
conception of the dreadful scenes that have been acted 
there in former days. The visitor will find all up- 
roar. Shouts^ drums^ trumpets, organs, the roaring 
of beasts, assailing the ear \ while the blaze of torches 
and glare of candles confuse sight, and present as 
well the horror of executions, and the burning of 
martyrs, and the humours of a fair.^^ Though, ^^ the 
blaze of torches and glare of candles^^ cannot be said 
to constitute a ^^ scene of depravity," and " shouts, 
drums, trumpets, organs, the roaring of beasts," 
though tending to produce an ^^ uproar," cannot be 
accepted as evidence of vice, since the former 
sounds accompany the civic procession of the 9th of 
November, and the latter are heard in the Zoo- 
logical Gardens, the newspapers of the period bear 
testimony to the existence of a considerable amount 
of riot and disorder at the late hour mentioned by 

In those days, when the lighting was defective 
and the police ineflScient, it is not surprising that 
the ^^ roughs" had their way when the more respect- 
able portion of the frequenters of the fair had retired, 
and that scenes occurred such as the more eflBcient 
police of the present day have had some difficulty in 
suppressing on Sunday evenings in the principal 

And the Old London Fairs. 235 

thorouglifares of Islington and Pentonville. The 
newspapers of the period referred to by Malcolm 
afford no other support to his statement than ac- 
counts of the disorder and mischief produced by the 
rushing through the fair at night of hordes of young 
men and boys^ apparently without anything being at- 
tempted for the prevention of the evil. In 1810, two 
bands of these ruffians met, and their collision caused 
two stalls to be knocked down, when the upsetting 
of a lamp on a stove caused the canvas to ignite, and 
a terrible disaster was only prevented by the exer- 
tions of a gentleman who was on the spot in extin- 
guishing the flames. In 1812 many persons were 
thrown down in one of the wild rushes of the 
^^roughs,^^ and an infant was dashed from its 
mother^ s arms, and trampled to death. 

Richardson, who was always on the alert for 
novelties, introduced in 1814, at Portsmouth, the 
famous Josephine Girardelli, who in the same year 
exhibited her remarkable feats in a room in New 
Bond Street. The following hand-bill sufficiently 
indicates their nature : — 

^^ Wonders will never cease ! — The great Pheno- 
mena of Nature. Signora Josephine Girardelli 
(just arrived from the Continent), who has had the 
honour of appearing before most of the Crowned 
Heads of Europe, will exhibit the Powers of Ee- 

236 The Old Showmen^ 

sistance against Heat^ every day^ until further 
notice, at Mr. Laxton's Rooms, 23, New Bond 
Street. She will, without the least symptoms of 
pain, put boiling melted lead into her mouth, and 
emit the same with the imprint of her teeth there- 
on ; red-hot irons will be passed over various parts 
of her body ; she will walk over a bar of red-hot 
iron with her naked feet ; will wash her hands in 
aquafortis ; put boiling oil in her mouth ! The 
above are but a few of the wonderful feats she is 
able to go through. Her performances will commence 
at 1 2, 2, 4, and 6 o^clock. Admission 3^. Any lady 
or gentleman being dubious of the above perform- 
ances taking place, may witness the same, gratis, if 
not satisfied. Parties may be accommodated by a 
private performance, by applying to the Conductor.^^ 

The portrait of this Fire Queen, as she would be 
styled at the present day, was engraved by Page, 
and published by Smeeton, St Martinis Lane. It 
represents her in her performing costume, a short 
spangled jacket, worn over a dress of the fashion of 
that day \ the features are regular and striking, but 
their beauty is of a rather masculine type. The 
hair appears dark, and is arranged in short curls. 

EUiston engaged in a show speculation at this 
time, having contracted with a Dutchman, named 
Sampoeman, for the exhibition of a dwarf, named 

And the Old London Fairs, 237 

Simon Paap. He hired a room in Piccadilly for the 
purpose and engaged an interpreter ; but the specu- 
lation was a failure^, and Elliston was glad to obtain 
Sampceman^s consent to the cancelling of the con- 
tract. He made a more successful venture when, at 
the close of a bad theatrical season at Birmingham,, 
he announced the advent of a Bohemian giant, who 
would toss about, like a ball, a stone weighing 
nearly a ton. Few modern giants have possessed 
the strength ascribed to the seven-feet men of old, 
and such an athlete as the Bohemian would have 
been worth a visit. The theatre was filled, there- 
fore, for the first time that season; but when the 
overture had been performed, and the occupants of 
the gallery were beginning to testify impatience, 
Elliston appeared before the curtain, looking grave 
and anxious, as on such occasions he could look to 
perfection. Evincing the deepest emotion, he in- 
formed the expectant audience that the perfidious 
Bohemian had disappointed him, and had not 

^^ Here,^^ said he, producing a number of letters 
from his pockets, ^^are letters which must satisfy 
every one that I am not to blame for this disap- 
pointment, which I assure you, ladies and gentle- 
men, is to me one of the bitterest of my existence. As 
they are numerous and lengthy, and are all written 

238 The Old Showmen^ 

in German^ you will, I am sure, excuse me from 
reading them ; but, as further evidence of the good 
faith in which I have acted in this matter, you 
shall see the stone /^ 

The curtain was drawn half-way up, and the 
disappointed Brums were consoled with the sight of 
an enormous mass of stone, and with the announce- 
ment that they would receive, on leaving the theatre, 
vouchers entitling them to admission to the boxes 
on the following night, on payment of a shilling. 
EUiston thus obtained two good houses at no other 
extra expense than a few shillings for the cartage 
of the pretended giant^s stone ball, the Bohemian 
being merely a creation of his own fertile imagina- 

Sampceman^s arrangement with EUiston having 
proved a failure, the little Dutchman was transferred 
to Gyngell, who exhibited him in his show in Bar- 
tholomew Fair and elsewhere, in 1815. There are 
three portraits of Simon Paap in existence, showing 
a striking resemblance to little Mr. Stratton, com- 
monly known as Tom Thumb. One of them_, drawn 
by WooUey, and engraved by Worship, probably 
for advertising purposes, bears the following in- 
scription : — 

Me. Simon Paap. 
^^ The celebrated Dutch dwarf, 26 years of age, weighs 

And the Old London Fairs. 239 

21 pounds, and only 28 inches high; had the honour 
of being presented to the Prince Regent and the whole 
of the Royal Family at Garleton House, May hth, 
1815, and was introduced hy Mr. Ban, Oyngell to 
the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, 8ept, 1st, 
1815; and was exhibited in the course of 4 days in 
Smithfield to upvmrds of 20,000 persons ; is univer- 
sally admitted to be the greatest wonder of the ageJ' 

Another portrait, engraved by Cooper, and pub- 
lished by Robins and Co., is better executed ; but 
the third is a poor sketch, taken three years later, 
and unsigned. 

Richardson presented this year, on the first day 
of Bartholomew Fair, The Maid and the Magpie, 
and a pantomime, ^^ expressly written for this 
theatre,^^ entitled Harlequin in the Deep, ter- 
minating with a panorama, " taken from the spot, 
by one of our most eminent artists,^^ representing 
Longwood, in the island of St. Helena, and the 
adjacent scenery, interesting to the public at that 
time as the place of exile selected by the Powers 
lately in arms against Prance for Napoleon I. Po- 
cock^s drama was, of course, greatly abridged, for 
drama and pantomime, with a comic song between, 
were got through in half an hour, and often in 
twenty minutes, when the influx of visitors ren- 
dered it expedient to abbreviate the performance. 

240 The Old Showmen^ 

Shuter^s signal^ corrupted into John Orderly, was 
used by Ricliardson on sucli occasions. 

A daily change of performances had at this time 
become necessary^ and Richardson presented on the 
second day " an entire new Chinese romantic melo- 
drama/^ called The Children of the Desert, and a 
comic pantomime^ entitled Harlequin and the Devil. 
On the third day the pantomime was the same, pre- 
ceded by " an entire new melodrama/' called The 
Roman Wife, 

This year there first appeared in the fair an ec- 
centric character named James Sharp 'England, 
known as ^Hhe flying pieman/' He was always 
neatly dressed, with a clean white apron before 
him, but wore no hat, and had his hair powdered 
and tied behind in a queue. Like the famous 
Tiddy-dol of a century earlier, he aimed at a profit- 
able notoriety through a fantastic exterior and a 
droll manner ; and he succeeded, his sales of plum- 
pudding, which he carried before him on a board, 
and vended in slices, being very great wherever he 
appeared. The present representative of the per- 
ambulating traders of the eccentric order is a man 
who has for many years strolled about the western 
districts of the metropolis, wearing clean white 
sleeves and a black velvet cap placed jauntily on his 
head, and carrying before him a tray of what, in 

And the Old London Fairs. 241 

oily and mellifluous accents, he proclaims to be, 
^^ Brandy balls as big as St. Paulas ! Oh, so nice ! 
They are all sugar and brandy ! ^^ 

The following year is memorable among show- 
men, and especially among menagerists, for the 
attack of Ballard^s lioness on the Exeter mail- 
coach. On the night of the 20th of October, the 
caravans containing the animals were standing in a 
line along the side of the road, near the inn called 
the Winterslow Hut, seven miles from Salisbury, to 
the fair of which city the menagerie was on its way. 
The coach had just stopped at this inn for the guard 
to deliver his bag of local letters, when one of the 
leaders was attacked by some large animal. The 
alarm and confusion produced by this incident were 
so great that two of the inside passengers left the 
coach, ran into the house, and locked themselves in 
a room above stairs ; while the horses kicked and 
plunged so violently that the coachman feared that 
the coach would be overturned. It was soon per- 
ceived by the coachman and guard, by the light of 
the lamps, that the assailant was a large lioness. 
A mastiff attacked the beast, which immediately 
left the horse, and turned upon him ; the dog then 
fled, but was pursued and killed by the lioness 
a-bout forty yards from the coach. 

An alarm being given, Ballard and his keepers 

242 The Old Showmen^ 

pursued the lioness to a granary in a farm-yard^ 
where she ran underneath the building, and was 
there barricaded in to prevent her escape. She 
growled for some time so loudly as to be heard half 
a mile distant. The excited spectators called loudly 
to the guard to despatch her with his blunderbuss, 
which he seemed disposed to attempt, but Ballard 
cried put, ^^ For God^s sake, don^t kill her ! She 
cost me five hundred pounds, and she will be as 
quiet as a lamb if not irritated/^ This arrested the 
guard^s hand, and he did not fire. The lioness was 
afterwards easily enticed from beneath the granary 
by the keepers, and taken back to her cage. The 
horse was found to be severely lacerated about the 
neck and chest, the lioness having fastened the 
talons of her fore feet on each side of his throat, 
while the talons of her hind feet were forced into 
his chest, in which position she hung until attacked 
by the dog. Death being inevitable, a fresh horse 
was procured, and the coach proceeded on its 
journey, after having been detained three-quarters 
of an hour. 

A coloured print of this encounter adorns, or did 
thirty years ago adorn, the parlour of the Winters - 
low Hut, and was executed, according to the in- 
scription, from the narrative of Joseph Pike, the 
guard, who, next to the lioness, is the most con-^ 

And the Old London Fairs. 243 

spicuous object in the group. The lioness has 
seized the off leader by the throaty and the guard is 
standing on his seat with a levelled carbine, as if 
about to jfire. In the foreground is the dog, which 
looks small for a mastiff, as if diminished by the 
artist for the purpose of making the lioness appear 
larger by the comparison, as the human figures on 
the show- cloths of the menageries always are. The 
terrified faces in the inside of the coach, and at the 
upper windows of the inn, and the blue coats and 
yellow vests of the outside passengers, each grasp- 
ing an umbrella or a carpet-bag, as if determined 
not to die without a struggle, make up a vivid and 
sensational picture, which would have found imme- 
diate favour with the conductor of the ^Police 
News,^ had such a periodical existed in those days. 

The following year was signalised by the first 
appearance at Bartholomew Fair of the learned pig, 
Toby, who was exhibited by a showman named 
Hoare. There seems to have been a succession of 
learned pigs bearing the same name, on the same 
principle, probably, as Richardson's theatre con- 
tinues to be advertised at Easter or Whitsuntide as 
at the Crystal Palace, or the Agricultural Hall, or 
the Spaniards, at Hampstead Heath, twenty years 
after the component parts of the structure were dis- 
persed under the auctioneer's hammer. 

E 2 

244 The Old Showmen^ 

The wonder of 1818 was an athletic French 
woman, who was advertised as follows : — 

^^ The strongest woman in Europe, the celebrated 
French Female Hercules, Madame Gobert, who will 
lift with her teeth a table five feet long and three 
feet wide, with several persons seated upon it ; also 
carry thirty-six weights, fifty-six pounds each, 
equal to 2016 lbs. and will disengage herself from 
them without any assistance; will carry a barrel 
containing 340 bottles ; also an anvil 400 pounds 
weight, on which they will forge with four hammers 
at the same time she supports it on her stomach; 
she will also lift with her hair the same anvil, swing 
it from the ground, and {Suspend it in that position 
to the astonishment of every beholder; will take 
up a chair by the hind stave with her teeth, and 
throw it over her head ten feet from her body. 
Her travelling caravan (weighing two tons) on its 
road from Harwich to Leominster, owing to the 
neglect of the driver and badness of the road, sunk 
in the mud, nearly to the box of the wheels ; the 
two horses being unable to extricate it, she de- 
scended, and, with apparent ease, disengaged the 
caravan from its situation, without any assistance 

Caulfield says that he visited the show ^^ for the 
purpose of accurately observing her manner of per- 

And the Old London Fairs, 245 

formance^ whicli was by lying extended at length 
on her back on three chairs; pillows wer6 then 
placed over her legs^ thighs, and stomach, over 
those two thick blankets, and then a moderately 
thick deal board ; the thirty- six weights were then 
placed on the board, beginning at the bottom of 
the legs, and extending upwards above the knees 
and thighs, but none approaching towards the sto- 
mach. She held the board on each side with her 
hands, and when the last weight was put on, she 
pushed the board upwards on one side, and tumbled 
the weights to the ground. On the whole, there 
appeared more of trick than of personal strength in 
this feat. Her next performance was raising the 
anvil (which might weigh nearly 200 lbs.) from the 
ground with her hair, which is thick, black, and as 
strong as that in the tail of a horse ; this is platted 
on each side, and fixed to two cords, which are 
attached to the anvil ; then rising from a bending 
to an erect posture, she raises and swings the anvil 
several times backwards and forwards through her 
legs. Her next feat was raising a table with her 
teeth, a slight, rickety thing, made of deal, with a 
bar across the legs, which, upon her grasping it, is 
sustained against her thighs, and enables her more 
easily to swing it round several times, maintaining 
her hold only by her teeth. The chair she makes 

246 The Old Showmen 

nothing of^ but canters it over her head like a play- 
thing. That she is a wonderfully strong woman is 
evident^ but that she can perform what is promised 
in her bills is a notorious untruth. She has an 
infant which now sucks at her breast, about eleven 
months old, that lifts, with very little exertion, a 
quarter of a hundred weight/^ 

Greenwich and Stepney Fairs became popular 
places of resort with the working classes of the 
metropolis during the second decade of the present 
century. Old showmen assert that the former was 
then declining, a state of things which they ascribe 
to the growing popularity of the latter ; and it is 
certain that the number of persons who resort to a 
fair is no criterion of the number, size, and quality 
of the shows by which it is attended, or of the gains 
of the showmen. Croydon Fair was never visited 
by so many thousands of persons as in the years of 
its decadence, which commenced with the opening 
of tho railway ; but the average expenditure of each 
person, so far from increasing in the same propor- 
tion, must have considerably diminished. 

The Easter Fair at Greenwich was the opening 
event of the season, and during its best days 
Eichardson^s theatre always occupied the best po- 
sition. John Cartlitch, the original representative 
of Mazeppa, and James Barnes, afterwards famous 

And the Old London Fairs. 247 

^s the pantaloon of the event Garden pantomimes^ 
were members of Eicliardson^s company at this 
time; and it was joined at Greenwich by Nelson 
Lee, well known to the present generation as an 
enterprising theatrical manager and a prolific pro- 
ducer of pantomimes, but at that time fresh from 
school, with no other experience of theatrical busi- 
ness than he had gained during a brief engagement 
as a supernumerary at the old Royalty to serve as 
the foundation of the fame to which he aspired. 

James and Nelson Lee were the sons of Colonel 
Lee, who commanded a line regiment of infantry 
during the period of the Peninsular war. At their 
father's death, the elder boy was articled to a wine 
merchant in the City of London, but evinced so 
much dislike to trade, and such strong theatrical 
proclivities, that the articles were cancelled, and he 
was placed under the tuition of Bradley, the famous 
swordsman of the Coburg. He declined a second 
time, however, to fulfil his engagement, and, leaving 
Bradley at the expiration of the first year, joined 
Bannister^s circus company, in what capacity my 
researches have failed to show. 

The Whitsuntide Fair at Greenwich was followed 
at this time by a small fair at Deptford, on the 
occasion of the annual official visit of the Master of 
the Trinity House, which was always made on the 

248 The Old Showmen^ 

morrow of the festival of the Trinity. Ealing^ 
Pairlop^ Mitcham^ and Camberwell followed; then 
came Bartholomew; the round of the fairs within 
ten miles of the metropolis being completed by 
Enfield and Croydon. 

Richardson generally proceeded from Ealing to 
Portsmouth^ where the three weeks^ town fair was 
immediately followed by another of a week^s dura- 
tion on Portsdown Hill. One of the many stories 
which are current among showmen and actors of 
his eccentricities of character has its scene at a 
public-house on the Portsmouth road^ at which he 
had, in the preceding year, been refused water and 
provender for his horses, the innkeeper growling 
that he had been ^^ dona^^ once by a showman, and 
did not want to have anything more to do with 
show folks. Richardson bore the insult in his 
mind, and on approaching the house again sent his 
company forward, desiring each to order a glass of 
brandy-and- water, but not to touch it until he 
joined them. Twenty glasses of brandy-and-water, 
all wanted at once, was an unprecedented demand 
upon that roadside hostelry; and the landlord, as 
he summoned all his staff to assist him, wondered 
what could be the cause of such an influx of visitors. 
While the beverage was being concocted the wag- 
gons came up, with Richardson walking at the 

And the Old London Fairs, 249 

^^ Here we are, governor ! ^^ exclaimed one of the 
actors, who had, in the meantime, strolled out upon 
a little green before the inn. 

^^ Hullo ! ^^ said Richardson, affecting surprise. 
"I thought you had gone on to the Black Bull. 
What are you all doing here ? ^^ 

^^ Waiting for you to pay for the brandy-and- 
water, governor,^^ replied the comedian. 

^^ Not if I know it ! ^^ returned Richardson, with a 
scowl at the expectant innkeeper. ^^ That^s the 
crusty fellow that wouldn^t give the poor beasts a 
pail of water and a mouthful of hay last year, and 
not a shilling of my money shall ever go into hi& 
pocket. So come on, my lads, and Fll stand 
glasses all round at the Black BuU.^^ 

And with these words he strode on, followed by 
his company, leaving the disappointed innkeeper 
aghast behind his twenty glasses of brandy-and- 

At Portsmouth some dissension arose between 
Richardson and William Cooke, whose equestrians,, 
as the consequence or the cause, paraded in front of 
the theatre, and prevented free access to it. 

^^We must move them chaps from before our 
steps, Lewis,^^ said Richardson to his stage-man- 
ager; and having a basket-horse among his pro- 
perties, he had some squibs and crackers affixed to 

.250 The Old Showmen. 

it^ and sent one of the company to caper in it in the 
rear of Cookers horses. 

Very few of the horses used for circus parades 
being trained for the business of the ring, the fire- 
works no sooner began to fizz and bang than the 
equine obstructives became so restive that Cooke 
found it expedient to recall them to his own parade 

Richardson always returned to the metropolis for 
Bartholomew Pair, where the shows were, in 1820, 
arranged for the first time in the manner described 
by Hone five years later. They had previously 
formed a block on the site of the sheep-pens ; but 
this year swings and roundabouts were excluded, so 
as to preserve the area open, and the shows were 
built round the sides of the quadrangle. As the 
fair existed at this time, there were small uncovered 
stalls from the Skinner Street corner of Giltspur 
Street, along the whole length of the churchyard; 
and on the opposite side of Giltspur Street there 
were like stalls from the Newgate Street corner, 
along the front of the Compter prison. At these 
stalls were sold fruit, oysters, toys, gingerbread, 
baskets, and other articles of trifling value. They 
were held by the small fry of the stall-keeping fra- 
ternity, who lacked means to pay for space and 
furnish out a tempting display. The fronts of these 

And the Old London Fairs. 2^ i 

•standings were towards the passengers in the 

Then, with occasional distances of three or four 
feet for footways from the road to the pavement, 
began lines of covered stalls, with their open fronts 
opposite the fronts of the houses and close to the 
tjurbstone, and their enclosed backs to the road. 
On the St. Sepulchre^s side they extended to Cock 
Lane, and thence to the Smithfield corner of Gilt- 
spur Street, then, turning the corner into Smith- 
field, they extended to Hosier Lane, and from 
thence all along the west side of Smithfield to Cow 
Lane, where, on that side, they terminated in a 
line with the opposite corner leading to St. John 
Street, where the line was resumed, and continued 
to Smithfield Bars, and there, on the west side, 
«nded. Crossing over to the east side, and return- 
ing south, these covered stalls commenced opposite 
to their termination on the west, and ran towards 
Smithfield, turning into which they extended 
-westerly towards the pig-market, and thence to 
Long Lane, from which point they ran along the 
-east side of Smithfield to the great gate of Cloth 
Fair. From Duke Street they continued along the 
south side to the great front gate of St. Bartholo- 
mew's Hospital, and from thence to the carriage 
^entrance of the hospital, from whence they ex- 

2^2 The Old Showmen^ 

tended along Giltspur Street to the Compter, where 
they joined the uncovered stalls. 

These covered stalls, thus surrounding Smith- 
field, belonged to dealers in gingerbread, toys, 
hardwares, pocketbooks, trinkets, and articles of all 
prices, from a halfpenny to ten shillings. The 
largest stalls were those of the toy-sellers, some 
of which had a frontage of twenty-five feet, and 
many of eighteen feet. The frontage of the ma- 
jority of the stalls was eight to twelve feet ; they 
were six or seven feet high in front, and five at the 
back, and all formed of canvas stretched upon a 
light frame- work of wood ; the canvas roofs sloped 
to the backs, which were enclosed by canvas to the 
ground. The fronts were open to the thronging 
passengers, for whom a clear way was preserved on 
the pavements between the stalls and the houses, all 
of which, necessarily, had their shutters up and 
their doors closed. 

The shows had their fronts towards the area of ^ 
Smith field, and their backs to the backs of the 
stalls, without any passage between them in any 
part. The area of Smithfield was thus entirely open, 
and persons standing in the carriage-way could 
see all the shows at one view. They surrounded 
Smithfield entirely, except on the north side. 
Against the pens in the centre there were no shows. 

And the Old London Fairs. 253 

the space between being kept free for spectators 
and persons making their way to the exhibitions. 
Yet, although no vehicle of any kind was permitted 
to pass, this immense carriage-way was always so 
thronged as to be almost impassable. Officers 
were stationed at the Giltspur Street^ Hosier Lane, 
and Duke Street entrances to prevent carriages and 
horsemen from entering, the only ways by which 
these were allowed ingress to Smithfield being 
through Cow Lane, Chick Lane, Smithfield Bars, 
and Long Lane ; and they were to go on and pass, 
without stopping, through one or other of these 
entrances, and without turning into the body of the 
fair. The city officers, to whom was committed the 
execution of these regulations, enforced them with 
rigour, never swerving from their instructions, but 
giving no just ground of offence to those whom the 
regulations displeased. 

The shows were very numerous this year. There 
were four menageries, the proprietors of which are 
not named in the newspapers of the day, which 
inform us further that there was ^*^the usual 
variety of conjurors, wire-dancers, giants, dwarfs, 
fat children, learned pigs, albinoes, &c.^^ Ballard, 
Wombwell, and Atkins were probably among the 
menagerists, thougjj I have found no bill or other 
memorial of either of the two great menageries of 

254 The Old Showmen. 

the second quarter of the eighteenth century of an 
earlier date than 1825. 

Gyngell, hke Richardson, never missed Bartholo- 
mew Pair in those days ; and he was now supported 
by a clever grown-up family, consisting of Joseph, 
who was a good juggler and balancer ; Horatio, 
who, besides being a dancer, was a self-taught 
artist of considerable ability ; George, who was a 
pyrotechnist ; and Louisa, a very beautiful young 
woman and graceful tight-rope dancer, who after- 
wards fell, and broke one of her arms, in ascending 
from the stage of Covent Garden Theatre to the 
gallery. Nelson Lee joined GyngelPs company, on 
the termination of his engagement with Richard- 
son; and, having learned the juggling business 
from a Frenchman in the troupe, shortly afterwards 
exhibited his skill at the Adelphi, and other London 


Saker and the Lees — Richardson's Theatre — Wombwell, the 
Menagerist — The Lion Fights at Warwick — Maughan, the 
Showman — Miss Hipson, the Fat Girl — Lydia Walpole,. 
the Dwarf — The Persian Giant and the Fair Circassian — 
Ball's Theatre — Atkins's Menagerie — A Mare with Seven 
Feet — Hone's Visit to Richardson's Theatre — Samwell's 
Theatre — Clarke's Circus — ^Brown's Theatre of Arts — ^Bal- 
lard's Menagerie — Toby, the Learned Pig — ^WiUiam White- 
head, the Fat Boy — ^Elizabeth Stock, the Giantess — Chap- 
pell and Pike's Theatre — The Spotted Boy — Wombwell's 
" Bonassus " — Gouffe, the Man-Monkey — ^De Berar's Phan- 
tasmagoria — Scowton's Theatre — ^Death of Richardson. 

Nelson Lee had just completed a round of en- 
gagements at the London theatres when^ in 1822, 
his brother, having terminated his engagement with 
Bannister^s circus, came to the metropolis, and 
fitted up an unoccupied factory in the Old Kent 
Eoad as a theatre. Nelson joined him in the enter- 

11^6 The Old Showmen^ 

prisGj which for a time was tolerably successful; 
but they had omitted the requisite preliminary of 
obtaining a licence, and one night a strong force 
of constables invaded the theatre, and arrested 
every one present, audience as well as actors, with 
one exception. Saker, who afterwards won some 
distinction as a comedian, ascended into a loft on 
the first alarm, and drew up the ladder by which he 
had escaped. When all was quiet, he descended, 
and left the building through a window. The 
watch-houses of Southwark, Newington, Camberwell, 
and Greenwich were filled with the offenders, most 
of whom, however, were discharged on the following 
day, while the Lees, who pleaded ignorance of the 
law, escaped with a small fine. 

The same year witnessed the final performances 
of "Lady Holland's Mob.'' About five thousand 
of the rabble of the City assembled in the neigh- 
bourhood of Skinner Street, about midnight of the 
eve of St. Bartholomew, and roared and rioted till 
between three and four o'clock next morning, 
without interference from the watch or the con- 
stables. From this time, however, this annual 
Saturnalia was not observed, or was observed so 
mildly that the newspapers contain no record of 
the circumstance. 

In 1823, Richardson presented his patrons with 

And the Old Londo7i Fairs. 257 

a drama called The Virgin Bride, and an extrava- 
ganza entitled Tom, Logic, and Jerry, founded upon 
Moncrieff^s drama^ and concluding with a pano- 
rama of the metropolis. On the third day^ a 
romantic drama called The Wanderer was sub- 

WombwelPs menagerie comes prominently into 
notice about this time. Its proprietor is said to 
have begun life as a cobbler in Monmouth Street^ 
Seven Dials, then a famous mart of the second-hand 
clothes trade^ and now called Dudley Street. The 
steps by which he subsequently advanced to the 
position of an importer of wild animals and pro- 
prietor of one of the largest and finest collections 
that ever travelled are unknown; but that he 
preceded Jamrach and Rice in the former vocation 
is proved by the existence of a small yellow card, 
bearing the device of a tiger, and the inscription — 
Wild Beast Merchant, 
Commercial Road, 

All sorts of Foreign Animals, Birds, ^c, bought, 
sold, or exchanged, at the Repository, or the Tra^ 
veiling Menagerie, 

Wombwell never missed Bartholomew Fair, as 
long as it continued to be held, but a story is told 

258 The Old Showmen^ 

of him wliicli shows that he was once very near 
doing so. His menagerie was at Newcastle-on-Tyne 
within a fortnight of the time when it should be in 
Smithfield^ and it did not seem possible to reach 
London in time ; but^ being in the metropolis on 
some business connected with his Commercial Eoad 
establishment^ he found that Atkins was advertising 
that his menagerie would be ^^ the only wild beast 
show in the fair/^ The rivalry which appears to 
have existed at that time between the two great 
menagerists prompted Wombwell to post down to 
Newcastle^ and immediately commence a forced 
march to London. By making extraordinary exer- 
tions^ he succeeded in reaching the metropolis on 
the morning of the first day of the fair. But his 
elephant had exerted itself so much on the journey 
that it died within a few hours after its arrival on the 

Atkins heard by some means of his rivaPs loss, and 
immediately placarded the neighbourhood with the 
announcement that his menagerie contained ^Hhe 
only living elephant in the fair.^^ Wombwell re- 
solved that his rival should not make capital of his 
loss in this manner, and had a long strip of canvas 
painted with the words — ^^ The only dead elephant 
in the fair.^^ This bold bid for public patronage 
proved a complete success. A dead elephant was a 

And the Old London Fairs, 259 

greater rarity than a live one^ and his show was 
crowded every day of the fair^ while Atkinses was 
comparatively deserted. The keen rivalry which 
this story illustrates did not endure for ever^ for^ 
during the period of my earliest recollections^ from 
forty to fifty years ago, the two great menageries 
never visited Croydon Pair together, their pro- 
prietors agreeing to take that popular resort in 
their tours in alternate years . 

I never failed, in my boyhood, to visit Wombwell^s, 
or Atkinses show, whichever visited Croydon Fair, 
and could never sufficiently admire the gorgeously- 
uniformed bandsmen, whose brazen instruments 
brayed and blared from noon till night on the ex- 
terior platform, and the immense pictures, suspended 
from lofty poles, of elephants and giraffes, lions and 
tigers, zebras, boa constrictors, and whatever else 
was most wonderful in the brute creation, or most 
susceptible of brilliant colouring. The difference in 
the scale to which the zoological rarities within 
were depicted on the canvas, as compared with the 
figures of men that were represented, was a very 
characteristic feature of these pictorial displays. 
The boa constrictor was given the girth of an ox, 
and the white bear should have been as large as an 
elephant, judged by the size of the sailors who were 
attacking him among his native ice-bergs. 


^6o The Old Showmen^ 

I have a perfect recollection of WombwelVs two 
famous lions, Nero and Wallace, and their keeper, 
*^ Manchester Jack/^ as he was called, who used to 
enter Nero's cage, and sit upon the animal, open 
his mouth, etc. It is said that, when Van Amburgh 
arrived in England with his trained lions, tigers, 
and leopards, arrangements were made for a trial 
of skill and daring between him and Manchester 
Jack, which was to have taken place at Southampton, 
but fell through, owing to the American showing 
the white feather. The story seems improbable, 
for Van Amburgh's daring in his performances has 
never been excelled. 

Lion-tamers, like gymnasts, are generally killed 
half-a-dozen times by rumour, though they die in 
their beds in about the same proportion as other 
men ; and I remember hearing an absurd story 
which conferred upon Manchester Jack the unen- 
viable distinction of having his head bitten off by a 
lion. He was said to have been exhibiting the 
fool-hardy trick, with which Van Amburgh's name 
was so much associated, of putting his head in the 
lion's mouth, and to have been awakened to a sense 
of his temerity and its consequences by hearing the 
animal growl, and feeling its jaw close upon his 

" Does he whisk his tail, Bill ? '' he was reported 

And the Old London Fairs. 26 1 

to have said to another keeper while in this horrid 
ble situation. 

^^Yes/' replied Bill. 

^^ Then I am a dead man ! *^ groaned Manchester 

A moment afterwards^ the lion snapped its for- 
midable jaws^ and bit off the keeper^s head. Such 
was the story ; but it is contradicted by the fact 
that Manchester Jack left the menagerie with a 
whole skin^ and for many years afterwards kept 
an inn at Taunton^ where he died in 1 865. 

Nero^s tameness and docility made him a public 
favourite, but the ^^ lion/^ far excellence, of Womb- 
welPs show, after the lion-baitings at Warwick, was 
Wallace. At the time when the terrible death of 
the lion-tamer, Macarthy, had invested the subject 
with extraordinary interest, a narrative appeared in 
the columns of a metropolitan morning journal, 
purporting to relate the experiences of " an ex-lion 
king,^^ in which the story of these combats was 
revived, but in a manner not easily reconciled 
with the statement of the man who communicated 
his reminiscences to the ^^ special commissioner ^^ 
of the journal in question, that he knew the animals 
and their keeper. 

^^ Did you ever,^^ the ex -lion king was reported 
to have said, ^^ hear of old Wallace^s fight with the 

262 The Old Showmen^ 

dogs ? George Wombwell was at very low water, 
and not knowing how to get his head up again, he 
thought of a fight between an old lion he had — 
sometimes called Wallace, sometimes Nero — and a 
dozen of mastiff dogs. Wallace was as tame as a 
sheep ; I knew him well — I wish all lions were like 
him. The prices of admission ranged from a guinea 
up to five guineas, and every seat was taken, and 
had the menagerie been three times as large it 
would have been full. It was a queer go, and no 
mistake ! Sometimes the old lion would scratch a 
lump out of a dog, and sometimes the dogs would 
make as if they were going to worry the old lion ; but 
neither side showed any serious fight, and at length 
the patience of the audience got exhausted, and 
they went away in disgust. George^s excuse was, 
' We can^t make ^em fight, can we, if they won^t ? ^ 
There was no getting over this, and George cleared 
over two thousand pounds by the night^s work.^^ 

According to the newspaper reports of the 
time, two of these lion- baitings took place ; 
and some vague report or dim recollection of 
the events as they actually occurred seems to 
have been in the mind of the ^^ ex-lion king ^^ when 
he gave the preceding account of them. The com- 
bats were said to have originated in a bet between 
two sporting gentlemen, and the dogs were not a 

And the Old London Fairs. 263 

-dozen mastiffs^ but six bull-dogs^ and attacked the 
lion in ^^ heats ^^ of three. The first fight^ the 
incidents of which were similar in character to those 
described in the foregoing story, was between Nero 
«;nd the dogs, and took place in July, 1825; at 
which time the menagerie was located in the Old 
Factory Yard, in the outskirts of Warwick, on the 
Toad to Northampton. This not being considered 
satisfactory and conclusive, a second encounter was 
arranged, in which Wallace, a younger animal, was 
substituted for the old lion, with very different 
results. Every dog that faced the lion was killed 
or disabled, the last being carried about in Wallace^s 
mouth as a rat is by a terrier or a cat. 

Shows had been excluded from Greenwich Fair 
this year, and Bartholomew's was looked forward 
to by the showmen as the more likely on that 
account to yield an abundant harvest. Hone says 
that Greenwich Fair was this year suppressed by 
the magistrates, and the absence of shows may be 
regarded as evidence of some bungling and wrong- 
headed interference ; but a score of booths for drink- 
ing and dancing were there, only two of which, 
Algar's and the Albion, made any charge for ad- 
mission to the "assembly room,'' the charge for 
tickets at these being a shilling and sixpence re- 
spectively. Algar's was three hundred and twenty- 

264 The Old Showmen^ 

three feet long by sixty wide, seventy feet of the 
length constituting the refreshment department, and 
the rest of the space being devoted to dancing, to 
the music of two harps, three violins, bass viol, two 
clarionets, and flute. 

According to the account preserved in Honeys 
'■ Everyday Book,^ the number of shows assembled in 
Smithfield this year was twenty-two, of which, one 
was a theatre for dramatic performances, five theatres 
for the various entertainments usually given in 
circuses, four menageries, one an exhibition of glass-- 
blowing, one a peep-show, one a mare with seven feet, 
and the remaining nine, exhibitions of giants, dwarfs, 
albinoes, fat children, etc. Of course, the theatre 
was Richardson's, and the following bill was posted 
on the exterior, and given to every one who asked 
for it on entering : — 

*>jc* Change of Performance each Day, 
This day will be performed, an entire new Melo-- 
Drama, called the 

'' Wandering Outlaw ; 
or, the Hour of Retribution. 

^^ Gustavus, Elector of Saxony, Mr, Wright, Or- 
sina. Baron of Holstein, Mr, Cooper, Ulric and 
Albert, Vassals to Orsina, Messrs, Grove and Moore. 
St. Clair, the Wandering Outlaw, Mr, Smith.. 

And the Old London Fairs. 265 

Rinalda, the Accusing Spirit, Mr. Darling. Monks, 
Vassals, Hunters, &c. Rosabella, Wife to the Out- 
law, Mrs. Smith. Nuns and Ladies. 

" The Piece concludes with the Death of Oesina,. 
and the Appearance of the 


^^ The Entertainments to conclude with a Neiu 
Gomic Harlequinade^ with New Scenery ^ Tricks, 
Dresses, and Decorations, called. 

^^ Harlequin Faustus ! 


Devil will have his own. 
^^ Luciferno, Mr. Thomas. Daemon Amozor, after- 
wards Pantaloon, Mr. Wilkinson. Daemon Ziokos, 
afterwards Clown, Mr. Hayward. Violoncello Player, 
Mr. Hartem. Baker, Mr. Thompson. Landlord,, 
Mr. Wilkins. Fisherman, Mr. Eae. Doctor Faus- 
tus, afterwards Harlequin, Mr. Salter. Adelada, 
afterwards Columbine, Miss Wilmot. Attendant 
Daemons, Sprites, Fairies, Ballad Singers, Flower 
Girls, &c., &c. 

The Pantomime will finish with 


Painted by the First Artists. 

Boxes, 2s. Pit, Is. Gallery, Q>d.'' 

The theatre had an elevation exceeding thirty- 

266 The Old Showmen^ 

feet^ and occupied a hundred feet in width. The 
back of the exterior platform^ or parade-waggon, 
was formed of green baize_, before which deeply 
fringed crimson curtains were festooned_, except at 
two places where the money-takers sat in wide and 
roomy projections, fitted up like Gothic shrines, with 
columns and pinnacles. Fifteen hundred variegated 
lamps were disposed over various parts of this plat- 
form, some of them depending from the top in the 
shape of chandeliers and lustres, and others in 
wreaths and festoons. A band of ten performers, 
in scarlet dresses, similar to those worn by the 
Queen^s yeomen, played continually, passing alter- 
nately from the parade-waggon and the orchestra, 
and from the interior to the open air again. 

The auditorium was about a hundred feet long, 
and thirty feet wide, and was hung with green 
baize and crimson festoons. The seats were rows 
of planks, rising gradually from the ground at the 
end, and facing the stage, without any distinction 
of boxes, pit, or gallery. The stage was elevated, 
and there was a painted proscenium, with a green 
curtain, and the royal arms above, and an orchestra 
lined with crimson cloth. Between the orchestra 
and the bottom row of seats was a large space, 
which, after the seats were filled, and greatly to the 
discomfiture of the lower seat-holders, was nearly 

And the Old London Fairs. 267 

occupied by spectators. There were at least a thou- 
sand persons present on the occasion of Hone's 

" The curtain drew up," he says, ^^ and presented 
the Wandering Outlaw, with a forest scene and a 
€ottage ; the next scene was a castle ; the third was 
another scene in the forest. The second act com- 
menced with a scene of an old church and a market- 
place. The second scene was a prison, and a ghost 
appeared to the tune of the evening hymn. The 
third scene was the castle that formed the second 
scene in the first act, and the performance was here 
enlivened by a murder. The fourth scene was rocks, 
with a cascade, and there was a procession to an 
unexecuted execution; for a ghost appeared, and 
saved the Wandering Outlaw from a fierce-looking 
headsman, and the piece ended. Then a plump 
little woman sang, ^He loves, and he rides away,^ 
and the curtain drew up to Harlequin Faustus, 
wherein, after Columbine and a Clown, the most 
flaming character was the devil, with a red face and 
hands, in a red Spanish mantle and vest, red ^ con- 
tinuations,^ stockings and shoes ditto to follow, a 
red Spanish hat and plume above, and a red ^ brass 
bugle horn.^ As soon as the fate of Faustus was 
concluded, the sound of a gong announced the happy 
event, and these performances were, in a quarter of 

268 The Old Showmen^ 

an hour, repeated to another equally intelligent and 
brilliant audience/^ 

John Clarke, an elderly, gentlemanly-looking 
showman, whom I saw a few years afterwards 
^^ mountebanking ^^ on a piece of waste land at Nor- 
wood, and whose memory, in spite of his infirmity 
of temper, is cherished by the existing generation 
of equestrians and acrobats, was here with his circus, 
a large show, with its back against the side of 
SamwelFs, and its front in a line with Hosier Lane, 
and therefore looking towards Smithfield Bars. 
The admission to this show was sixpence. The 
spacious platform outside was lighted with gas, a 
distinction from the other shows in the fair which 
extended to the interior, where a single hoop, about 
two feet six inches in diameter, with little jets of 
gas about an inch and a half apart, was suspended 
over the arena. 

"The entertainment,^^ says Hone, "commenced 
by a man dancing on the tight rope. The rope was 
removed and a light bay horse was mounted by a 
female in trousers, with a pink gown fully frilled, 
flounced, and ribboned, with the shoulders in large 
puffs. While the horse circled the ring at full 
speed, she danced upon him, and skipped with a 
hoop like a skipping-rope ; she performed other 
dexterous feats, and concluded by dancing on the 

And the Old London Fairs. 269 

saddle with a flag in eacli hand, while the horse 
flew round the ring with great velocity. These 
and the subsequent performances were enlivened 
by tunes from a clarionet and horn, and jokes from 
a clown, who, when she had concluded, said to an 
attendant, ^Now, John, take the horse oS*, and 
whatever you do, rub him down well with a 
cabbage/ Then a man rode and danced on an- 
other horse, a very fine animal, and leaped from 
him three times over garters, placed at a consider- 
able height and width apart, alighting on the 
horse^s back while he was going round. This rider 
was remarkably dexterous. 

^^ In conclusion, the clown got up, and rode with 
many antic tricks, till, on the sudden, an apparently 
drunken fellow rushed from the audience into the 
ring, and began to pull the clown from the horse. 
The manager interfered, and the people cried, 
^ Turn him out ; ^ but the man persisted, and the 
clown getting off, offered to help him up, and threw 
him over the horse^s back to the ground. At 
length the intruder was seated, with his face to the 
tail, though he gradually assumed a proper position, 
and, riding as a man thoroughly intoxicated would 
ride, fell off; he then threw off his hat and great 
coat, and his waistcoat, and then an under waist- 
coat, and a third, and a fourth^ and more than a 

270 The Old Skowme7t^ 

dozen waistcoats. Upon taking off the last_, his 
trousers fell down, and he appeared in his shirt; 
whereupon he crouched, and drawing his shirt off 
in a twinkling, appeared in a handsome fancy dress, 
leaped into the saddle, rode standing with great 
grace, received great applause, made his bows, and 
so the performance concluded/^ 

The remainder of the shows of this class charged 
a penny only for admission. Of SamwelFs, Hone 
says, — ^^ I paid my penny to the money -taker, a 
slender ^fine lady,^ with three feathers in a ^jewelled 
turban,^ and a dress of blue and white muslin, and 
silver ; and within-side I saw the ' fat, contented, 
easy ^ proprietor, who was arrayed in corresponding 
magnificence. If he loved leanness, it was in ^ his 
better half,^ for himself had none of it. Obesity had 
disqualified him for activity, and therefore in his 
immensely tight and large satin jacket, he was, as 
much as possible, the active commander of his 
active performers. He superintended the dancing 
of a young female on the tight rope. Then he an- 
nounced ^ A little boy will dance a horn-pipe on 
the rope,^ and he ordered his ^ band ^ inside to play ; 
this was obeyed without difficulty, for it merely 
consisted of one man, who blew a hornpipe tune on 
a Pan^s-pipe ; while it went on, the little boy danced 
on the tight rope ; so far it was a hornpipe dance. 

And the Old London Fairs. 271 

and no farther. ^ The Httle boy will stand on his^ 
head on the rope/ said the manager ; and the little 
boy stood on his head accordingly. Then another 
female danced on the slack wire ; and after her 
came a horse, not a dancing horse, but a ^ learned' 
horse, quite as learned as the horse at BalPs 

At the show last mentioned was a man who 
balanced chairs on his chin, and holding a knife in 
his mouth, balanced a sword on the edge of the 
knife ; he then put a pewter plate on the hilt of the 
sword horizontally, and so balanced the sword with 
the plate on the edge of the knife as before, the 
plate having previously had imparted to it a rotary 
motion, which it communicated to the sword, and 
preserved during the balance. He also balanced 
the sword and plate in like manner, with a crown- 
piece placed edge-wise between the point of the 
sword and the knife ; and afterwards with two 
crown-pieces, and then with a key. These feats 
were accompanied by the jokes and grimaces of a 
clown, and succeeded by an acrobatic performance 
by boys, and a hornpipe by the lady of the company. 
Then a learned horse was introduced, and, as de- 
sired by his master, indicated a lady who wished to 
be married, a gentleman who preferred a quart %f 
ale to a sermon, a lady who liked lying in bed when 

272 The Old Showmen^ 

«lie should be up, and other persons of various 
proclivities amusing to the rest of the spectators. 

Chappell and Pikers was a very large show, fitted 
up after the manner of Richardson^s, with a parade, 
on which a clown and several acrobats in tights and 
trunks, and young ladies in ballet costume, alter- 
nately promenaded and danced, until the interior 
filled, and the performances commenced. These 
consisted of tumbling, slack-rope dancing, etc., as 
at BalFs, but better executed. The names of these 
showmen do not appear again in the records of the 
London fairs, from which it may be inferred that 
the show was a new venture, and failed. There was 
a performer named Chappell in the company of 
Eichardson^s theatre, while under the management 
of Nelson Lee ; but whether related to the show- 
man of 1825 I am unable to say. 

The performances of " Brown^s Grand Troop, 
from Paris,^^ commenced with an exhibition of 
conjuring; among other tricks, the conjurer gave 
a boy beer to drink out of a funnel, making him 
blow through it to show that it was empty, and 
afterwards applying it to each of the boy^s ears, 
from whence, through the funnel, the beer appeared 
to reflow, and poured on the ground. Afterwards 
girls danced on the single and double slack wire, 
and a melancholy-looking clown, among other 

And the Old London Fairs, 273 

things, said they were '^ as clever as the barber and 
blacksmith who shaved magpies at twopence a 
dozen/' The show concluded with a learned 

The menageries of Wombwell and Atkins were 
two of the largest shows in the fair. The back of 
the former abutted on the side of Chappell and 
Pike's theatre, on the north side of Smithfield, with 
the front looking towards Giltspur Street, at which 
avenue it was the first show. The front was 
entirely covered with painted show- cloths repre- 
senting the animals, with the proprietor's name in 
immense letters above, and the inscription, " The 
Conquering Lion," very conspicuously displayed. 
There were other show-cloths along the whole 
length of the side, surmounted by this inscription, 
stretching out in one line of large capital letters, 
^^ Nero and Wallace, the same lions that fought at 
Warwick." One of the front show-cloths re- 
presented the second fight ; a lion stood up, with a 
bleeding dog in his mouth, and his left fore paw 
resting upon another dog. A third dog was in the 
act of flying at him ferociously, and one, wounded 
and bleeding, was retreating. There were seven 
other show-cloths on this front, with the inscription 
^^ Nero and Wallace " between them. One of these 
show-cloths, whereon'^the monarch of the forest was 


274 The Old Showmen^ 

painted^ was inscribed^ ^^ Nero^ the Great Lion, from 

WombwelFs collection comprised at this time four 
lions and a lioness^ two leopardesses^ with cubs, a 
hyena, a bitch wolf and cubs, a polar bear, a pair of 
zebras, two onagers or wild asses, and a large assort- 
ment of monkeys and exotic birds. The bills an* 
nounced ^^ a remarkably fine tigress in the same den 
with a noble British lion ; ^^ but Hone notes that 
this conjunction, the announcement of which was 
probably suggested by the attractiveness of the lion- 
tiger cubs and their parents in Atkinses menagerie, 
was not to be seen in reality. The combats at 
Warwick produced a strong desire on the part of the 
public to see the lions who had figured in them, 
and the menagerie was crowded each day from morn 
till night. ^^ Manchester Jack " entered Nero^s cage, 
and invited the visitors to follow, which many ven- 
tured to do, paying sixpence for the privilege, on his 
assurance that they might do so with perfect safety. 

Hone complains of the confusion and disorder 
which prevailed, and which are inseparable from a 
crowd, and may be not uncharitably suspected of 
being exaggerated in some degree by the evident 
prejudice which had been created in his mind by the 
lion-baitings at Warwick. It is certain, however, 
that gardens like those of the Zoological Society 

And the Old London Fairs. 275 

afford conditions for the health and comfort of the 
animals, and for their exhibition to the public, much 
more favourable than can be obtained in the best 
regulated travelling caravan, or in buildings such as 
the Tower menagerie and Exeter Change. It is 
impossible to do justice to animals which are cooped 
within the narrow limits of a travelling show, or in 
any place which does not admit of thorough ventila- 
tion. Apart from the impracticability of allowing 
sufficient space and a due supply of air, a consider- 
able amount of discomfort to the animals is insepa- 
rable from continuous jolting about the country in 
caravans, and from the braying of brass bands and 
the glare of gas at evening exhibitions. 

It took even the Zoological Society some time to 
learn the conditions most favourable to the main- 
tenance of the mammal tribes of tropical countries in 
a state of health, while subject to the restraint neces- 
sary for their safe keeping. Too much importance 
was at first attached to warming the cages in which 
the monkeys and camivora of India and Africa were 
kept, and too little to ventilating them. I remember 
the time when the carnivora-house in the Society^s 
gardens was a long, narrow building, with double 
folding-doors at each end, and a range of cages on 
each side. The cages were less than half the size of 
the light and lofty apartments now appropriated to 


!276 The Old Showmen^ 

the same species, and were artificially heated to such 
a degree that the atmosphere resembled that of the 
small glass-house in Kew Gardens in which the paper- 
reed and other examples of the aquatic vegetation 
of tropical countries are grown, and was rendered 
more stifling by the strong ammoniacal odour which 
constantly prevaded it. 

It was found, however, that the mortality among 
the animals, notwithstanding all the care that was 
taken to keep them warm, was very great ; and the 
idea gradually dawned upon the minds of the 
Council of the Society that ventilation might be 
more conducive to the health and longevity of the 
animals than any amount of heat. As lions and 
tigers, leopards and hyenas, baboons and monkeys, 
live, in a state of nature, in the open air of their 
native forests, the imperfect ventilation of the old 
carnivora-house and monkey-house seemed, when 
once the idea was broached, to be a very likely 
•cause of the excessive mortality, which, as lions and 
tigers cost from a hundred and fifty to two hundred 
and fifty pounds, was a constant source of heavy 
demands upon the Society^s funds. It was deter- 
mined, therefore, to try the experiment of construct- 
ing larger cages, and admitting the pure external 
air to them ; and the results were so satisfactory 
that everybody wondered that the improved hygienic 
<3onditions had not been thought of before. 

And the Old London Fairs. 277 

Atkins had a very fine collection of the feline 
genus^ and was famous for the production of hybrids 
between the lion and the tigress. The cubs so pro- 
duced united some of the external characteristics of 
both parents, their colour being tawny, marked 
while they were young with darker stripes, such as 
may be observed in black kittens, the progeny of 
a tabby cat. These markings disappeared, however, 
as the lion-tigers approached maturity, at which 
time the males had the mane entirely deficient, or 
very little developed. I remember seeing a male 
puma and a leopardess in the same cage in this, 
menagerie, but I am unable to state whether the 
. union was fruitful. 

The display of show-cloths on the outside of this 
menagerie extended about forty feet in length, 
and the proprietor's name flamed along the front in 
coloured lamps. A brass band of eight performers,, 
wearing scarlet tunics and leopard-skin caps, played 
on the outside; and Atkins shouted from time fe 
time, " Don't be deceived ! The great perforn 
elephant is liere ; also the only lion and tigress : 
one den to be seen in the fair, or I'll forfeit a 
sand guineas ! Walk up ! — walk up ! '' itS 

The following singularly descriptive bill w»v- 
posted on the outside and wherever else it could 
be displayed : — 

278 The Old Showmen^ 

^^more wondeks in 

Atkins's Royal Menagerie. 

Under the Patronage of His Majesty. 

G. W^^^ B. 

^^ Wonderful Phenomenon in Nature ! The sin- 
gular and hitherto deemed impossible occurrence of 
a Lion and Tigress cohabiting and producing young, 
has actually taken place in this menagerie, at Wind- 
sor. The tigress, on Wednesday, the 27th of Oc- 
tober last, produced iliree fine cuhs ; one of them 
strongly resembles the tigress ; the other two are 
of a lighter colour, but striped. Mr. Atkins had 
the honour (through the kind intervention of the 
Marquis of Conyngham) of exhibiting the lion- 
tigers to His Majesty, on the first of November, 
1824, at the Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park; 
when His Majesty was pleased to observe, they 
were the greatest curiosity of the beast creation 
jbe had ever witnessed. 

{{:■ '''The royal striped Bengal Tigress has again 
fphelped three fine cubs, (April 22,) two males and 
^e female ; the males are white, but striped ; the 
female resembles the tigress, and, singular to observe, 
she fondles them with all the care of an attentive 
mother. The sire of the young cubs is the noble 

And the Old London Fairs. 279 

male lion. This remarkable instance of subdued 
temper and association of animals to permit the 
keeper to enter their den^ and introduce their 
young to the spectators, is the greatest phenomenon 
in natural philosophy. 

^^ That truly singular and wonderful animal, the 
AuROCHOS. Words can only convey but a very 
confused idea of this animaFs shape, for there are 
few so remarkably formed. Its head is furnished 
with two large horns, growing from the forehead, 
in a form peculiar to no other animal; from the 
nostrils to the forehead is a stifif tuft of hair, and 
underneath the jaw to the neck is a similar brush 
of hair, and between the forelegs is hair growing 
about a foot and a half long. The mane is like that 
of a horse, white, tinged with black, with a beau- 
tiful long flowing white tail; the eye remarkably 
keen, and as large as the eye of the elephant : 
colour of the animal, dark chesnut ; the appearance 
of the head, in some degree similar to the buffalo, 
and in some part formed like the goat, the hoof 
being divided ; such is the general outline of this 
quadruped, which seems to partake of several 
species. This beautiful animal was brought ovetr 
by Captain White, from the south of Africa, aild 
landed in England, September 20th, 1823 ; and is 
ihe same animal so frequently mistaken by travellers 

28o The Old Showmen^ 

for the unicorn : further to describe its peculiarities 
would occupy too much space in a handbill. The 
only one in England. 

^^ That colossal animal^ the wonderful performing 
Upwards of ten feet high ! ! Five tons weight ! ! 
His consumption of hay, corn, straw, carrots, water, 
&c., exceeds 800 lbs. daily. The elephant, the 
human race excepted, is the most respectable of 
animals. In size, he surpasses all other terrestrial 
creatures, and by far exceeds any other travelling 
animal in England. He has ivory tusks, four feet 
long, one standing out on each side of his trunk. 
His trunk serves him instead of hands and arms,, 
with which he can lift up and seize the smallest as 
well as the largest objects. He alone drags ma- 
chines which six horses cannot move. To his pro- 
digious strength, he adds courage, prudence, and an 
exact obedience. He remembers favours as well as 
injuries ; in short, the sagacity and knowledge of this 
extraordinary animal are beyond anything human 
imagination can possibly suggest. He will lie down 
and get up at the word of command, notwith- 
standing the many fabulous tales of their having no 
joints in their legs. He will take a sixpence from 
the floor, and place it in a box he has in the caravan ; 
bolt and unbolt a door ; take his keeper^s hat off„ 

And the Old London Fairs. 281 

and replace it ; and by the command of his keeper^ 
will perform so many wonderful tricks that he will 
not only astonish and entertain the audience^ but 
justly prove himself the half-reasoning beast. He 
is the only elephant now travelling. 

" A full grown Lion and Lioness with four cubs^ 
produced December 12, 1824, at Cheltenham. 

^^ Male Bengal Tiger. Next to the lion, the tiger 
is the most tremendous of the carnivorous class ; and 
whilst he possesses all the bad qualities of the former, 
seems to be a stranger to the good ones ; to pride, 
to strength, to courage, the lion adds greatness,, 
and sometimes, perhaps, clemency ; while the tiger, 
without provocation, is fierce — without necessity, is 
'cruel. Instead of instinct, he hath nothing but 
a uniform rage, a blind fury ; so blind, indeed, so 
undistinguishing, that he frequently devours his 
own progeny ; and if the tigress offers to defend 
them he tears in pieces the dam herself. 

^^ The Onagra, a native of the Levant, the eastern 
parts of Asia, and the northern parts of Africa. 
This race differs from the Zebra, by the size of the 
body, (which is larger,) slenderness of the legs, and 
lustre of the hair. The only one now alive in 

'^ Two Zebras, one full grown, the other in its 
infant state, in which it seems as if the works of ari 

282 The Old Showmen^ 

had been combined with those of nature in this 
wonderful production. In symmetry of shape, and 
beauty of colour, it is the most elegant of all quad- 
rupeds ever presented ; uniting the graceful figure 
of a horse, with the fleetness of a stag ; beautifully 
striped with regular lines, black and white. 

^^ A Nepaul Bisony only twenty-four inches high. 

^^ Panther, or spotted tiger of Buenos Ayres, the 
only one travelling. 

" A pair of rattle-tail Forcujpines, 

^^ Striped untamable Hycenay a tiger- wolf. 

'^An elegant Leopard, the handsomest marked 
animal ever seen. 

^^ Spotted Laughing Hycena, the same kind of 
animal described never to be tamed ; but, singular 
to observe, it is perfectly tame, and its attachment 
to a dog in the same den is very remarkable. 

^^ The spotted Gavy, 

^' Pair of Jackalls, 

^^ Pair of interesting Sledge Bogs, brought over by 
Captain Parry from one of the northern expeditions ; 
they are used by the Esquimaux to draw the sledges 
on the ice, which they accomplish with great ve- 

^^ A pair of Rackoons, from North America. 

" The Oggouta, from Java. 

^' A pair of Jennetts, or wild cats. 

And the Old London Fairs. 283 

'^The Coatimondiy or ant-eater. 

^^A pair of those extraordinary and rare birds. 
Pelicans of the wilderness ; the only two alive in the 
three kingdoms. — These birds have been represented 
on all crests and coats of arms, to cut their breasts 
open with the points of their bills, and feed their 
young with their own blood, and are justly allowed by 
all authors to be the greatest curiosity of the 
feathered tribe. 

" Ardea Duhia, or adjutant of Bengal, gigantic 
'Omew, or Linnaeus^s southern ostrich. The pecu- 
liar characteristics that distinguish this bird from 
the rest of the feathered tribe, — it comes from 
Brazil, in the new continent ; it stands from eight 
to nine feet high when full grown ; it is too large to 
fly, but is capable of outrunning the fleetest horses 
of Arabia ; what is still more singular, every quill 
produces two feathers. The only one travelling. 

^^ A pair of rapacious Gondor Minors, from the 
interior of South America, the largest birds of flight 
in the world when full grown ; it is the same kind 
of bird the Indians have asserted to carry off a deer 
or young calf in their talons, and two of them are 
sufficient to destroy a buffalo, and the wings are as 
much as eighteen feet across. 

^^The great Horned Owl of Bohemia. Several 
species of gold and silver pheasants, of the most 

284 The Old Showmen^ 

splendid plumage^ from China and Peru. Yellow- 
crested cockatoo. Scarlet and buff macaws. — 
Admittance to see the whole menagerie, Is. — Chil- 
dren 6cZ. — Open from ten in the forenoon till feed- 
ing-time, half-past nine, 2s.^^ 

Hone says that this menagerie was thoroughly 
clean, and that the condition of the animals told that 
they were well taken care of. The elephant, with his 
head protruded between the stout bars of his house^ 
whisked his proboscis diligently in search of eat- 
ables from the spectators, who supplied him with 
fruit and biscuits, or handed him halfpence which 
he uniformly conveyed by his trunk to a retailer of 
gingerbread, and got his money ^s worth in return. 
Then he unbolted the door to let in his keeper, and 
bolted it after him ; took up a sixpence with his trunk,, 
lifted the lid of a little box fixed against the wall, 
and deposited it within it, and some time afterwards 
relifted the lid, and taking out the sixpence with a 
single motion, returned it to the keeper ; he knelt 
down when told, fired off a blunderbuss, took off 
the keeper^s hat, and afterwards replaced it on his 
head as well as the man^s hand could have done it ; 
in short, he was perfectly docile, and well main- 
tained the reputation of his species for a high 
degree of intelligence. 

" The keeper,^' says Hone, ^^ showed every animal 

And the Old London Fairs. 285 

in an intelligent manner, and answered the questions 
of the company readily and with civility. His 
conduct was rewarded by a good parcel of halfpence 
when his hat went round with a hope that ' the 
ladies and gentlemen would not forget the keeper 
before he showed the lion and tigress/ The latter 
was a beautiful young animal, with playful cubs 
about the size of bull-dogs, but without the least 
fierceness. When the man entered the den, they 
frolicked and climbed about him like kittens; he 
took them up in his arms, bolted them in a back 
apartment, and after playing with the tigress a little, 
threw back a partition which separated her den from 
the lion^s, and then took the lion by the beard. 
This was a noble animal ; he was couching, and 
being inclined to take his rest, only answered the 
keeper^s command to rise by extending his whole 
length, and playfully putting up one of his magni- 
ficent paws, as a cat does when in a good humour. 
The man then took a short whip, and after a smart 
lash or two upon his back, the lion rose with a yawn, 
and fixed his eye on his keeper with a look that 
seemed to say, ^Well, I suppose I must humour 

" The man then sat down at the back of the den, 
with his back at the partition, and after some order- 
ing and coaxing, the tigress sat on his right hand. 

286 The Old Showmen^ 

and the lion on his leffc^ and^ all three being thus 
seated^ he threw his arms round their necks, played 
with their noses, and laid their heads in his lap. 
He rose, and the animals with him; the lion stood 
in a fine majestic position, but the tigress reared, 
and putting one foot over his shoulder, and patting 
him with the other, as if she had been frolicking 
with one of her cubs, he was obliged to check her 
playfulness. Then by coaxing, and pushing him 
about, he caused the lion to sit down, and while in 
that position opened the animaPs ponderous jaws 
with his hands, and thrust his face down into the 
lion^s throat, wherein he shouted, and there held his 
head nearly a minute. After this he held up a 
common hoop for the tigress to leap through, and 
she did it frequently. The lion seemed more diffi- 
cult to move to this sport. He did not appear to be 
excited by command or entreaty ; at last, however, 
he went through the hoop, and having been once 
roused, he repeated the action several times; the 
hoop was scarcely two feet in diameter. The ex- 
hibition of these two animals concluded by the lion 
lying down on his side, when the keeper stretched 
himself to his whole length upon him, and then 
calling to the tigress she jumped upon the man, ex- 
tended herself with her paws upon his shoulders, 
placed her face sideways upon his, and the whole 

And the Old London Fairs. 287 

three lay quiescent till tlie keeper suddenly slipped 
himself off the lion^s side, with the tigress on him^ 
and the trio gambolled and rolled about on the floor 
of the den, like playful children on the floor of a 

^^ Of the beasts there is not room to say more than 
that their number was surprising, considering that 
they formed a better selected collection, and showed 
in higher condition from cleanliness and good feed- 
ing, than any assemblage I ever saw. Their variety 
and beauty, with the usual accessory of monkeys,, 
made a splendid picture. The birds were equally 
admirable, especially the pelicans and the emew. 
This show would have furnished a dozen sixpenny 
shows, at least, to a Bartlemy Fair twenty years ago.^^ 

The other menageries were penny shows. One 
was Ballard^ s, of which the great attraction was still,, 
though nine years had elapsed since the event, the 
lioness which attacked the Exeter mail-coach. The 
collection contained besides a fine lion, a tiger, a 
large polar bear, and several smaller quadrupeds, 
monkeys, and birds. Hone has not preserved the 
name of the owner of the fourth collection, which he 
says was ^^ a really good exhibition of a fine lion, 
with leopards, and various other beasts of the forest. 
They were mostly docile and in good condition. 
One of the leopards was carried by his keeper a 

■288 The Old Showmen^ 

pick-a-back/^ This was probably Morgan^ s, which 
we find at this fair three years later. 

The daily cost of the food of the animals in a 
menagerie is no trifle. The amount of animal food 
required for the carnivora in a first class menagerie 
is about four hundredweight daily, consisting chiefly 
of the shins, hearts, and heads of bullocks. A full- 
grown lion or tiger will consume twelve pounds of 
meat per day, and this is said to have been the 
allowance in WombwelVs menagerie ; but it is more, 
I believe, than is allowed in the gardens of the 
Zoological Society. Bears are allowed meat only 
in the winter, their food at other seasons consisting 
of bread, sopped biscuit, or boiled rice, sweetened 
with sugar. Then there are the elephants, camels, 
antelopes, etc., to be provided for ; and the quantity 
of hay, cabbages, bread, and boiled rice which an 
elephant will consume, in addition to the buns and 
biscuits given to it by the visitors, is, as Dominie 
Sampson would say, prodigious. There is a story 
told of an elephant belonging to a travelling mena- 
gerie which escaped from the stable in which it had 
been placed for the night, and, wanderiug through 
the village, found a baker^s shop open. It pushed 
its head in, and, helping itself with its trunk, 
devoured sixteen four-pound loaves, and was be- 
ginning to empty the glass jars of the sweets they 

And the Old London Fairs. 'aSg 

contained when the arrival of its keeper interrupted 
its stolen repast. 

I now come to the minor exhibitions^ of which 
the first from Hosier Lane, where it stood at the 
corner, was a peep-show, in which rudely painted 
pictures were successively lowered by the showmen, 
and viewed through circular apertures, fitted with 
glasses of magnifying power. A green curtain 
separated the spectators from the outer throng while 
they gazed upon such strangely contrasted scenes 
as the murder of Weare and the Queen of Sheba^s 
visit to Solomon, the execution of Probert and the 
conversion of St. Paul, the Greenland whale fishery 
and the building of Babel, Wellington at Waterloo 
and Daniel in the lions^ den ! 

Next to this stood a show, on the exterior of 
which a man beat a drum with one hand, and played 
a hurdy-gurdy with the other, pausing occasionally 
to invite the gazers to walk up, and see the living 
wonders thus announced on the show-cloths : — ^^ Miss 
Hipson, the Middlesex Wonder, the Largest Child in 
the Kingdom, when yomig the Handsomest Child in . 
the World. — The Persian Giant, — The Fai/r Circassian 
with Silver Hair, — The Female JDivarf, Two Feet 
Eleven Inches high, — Two Wild Indians from the 
Malay Islands in the East,'' When a company had 
collected, the wonders were shown from the floor of 


290 The Old Showmen^ 

a caravan on wheels, one side being taken out, and 
replaced by a curtain, which was drawn or thrown 
back as occasion required. After the audience had 
dispersed, Hone was permitted by the proprietor of 
the show, Nicholas Maughan, of Ipswich, to go 
^^ behind the curtain,^^ where the artist who accom- 
panied him completed his sketches for the illustra- 
tions in the ^ Every-day Book,^ while Hone entered 
into conversation with the persons exhibited. 

^^ Miss Hipson, only twelve years of age, is,^^ he 
says, ^^ remarkably gigantic, or rather corpulent, for 
her age, pretty, well-behaved, and well-informed; 
she weighed sixteen stone a few months before, and 
has since increased in size; she has ten brothers 
and sisters, nowise remarkable in appearance : her 
father, who is dead, was a bargeman at Brentford. 
The name of the ^ little lady ^ is Lydia Walpole ; 
she was born at Addiscombe, near Yarmouth, and 
is sociable, agreeable, and intelligent. The fair 
Circassian is of pleasing countenance and manners. 
The Persian giant is a good-natured, tall, stately 
negro. The two Malays could not speak English, 
except three words, ^ drop o^ rum,^ which they re- 
peated with great glee. One of them, with long 
hair reaching below the waist, exhibited the posture 
of drawing a bow. Mr. Maughan described them 
as being passionate, and showed me a severe wound 

And the Old London Fairs, 291 

on his finger whicli the little one had given him 
by biting^ while he endeavoured to part him and 
his countryman, during a quarrel a few days ago. 
A ^ female giant ^ was one of the attractions of this 
exhibition, but she could not be shown for illness : 
Miss Hipson described her to be a very good young 

^^ There was an appearance of ease and good 
condition, with content of mind, in the persons 
composing this show, which induced me to put 
several questions to them, and I gathered that I 
was not mistaken in my conjecture. They described 
themselves as being very comfortable, and that they 
were taken great care of, and well treated by the 
proprietor, Mr. Maughan, and his partner in the 
show. The ^little lady^ had a thorough good 
character from Miss Hipson as an afiectionate 
creature ; and it seems the females obtained ex- 
ercise by rising early, and being carried out into the 
country in a post-chaise, where they walked, and 
thus maintained their health. This was to me the 
most pleasing show in the fair.^^ 

Between this show and Richardson^ s theatre was 
a small temporary stable, in which was exhibited a 
mare with seven feet : the admission to this sight 
was threepence. The following is a copy of the 
printed bill : — 


292 The Old Showmen, 

^^ To Sportsmen and Naturalists. — ^Now exhibiting, 
one of the greatest living natural curiosities in the 
world ; namely, a thorough-bred chesnut Mare, with 
seven legs ! four years of age, perfectly sound, free 
from blemish, and shod on six of her feet. She is 
very fleet in her paces, being descended from that 
famous horse Julius Caesar, out of a thorough-bred 
race mare descended from Eclipse, and is remark- 
ably docile and temperate. She is the property of 
Mr. J. Checketts, of Belgrave hall, Leicestershire \ 
and will be exhibited for a few days as above. ^^ 

Each of this mare^s hind legs, besides its natural 
foot, had another growing out from the fetlock joint ; 
one of these additions was nearly the size of the 
natural foot; the third and least grew from the 
same joint of the fore leg. Andrews, the exhibitor, 
told Hone that they grew slowly, and that the new 
hoofs were, at first, very soft, and exuded during 
the process of growth. 

The line of shows on the east side of Smithfield, 
commencing at Long Lane, began with an exhibition 
of an Indian woman, a Chinese lady, and a dwarf; 
and next to this stood a small exhibition of wax- 
figures, to which a dwarf and a Maori woman were 
added. On a company being assembled, the show- 
man made a speech : ^^ Ladies and gentlemen, 
before I show you the wonderful prodigies of nature. 

And the Old London Fairs. 293 

let me introduce you to the wonderful works of art ; ^' 
and then he drew a curtain, behind which the wax- 
figures stood. " This/' said he, " ladies and gentle- 
men, is the famous old Mother Shipton; and here 
is the unfortunate Jane Shore, the beautiful mistress 
of Edward the Fourth ; next to her is his Majesty 
Oeorge the Fourth of most glorious memory ; and 
this is Queen Elizabeth in all her glory ; then here 
you have the Princess Amelia, the daughter of his 
late Majesty, who is dead ; this is Mary, Queen of 
Scots, who had her head cut oflF; and this is O'Brien, 
the famous Irish giant ; this man here is Thornton, 
who was tried for the murder of Mary Ashford \ and 
this is the exact resemblance of Othello, the Moor 
of Venice, who was a jealous husband, and depend 
upon it every man who is jealous of his wife will be 
as black as that negro. Now, ladies and gentlemen, 
the two next are a wonderful couple, John and 
Margaret Scott, natives of Dunkeld, in Scotland ; 
they lived about ninety years ago; John Scott 
was a hundred and five years old when he died, and 
Margaret lived to be a hundred and twelve ; and, 
what is more remarkable, there is not a soul 
living can say he ever heard them quarrel/' 

Here he closed the curtain, and while undrawing 
smother, continued his address as follows : " Having 
shown you the dead, I have now to exhibit to you 

294 The Old Showmen^ 

two of the most extraordinary wonders of the living f 
this is the widow of a New Zealand chief, and this 
is the little old woman of Bagxiad; she is thirty- 
inches high, twenty-two years of age^ and a native of 
Boston, in Lincolnshire/' 

The next show announced, for one penny, " The 
Black Wild Indian — The White Indian 
Youth — and the Welsh Dwarf — All Alive ! '^ There 
was this further announcement on the outside : 
^^ The Young American will Perform after the Manner 
of the French Jugglers at Vauxhall Gardens, with 
Balls, Rings, Daggers, 8fc,'^ The Welsh dwarf was 
William Phillips, of Denbigh, fifteen years of age. 
The ^^ White Indian youth '^ was an Esquimaux ; and 
the exhibitor assured the visitors upon his veracity 
that the ^^ black wild Indian woman '' was a Court 
lady of the island of Madagascar. The young 
American was the exhibitor himself, an intelligent 
and clever fellow in a loose striped frock, tied 
round the middle. He commenced his performances 
by throwing up three balls, which he kept constantly 
in the air, as he afterwards did four, and then five,, 
with great dexterity, using his hands, shoulders,^ 
and elbows apparently with equal ease. He after- 
wards threw up three rings, each about four incites 
in diameter, and then four, which he kept in motion 
with similar success. To end his performance, he 

And the Old London Fairs. 295 

produced three knives, which, by throwing up and 
down, he contrived to preserve in the air altogether. 
The young Americ^-n^s dress and knives were very 
similar to those of the Anglo-Saxon glee-man, as 
Strutt has figured them from a MS. in the Cotton 

The inscriptions and paintings on the outside of 
the next show announced " The White Negro y v)ho 
was rescued from her Black Parents by the bravery of 
a British Officer — the only White Negro Girl Alive — 
The Great Giantess and Bwa/rf — Six Curiosities 
Alive ! — Only a Penny to see them All Alive ! ^^ One 
side of the interior was covered by a pictorial repre- 
sentation of a tread-mill, with convicts at work upon 
it, superintended by warders. On the other side 
were several monkeys in cages, an old bear in a 
jacket, and sundry other animals. When a suffi- 
cient number of persons had assembled, a curtain 
was withdrawn, and the visitors beheld the giantess 
and the white negro, whom the showman pronounced 
" the greatest curiosity ever seen — the first that has 
been exhibited since the reign of George II. — ^look 
at her head and hair, ladies and gentlemen, and feel 
it ; there^s no deception — it^s like ropes of wool ! ^^ 
The girl, who had the flat nose, thick lips, and 
peculiarly-shaped skuU of the negro, stooped to 
have her hair examined. It was of a dull flaxen 

296 The Old Showmen^ 

hue, and hung, acccording to Honeys description, 
^* in ropes, of a clothy texture, the thickness of a 
quill, and from four to six inches in length/^ Her 
skin was the colour of an European's. Then there 
stepped forth a little fellow about three feet high, 
in a military dress, with top boots, who ^^ strutted 
his tiny legs, and held his head aloft with not less 
importance than the proudest general officer could 
assume upon his promotion to the rank of field 

The next show was announced as an ^^ exhibition 
of real wonders,'' and the following bill was put 
forth by its proprietor : — 

^^ Eeal Wonders ! 

See and believe. 

Have you seen 

The beautiful Dolphin, 

Tlfie Ferforming Fig, and the Mermaid ? 

If not, pray do ! as the exhibition contains more 

variety than any other in Ed gland. Those ladies 

and gentlemen who may be pleased to honour it 

with a visit will be truly gratified. 


The Swinish Philosopher , and. Ladies' Fortune 

That beautiful animal appears to be endowed with 
the natural sense of the human race. He is in 

And the Old London Fairs. 297 

colour the most beautiful of his race ; in symmetry 
the most perfect ; in temper the most docile \ and 
far exceeds anything yet seen for his intelligent 
performances. He is beyond all conception : he 
has a perfect knowledge of the alphabet, understands 
arithmetic, and will spell and cast accounts, tell the 
points of the globe, the dice-box, the hour by any 
person^ s watch, &c. 

Tlfie Real Head of 
The Cannibal Chief ! 
At the same time the public will have an oppor- 
tunity of seeing what was exhibited so long in 
London, under the title of 

The Mermaid: 
The wonder of the deep ! not a fac-simile or copy, 
but the same curiosity. 

Admission Moderate. 
*** Open from Eleven in the Morning till Nine 

in the Evening/' 
Foremost among the attractions of this show were 
the performing pig and the show-woman, who drew 
forth the learning of the " swinish philosopher '' 
admirably. He went through the alphabet, and 
spelt monosyllabic words with his nose ; and did a 
sum of two figures in addition. Then, at her desire, 
he indicated those of the company who were in love. 

298 The Old Showmen^ 

or addicted to excess in drink; and grunted 
his conviction that a stout gentleman, who might 
have sat to John Leech for the portrait of John 
Bull ^^ loved good eating, and a pipe, and a jug of ale 
better than the sight of the Living Skeleton/^ The 
" beautiful dolphin ^^ was a fish-skin stuffed. The 
mermaid was the last manufactured imposture of 
that name, exhibited for half-a-crown in Piccadilly, 
about a year before. The ^^ real head of Mahoura, 
the cannibal chief,^^ was a skull, with a dried skin 
over it, and a black wig ; ^^ but it looked sufficiently 
terrific,^^ says Hone, ^^ when the show-woman put 
the candle in at the neck, and tlie flame illuminated 
the yellow integument over the holes where eyes, 
nose, and a tongue had been.^^ 

Adjoining this was another penny show, with 
pictures large as life on the show- cloths outside of 
the living wonders within, and the following in- 
scription : — " All Alive I No False Paintings I The 
Wild Indian, the Giant Boy, and the Dwarf Family ! 
Never here hefore. To he seen alive I '^ Thomas 
Day, the reputed father of the dwarf family, was 
also proprietor of the show ; he was thirty-five years 
of age, and only thirty-five inches high. There was 
a boy six years old, only twenty-seven inches high. 
The ^^ wild Indian ^' was a mild-looking mulatto. 
The ''giant boy,'^ William Wilkinson Whitehead, 

And the Old London Fairs. 299 

was fourteen years of age, stood five feet two inches 
high, measured five feet round the body, twenty- 
seven inches across the shoulders, twenty inches 
roupd the arm, twenty-four inches round the calf,, 
and thirty-one inches round the thigh, and weighed 
twenty -two stones. His father and mother were 
^^ travelling merchants ^' of Manchester ; he was 
born at Glasgow, during one of their journeys, and 
was a fine healthy youth, fair complexioned, intelli- 
gent looking, active in his movements, and sensible 
in speech. He was lightly dressed in plaid to show 
his limbs, with a bonnet of the same. 

Holden^s glass-working and blowing was the last 
show on the east side of Smithfield, and was limited 
to a single caravan. The first on the south side, 
with its side towards Cloth Fair, and the back to- 
wards the corner of Duke Street, presented pictures 
of a giant, a giantess, and an Indian chief, with the 
inscription, ^^ They're all alive I Be assured they're 
all alive ! The Yorkshire Giantess — Waterloo Giant — 
Indian Chief, Only a penny ! '' An overgrown girl 
was the Yorkshire giantess. A tall man with his 
hair frizzed and powdered, aided by a military coat 
and a plaid roquelaire, made the Waterloo giant. 

Next to this stood another show of the same 
kind and quality, the attractions of which were 
a giantess and two dwarfs. The giantess was^ 

,300 The Old Showmen^ 

a Somerset girl^ wlio arose from the chair where- 
on she was seated to the height of six feet nine 
inches and three-quarters^ with *^ Ladies and 
gentlemen, your most obedient/^ She was 
good-looking and affable, and obliged the company 
by taking off her tight-fitting slipper, and handing 
it round for their examination. It was of such 
dimensions that the largest man present could have 
put his booted foot into it. She said that her name 
was Elizabeth Stock, and that she was only sixteen 
years of age. This completed the number of shows 
pitched in Smithfield in 1825. 

There was a visible falling off in the following 
year, when the number of shows diminished to 
eight. The west side of Giltspur Street, along its 
whole length, was occupied by book-stalls ; and 
grave-looking men in black suits, with white cravats, 
looking like waiters out of employment, walked 
solemnly through the fair, giving to all who would 
take them tracts headed with the startling question — 
^^ Are you ^prepared to die ? " Eichardson^s theatre 
was there, and Clarke^s circus ; but Samwell, and 
Eall, and Chappell and Pike did not attend, and 
WombwelFs was the only menagerie. '^ Brown^s 
grand company, from Paris,^^ presented a juggling 
and tight-rope performance, with the learned horse, 
and a clown who extracted musical sounds from a 

And the Old London Fairs. 301 

salt-box, with the aid of a rolling-pin ; Holden, the- 
glass-blower, in a glass wig, made tea- cups for 
threepence each, and tobacco-pipes for a penny;, 
the learned pig displayed his acquirements in ortho- 
graphy and arithmetic ; there was a twopenny 
exhibition of rattlesnakes and young crocodiles^ 
hatched by steam from imported eggs ; and a show in 
which a dwarf and a ^^ silver-haired lady ^^ were 
exhibited for a penny. 

Among the unique of the living curiosities ex- 
hibited by the showmen of this period was the 
famous spotted boy, described in the bills issued by 
his original exhibitor as ^^ one of those wonderful 
productions of Nature, which excite the curiosity,, 
and gratify the beholder with the surprising works 
of the Creator ; he is the progeny of Negroes, being 
beautifully covered over by a diversity of spots of 
transparent brown and white ; his hair is interwoven, 
black and white alternately, in a most astonishing 
manner ; his countenance is interesting, with limbs 
finely proportioned -, his ideas are quick and pene- 
trating, yet his infantine simplicity is truly capti- 
vating. He must be seen to convince ; it is not in 
the power of language to convey an adequate idea of 
this Fanciful Child of Nature, formed in her most 
playful mood, and allowed by every lady and gen- 
tleman that has seen it, the greatest curiosity ever 

302 The Old Showmen 

l>eheld. May be seen from Ten in the Morning till 
Ten in the Evening. Admittance for Ladies and 
Crentlemen \s. Servants and Children half price. 
Ladies and Gentlemen wishing to see this Wonder- 
ful Child at their own houses^ may be accommodated 
by giving a few hours^ notice. Copper plate Like- 
nesses of the Boy may be had at the Place of 

Richardson introduced this boy several seasons, 
between the drama and the pantomime ; and became 
so much attached to him that he directed, by his 
will, that he should be buried in the grave in which, 
a few years before, he had deposited the remains of 
the lively, docile, and affectionate African lad, in 
the church-yard of Great Marlow. 

I have found no account of the number of shows 
which attended Bartholomew Fair in 1827, but in 
the following year they must have been nearly as 
numerous as in 1825, an enumeration of the 
principal ones reaching to sixteen. All the 
menageries attended, and, besides Richardson's and 
Ball's theatres, Keyes and Laine's, Frazer's, Pike's, 
and a couple of clever Chinese jugglers. The 
receipts of these and the other principal shows were 
returned, in round numbers, as follows : — Womb- 
well's menagerie, £1,700 ; Richardson's theatre, 
£1,200; Atkins's menagerie, £1,000; Morgan's 

And the Old London Fairs. 303 

menagerie, £150; exhibition of ^Hhe pig-faced 
lady/' £150; ditto, fat boy and girl, £140; ditto, 
bead of William Corder, who was hanged at 
Chelmsford for the murder of Maria Martin, a 
<5rime which had created a great sensation, owing 
to its discovery through a dream of the victim's 
mother, £100; Ballard's menagerie, £90; Ball's 
theatre, £80; diorama of the battle of Navarino, 
£60; the Chinese jugglers, £50; Pike's theatre, 
£40; a fire-eater, £30; Prazer's theatre, £26; 
Keyes and Laine's theatre, £20 ; exhibition of a 
Scotch giant, £20. Some curious lights are thrown 
by these figures on the comparative attractiveness 
of different entertainments and exhibitions. 

Considerable excitement was created among the 
visitors to the fair in the following year by the 
announcement that Wombwell had on exhibition 
^Hhat most wonderful animal, the bonassus, being 
the first of the kind which had ever been brought 
to Europe." As no one had ever seen or heard of 
the animal before, or had the faintest conception of 
what it was, the curious flocked in crowds to see 
the beast, which proved to be a very fine bull bison, 
or American bufialo. Under the name given to it 
by Wombwell, it was introduced into the epilogue 
of the Westminster play as one of the wonders of 
the year. It was afterwards sold by Wombwell to 

304 The Old Showmen^ 

the Zoological Society, and placed in their col- 
lection in the Regent^ s Park ; but it had been en- 
feebled by confinement and disease, and it died 
soon afterwards. The Hudson^s Bay Company 
subsequently supplied its place by presenting the 
Society with a young cow. 

Atkins offered the counter attractions of an 
elephant ten feet high, and another litter of lion- 
tigers, the latter addition to his collection being 
announced as follows : — 

'^ Wonderful Phenomenon in Nature — The singular 
and hitherto deemed impossible occurrence of a 
Lion and Tigress cohabiting and producing young 
has again taken place in the Menagerie, on the 28th 
of October, 1828, at Windsor, when the Royal 
Tigress brought forth three fine cubs ! ! ! And they 
are now to be seen in the same den with their sire 
and dam. The first litter of these extraordinary 
animals were presented to Our Most Gracious 
Sovereign, when he was pleased to express consi- 
derable gratification, and to denominate them 
Lion-Tigers, than which a more appropriate name 
could not have been given. The great interest the 
Lion and Tigress have excited is unprecedented; 
they are a source of irresistible attraction, especially 
as it is the only instance of the kind ever known of 
animals so directly opposite in their dispositions 

And the Old London Fairs, 305 

forming an attachment of such, a singular nature ; 
their beautiful and interesting progeny are most 
admirable productions of Nature. The Grroup is 
truly pleasing and astonishing, and must be 
witnessed to form an adequate idea of them. The 
remarkable instance of subdued temper and asso- 
ciation of animals to permit the Keeper to enter 
their Den_, and to introduce their performance to 
the Spectators, is the greatest Phenomenon in 
Natural History/^ 

Most of the shows enumerated in the list of 1828 
attended Bartholomew Fair in 1830, and there were 
a few additional ones, making the total number 
about the same. They comprised the menageries 
of Wombwell, Atkins, and Ballard, the first con- 
taining ^^ the great Siam elephant, and the two 
smallest elephants ever seen in Europe,^^ and the 
last ofiering an unique attraction in a seal, 
floundering in a large tub of water ; Eichardson's 
theatre, BalFs tumbling and rope- dancing, Keyes 
and Laine^s conjuring, Frazer's conjuring, a learned 
pony, the pig-faced lady, a shaved bear (to expose 
the imposture preceding), the ^' living skeleton,^^ 
the fire-eater, the Scotch giant, the diorama of 
Navarino, the fat boy and girl, and a couple of 
peep-shows, one exhibiting, as its chief attraction, 
the lying in state of George IV., the other the mur- 
der of Maria Martin. x 

3o6 The Old Showmen^ 

One of the novel characters whom Richardson 
picked up in his wanderings was the once famous 
Gouffe, " the man-monkey/^ as he was called. His 
real name was Vale, and when the old showman 
became acquainted with him he was following the 
humble occupation of a pot-boy in a low public- 
house. Richardson, happening to enter the 
tap-room in which Master Vale waited, found the 
young gentleman amusing the guests by walk- 
ing about on pewter pint measures, with his hob- 
nailed boots turned towards the smoke-begrimed 
ceiling. The performance was a novel one, and 
Richardson, calling the lad aside on its conclusion, 
made him an offer too gratifying to be refused. 
After travelling with Richardson for some time. 
Vale appeared at several of the minor theatres of 
the metropolis, always in the part of an ape, and 
under the assumed name of Gouffe. His panto- 
mimic powers were considerable, and his agility 
was scarcely inferior to that of the four-handed 
brutes whom he represented. 

The receipts of the shows were not always so 
large as in 1828. In 1831, which seems to have 
been a bad year for them, Richardson lost fifty 
pounds by Bartholomew Fair, though he had half 
the receipts of Ewing^s wax-work exhibition in 
addition to those of the theatre, under an agree- 

And the Old London Fairs. 307 

ment with the proprietor, by which he paid for the 
ground and the erection of the show. Wombwell 
only cleared his expenses, though he had at that 
time acquired Morgan^ s menagerie, which stood at 
the corner of the Greyhound Yard, and by that 
means secured the pennies as well as the six- 

In 1832, the charge for admission to darkens 
•circus was reduced from sixpence to threepence. 
There was a novelty in Bartholomew Fair that year 
in the show of an Italian conjuror, named Capelli, 
namely, a company of cats, that beat a drum, turned 
a spit, ground knives, played the organ, hammered 
upon an anvil, ground coffee, and rang a bell. One 
of them understood French as well as Italian, obey- 
ing orders in both languages. Capelli^ s bills 
announce also a wonderful dog, to ^^play any 
gentleman at dominoes that will play with 

In 1833, the number of shows at this fair rose to 
thirty-two, Richardson^s theatre, Clarke^s circus, 
five for tumbling, rope-dancing, etc., three 
menageries, four wax-work exhibitions, three phan- 
tasmagorias, Holden's glass-blowing, two learned 
pigs, six exhibitions of giants, dwarfs, etc., and six 
peep-shows, in which the coronation of William IV., 
the battle of Navarino, the murder of Maria Martin, 

X 2 

3o8 The Old Showmen^ 

and other events of contemporary interest were 
shown. Only two shows charged so much as 
sixpence for admission, namely, Richardson^s and 
WombwelFs. The threepenny shows were Ewing^s 
and darkens, the latter giving '^ an excellent display 
for the money/' according to a contemporary 
account, which continues as follows : — 

'^ The performance began by tight-rope dancing 
by Miss Clarke, with and without the balance pole, 
through hoops, with ^ flip-flaps,^ standing on chairs, 
&c. Slack-rope vaulting by a little boy named 
Benjamin SafFery, eight years of age \ he exhibited 
several curious feats. There was also some very 
extraordinary posturing by two young men, one 
dressed as a Chinese, the other in the old costume 
of Pierrot ; among many other exploits, they walked 
round the ring with each a leg put up to their neck, 
and another on each other's shoulders. They also 
performed an extraordinary feat of lying on their 
backs, and throwing their legs up under their arms, 
and going round the ring by springing forward 
upon the ground, without the aid of their hands ; 
one of them, while on the ground, supported two 
men on his thighs. A black man also exhibited 
some feats of strength; among others, he threw 
himself backward and, resting on his hands, formed 
an arch, and then bore two heavy men on his 

And the Old London Fairs. 309 

stomacli with ease. The horsemanship commenced 
with the old performance of the rider going round 
the ring tied up in a sack. During the going round 
a transformation took place, and he who went into 
the sack a man came out to all appearance a woman 
on throwing the sack ojff. The whole concluded 
with a countryman who, suddenly starting from the 
ring, desires to be permitted to ride, which is at 
first refused, but at length allowed; he mounts, 
and after a short time, beginning to grow warm, 
pulls off his coat, then his waistcoat, then another 
and another to the number of thirteen, at last with 
much apparent modesty and reluctance his shirt ; 
iaving done this, he appears a splendid rider, and 
after a few evolutions, terminates the performance. 
This rider^s name was Price. The show was well 

The other shows of this class were BalFs, which, 
besides tumbling and rope-dancing, gave a panto- 
mime, but without scenery; Keyes and Laine^s, 
which now presented posturing, balancing, and 
rope-dancing; SamwelFs, in which, besides tum- 
bling and dancing, a real Indian executed the war- 
dance of his tribe; the Chinese jugglers; and a 
posturing and tumbling show, the proprietor of 
which was too modest to announce his name. The 
Chinese jugglers had performed during the summer 

3IO The Old Showmen^ 

at Saville House^ the building on the north side of 
Leicester Square, which, after being the locality of 
several exhibitions, was converted into a music-hall^, 
called the Imperial, and afterwards Eldorado. One 
of these pig-tailed entertainers pretended to swal- 
low fifty needles, which were afterwards produced 
from his mouth, each with a thread in its eye. 
Another balanced a bowl on a stick nine feet long > 
while a third played the Chinese violin with a 
single string. 

WombwelPs menagerie extended from the hos- 
pital gate nearly to Duke Street, and was the 
largest show in the fair. Drury and Drake^s was 
a small but interesting collection^ consisting of a 
very tame leopard, a couple of hyenas, a good show 
of monkeys, and several very fine boa constrictors. 
The third menagerie was WombwelFs smaller con- 
cern, formerly Morgan^s. 

The best of the wax-work exhibitions was 
Ewing^s, which was well arranged in ten caravans. 
The others were Ferguson^s, with the additional 
attraction of ^^ the beautiful albiness,^^ a really beau- 
tiful woman, named Shaw, who was then in her 
twenty-second year ; Hoyo^s ; and a small and poor 
collection at a house in Giltspur Street, where the 
wax figures were supplemented by the exhibition of 
twin infants united at the breast, " extremely well 

And the Old London Fairs. 311 

Phantasmagorial exhibitions were at this time a 
novelty to the masses. The best of those shown 
this year in Smithfield was the Ojptikali Illusio of a 
Frenchman^ named De Berar^ who startled the 
spectators with the appearance of a human skele- 
ton, the vision of Death on a pale horse, etc. 
There was another in Long Lane ; and a third at a 
house in Giltspur Street, where the public were 
invited to witness ^^ the raising of the devil ! ^^ A 
fire-eater named Haines stood at the door of the 
last show, emitting a shower of sparks from a lump 
of burning tow in his mouth. Sir David Brewster, 
who witnessed a phantasmagorial exhibition at 
Edinburgh, describes it as follows : — 

" The small theatre of exhibition was lighted only 
by one hanging lamp, the flame of which was drawn 
up into an opaque chimney or shade when the per- 
formance began. In this ^ darkness visible ^ the 
curtain rose, and displayed a cave, with skeletons 
and other terrific figures in relief upon its walls. 
The flickering light was then drawn up beneath its 
shroud, and the spectators, in total darkness, found 
themselves in the midst of thunder and lightning. 
A thin transparent screen had, unknown to the 
spectators, been let down after the disappearance of 
the light, and upon it the flashes of lightning, and 
all the subsequent appearances, were represented. 

3 1 2 The Old Showmen. 

This screen, being halfway between the spectators 
and the cave which was first shown, and being 
itself invisible, prevented the observers from having 
any idea of the real distance of the figures, and 
gave them the entire character of aerial pictures. 

^* The thunder and lightning were followed by 
the figures of ghosts, skeletons, and known indi- 
viduals, whose eyes and mouths were made to move 
by the action of combined sliders. After the first 
figure had been exhibited for a short time, it began 
to grow less and less, as if removed to a great 
distance, and at last vanished in a small cloud of 
light. Out of this same cloud the germ of another 
figure began to appear, and gradually grew larger 
and larger, and approached the spectators, till it 
attained its perfect development. In this manner 
the head of Dr. Franklin was transformed into a 
skull; figures which retired with the freshness of 
life came back in the form of skeletons, and the 
retiring skeletons returned in the drapery of flesh 
and blood. The exhibition of these transmutations 
was followed by spectres, skeletons, and terrific 
figures, which, instead of receding and vanishing as 
before, suddenly advanced upon the spectators, be- 
coming larger as they approached them, and finally 
vanished by appearing to sink into the ground. 
The effect of this part of the exhibition was natu- 

And the Old London Fairs. 313 

rally the most impressive. The spectators were not 
only surprised^ but agitated^ and many of them 
were of opinion that they could have touched the 

Dupain^s French theatre combined the exhibition 
of a dwarf, Jonathan Dawson^ three feet high^ and 
fifty years of age^ with posturing by a performer 
named Finch, and two mecloanical views, one repre- 
senting Algiers, with the sea in motion, and vessels 
entering and leaving the harbour; the other a 
storm at sea, with a vessel in distress, burning blue 
lights, firing guns, and finally becoming a wreck. 

Broomsgrove^s show, which made its first ap- 
pearance, contained three human curiosities, namely, 
Clancy, an Irishman, whose height was seven feet 
two inches ; Farnham, who was only three feet two 
inches in height, but so strong that he carried two 
big men on his shoulders with ease ; and Thomas 
Pierce, ^^the gigantic Shropshire youth,^^ aged 
seventeen years, five feet ten inches in height, and 
thirty-five stones in weight. 

Simmett^s show contained four ^^ living wonders ^^ 
of this kind, namely, Priscilla and Amelia Weston, 
twin Canadian giantesses, twenty years of age; 
Lydia Walpole, the dwarf exhibited in Maughan^s 
show in 1825; and an albino woman, aged nine- 
teen. Harris added to a peep-show a twelve years 

314 The Old Showmen^ 

old dwarf, named Eliza Webber; a sheep with 
singularly formed hind hoofs ; and a very fine boa 
constrictor. Another show combined the perform- 
ances of a monkey, which, in the garb of an old 
woman, smoked a pipe, wheeled a barrow, etc., 
with the exhibition of several mechanical figures, 
representing artisans working at their various 
trades, and a juvenile albino, named Mary Anno 
Chapman. Another exhibited, as an "extraordi- 
nary hermit,^^ a man named Daniel Mackenzie, 
whose only distinction rested upon his statement 
that he had voluntarily secluded himself from the 
world for five years, which he had passed in a coal- 
mine near Dalkeith. 

Toby, the learned pig, if he was the original 
porcine wonder of that name, must have been, at 
least, seventeen years of age, but showed no symp- 
toms of declining vigour or diminished intelligence. 
He was now exhibited by James Burchall, in con- 
junction with the proprietor's monstrously fat child, 
and was announced as, — 

"The Unrivalled Chinese Swinish Philosopher, 
Toby the Real Learned Pig. He will spell, read, 
and cast accounts, tell the points of the sun's rising 
and setting, discover the four grand divisions of the 
Earth, kneel at command, perform blindfold with 
20 handkerchiefs over his eyes, tell the hour to a 

And the Old London Fairs. 315 

minute by the watch, tell a card, and the age of any- 
party. He is in colour the most beautiful of his 
race, in symmetry the most perfect, in temper the 
most docile. And when asked a question, he will 
give an Immediate Answer. ^^ 

Toby had a rival this year in the ^^ amazing pig 
of knowledge/^ exhibited by James Fawkes, at the 
George Inn. This pig could tell the number of 
pence in a shilling, and of shillings in a pound,, 
count the spectators, tell their thoughts (so at least 
it was pretended), distinguish colours, and do many 
other wonderful things. The following doggrel 
verses, extracted from Fawkes^s bill, are offered as 
a curiosity; they seem apropos of nothing, and 
show that the exhibitor was ignorant or oblivious of 
the fact that George IV. had been dead three 
years : — 

*' A learned Pig in George's reign 

To -^sop's Brutes an equal Boast ; 
Then let Mankind again combine 
To render Friendship still a Toast. . 

" Let Albion's Fair superior soar, 
To Gallic Fraud, or Gallic Art ; 
Britons will e'er bow down before 
The Virtues seated in the Heart." 

In 1836, a new show appeared in the field, 
namely, Brown^s Theatre of Arts, in which were 

3 1 6 The Old Showmen^ 

shown meclianical representations of tlie battle of 
Trafalgar^ the passage of the Alps by the French 
army^ and the Marble Palace at St. Petersburg^ the 
ships in the first and the figures in the others being 
in actual motion. 

Scowton^ who had been absent from Bartholomew 
Fair for several years^ made a final appearance 
there in 1837^ when his bills contained the follow- 
ing announcement : — 

^^ Mr. ScowTON, deeply impressed with heartfelt 
gratitude for the liberal Patronage and Support 
which he has for a series of Years experienced from 
his Friends and a Generous Public^ and which will 
enable him to spend his future Days in comfortable 
Retirement : begs leave to announce that the whole 
of his Extensive Concern, is to be disposed of by 
Private Contract ; and, therefore, at the same time, 
as he takes leave^ requests them to believe that the 
Memory of their favours and indulgence will never 
be eradicated from his Memory .^^ 

Richardson^s theatre stood beside Scowton^s, and 
it is remarked by a newspaper of the time that 
^^the former displayed the trappings of modern 
grandeur, and the latter evinced his taste for the 
ancient by exposing to view a couple of centaurs 
and a sphynx.^^ Scowton presented a ^^ new grand 
dramatic romance,^^ called Tlie Treacherous Friend, 

And the Old London Fairs, 3 1 7 

in which, he played the character of Alphonsus him- 

This was the last appearance of both these vete- 
ran showmen. Scowton retired^ and Richardson 
died shortly afterwards at his cottage in Ht)rse- 
monger Lane^ and was buried^ as his will directed, 
at Great Mario w, in the same grave with the 
spotted boy. He bequeathed the greater part of 
his property to Charles Reed, who had travelled 
with him for many years ; his old friend, Johnson, 
afterwards co-lessee with Nelson Lee of the City of 
London Theatre, received a legacy of five hundred 
pounds, and Davy, who had superintended the 
building and removal of the theatre from the be- 
ginning of its existence, two hundred pounds. 

Looking backward forty years, 1 can recall the 
quaint figure of the old showman as he stood on the 
steps of his portable theatre, clad in a loose drab 
coat and a long scarlet vest, which looked as if it 
had been made in the reign of George II. As I 
think of Croydon Fair as it tised to be in Richard- 
son^s days, with the show standing between Clarke^s 
circus and WombwelFs menagerie, I can almost 
fancy that I hear the booming of the old man^s 
gong. Many a time afterwards have I seen Nelson 
Lee beating that memorable instrument of discord, 
and heard him shouting, ^^ Walk up ! walk up ! 

3 1 8 The Old Showmen. 

Just going to begin ! ^' But lie wore a suit of black, 
and did not impress me half so much as his prede- 
cessor. The change seemed, indeed, a symptom of 
the declining glory of the fair, which has, within 
the last few years, become a thing of the past. 


iSuccessors of Scowton and Richardson — Nelson Lee — Crow- 
ther, the Actor — Paul Herring — Newman and Allen's 
Theatre — Fair in Hyde Park — Hilton's Menagerie — ^Bar- 
tholomew Fair again threatened — Wombwell's Menagerie- 
Charles Freer — Fox Cooper and the Bosjesmans — ^Destruc- 
tion of Johnson and Lee's Theatre — Reed's Theatre — 
Hales, the Norfolk Giant — Afiray at Greenwich — ^Death of 
Wombwell — Lion Queens — Catastrophe in a Menagerie — 
World's Fair at Bays water — ^Abbott's Theatre — Charlie 
Keith, the Clown — Robson, the Comedian — Manders's Me- 
nagerie — Macomo, the Lion- Tamer — Macarthy and the 
Lions — Fairgrieve's Menagerie — ^Lorenzo and the Tigress 
— Sale of a Menagerie — Extinction of the London Fairs — 
Decline of Fairs near the Metropolis — Conclusion. 

'The change in the proprietorship of the travelling 
theatres conducted during so many years by Scow- 
ton and Richardson may be regarded as a stage 
in the history of the people^s amusements. The 
decline which showmen had noted during the pre- 

32<0 The Old Showmeti^ 

ceding years had not been perceptible to the public^ 
who had crowded the London fairs more densely 
than ever, and found as many showmen catering for 
their entertainment as in earlier years. But while 
the crowds that gazed at WombwelFs show-cloths, 
and the parades of Eichardson^s theatre and Clarke^ s 
circus, became more dense every year, the showmen 
found their receipts diminish and their expenses 
increase. The people had more wants than formerly, 
and their means of supplying them had not, at the 
time of the decadence of the London fairs, ex- 
perienced a corresponding increase. The vast and 
ever-growing population of the metropolis furnished 
larger crowds, but the middle-class element had 
diminished, and continued to diminish ; and the 
showmen found reduced charges to be a necessity, 
without resulting in the augmented gains which 
follow a reduction of prices in trade. 

Scowton^s theatre was sold by private contract 
to Julius Haydon, who, after expending a consider- 
able sum upon it, making it rival Richardson^ s in 
size, found the results so little to his advantage 
that he disposed of the whole concern a year after- 
wards to the successors of Richardson. 

These were the showman^s old friends, John 
Johnson, to whom he left a legacy of five hundred 
pounds, and Nelson Lee, who, after the unfortunate 

And the Old London Fairs. 3 2 1 

speculation with his brother in the Old Kent Eoad, 
had travelled for a time with HoUoway^s show^ then 
gone to Scotland with Grey^s fantoccini, and, after 
a turn at Edinburgh with Dodsworth and Stevens^s 
automatons, had returned to London, and was at 
the time of Richardson^s death managing Sadler^s 
Wells theatre for Osbaldiston. When he saw 
Richardson^s property advertised for sale, he con- 
ferred with Johnson on the subject of its purchase 
by them, which they eflPected by private contract, 
Lee resigning his post at Sadler^s Wells to un- 
dertake the management. 

The new proprietors furnished the theatre with 
a new front, and provided new dresses for the 
ballet in Esmeralda, which was then attracting large 
audiences to the Adelphi. They did not propose to 
open with this drama, but they thought the ballet 
would be a success on the parade outside, which 
managers of travelling theatres find it necessary to 
make as attractive as possible, the public forming 
their anticipations of the entertainment to be wit- 
nessed inside by what they see outside, as they do 
of tenting circus performances by the extent and 
splendour of the parade round the town and neigh- 
bourhood which precedes them. I once saw a very 
pretty harvest-dance of reapers and gleaners on the 
parade of Richardson^s theatre, and on another 


32;^ The Old Showmen^ 

occasion a fantastic dance of Indians^ who held 
oocoa-nuts in their hands^ and struck them together, 
assuming every variety of attitude, each dancer 
sometimes striking his own nuts together, and 
sometimes his own against those of his vis-a-vis. 

They were in time for the Whitsuntide Fair at 
Oreenwich, where the theatre stood at the extreme 
ond of the fair, near the bridge at Deptford Creek. 
The Esmeralda dance was a great success, and 
Oscar Byrne, who had arranged the ballet for the 
Adelphi, visited the theatre, and complimented Lee 
on the manner in which it was produced. The 
drama was The Tyrant Doge, and the pantomime, 
arranged by Lee for the occasion, had local colour 
given to it, and the local title of One Tree Hill, The 
season opened very favourably, though both the 
management and the public experienced considerable 
annoyance from a party of dissolute young men, of 
whom the Marquis of Waterford was one, and who 
threw nuts at the actors, and talked and laughed 
loudly throughout the performance. 

Delamore had succeeded Lewis as stage-manager, 
scene-shifter^ and wardrobe-keeper, a few years 
before Richardson^ s death, and he was retained in 
that position by the new proprietors. John Doug- 
lass and Paul Herring were in the company at this 
time ; also Crowther, who was subsequently engaged 

And the Old London Fairs. 323 

at Astley's, and married Miss Vincent, who was for so 
many years a popular favourite at the Victoria as the 
heroine of a series of successful domestic dramas. 

Among the minor shows attending the fairs of 
the southern counties at this period was the portable 
theatre of Newman and Allen, which, towards the 
end of the summer, was pitched upon a piece of 
waste ground at Norwood, and remained there two 
or three weeks. The fortunes of the company 
seemed at low ebb, and the small ^^ houses ^^ which 
they had nightly, with a charge for admission of 
twopence to front seats, and a penny to the back, 
did not place the treasury in a very flourishing 
condition. Small as the company was, they aimed 
at a higher performance than was usually given in 
a portable theatre, for on the two occasions that I 
patronised the canvas temple of Thespis the plays 
were Virginius and John Bull, considerably cut 
down, as was to have been expected, the smallness 
of the company rendering it necessary to excise 
some of the characters. 

Only one performance wasj^given each night, and 
a farce preceded the play, the interval between the 
pieces being filled up with a comic song, sung by 
the low coinedy man, and an acrobatic performance 
by a young lady whose name I learned was Sarah 
Saunders. Whether she was related to old Abraham 

T 2 

324 The Old Showmen^ 

Saunders^ I do not know; but the tendency of 
show-folks to make their vocations hereditary 
renders it very probable. She was the first female 
acrobat I ever saw, and an actress besides ; and the 
peculiarity of her acrobatic performance was, that 
she did not don trunks and tights for it, like 
Madame Stertzenbach and others of her sex at the 
present day, but did her " flips/^ etc., in her ordi- 
nary attire, like the little drabs from the back slums 
of Westminster who may sometimes be seen turning 
heels over head in St. James's Park. 

When the brief season of the canvas theatre was 
brought to a close, and the fittings, scenery, pro- 
perties, etc., had left the village behind a bony 
horse, it seemed that the proprietors had dissolved 
the partnership which had existed between them ; 
for a living carriage remained on the ground, the 
occupants of which were old Newman, who had 
played the heavy parts, and his nephew, Charles 
Little, the low comedy man. Whether the old 
gentleman had realised a competency which satisfied 
his wants, or had some small pension or annuity, 
or investment of some kind, never became known ; 
but there the wheeled abode of the two men stood 
for several years, Newman cultivating a patch of 
the waste, and producing therefrom all the vegetables 
they required for their own table, while his nephew 

And the Old London Fairs. 325 

perambulated the neighbourhood with a basket, 
offering for sale tapes and cottons, needles and pins, 
and other small wares of a similar description. This 
new vocation seemed more lucrative than that of 
low comedian and comic singer in a travelling 
theatre; for Charlie, as he was familiarly called, 
dressed better every year, and, on the death of his 
uncle, took to himself a wife, and, abandoning the 
living carriage, settled in a neighbouring cottage. 

From this episode of show-life I must return to 
Johnson and Lee, who, after visiting Deptford and 
Camberwell Pairs, took their renovated theatre to 
Smithfield, where it stood with its back to the 
George Inn. At Croydon Fair it occupied its usual 
position between Clarke^s circus and WombwelFs 
menagerie ; and there a singular and amusing ad- 
venture occurred to the clown, who, however, did 
not find it so amusing himself. The first day being 
very wet, and the fair in consequence very thinly 
attended, he thought to divert the tedium of the 
situation by strolling through the town, and for this 
purpose put on the uniform over-coat of a policeman, 
a character then, as now, always diverting in the 
pantomime. Some short time previously, several 
robberies had been committed in the town by a thief 
similarly dressed ; and a constable on duty in High 
Street, seeing a seeming policeman whom he did 

326 The Old Showmen^ 

not know, and who gazed about him as if he wa& 
a stranger, took the astonished clown into custody 
on the charge of personating a constable and loiter-^ 
ing about for an unlawful purpose. On being taken 
to the sfcation-house, the clown made an explanatory- 
statement}, and the inspector sent a constable to the^ 
theatre to ascertain its truth, testimony to which 
was given by Lee. The clown was thereupon re- 
leased from custody, and hurried back to the fair^ 
vowing that he would never promenade in the garb 
of a policeman again. 

In the following year, Johnson and Lee presented 
a memorial to the Home Office, asking permission 
to hold a fair in Hyde Park, to celebrate the corona- 
tion of the Queen. The Government acceded to the 
request, and Superintendent Mallalieu was associated 
with the memorialists in the organisation and man- 
agement of the undertaking. A tent was pitched 
in the centre of the ground selected for the purpose,, 
and the three managers attended daily to arrange 
the plan, classify the shows, stalls, etc., and receive 
applications for space, which were so numerous 
that it became necessary to post constables before 
the tent to maintain order. As each applicant 
stated the nature of his business, the application 
was entered in a book kept for the purpose, and a 
day was named for the allotment of ground. Every 

And the Old London Fairs. 327 

foot of space granted for the purpose by the Commis- 
sioners of Her Majesty^s Woods and Forests was 
taken within a week^ and every intending exhibitor 
received a ticket in the following form : — 


No. Allotment of Ground. 

The Bearer , of , ^ 

is hereby entitled to feet frontage on the 

side of the area for the purpose of erecting a • 

_ June, 1838. 

J. M. Mallalieu, 

Every ticket-holder was requested to fit up his 
show or stall in a becoming manner, and to display 
as illumination some device suitable to the occasion. 
The undertaking to this effect was adhered to in a 
commendable manner, and a very pretty effect was 
thus produced when the fair was opened, on the 
28th of June, and the numerous shows, booths, and 
stalls were illuminated at night with so many thou- 
sands of coloured lamps. As the boom of the first 
gun announcing the departure of the Queen for 
Westminster Abbey was heard. Nelson Lee, stand- 
ing on the parade of his theatre, struck the gong, 
and all the showmen unfurled their show-cloths, and 

32.8 The Old Showmen^ 

the keepers of booths and stalls rolled up their 
canvas fronts, and commenced business. 

The fair was a great success, the financial results 
being as satisfactory as its organisation and man- 
agement. Many of the nobility visited it, and even 
patronised the amusements, as they had been wont 
to do at Bartholomew Fair in the seventeenth 
century, and the first half of the eighteenth. John- 
son and Lee^s theatre filled on the opening day in 
five minutes, and the time occupied by the perform- 
ances was reduced to fifteen minutes. The drama 
was Tlfie Mysterious Stranger, which, thus contracted, 
became more mysterious than ever. All the prin- 
cipal avenues were crowded from noon till night, 
and the demand upon the resources of the refresh- 
ment booths was so great that Algar and other 
principal booth-keepers charged, and had no difii- 
culty in obtaining, a shilling for a pot of beer, and 
sixpence for a lettuce or a penny loaf, other articles 
being sold at proportionate rates. 

During the fair, the wife of a gingerbread vendor 
gave birth to a child, which, in commemoration of 
the occasion was registered by the name of Hyde 
Park. The stall was, in consequence of this event, 
allowed to remain several days after the time by 
which the promoters of the fair had undertaken to 
have the ground cleared, and it was visited by 

And the Old London Fairs. 329 

many ladies, who made presents to tlie child and its 
parents. Though the ground had been let at a low- 
rate, a surplus of sixty pounds remained after defray- 
ing all expenses, and this sum was awarded to 
Johnson and Lee ; but they did not apply for it, and 
it was divided among the constables who did police 
duty in the fair. The services of Johnson and 
Lee in promoting and organising the fair, and of 
Superintendent Mallalieu in supervising the arrange- 
ments and maintaining order, were so well appre- 
ciated by the showmen and the keepers of booths 
and stalls, that they joined in presenting each with 
a silver cup, at a dinner which took place at the 
Champion Tavern, Paddington. 

At the ordinary fairs visited during the latter 
part of this year, Johnson and Lee exhibited a 
panorama of the coronation, painted by Marshall, 
which proved very attractive. Enfield Pair being 
spoiled by wet weather, application was made to the 
local magistrate for an extra day, which at Croydon 
was always conceded in such circumstances ; but it 
was refused, the Enfield justice seeming to be of 
opinion that actors and acrobats were vagabonds 
who ought to be discouraged by every possible 
means. Resolved not to be disappointed, Johnson 
and Lee issued a bill in the name of Jones, a man 
who sold refreshments in the theatre, announcing 

330 The Old Showmen^ 

that, in consequence of the wet weather having pre- 
vented him from clearing his stock of nuts^ the pro- 
prietors had given him the use of the theatre for an 
extra day, when the usual performances would be 
given without charge, but prices ranging from a 
fehilling to three shillings would be charged for nuts 
to be supplied to the persons admitted. 

Haydon^s theatre made its last appearance at 
Croydon Fair, where great exertions were made to 
render it as attractive as Johnson and Lee^s, but it 
was not patronised to near the same extent as the 
latter ; and Johnson and Lee^s offer to purchase the 
concern being entertained by the proprietor, it from 
that time ceased to exist, being absorbed into the 
more popular establishment. 

Croydon Fair used, at this time, to be visited by 
large numbers of persons, not only from the 
surrounding villages, but even from the metropolis. 
All the inhabitants of the town prepared for visitors, 
for everyone who had a relative or acquaintance in 
Croydon was sure to make the fair an occasion for a 
visit. Two time-honoured customs were connected 
with the October fair, everybody commencing fires 
in their sitting-rooms on the first day of the fair, 
and dining on roast pork or goose. The latter 
custom was observed even by those who, having no 
friends to visit, dined in a booth ; and the number 

And the Old London Fairs. 33 1 

of geese and legs of pork to be seen roasting before 
glowing charcoal fires in grates of immense width, 
in the rear of the booths, was one of the sights of 
the fair. 

There were two entrances to the fair from the 
town, one at the gate which gave access at ordinary 
times to the foot-path across the field, leading to 
Park Hill; and the other, made for the occasion, 
further southward, for the accommodation of those- 
who approached the field from the avenues on the 
east side of High Street. Each was bordered for a 
short distance by the standings of itinerant vendors 
of walnuts, oysters, and fried sausages, beyond 
which was a long street of gingerbread stalls,, 
terminated, in the one case, by the shows of the 
exhibitors of wax-work, living curiosities, and pic-^ 
torial representations of great historical events, and 
in the other by the smaller and less pretentious 
drinking-booths. At right angles to these canvas 
streets, and opening from them near their com- 
mencement, was a third, covered over with an 
awning, and composed of the stalls of the dealers in 
toys and fancy goods. This was called Bond 

Parallel with this avenue, and connecting the 
further ends of the two streets of gingerbread stalls^ 
was one broader than the others, bordered on the 

33^ The Old Showmen^ 

side from which it was approached with gingerbread 
stalls^ and on the further side with the principal 
shows and booths. First in order^ on the latter 
side^ stood darkens circus, with the proprietor 
on the steps, in a scarlet coat and white breeches, 
smacking a whip, and shouting, " This way for the 
riders ! the riders ! '^ Three or four spotted and 
cream-coloured horses, gaily caparisoned, stood on 
the platform, and a clown cracked his ^^ wheeze^^ 
with a couple of young fellows in tights and trunks, 
in their intervals of repose from acrobatic feats of 
the ordinary character. 

Next to the circus stood a portable theatre, 
usually Scowton^s, in rivalry with the neighbouring 
show of the famous Eichardson, which was always 
the largest, and was worked by the strongest com- 
pany. On the exterior platforms of both, practical 
jokes were played upon the pantaloon by the 
harlequin and the clown ; young ladies in short 
muslin skirts danced to the lively strains of the 
orchestra, and broad-sword combats were fought in 
the approved one ! two ! three ! over and under 
style. Next to Richardson^s show stood the 
menagerie of Wombwell or Atkins, where a broad 
array of pictorial canvas attracted a wondering 
crowd, and the brazen instruments of musicians, 
attired in uniforms copied from those of the royal 

And the Old London Fairs. 333 

'^beef-eaters/^ brayed and blared from noon till 

Then came the principal booths, wherein eating 
and drinking was the order of the day, and dancing 
that of the night. The largest and best appointed 
of these was the Crown and Anchor, well known to 
fair-goers for half a century, the name of Algar 
being ^^ familiar in their mouths as household 
words/^ as that of an experienced caterer for their 
entertainment. There was a tolerable quadrille 
band in attendance from eve till midnight, and, in 
the best days of the fair, the sons and daughters of 
the shopkeepers of the town and the farmers of the 
surrounding neighbourhood mingled in the dance 
in the " assembly room ^^ of Algar's booth without 
fear of scandal or loss of caste. There was dancing 
in the other booths, but they were smaller, the 
music and the lighting were inferior, and the com- 
pany less select. Among those that stood in a line 
with Algar^s were the Fives Court, kept by an ex- 
pugilist, and patronised chiefly by gentlemen of the 
'^ fancy ; ^^ and the gipsies^ booth, which had no other 
sign than the ancient one of a green bough, and was 
resorted to for the novelty of being waited upon by 
dark-eyed and dusky- complexioned Romanies, wear- 
ing bright-coloured silk handkerchiefs over their 
shoulders, and long gold pendants in their ears. 

334 The Old Showmen^ 

Within the area enclosed by these avenues were 
swings and round-abouts^ while the ^^ knock ^em 
downs/^ the "three shies a penny ^^ fellows, the 
predecessors of the Aunt Sallies of a later day, 
occupied the vacant spaces on the skirts of the 
pleasure fair, wherever the ground was not covered, 
on the first day, with horses, sheep, and cattle. 

At midnight on the 1st the fair was opened by 
the ceremony of carrying an enormous key through 
it, and the booth-keepers were then allowed to 
serve any customers who might offer. By daylight 
next morning the roads leading to the fair-field were 
thronged with sheep and cattle, thousands of which, 
with scores of horses, changed owners before sunset. 
There was little movement in the long avenues of 
shows, booths, and stalls, until near noon, when 
nursery maids led their charges through Bond 
Street, and mothers took their younger children 
there to buy toys. About mid-day the showmen 
unfurled their pictures, which appealed so strongly 
to the imaginations of the spectators, the bands of 
the larger shows began to play, and clowns and 
acrobats, dancers and jugglers, appeared upon the 
exterior platforms. From this time till sunset the 
throng of visitors increased rapidly, and on fine days 
the crowd before the principal shows was so dense 
as to offer considerable impediment to locomotion. 

And the Old London Fairs. 335 

When darkness began to descend upon the field, 
lamps flared and flickered on the fronts of the 
shows, smaller lights glimmered along the toy and 
gingerbread stalls, and thousands of tiny lamps, 
blue, and amber, and green, and ruby, arranged in 
the form of crowns, stars, anchors, feathers, etc., 
illuminated the booths. Then the showmen beat 
their gongs with redoubled vigour, and bawled 
through speaking-trumpets till they were hoarse; 
the bands brayed and blared louder than before; 
and the sounds of harps and violins showed that 
■dancing had commenced in the booths. 

In those days it sometimes happened that two 
circuses attended the fair, when the larger of the 
two was pitched in a field on the west side of the 
road, and bounded on the south side by Mint Walk, 
one of the avenues by which the fair was ap- 
proached from High Street. In a circus thus 
located — I think it was darkens — Miss Woo] ford, 
afterwards the second wife of the great equestrian, 
Andrew Ducrow, exhibited her grace and agility on 
the tight-rope in a blaze of fireworks, in emulation 
of the celebrated Madame Saqui^s performance at 
Vauxhall Gardens. The equestrian profession sfcill 
numbers Ducrows in its ranks, two young men of 
that name belonging at the present time to New- 
some^s circus company; but I have not met with 

336 The Old Showmen^ 

the name of Woolford since 1842^ when a young 
lady of that name, and then about twelve or thir- 
teen years of age, danced on the tight-rope in a 
small show pitched at the back of the town-hall at 
Croydon, during the July Fair. 

The October fair at Croydon closed the season 
of the shows which confined their perambulations 
to a distance of fifty miles from the metropolis, 
where, or in the provincial towns possessing 
theatres, the actors, clowns, acrobats, etc., ob- 
tained engagements for the pantomime season. 
This year, the entire company of Johnson and Lee^s 
theatre was engaged for the Marylebone. 

In 1839, this theatre, with John Douglass and 
Paul Herring still in the company, stood next to 
Hilton^ s menagerie at Greenwich, where the season 
commenced with most of the shows which made Lon- 
don their winter quarters. It was about this time 
that James Lee, who was then manager of Hilton^s 
menagerie, suggested the certain attractiveness of 
the exhibition by a young woman of the perform- 
ances with lions and tigers which had been found 
so productive to the treasuries of the Sangers, 
Batty, and Howes and Cushing, when exhibited by 
a man. It was proposed to bring out as a *^lion 
queen ^^ the daughter of Hilton^s brother Joseph, a 
circus proprietor; and the young lady, b^ing fa- 

And the Old London Fairs. 337 

miKar with her uncle^s lions^ did not shrink from 
the distinction. She made her first public appear- 
ance with the lions at Stepney Pair, and the per- 
formance proved so attractive that the example was 
contagious. Edmunds had at this time a fine 
group of lions, tigers, and leopards, and a young 
woman named Chapman (now Mrs. George Sanger) 
volunteered to perform with them, as a rival to 
Miss Hilton. 

Miss Chapman, who had the honour of appearing 
before the royal family at Windsor Castle, had not 
long been before the public when a third ^4ion 
•queen ^^ appeared in WombwelFs menagerie in the 
person of Helen Blight, the daughter of a musician 
in the band. The career of this poor girl was as 
brief as its termination was shocking. She was 
performing with the animals at Greenwich Pair, 
when a tiger exhibited some sullenness or wayward- 
ness, for which she very imprudently struck it with 
a, riding-whip which she carried. With a terrible 
roar, the infuriated beast sprang upon her, seized 
her by the throat, and killed her before she could 
be rescued. This melancholy afiair led to the pro- 
hibition of such performances by women ; but the 
leading menageries have continued to have ^Hion 
kings ^^ attached to them to the present day. 

It was in this year that the war against the 


338 The Old Showmen^ 

shows was renewed by the authorities of the City of 
London^ who doubled the charges hitherto made for 
space in Smithfield^ Wombwell, for instance^ having 
his rent raised from forty to eighty pounds^ Clarke^s 
from twenty-five to fifty^ and others in the same 
proportion. After the fair^ the London City 
Missions Society presented a memorial to the Cor- 
poration, praying for the suppression of the fair^ 
and the City Lands Committee was instructed by 
the Court of Aldermen to consider whether, and by 
what means, its suppression could be legally ac- 
complished. The committee referred the question 
to the solicitor of the City, who was requested to 
report to the Markets Committee ^^ as to the right 
of the Corporation of London to suppress Bartho- 
lomew Fair, or otherwise to remove the nuisances 
and obstructions to trade to which it gives rise.^^ 

The solicitor accordingly examined the archives 
in the town-clerk^s ofiice, as well as books in the 
City Library and the British Museum, for the pur- 
pose of tracing the history of the fair, and of other 
fairs which formerly existed in the metropolis, and 
the right to hold which was likewise founded upon 
charters, and which had been abolished or fallen 
into disuse. His researches led him to the con- 
clusion that ^Hhe right to hold both fairs having 
been granted for the purpose of promoting the 

And the Old London Fairs. 339 

interests of trade, it is quite clear that no prescrip- 
tive right can be set up to commit any nuisance 
incompatible with the purposes for wbicli they were 
established; if^ therefore^ the Corporation should 
be satisfied that the interests of the public can be 
no otherwise protected than by confining the fair to 
its original objects and purposes, they may un- 
doubtedly do so, and this would in fact, be equiva- 
lent to its entire suppression/^ 

This course was, however, that which had been 
adopted, without success, in 1735, and the legal 
adviser of the Corporation could not avoid seeing 
that " it is at all times difficult, by law, to put down 
the ancient customs and practices of the multitude/^ 
Both May Fair and Lady Fair had been suppressed 
without the intervention of Parliament, however, and 
it seemed probable that *^ old Bartlemy ^^ would be 
extinguished before long by natural decay, and that 
the best course would be to provide for its due 
regulation during its decline. 

^^ When we consider,^^ said the report, ^^ the im- 
proved condition and conduct of the working classes 
in the metropolis, and reflect upon the irrefragable 
proofs continually before us, that the humbler 
orders are fast changing their habits, and sub- 
stituting country excursions by railroad and steam- 
boat, and other innocent recreations, for vicious 

z 2 

340 The Old Showmen^ 

amusements of the description which prevailed in 
Bartholomew Fair, it is, perhaps, not too much to 
conclude that it is unnecessary for the Corporation 
to apply to Parliament to abate the nuisance ; but 
that, if they proceed to lay down and enforce the 
observance of judicious regulations in the fair, and 
to limit its duration and extent, it may be permitted 
to continue, in the confident belief that many years 
will not elapse ere the Corporation may omit to 
proclaim the fair, and thus suppress it altogether, 
without exciting any of those feelings of discontent 
and disapprobation with which its compulsory abo- 
lition would probably be now attended/' 

When this report was submitted to the Court of 
Common Council, in July, 1840, considerable di- 
versity of opinion was found to prevail as to the 
course which should be adopted. The majority 
either adopted the view of the London City Missions 
Society, or the more moderate sentiments of the 
reporter, Mr. Charles Pearson ; but the principles 
therein enunciated did not pass without challenge. 
Mr. Anderton was ^^decidedly opposed to the canting 
and Methodistical grounds for interfering with one 
of the only amusements now remaining to the poor 
inhabitants of London.^^ Mr. Wells thought that 
the fair, under proper regulations for the prevention 
of disorder, would be innoxious, and that the gaming- 

And the Old London Fairs, 341 

houses of the metropolis were a fitter subject for 
suppression. Mr. Taylor regarded the objections to 
the fair as ^^ the wild chimeras of fanaticism.^^ But 
after a long discussion, the report was adopted by 
forty-three votes against fourteen. The Market 
Committee declined, however, to limit the fair to two 
days, or to exclude shows entirely, though they re- 
solved to again raise the rents of the shows that 
were admitted, to permit no disturbance of the 
pavement, to continue the exclusion of swings and 
roundabouts, and to admit no theatres for dramatic 

The policy resolved upon was, therefore, simply 
one of vexation and annoyance, and contributed 
nothing to the promotion of morality and order. 
Johnson and Lee^s theatre, Clarke^s circus, Frazer^s 
acrobatic entertainment, Laskey^s giant and giantess, 
and Crockett^s and Reader^s exhibitions of living 
curiosities, were refused space in Smithfield; and 
the only shows admitted were the menageries of 
Womb well, Hilton, and Wright, and Grovels theatre 
of arts. Why the performances of lions and tigers 
should be regarded with more favour than those of 
horses. Miss Clarke on the tight-rope be considered 
a more demoralising spectacle then Miss Hilton or 
Miss Chapman in a cage of wild beasts, and the 
serpents and crocodile in Crockett^s caravan more 

342* The Old Showmen^ 

suggestive of immoral ideas than the monkeys in 
the menageries, is a problem which does not admit 
of easy solution, and which only an aldermanic mind 
could have framed. 

The suburban fairs were declining so much at this 
time that Johnson and Lee were deterred by their 
diminished receipts at Greenwich and Deptford from 
visiting Ealing, Oamberwell, and Enfield; and, on 
being excluded from Smithfield, proceeded to 
Chatham, whence they moved to Croydon. The 
decadence was still more manifest in the following 
year, and at Enfield an attempt was made by the 
magistrate to prevent them from opening on the 
third day, the more oflScious than learned adminis- 
trator of the law being ignorant of the fact that, 
though the fair had for many years been held on 
two days only, the charter by which it was held 
allowed three days. Lee had taken care to obtain 
a copy of the charter, and on the superintendent of 
police going to the theatre with the magistrate's 
order for its immediate removal, he positively 
refused obedience to the mandate, and produced the 
charter. The superintendent thereupon apologised, 
and returned to the magistrate with the news of his 

At Bartholomew Fair, WombwelPs was the only 
show of any consequence. His collection had at 

And the Old London Fairs, 343 

this time grown to be^ not only the largest and best 
travelling, but equal, and in some respects superior, 
to any in the world. He had twelve lions, besides 
lionesses and cubs, and eight tigers, a tigress, and 
cubs, in addition to a puma, a jaguar, a black tiger, 
several leopards, an ocelot, a serval, and a pair of 
genets. There were also striped and spotted hyenas, 
wolves, jackals, coati-mondies, racoons, a polar bear, 
a sloth bear, black and brown bears, a honey bear, 
and a couple of porcupines. The hoofed classes 
were represented by three elephants, a fine one- 
horned rhinoceros, a pair of gnus, a white antelope, 
a Brahmin cow, an axis deer, and three giraffes, 
which had lately been brought from Abyssinia by 
M. Riboulet, a French traveller, and were the first 
of their kind ever exhibited in the fair. 

Croydon Fair was disturbed this year by a fight 
between the youths of the East India Company^s 
military college at A.ddiscombe, about a mile from 
the town, and the members of Johnson and Lee^s 
company. The fracas originated with an insulting 
remark made by one of the cadets, as they were 
generally called, to a young lady of the theatrical 
company, promenading at the time on the parade 
The insult was promptly resented by a male membe: 
of the troupe, who hurled the offender down the steps 
A dozen of his companions immediately rushe< 

344 The Old Showmen^ 

up the steps^ and assailed the champion, who was 
supported by the rest of the company ; and the con- 
sequence was a sharp scrimmage, ending in the 
arrival of several constables, and the removal to the 
station-house of as many of the cadets as could not 
escape by flight. Next morning they were takeii 
before the magistrates, and, being proved to have 
been the aggressors, they were fined; and from 
that time the military aspirants of Addiscombe were 
forbidden to enter the town during the three days 
of the fair. 

Charles Freer was the leading actor of the com- 
pany at this time, and the principal lady was Mrs. 
Hugh Campbell, whom I remember seeing a year 
or two afterwards at the Gravesend theatre. She 
was subsequently engaged, as was Freer also, at the 
Pavilion. Her successor on the Richardsonian 
boards was Mrs. Yates, who was afterwards engaged 
at the Standard. 

The harlequin was a nervous, eccentric, one-eyed 
young man named Charles Shaw, who was dismissed 
from the company towards the close of the season 
on account of his freaks reaching a pitch which at 
times raised a doubt as to his sanity, besides threat- 
ening detriment to the interests of the theatre. 
When the time approached at which the campaign 
of 1842 was to be commenced, it was found neces- 

And the Old London Fairs. 345 

sary to advertise for a harlequin ; and tlie announce- 
ment of the want produced a response from Charles 
Wilson,, who stated that he had been engaged 
through the preceding pantomime season at the 
Birmingham theatre. This gentleman seeming eli- 
gible, he was engaged, but was not seen by Lee, 
or any of the company, until he presented himself 
at the theatre on Easter Sunday, at Greenwich. 
Lee was immediately struck with the new harle- 
quin^s remarkable resemblance to the old one, which 
extended to every feature but the eyes ; these were 
the same colour as Shaw's, but he had two, while 
Shaw had lost one. On the second day of the fair, 
however, it was discovered that the eye which had 
thus long puzzled every one as to his identity was a 
glass one; and on his being charged with being 
Shaw, he acknowledged the deception, observing 
that he had felt sure that he would not be re-engaged 
if he applied in his proper name. The deception was 
pardoned, and Shaw's subsequent freaks seem to 
have been fewer, and of a milder character. 

The effects of the policy resolved upon by the 
City authorities in 1840 became more perceptible 
every year. In 1842, only one of the few shows 
that appeared in Smithfield issued a bill, which, as 
a curiosity, being the last ever issued for Bartholo- 
mew Fair, I subjoin : — 

346 The Old Showmen^ 

Extraordinary Phenomenon ! ! ! 

The greatest wonder in the world 

Now Exhibiting Alive^ 

At the Globe Coffee House, No. 30, King Street, 


A Female Child with Two Perfect Heads, 

Named Elizabeth Bedbury, Daughter of Daniel and 

Jane Bedbury, Born at Wandsworth, Surrey, April 

17th, 1842. The public is respectfully informed 

that the Child is now Living; and hundreds of 

persons has been to see it, and declares that it is 

the most Wonderful Phenomenon of Nature they^d 

ever seen. 

Admission Id, Each. 
No Deception ; if dissatisfied, the Money Returned. 

Nelson Lee played a trick at Croydon Fair this 
year which can only be defended on the principle 
that ^^all is fair at fair time.^^ Finding that the 
Bosjesmans were being exhibited in the town, and 
were attracting great numbers of persons to their 
^^ receptions,^^ he hung out, on the second day of 
the fair, a show- cloth with the announcement, in 
large black letters, " Arrival of the Real BosjesmenJ' 
Three or four of the company were then ^^ made up '' 
to represent the strange specimens of humanity 
which had lately been discovered in South Africa, 
and their appearance on the parade in an antic 

And the Old London Fairs. 347 

dance produced a rush to witness tlie further re- 
presentations of the manners and sports of savage 
life to be seen inside. 

A startling event occurred on the following 
morning. One of WombwelFs elephants escaped 
from confinement^ and at the early hour of three in 
the morning was seen^ to the amazement and alarm 
of old Winter, the watchman, walking in a leisurely- 
manner down High Street. He was in the habit of 
being taken every morning by his keeper to bathe 
in Scarbrook pond, a small piece of water skirted 
by a lane connecting the modern and now principal 
portion of the town with the Old Town ; and on 
such occasions he was regaled with a bun at a con- 
fectioner's shop at the corner which he had to turn 
out of High Street, near the Green Dragon. While 
a constable ran to the George the Fourth, where 
some of WombwelFs employes were known to be 
located, the elephant reached the confectioner's shop, 
and, finding it closed, butted the shutters with his 
enormous head, and, amidst a crash of wood and 
glass, proceeded to help himself to the delicacies 
inside. On the arrival of his keeper, the docile 
beast submitted himself to his guidance, and was 
led back to his stable ; but Wombwell had to pay 
the confectioner seven or eight pounds for the 
damage done to the shop window and shutters. 

348 The Old Showmen^ 

Johnson and Lee commenced the season of 1845 
with several members of the Pavilion company in 
their fair cor'ps ; but they attended fewer fairs than 
in any previous year, and in 1844 their theatre ap- 
peared only at Greenwich, Enfield, and Croydon. 
In the following year, it was burned, while standing 
in a field at Dartford, and the proprietors, not being 
insured, sufiered a loss of seventeen hundred pounds. 
Nothing was saved but the parade waggon, which 
was dragged away before the flames reached it, and, 
with the scene waggon and other efi'ects which had 
been bought of Haydon in 1838, formed the nucleus 
of the new theatre with which the proprietors opened 
the fair campaign of 1847. Henry Howard joined 
the travelling company in that year at Ealing Fair, 
on the closing of the Standard. 

During the latter part of their career as proprietors 
of a travelling theatre, the successors of Kichardson 
found it more profitable to conduct their business 
on the system, since adopted by Newsome and 
Hengler wil^ their circuses, of locating the theatre 
for two or three weeks at a time in some consider- 
able town, than to wander from fair to fair, staying 
at each place only three or four days. At the pre- 
sent day, the circuses just named draw good houses, 
as a rule, for three months; but a quarter of a 
century ago this was not thought practicable, and 

And the Old London Fairs. 349 

in 1849, wlien Jolmson and Lee erected their 
theatre at Croydon (in the Fair Field, but some 
time before the fair), they did not deem it expedient 
to extend their stay beyond three weeks. The 
company was drawn chiefly from the minor theatres 
of the metropolis, and included Leander Melville, 
Billington, Seaman, Phillips, Mrs. Barnett, Mrs. 
Campbell, and Miss Slater. The Stranger was 
selected for the first night, and drew a good audi- 
ence, as it invariably does, wherever it is played. 
Under the able and judicious management of Nelson 
Lee, and with a change of performances every night, 
good business was done to the last. The experiment 
was repeated with equal success at Uxbridge and 

Another step towards the extinction of Bartholo- 
mew Fair was taken this year by the exclusion from 
Smithfield of shows of every description ; a step 
which would have been at least consistent, if the 
<5ivic authorities had not made arrangements for the 
standing of shows of all kinds on a large piece of 
ground adjoining the New North Road, called 
Britannia Fields, near the site of the Britannia 
theatre. If the suppression of the fair had been 
sought on the ground of its interference with the 
trade and trafiic of the city, this step would have 
been intelligible; but the moral grounds upon 

350 The Old Showmen^ 

which it was urged served to cover with ridicule the 
removal of what was alleged to be a hot-bed of vice 
from Smithfield to Hoxton. What right had the 
corporation to demoralise the dwellers in one part 
of the metropolis^ in order to preserve from further 
contamination the inhabitants of another part ? 

Bartholomew Fair was reduced by this step to a 
dozen stalls^ and from that time may be considered 
as practically extinct. In Britannia Fields^ what 
was called New Bartholomew Fair was attended by 
the shows which of late years had resorted to Smith- 
field and one or two others, among which was Eeed^s 
theatre, the prices of admission to which ranged 
from sixpence to two shillings. The performances 
consisted of The Scottish Chieftain, in which Saker 
played Ronald, the principal character, and a panto- 
mime called Harlequin Rambler, Among the minor 
shows was that of Hales and his sister, the Norfolk 
giant and giantess, who issued a bill containing the 
following efiusion of the Muse that inspired the 
poet of Mrs. Jarley^s wax-work : — 

'* Miss Hales and her Brother are here to be seen, 

come let us visit the sweet lovely Queen ; 
Behold she is handsome — in manners pohte — 
Both she and her brother near eight feet in height ! 

1 have seen all the tallest in towns far and near, 
But never their equal to me did appear ! 

And the Old London Fairs, 351 

All England and Scotland, and Ireland declare, 
Their like was ne'er seen yet in them anywhere. 

" Here's the smallest of women creation can show, 
Complete in proportion from top to the toe ; 
And a Lady of rank from New Zealand secured, 
Escap'd from the murder her husband endured ! 
And a fine youthful female presented to sight, 
All spangled and spotted with brown and with white , 
Large Crocodiles here, and a Boa behold, 
With a fine Anaconda all glistening with gold. 

" Here's a silver-haired Lady, with skin white as snow, 
Whose eyes are like rubies that roll to and fro ! 
You will find her a species different from all. 
The black and the whites, or the low and the tall ! 
But to sing all her beauties I need not begin. 
Nor the fine azure veins that appear through her skin ; 
For these, mind, no poet or painter can show, 
But when you behold her, O then you may know ! 

" Exhibitions like this may to us be of use— 
What a contrast of creatures this world can produce ! 
See the tallest and smallest before us in state. 
What a prodigy rare and phenomena great ! 
From such wonders eccentric presented to view 
We now may our study of nature pursue ; 
And philosophy truly may draw from it then, 
That Temp'rance produces the tallest of men." 

Hales made enough money by the exhibition of 
himself to purchase the lease and goodwill of a 

^5^ The Old Showmen^ 

public-house in Drury Lane, where he lived several 
years. Many persons visited the house purposely 
to see him, but he never appeared in the bar before 
eleven o^ clock, and was careful to avoid making 
himself too cheap. I saw him once, in crossing the 
street towards his house, stoop to raise in his 
arms a little girl, suggesting to my mind the giant 
and fairy of a pantomime. 

In pursuance of the policy indicated in the report 
of 1840, Bartholomew Fair, now represented by a 
few stalls, was proclaimed in 1850 by deputy; and 
this course was followed until 1855, when not a 
single stall-keeper applied for space, and the 
ceremony of proclaiming the fair was omitted alto- 
gether. The new fair in Britannia Fields was held 
only two or three years^ that concession to the 
showmen and to the fair-going portion of the public 
having been designed only for the purpose of facili- 
tating the extinction of the old fair in Smithfield. 

Greenwich Fair was the scene in 1850 of an out- 
rageous and dastardly attack on Johnson and Lee's 
theatre by a body of soldiers from Woolwich. It 
seems to have originated in a practical joke played 
by a soldier upon a young man in the crowd before 
the theatre, and which, being resented, was followed 
by an assault. On the latter retreating up the steps 
of the parade waggon, followed by his assailant. 

And the Old London Fairs, 353 

Nelson Lee interposed for his protection, and was 
himself assaulted by the soldier^ who was thereupon 
ejected. A number of soldiers, witnessing the dis- 
<5omfiture of their comrade, immediately rushed up the 
«teps, and began an indiscriminate attack upon every- 
body on the parade. The company, finding them- 
selves over-matched, took refuge in the interior, or 
jumped off the parade, and fled as if for their lives. 

An actor named Chappell stood by Nelson Lee after 
the rest had fled, but he joined in the stampede 
ultimately, and the proprietor of the theatre was 
left alone, defending himself and property against a 
swarm of foes. The story told long afterwards of 
the harlequin of the company was, that he ran with- 
out pause to the railway station, and jumped into a 
train just starting for London. He then ran from 
London Bridge to Shoreditch, and rushing, ex- 
hausted and excited, into a public-house adjoining 
the City of London theatre, gasped, ^^ Blood — 
soldiers — Mr. Lee — frightful affair — three pen^orth 
o' brandy ! ^^ 

The soldiers, having driven their opponents off the 
field, began destroying the front of the theatre, and 
smashing the lamps, which, fortunately, were not 
lighted. If they had been burning, the result would 
probably have been a terrific conflagration, which 
might have swept the fair, and destroyed many 


354 ^'^^ Old Showmen^ 

thousands of pounds^ worth, of property. Nelson 
Lee^ resisting with all his might the destruction of 
his property^ had a rope made fast round his body, 
and was about to be hoisted to the top of the front, 
when a dozen constables arrived, and the assailants 
immediately abandoned the field, and, leaping off 
the parade, mixed with the crowd. Many of them 
were captured, however, and, being taken before a 
magistrate, were committed for trial at the ensuing 
Old Bailey sessions. Johnson and Lee withdrew 
from the prosecution, however, expecting that their 
forbearance would be rewarded by pecuniary com- 
pensation for the destruction of their property, 
which the Recorder had suggested should be given 
by the officers of the regiment to which the offenders 
belonged ; but, on application being made to the 
officers, they informed Lee that there were no regi- 
mental funds available for the purpose, and I believe 
not a penny was ever received by Johnson and Lee 
by way of compensation. 

During the Whitsuntide Fair, the soldiers were 
confined to fcheir barracks ; but, as many of them 
were in the habit of visiting the theatre with their 
friends, this measure diminished the receipts, and 
thus added loss to loss. Johnson and Lee attended 
no other fairs that year, but removed the theatre ta 
Croydon, where they erected it in a field adjoining 

And the Old London Fairs. 355 

the Addiscombe Road, near the Brighton and South- 
Easiern railway stations. Henry Howard and Mrs. 
Campbell played the leading characters here, and 
afterwards at Hertford and Uxbridge. 

Wombwell died this year in his living carriage at 
Richmond, at the age of seventy-three. He was 
buried in Highgate cemetery, his coffin being made 
of oak from the timbers of the Royal Qeorgey which 
sank off Spithead in 1782. As his executors were 
instructed by his will to have no nails used in its 
construction, it was put together on the dove-tailing 
system. The menagerie was divided in accordance 
with his will into three parts, which were bequeathed 
respectively to his widow, a niece named Edmunds, 
and another relative named Day. 

The expectation of such results as attended the 
Hyde Park Fair of 1838 from the concourse of 
people flocking into the metropolis duringthe summer 
of 1851, when the first great international exhibition 
was held, caused arrangements to be made for a 
^^ world^s fair ^^ on a large scale, to be held during 
the same time at Bayswater. A committee was 
formed for its organisation and management, con- 
sisting of Johnson and Lee, Algar, Mussett, Mills, 
Trebeck, and Young. Algar was the proprietor of 
the Crown and Anchor refreshment and dancing 
booth, well-known to the frequenters of Greenwich 

2 A 2 

356 The Old Showmen^ 

and Croydon Fairs ; Mussett and Mills were almost 
as well known as leading names among the stall- 
keepers attending the great fairs ; Trebeck was a 
toy-dealer in Sun Street, Bishopsgate. 

The undertaking was as complete a failure, how- 
ever, as the fair of 1838 had been a success. The 
ground was in bad condition, and its softness was a 
difficulty at the commencement. Mrs. WombwelPs 
elephant waggon stuck in the mud, and had to be 
left there until the next day; and the elephant 
extricated himself with difficulty by lifting one leg 
at a time, and stepping upon trusses of straw laid 
down to give him a firm footing. Edmunds would 
not venture to the ground which he had taken for 
his menagerie, but arranged his caravans at the 
entrance of the field. The weather was cold and 
cheerless when the fair was opened, and the railway 
companies had not begun running trains at low fares. 
When the fine weather and the excursion trains did 
come, the fair had come to be regarded as a failure, 
and it never recovered from the chill and blight of 
its commencement. 

Johnson and Lee^s theatre appeared at Greenwich 
Fair for the last time in 1852, and proceeded thence 
to Uxbridge, where the company was joined by 
James Robson, afterwards so famous as a comedian 
tit the Olympic. In the following year, the property 

And the Old London Fairs. 2>S1 

was sold by auction^ and^ as a memorial of an event 
which has seldom occurred^ and will never occur 
again^ I subjoin the advertisement : — 

^^ Notice. — To Carmen^ Builders, Proprietors of 
Tea Gardens, Exhibitors, Van Proprietors, Travelling 
Equestrians, Providers of Illuminations, &c. — The 
Travelling Theatrical Property known as Eichard- 
son^s Theatre, comprising Covered Vans and Parade 
Waggons, Scenery, Wings, Stage Front, Orchestra, 
with a double stock of beautiful scenery, waterproof 
covering, draperies, massive chandeliers, a great 
quantity of baize, flags, &c. Large coat of arms, 
variegated lamps and devices, eight capital 6-inch 
wheels, parade waggons, with two large flaps to 
each, two capital excursion vans, trucks, double 
stock of new scenery, shifting flies, fourteen long 
forms, large stock of book-cloths and baize of large 
dimensions, battened dancing-boards, erection of 
booths, handsome imitation stone fronts two capital 
money-takers^ boxes, with fittings up, handsome 
ornamental urns, large figures on pedestals, four 
guns and carriages, handsome pilasters, machinery, 
flooring throughout the building, with numerous 
scenery and stage devices, and every other article 
connected with the stage, a quantity of quartering, 
iron, old wheels, &c., &c., &c. Which will be sold 
by auction by Mr. Lloyd, on the premises, Richard- 

358 The Old Showmen^ 

son^s Cottage, Horsemonger-lane^ Boro\ May be 
viewed^ and catalogues had on the premises, and of 
the Auctioneers^ 5, Hatfield- street, Blackfriars- 

The property was completely dispersed ; the tim- 
ber and wood-work being purchased by builders, 
the waggons by wheelwrights, the canvas and tilt- 
cloths by farmers, and the green baize, curtains, 
fittings, etc. by Jew dealers. There is not the 
shadow of a pretence, therefore, for the use of the 
name, '^ Richardson^ s theatre,^^ by any showman of 
the present day. 

The shows travelling after the sale and dispersion 
of Johnson and Lee^s were, exclusive of menageries 
and exhibitions, Abbott^s theatre, Jackman^s the- 
atre, and Fossett^s circus. I am not sure that - 
Reed^s theatre was still in existence. Abbott^s 
theatre was at the Easter fair at Greenwich in 1852, 
when Charlie Keith, since famous all over Europe 
as ^Hhe roving English clown,^^ was fulfilling his 
first engagement in it as an acrobat. Rob son, the 
comedian, was at the same time performing in 
Jackman^s theatre, from which he transferred his 
services to Johnson and Lee^s. 

Fossett^s circus was pitched that summer at 
Primrose Hill for a few days, when one of the 
irregular fairs which are occasionally held in the 

And the Old London Fairs, 359 

neighbourliood of London was held. It is a small 
concern,, with only two or three horses. Miss 
Fossett, the proprietor's daughter^ is a tight-rope 
performer^ in which capacity she appeared a few 
years ago in Talliott's circus, when the company 
and stud appeared one winter in a temporary build- 
ing at the rear of some small houses in New Street, 
Lambeth Walk. James Talliott, to whom the 
houses belong, was then well known to the fre- 
quenters of the London music-halls, and may be 
remembered as a trapeze performer in conjunction 
with Burnett, who called himself Burnetti, but was 
known among the professional fraternity as Bruiser. 
He afterwards performed singly at the Strand 
Music-hall, now the Gaiety Theatre, and other 
places of amusement in the metropolis, and has 
since owned a small circus, with which he travels 
during the summer within a circle of a dozen miles 
from London. 

Hilton's menagerie had at this time passed into 
the possession of Manders, and the lion-tamer of 
the show was an Irishman named James Strand, 
who had formerly kept a gingerbread-stall, and had 
been engaged to perform with the beasts when 
those attractive exhibitions had been threatened 
with temporary suspension by the abruptness with 
which his predecessor, Newsome — a brother, I be- 

360 The Old Showmen^ 

lieve^ to the circus-proprietor of that name — had 
terminated his engagement. Strand^s qualifications 
for the profession were not equal to his own esti- 
mate of them, however, and Manders had to look 
out for his successor. 

One day, when the menagerie was at Greenwich 
Fair, a powerful-looking negro accosted one of the 
musicians, saying that he was a sailor just returned 
from a voyage, and would like a berth in the show* 
The musician communicated the man^s wish to 
Manders, and the negro was invited to enter the 
show. His appearance and confident manner im- 
pressed the showman favourably, and, on his being 
allowed to enter the lion^s cage, at his own request, 
he displayed so much address and ability to control 
the animals that he was engaged at once, and " the 
gingerbread king," as Strand was called, was in- 
formed that his services could, for the future, be 
dispensed with. This remarkable black man was 
the famous Macorao, who for several years after- 
wards travelled with the menagerie, exhibiting in 
his performances with lions and tigers as much 
daring as Van Amburgh, and as much coolness as 

One of the finest tigers ever imported into this 
country, and said to be the identical beast that 
escaped from Mr. Jamrach^s premises in St. 

Arid the Old London Fairs, 361 

George^s Street (better known by its old name of 
Eatcliffe Highway), and killed a boy before it was 
recaptured, was purchased by Manders, and placed 
in a cage with another tiger. The two beasts soon 
began fighting furiously, upon which Macomo 
entered the cage, armed only with a riding-whip^ 
and attempted to separate them. His eflforts caused 
both the tigers to turn their fury upon him, and 
they severely lacerated him ; but, covered with 
blood as he was, he continued the struggle for 
supremacy until the beasts cowered before him, and 
he was able, with the assistance of the keepers, to 
separate them. 

It is worthy of remark, in connection with the 
causes of accidents with lions and tigers, that 
Macomo, like Crockett, was a strictly sober man, 
never touching intoxicating liquors of any kind. 
^^It^s the drink,^^ said the ex-lion king, who was 
interviewed by the special commissioner of a Lon- 
don morning journal two years ago ; '' It^s the drink 
that plays the mischief with us fellows. There are 
plenty of people always ready to treat the daring 
fellow that plays with the lions as if they were 
kittens ; and so he gets reckless, lets the dangerous 
animal — on which, if he were sober, he would know 
he must always keep his eye — get dodging round 
behind him ; or hits a beast in which he ought to 

362 The Old Showmen^ 

know that a blow rouses the sleeping devil; or 
makes a stagger^ and goes down, and then they set 
upon him/^ 

Macomo^s fight with the two tigers was not the 
only occasion on which he received injuries^ the 
scars of which he bore upon him to the day of his 
death, which, contrary to the expectation of every 
one who witnessed his performances, was a peaceful 
one. He died a natural death in 1870, when he 
was succeeded by an Irishman named Macarthy, 
who had previously been attached in a similar 
capacity to the circus of Messrs. Bell and Myers. 
While performing, in 1862, with the lions belonging 
to that establishment, he had had his left arm so 
severely mangled by one of the beasts that amputa- 
tion became necessary. This circumstance seems 
to have added to the eclat of his performances ; but 
he had neither the nerve of Macomo, nor his resolu- 
tion to abstain from stimulants. Unlike his pre- 
decessor, he frequently turned his back upon the 
lions, though he had frequently been cautioned 
against the danger he thereby incurred ; and it was 
believed that his disregard of the warning was one 
of the causes of the terrible encounter which termi- 
nated his existence. 

Macarthy was bitten on two occasions while per- 
forming with Manders^s lions, prior to the disaster 

And the Old London Fairs. 363 

at Bolton. The first time was while performing at 
Edinburgh^ when one of the beasts made a snap at 
his remaining arm^ but only slightly grazed it. 
The second occasion was a few days before the 
fatal accident occurred^ when one of the lions bit 
him slightly on the wrist. He lost his life in 
representing a so-called ^^ lion hunt/^ an exhibition 
which was introduced by Macomo^ and consists in 
chasing the animals about the cage^ the performer 
being armed with a sword and pistols^ and throw- 
ing into the mimic sport as much semblance of 
reality as the circumstancea allow. The exhibition 
is acknowledged by lion-tamers themselves to be a 
dangerous one^ and it should never b*e attempted 
with any but young animals. For their ordinary 
performances^ most lion-tamers prefer full-grown 
animals^ as being better trained; but a full-grown 
lion does not like to be driven and hustled about, 
as the animals are in the so-called ^^ lion hunt,^^ and 
when such are used for this exhibition they are 
frequently changed. 

Macarthy was driving the animals from one end 
of the cage to the other when one of them ran 
against his legs, and threw him down. He soon 
regained his feet, however, and drove the animals 
into a corner. Whilst stamping his feet upon the 
floor, to make the animals run past him, one of 

364 The Old Showmen^ 

them crept stealthily out from the group, and 
sprang upon him, seizing him by the right hip and 
throwing him down upon his side. For a moment 
the spectators imagined that this was part of the 
performance, but Macarthy^s agonised features soon 
convinced them of the terrible reality of the scene 
before them. As he struggled to rise, three other 
Hons sprang upon him, one of them seizing his arm, 
from which he immediately dropped the sword. 

The keepers now hurried to the unfortunate 
man^s assistance, some of them endeavouring to 
beat off the infuriated lions, while others inserted a 
partition between the bars of the cage, with a view 
to driving the animals behind it. This was a task 
of considerable difficulty, however, for as one beast 
was obliged to relinquish its hold of the unfortunate 
man, another rushed into its place. Heated irons 
were then brought, and by their aid, and the dis- 
charge of fire-arms, four of the lions were driven 
behind the partition. Macarthy was lying in the 
centre of the cage, still being torn by the lion that 
had first attacked him. A second partition was 
attempted to be inserted, but was found to be too 
large ^ and then one of the keepers drew the first 
one out a little, with the view of driving the fifth 
lion among the rest. More blank cartridges were 
fired without effect, and it was not until the hot 

And the Old London Fairs. 365 

irons were applied to the nose of the infuriated 
brute that it loosed its hold^ and ran behind the 

Even then^ before the opening could be closed, 
the lion ran out again, seized the dead or dying 
man by one of his feet and dragged him into the 
corner, where four of the beasts again fell upon him 
with unsatiated thirst of blood. The terrible scene 
had now been going on for a quarter of an hour, 
and, even when all the animals were at length 
secured, it was found that they were next the 
entrance of the cage, the opposite end of which 
had to be broken open before the mangled corpse 
of the lion-tamer could be lifted out. 

As lion-tamers are well paid, and this was only 
the second fatal accident in the course of half a 
century, it is not surprising that, as soon as the 
catastrophe became known, there were several can- 
didates for the vacancy created by Macarthy^s 
death. Mrs. Manders had resolved to discontinue 
the exhibition, however, and the applicants for the 
situation received an intimation to that eflfect. 

Mrs. Womb well retired from the menagerie busi- 
ness in 1866, and was succeeded in the proprietor- 
ship by Fairgrieve, who had married her niece. 

Fairgrieve retired from the occupation in the 
spring of 1872, when his fine collection of animals 

366 The Old Showmen^ 

was sold by auction at Edinburgh. As the public 
sale of a menagerie is a rare events and Mr. Jamrach 
and Mr. Rice do not publish prices current, the 
reader may be glad to learn the prices realised. 

The first lot was a racoon — ^^a very pleasant^ 
playful pet/^ the auctioneer said— which was knocked 
down to the Earl of Roseberry for one pound. Mr. 
Bell Lamonby, another private collector, became 
the possessor of a pair of agoutis, which he was 
assured were '^ sharp, active little animals, and 
could sing like canaries,^^ for an equally moderate 
sum. Then came a strange-looking and ferocious 
animal called the Tasmanian devil, of which there 
is a specimen in the gardens of the Zoological 
Society, and which the auctioneer assured his hearers 
was as strong in the jaw as a hyena, but not to 
be recommended for purchase as a domestic pet. 
Bids were slow, and even the prospect of purchasing 
the devil for three pounds did not render buyers 
enthusiastic; so that Mrs. Day bought the animal 
for five shillings more. 

Then came the baboons and monkeys. The Diana 
monkey, a white and rose-breasted little animal, 
was purchased by Dr. Mackendrick for seven 
pounds ; while the Capuchin monkey, full of intelli- 
gence, and belonging to a kind fancied by Italian 
organ-grinders, was knocked down to Mr. Rice for 

A72d the Old London Fairs. 367 

thirty shillings. Mr. JamracL. purchased the drill, 
^^a playful little drawing-room pet, worth twenty 
pounds to put on the kitchen shelf to look at/^ for 
five guineas; and Mr. Rice paid thirty pounds for 
a male mandrill, five for a female of the same species, 
eighteen guineas for a pair of Anubis baboons^ and 
fifteen pounds for five dog-faced baboons. 

Passing on to the bird carriage, the first specimen 
submitted to competition was the black vulture, one 
of the largest birds of the species, and in excellent 
plumage. Mr. Rice bought this bird for three 
pounds ten shillings, and the condor, which had 
been forty years in the show, for fifteen pounds. 
Next came the emu, ^^a very suitable bird for a 
gentleman^s park, and a nice show thing for the 
ladies in the morning, after breakfast,^^ which Mrs. 
Day secured for her collection at seven pounds. Mr. 
Jamrach gave thirteen pounds for the pair of peli- 
cans, bought at the sale of the Knowsley collection, 
and which had been trained to run races. The fine 
collection of parrots, macaws, and cockatoos was 
dispersed among a number of local fanciers of 
ornithological beauties. 

Proceeding to the larger mammals, the auctioneer 
knocked down a male nylghau to Mr. Van Amburgh, 
the great American menagerist, for twenty- six 
pounds, and a female of the same species to the 

368 The Old Showmen^ 

proprietor of the Manchester Zoological Gardens 
for ten guineas ; while Mr. Jamrach secured a llama 
for fifteen pounds, and Mr. Rice a young kangaroo 
for twelve pounds. Professor Edwards, who had 
come over from Paris to pick up a few good speci- 
mens for the Jardin des Plantes, purchased the 
white bear, ^^ young, healthy, and lively as a trout/^ 
for forty pounds, and a jackal for three pounds. A 
Thibet bear and three performing leopards were 
knocked down to Mr. Jamrach for five guineas and 
sixty pounds respectively. Another leopard, ad- 
vanced in years, realised only six guineas. Mr. 
Van Amburgh secured the spotted hyena for fifteen 
pounds; while a performing striped hyena brought 
only five shillings above three pounds. Among 
objects of minor interest, a pair of wolves were sold 
for two guineas, an ocelot for six pounds ten shill- 
ings, three porcupines for ten pounds more, a wom- 
bat for seven pounds, a Malabar squirrel for five 
pounds, and a pair of boa constrictors for twelve 

The large camivora excited much attention, and 
fair prices were realised, though in some instances 
they were less than was expected. Mr. Rice gave 
a hundred and eighty-five pounds for the famous 
lion with which Signer Lorenzo used to represent 
the well-known story of Androcles, two other lions 

And the Old London Fairs. 369 

for a hundred and forty pounds each^ two young 
ones for ninety pounds each^ and a lioness for 
eighty pounds. A black-maned lion^ said to be the 
largest and handsomest lion in Britain^ was sold to 
Mr. Jackson^ for the Bristol Zoological Gardens, 
for two hundred and seventy pounds; and his mate;' 
in the interesting condition of approaching mater- 
nity, to Mr. Jennison, of the Belle Vue Gardens, 
Manchester, for a hundred guineas. Mr. Jamrach 
gave two hundred pounds for a fine lion, and a 
hundred and fifty-five pounds for the magnificent 
tigress that used to figure conspicuously in the 
performances of Signer Lorenzo. 

Mr. Eice, who was the largest purchaser, bought 
the gnu for eighty-five pounds, and the zebra for 
fifty pounds. The camels and dromedaries, bought 
principally for travelling menageries, realised from 
fourteen to thirty pounds each, with the exception 
of a young one, bought by Dr. Mackendrick for 
nine pounds ten shillings. Menagerists restrict the 
word ^^cameP^ to the two-humped or Bactrian 
variety, and call the one-humped kind dromedaries ; 
but the dromedary, according to naturalists, is a 
small variety of the Syrian camel, bearing the same 
relation to the latter as a pony does to a horse. 
The dromedaries of Mr. Fairgrieve^s collection were, 
on the contrary, taller than the Bactrian camels. 

2 B 

370 The Old Showmen^ 

There was a spirited competition for the two 
elephants^ ending in the magnificent full-tusked 
male^ seven feet six inches in height^ being knocked 
down to Mr. Jennison for six hundred and eighty- 
pounds^ and the female^ famous for her musical 
performances^ to Mr. Rice for a hundred and forty-- 
five pounds. The former animal was described as 
the largest and cleverest performing elephant ever 
exhibited. In stature he is exceeded, it is said, by 
the elephant kept by the Emperor of Russia at the 
gardens of Tsarski-Seloe j but, while the perform- 
ances of that beast have been confined to the 
occasional killing of a keeper, the animal now in 
the Belle Vue Gardens at Manchester, besides per- 
forming many tricks evincing great docility and 
intelligence, was accustomed to draw the band 
carriage, would pull a loaded waggon up a hill, and 
had for the last eighteen months preceding the 
sale placed all the vans of the menagerie in position, 
with the assistance of a couple of men. The entire 
proceeds of the sale were a little under three thou- 
sand pounds. 

I do not remember ever visiting a travelling 
menagerie that afforded me greater pleasure than 
one of the smaller class which I saw some thirty 
years ago at Mitcham Fair, and subsequently at 
Oamberwell Fair. There were no lions or tigers in 

And the Old Londo7i Fairs. 371 

tlie collection^ but it included four performing 
leopards, a tame hyena, and a wolf that seemed 
equally tame, if such an inference could be drawn 
from the presence of a lamb in its cage. The 
showman, who wore neither spangled trunks, nor a 
coat of chain-mail, but corduroy breeches and a 
sleeved vest of cat^s skin, entered the leopard^s 
cage, with a riding whip in one hand and a hoop 
in the other. The animals leaped over the whip, 
through the hoop, and over the man^s back, ex- 
hibiting tixroughout the performance as much do- 
cility as dogs or cats. The whip was used merely as 
part of the ^^properties.^^ The man afterwards 
entered the cage of the hyena, which rubbed its 
head against him, after the manner of a cat, and 
allowed him to open its mouth. The hyena has the 
reputation of being untameable; but, in addition 
to this instance to the contrary. Bishop Heber had 
a hyena at Calcutta which followed him about like 
a dog. 

Tigers are litfcle used as performing animals, 
partly perhaps from being less easily procured, but 
also, I believe, from greater distrust of them on the 
part of brute-tamers. There was a splendid tigress 
in Fairgrieve^s menagerie, however, with which 
Signer Lorenzo used t/o do a wonderful performance ; 
and I saw, some five-ai^id-thirty years ago, in a show 

2 B 2 

372 The Old Showmen^ 

pitched upon a piece of waste ground at Norwood^ 
a tiger that played a prominent part in a sensational 
drama, the interest of which was evolved from the 
hair-breadth escapes of a British traveller in the 
wilds of Africa. The author did not seem to haye 
been aware that there are no tigers in that part of 
the world, the animals so called by the Cape colonists 
being leopards ; but, as the old woman who took 
money replied to my remonstrance that one tiger 
could not, without an outrage upon Lindley Murray, 
be called performing animalsy " what can you expect 
for a penny ? '^ 

The old showmen are now virtually extinct, and 
the London fairs have all ceased to exist. '^ Old 
Bartlemy '^ died hard, but its time must soon have 
come, in the natural order of things. Its extinction 
was followed closely by that of all the other fairs 
formerly held in the suburbs of the metropolis. 
Camberwell Fair was abolished .in 1856, and the 
Greenwich Fairs in the following year. I cannot 
better express my opinion as to the causes which 
have led to the decline of fairs generally, but 
especially of those held within half an hour^s journey 
from the metropolis, and the suppression of most of 
those formerly held within a shorter distance, than 
by quoting a brief dialogue between a showmau and 
an acrobat in ^ Bob Lumley^s/ Secret,^ a story wljifh '\ 

And the Old London Fairs. 373 

appeared anonymously a few years ago in a popular 
periodical : — 

^^ ^ Pairs is nearly worked out, Joe/ said tlie red- 
faced individual, speaking between tlie whiffs of 
blue smoke from his dhudeen. ^Why, I can re- 
member the time when my old man used to take 
more money away from this fair with the Russian 
giant, and the Polish dwarf, and the Circassian lady, 
than I can make now in a month. Them was the 
times, when old Adam Lee, the Romany, used to 
come to this fair with his coat buttons made of 
guineas, and his waistcoat buttons of seven- shilling 
pieces. Ah, you may laugh, Joey Alberto ; but I 
have heard my old man speak of it many^s the 

^^^There^s good fairs now down in the shires,^ 
observed the younger man ; ^ but this town is too 
near the big village.^ 

^^ ^ That^s it ! ^ exclaimed the showman ^ It^s all 
along o^ them blessed railways. They brings down 
lots o^ people, it is true ; but, lor^ ! they don^t 
spend half the money the yokels used to in former 
times .^ 

^^ ' Besides which/ rejoined he of the spangled 
trunks, ^ the people about here can run up to London 
and back for a shilling any day in the week, all 
the year round, and see all the living curiosities in 

374 The Old Showmen^ 

tlie Zoo, and the stuffed ones in the Museum, and go 
in the evening to a theatre or a music-hall/ ^^ 

The fair referred to was the October fair at 
Croydon ; and I may add that views similar to those 
which I have put into the mouths of the acrobat and 
the showman were expressed to me in 1846 by a 
showman named Gregory, who exhibited various 
natural curiosities and well-contrived mechanical 
representations of the falls of Niagara and a storm 
at sea. He had just received from the printer five 
thousand bills, which he carefully stowed away. 

'' This fair don't pay for bills,'' said he. '' I want 
these for Canterbury Pair, where there's more money 
to be taken in one day than in this field in three .^' 

"Which do you reckon the best fair in your 
circuit ? " I inquired. 

" Sandwich," he replied. '' That's a good distance 
from London, you see, and though it's a smaller 
town than this, there's plenty of money in it. This 
is too near London, now the rail enables people to 
go there and back for a shilling, see all the sights 
and amusements, and get back home the same 

The fairs within half an hour's journey from 
London which are still held are in a state of visible 
decadence. I walked through Kingston Fair last 
year, about three o'clock in the afternoon, at which 

And the Old London Fairs. 375 

time Croydon Fair would^ even twenty or thirty 
years ago^ have been crowded. The weather was 
unusually fine^ the sun shining with unwonted bril- 
liance for the season, and the ground in better con- 
dition for walking than I had ever seen the field at 
Croydon on the 2nd of October. Yet there were 
fewer people walking through the fair than I had 
seen in the market-place. The gingerbread vendors 
and other stall-keepers looked as if they were weary 
of soliciting custom in vain; the swings and the 
roundabouts stood idle ; some of the showmen had 
not thought the aspect of the field sufficiently 
promising to be encouraged to unfurl their pictorial 
announcements, and those who had done so failed to 
a»ttract visitors. 

Day^s menagerie was there, and was the principal 
show in the fair ; but the few persons who paused to 
gaze at the pictures passed on without entering, and 
even the beasts within were so impressed with the 
pervading listlessness and inactivity that I did not 
hear a sound from the cages as I walked round to 
the rear of the show to observe its extent. There 
was no braying of brass bands, no beating of gongs 
or bawling through speaking-trumpets. One forlorn 
showman ground discordant sounds from a barrel- 
organ with an air of desperation, and another feebly 
clashed a pair of cymbals ; but these were all the 

376 The Old Showmen^ 

attempts made to attract attention, and they were 
made in vain. 

This was on Saturday afternoon, too, when a 
large number of the working classes are liberated 
who could not formerly have attended the fair at 
that time without taking a holiday. There was a 
good attendance in the evening, I heard; but, 
however well the shows and stalls may be patron- 
ised after six o^ clock, it is obvious that their receipts 
must be less than half what they amounted to in the 
days when they were thronged from noon till 

Fairs are becoming extinct because, with the 
progress of the nation, they have ceased to possess 
any value in its social economy, either as marts of 
trade or a means of popular amusement. All the 
large towns now possess music-halls, and many of 
them have a theatre; the most populous have two or 
three. The circuses of Newsome and Hengler are 
located for three months at a time in permanent 
buildings in the larger towns, and the travelling, 
circuses visit in turn every town in the kingdom. 
Bristol and Manchester have Zoological Gardens, 
and Brighton has its interesting Aquarium. The 
railways connect all the smaller towns, and most of 
the villages, with the larger ones, in which amuse- 
ments may be found superior to any ever presented 

And the Old Lo7idon Fairs. 377 

by the old showmen. What need, then, of. fairs 
and shows? The nation has outgrown them, and 
fairs are as dead as the generations which they 
have delighted, and the last showman will soon be 
as great a curiosity as the dodo. 



Abbott's tbeatrical booth ; 358 

Adams, the dancer 154 

African dwarfs 80 

Albinoes 295, 310, 313 

Albion dancing" booth 263 

Algar's dancing-booth 263, 328, 333, 355 

Allen, the dwarf 205 

Ambroise, the showman 189 

Amburgh, Yan, the lion-tamer 260 

American juggler 294 

Annesley, Mrs., the dancer 164 

Appleby, the showman 63 

Arthur, the comedian 144 

Astley, the equestrian ........ 211 

Aston, the comedian 109, 121 

Atkins's menagerie 258, 277, 302, 304 

Baker, Mrs., the theatrical manageress 196 

Bali, the showman 271, 303, 309 

Ballard's animal comedians 169 

„ menagerie .... 232, 241, 287, 303, 305 

Banks and his performing horse 23 

Barnes, the showman . . 63 

„ „ pantaloon 246 

Barnett, Mrs., the actress 349 

Basil, the showman ]91 

Baudouin, the comic dancer 131 

380 Index. 


Bearded women 33, 47 

Belzoni's feats of strength 216 

Berar's optikali illusio . . . . . . . .311 

Biffin, Miss, the armless portrait painter .... 210, 231 

Billington, the comedian 349 

Birds, performing 178, 182, 188 

Bisset, the animal trainer ....... 177 

Blacker, the dwarf 167 

Blight, Helen, the lion- performer 337 

Boheme, the tragedian 96 

Booth, the theatrical manager 94 

Bradfehaw, Miss, the actress 144 

Breslaw, the conjuror 187, 192 

Bridge's theatrical hooth 152, 163 

Broomsgrove, the showman 313 

Brown, the showman 272, 300 

Brown's theatre of arts 315 

Brunn, the juggler ......... 189 

Bullock, the comedian . . .78, 95, 105, 107, 114, 119, 132 
Burchall, the showman ........ 314 

Burnett, the trapezist 359 

Cadman, the flying man ........ 145 

Campbell, Mrs., the actress 344, 349, 355 

Canterel, Mrs., the actress 110 

Capelli, the conjuror ........ 307 

Carey, the actor 223, 230 

Cartiitch, the actor 246 

Cats, performing 178, 307 

Chapman, Mary Anne, the albino 314 

„ Miss, the lion-performer 337 

the comedian . . . 114, 119, 127, 132, 138, 143 
Chappell, the actor 353 

„ the showman 272 

Charke, Mrs., the actress 114 

Cheshire girl, wonderful ........ 49 

Chettle's theatrical booth 151 

Chetwood, the prompter 105 

Chinese jugglers 302, 309 

,, lady 292 

Christoff, the rope-dancer . . . '* . . . .20 

Cibber, the tragedian 107, 114 

Circassian lady 290 

Clancy, the giant ......... 313 

Clark, the posturer 59 

Clarke's circus 268, 307, 332, 341 

Index. 381 


Clarke, Miss, the rope-dancer 308 

Olarkson, the showman 191 

Clench, the whistling man 80 

Coan, the dwarf 167 

Cooke's circus 249 

Corder, the murderer, head of 303 

Cornwell, the showman 61 

Corsican dwarf 155^ 188 

Cousins's theatrical booth 154 

Cow, a double 161 

Cox, the comedian 37 

Crawley, the puppet-showman 83 

Orockett, the showman 341 

Crocodile, the first exhibited . . . . . . . 167 

Crowther, the actor 322 

Cushings, the pantomimists 150, 165 

Dale's music booth 64 

Dancey, Mrs. and Miss, the dancers 131 

Day, the showman 298 

Day's menagerie 355, 375 

Dawson, the dwarf 313 

Derrum, Miss, the female tumbler 115 

Doggett, the comedian 74, 79 

Dogs, performing 85, 169, 178, 307 

Drury's menagerie ......... 310 

Ducrow, Madame, the rope-dancer 335 

Dunstall's theatrical booth ....... 175 

Dupain, the showman ........ 313 

Dutch boy, wonderful 70 

'* rope-dancer 53, 150 

Dwarf family 298 

Dyan, Ursula, the bearded woman 47 

Edmunds, the menagerist 337, 355 

Egleton, Mrs., the actress 108 

Elephant, performing 284 

„ escape of an 288, 347 

EUiston, the theatrical manager 236 

England, the flying pieman 240 

Esquimaux youth 294 

Evans, the wire-walker 172 

E wing's wax-work exhibition ...... 306, 310 

Excell, the duettist 123 

Fairgrieve's menagerie 365 



Farnham, the dwarf 
Faiicit, the actor 
Fawkes, the conjuror 

„ „ showman 
Ferguson's wax-work exhibition 
Fielding, the novelist 
Finch, tlie posturer 
Finley, the acrobat . 

„ Mary, the rope-dancer 
Fitzgerald, Mrs., the actress . 
Fives Court drinking booth 
Flemish giantess 

Flockton, the juggler and showman 
Ford, the gingerbread vendor . 
Fossett's circus 

Frano, Mdlle. de, the dancer . 
Frazer, the conjuror 
Frazer's acrobatic entertainment 
Freer, the tragedian 
French, the single-stick player 

Gaetano, the bird imitator 
G-arrick, the actor . 
German rope-dancers 
Giffard, the theatrical manager 
Gipsies' drinking booth . 
Girardelh, Josephine, the fire-eater 
Glee-men and glee-maidens 
Gobert, Madame, the athlete . 
Godwin, the showman 
Goodwin's theatrical booth 
Gouffe, the man-monkey 
Gregory, the showman 
Griffin, the actor 
Grosette, the actor . 
Grove's theatre of arts 
Gyngell, the showman 


. 31S 

. 221 

110, 112, 117 

116, 123, 139, 150 


103, 107, 110, 113, 119, 124, 127 



Haines, the fire-eater 
Hales, the Norfolk giant 
Hall, the rope-dancer 

„ „ actor 
Hall's museum 
Haliam, the tragedian 
Harper, the comedian 
Harris, the cat imitator 

. 311 

. 350 

43, 45 

108, 119 

. 192 

107, 114, 119, 127, 131, 138, 143 

96, 103, 109, 111, 114, 118, 137 

. 182 

110, 123 
. 333 
. 47 
191, 200, 202, 206 
. 99 
. 358 
. 131 
. 303 
. 341 
. 344 
. 158 

. 187 
. 165 
50, 63, 73 
106, 130 
. 333 
. 235 
. 19 
. 244 
. 151 
. 143 
•. 306 
. 374 

107, 114, 137 
. 225 
. 341 

207, 238, 254 

Index, 383 


Harris, the showman 313 

Hay don's theatrical booth 320 

Heads, lecture on 186 

Heidegger, Master of the Revels 139 

Herring, the pantomimist 322, 336 

Hewet, the comedian 109 

Hilton's menagerie 336, 341, 359 

Hilton, Miss, the lion-performer 336 

Hind, the actor 121 

Hippisley, the tragedian . 108, 110, 113, 119, 127, 132, 138, 143 

„ Miss, the actress 162 

Hipson, Miss, the fat girl 289 

Hoare, the showman 243 

Hocus Pocus, the King's conjuror 30 

Hog, enormous 154 

Holden's glass-blowing exhibition 299, 301 

Holland's, Ladj, mob 125,201,256 

Horses, performing ... 20, 23, 43, 83, 164, 178, 202, 305 

Horton, Mrs., the actress 94 

Howard, the actor 348, 355 

Hoyo's wax-work exhibition 310 

Hulett, the comedian 105, 109, 114, 120 

Hussey's theatrical booth .... 145, 151, 153, 156 
Hyenas, tame 308, 371 

Inchbald, Elizabeth, the actress 196 

Irish giant 52 

Italian rope-dancer 40 

„ sword-dancers 154 

Ives, the showman 191 

Jack, Manchester, the lion-keeper 260 

Jackman's theatrical booth 358 

Jano, the rope-dancer 115, 130 

Jefferies, the actor * . . . 225 

Jobson, the puppet-showman 191, 202, 208 

Johnson, the showman 317, 320 

and Lee's theatrical booth . . . 321, 325, 336, 341, 

343, 348, 352, 356 

214, 221 

Kean, the tragedian 
Keith, the clown .... 
Keyes and Laine, the conjurors 
KiUigrew, Charles, Master of the Revels 

„ Thomas, the King's jester 
Lacy, Mrs., the actress 121 



384 Index. 


Ladder dance 85 

Laguerre, the actor 119 

Lane, the conjuror 191 

Laskey, the showman 341 

Lee, Nelson, the theatrical manager . . 247, 254, 320, 346 
Lee's theatrical booth . . 102, 106, 108, 111, 114, 119, 121, 

132, 138, 152, 163 

J, unlicensed theatre 255 

Legar, the actor 132 

Leigh, the comedian 95 

Leopard, escape of a 232 

„ a tame 287, 310 

Leopards, performing 368, 371 

Lincolnshire dwarf 294 

Lion, a tame 32, 274, 285 

„ baiting with dogs 261 

Lioness, escape of a 241 

Lion-tiger cubs 277, 285, 304 

Little, the comedian-hawker 324 

Living skeleton, the 305 

Lorenzo, the lion performer 368 

Lorme, Madlle. de, the dancer 106 

Luce, the dancer 106 

Macarthy, the lion performer 362 

Mackenzie, the hermit 314 

Macklin, the comedian 144 

Macomo, the lion performer ....... 360 

Madagascar woman 294 

Mahoura, the cannibal chief, head of 298 

Malay savages ......... 290 

Manchester Jack, the lion keeper 260 

Manders's menagerie 359 

March, the clown 50 

Maori woman 292, 351 

Mare with seven feet 291 

Master of the E>evels, office of 30 

Matthews, the dancer . . . . . . . .164 

Maughan, the showman 289 

Melville, the actor 349 

Menagerie, the first 88 

Mermaids 162, 298 

Miles' s music booth 64, 85 

„ menagerie 209 

Miller, the comedian . . . . 75, 77, 107, 114, 119 
Mills, the comedian 107, 114, 119 

Index. 385 


Monkeys, performing ... 20, 23, 40,1169, 178, 314 

Monstrosities . 22, 32, 60, 161, 204, 217, 291,1310, 314, 346 

Morgan, the comedian 121 

„ Miss, the dwarf ....•,. 205 

Morgan^s menagerie 287, 302 

Morosini, the rope-dancer 115 

Mullart, the tragedian Ill 

Mussulmo, the rope-dancer 151 

Mynn's theatrical booth 86 

Negro, wonderful 168 

Newman and Allen's theatrical booth 323 

Newsome, the lion performer 359 

Mchols, the comedian 109 

ISTokes, Mrs., the actress. ' 104 

Gates, the comedian .... 105,114,119,134,162 
„ Miss, the actress . . . . . . . 114, 120 

O'Brien, the Irish giant 194, 229 

Ogden, Mrs., the dancer . . . . , . .154 

Oronutu savage 154 

Orsi, the singer 204 

Owen, the clown 196 

Oxberry, the comedian , . . 221 

Paap, the dwarf 236 

Pack, the comedian ........ 95 

Palmer, the theatrical bill-sticker 165 

Parker's theatrical booth 79 

Peep-shows 289, 305, 307 

Penkethman, the elder, comedian ... 71, 79, 95, 106 

„ „ younger, comedian . 106, 108, 113, 120, 132 

Penley, the showman ........ 200 

Perry's menagerie 159 

Persian giant , . . 290 

Peters, the comic dancer 131 

Petit, the showman 115 

Phantasmagorial exhibitions . . . . . . .311 

Philips, the fiddler and clown 54, 57 

Phillips, the posturer 113 

„ „ showman 164 

„ „ comedian 133 

„ Mrs., the dancer • . 134 

„ the Welsh dwarf 294 

Pidcock's menagerie 186 

Pierce, the gigantic Shropshire youth 313 

2 c 




Pig-faced lady 303, 305 

Pigs, learned 178, 243, 297, 301, 314 

Pike's theatrical booth ........ 303. 

Pinchbeck, the mechanist . . . 110, 116, 123, 134, 139 

Pinkethmah, the puppet showman 83 

Polito's menagerie 187, 209 

Powell, the comedian 105 

„ „ fire-e?.ter ........ 179 

»> 55 puppet showman 83 

Price, the equestrian ........ 309 

Pritchard, Mrs., the actress . .... 113,120,127 

Pullen's theatrical booth ....... 105 

Punch and Judj shows . . 27 

Punchinello, the puppet showman ...... 29 

Purden, Mrs., the actress ....... 121 

Quin, the comedian 95 

Rapinese, the posturer 131 

Ray, the comedian ........ 104 

Rayner's theatrical booth 105 

„ the tumbler 149 

„ Miss, the rope-dancer . . .... 149 

Reader, the showman ........ 341 

Reed, the actor 225, 317 

Read's theatrical booth 350 

Reverant, Madlle. de, the rope-dancer 115 

Reynolds, the comedian 104, 106 

„ „ showman . . . . . . 151, 154 

Richardson, the fire-eater . . . . . . .48 

„ showman . 217, 230, 235, 239, 248, 264, 302, 

306, 316 
River, the tumbler . . . . . . . .115 

Roberts, the tragedian ........ 121 

Roberts, Mrs., the actress 114 

Robinson, the conjuror ........ 191 

Robson, the comedian ....... 356, 358 

Rose's. Miss, imitations of actresses . . . . .187 

Rossignol, the bird trainer . . . ... , 188, 193 

Roy, Madlle. le, the dancer . . . . . . .131 

Rudderford, the mountebank ...... 50 

Ryan, the comedian 95, 119, 127 

Satfery, the rope-vaulter 308 

Saffiy's theatrical booth ........ 50 

Saker, the comedian . . ^ 256, 350 

Sal way, the comedian 113 



Samwell, the showman . 

Saunders, Sarah, actress and acrobat 

„ the showman . 
Scotch dwarf 
„ giant . 
Scowton's theatrical booth 
Seaman, the actor . 
Serpents, performing 
Settle, the dramatist 
Shaw, Miss, the beautiful albino 

„ the harlequin 
Shuter, the comedian . 
Silver-haired lady . 
Simmett, the showman . 
Simpson, the vaulter 
Skeleton, the liying 
Slater, Miss, the columbine 
Smith, the hand- bell ringer 
Spanish youth, wonderful 
Spellman, Mrs., the actress 
Spiller, the comedian 

„ Mrs., the actress 
Spotted boy . 

„ girl . 
Steward, the slack-wdre performer 
Stock, Elizabeth, the giantess 
Stokes, the vaulter 
Strand, the lion performer 
Strength, feats of . 
Sword dancers 

Talliott's circus 
Tarvey, the clown . 
Taylor, the dancer . 
Terwin, the showman . 
Thwaites, the actor 
Thompson, the comic dancer 
Tiger, a tame 
Tigers, performing 
Tarbutt, the comedian . 
Turkish rope-dancer 
„ wire- walker 

Vanbeck, Barbara, the bearded woman 
Vaughan, the actor 
Vidina, Signora, the singer . 
Violantes, the, rope-walkers . 


270, 309 
. 323 
209, 219, 221, 231 
. 61 
. 303 
230, 316 
. 349 
. 190 
. 86 
. 310 
. 344 
174, 179, 182 
301, 351 
109, 111, 121 

40, 98, 168, 244 
64, 85 


159, 285 
. 371 

138, 143 
33, 151 

144, 188 

. 33 

. 225 

. 204 

. 144 




Walker, the comedian 94' 

Wallack, the actor 221 

Walpole, Lydia, the dwarf 290, 313 

Warner's theatrical booth 150, 163, 174 

Waterloo giant ......... 299 

Wax- work exhibition, the first 31 

V^ebber, Eliza, the dwarf 313 

Wells, the actor 225 

Welsh dwarf 167 

Weston, Priscilla and Ameliaj the twin giantesses . . . 313 

Whitehead, the fat boy 298 

Whiteland, the dwarf 203 

Wignell, the poet . . 179 

Williamson, Mrs., the actress 109 

Wombwell's Menagerie . 257, 273, 302, 305, 307, 310, 337, 341, 

347, 355, 365 

Woodward, harlequin and actor . . . . 97, 138, 144 

Woolford, Miss, the rope-dancer 336 

Wright's menagerie 341 

Yates, the comedian . . . 134, 138, 143, 162, 174, 180 
„ Mrs., the actress ........ 144 

„ Miss, the actress 164 

Yeates, the showman . . . . . 116, 131, 163, 168 
„ the conjuror 116, 131, 133, 149, 151, 153, 157, 163, 168 

„ Mrs., the actress 157 

Yorkshire giantess 299 




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