William Darby in Norwich and Leeds: Life and Death

This week on the Secret Library we welcome Orla Kennelly from the Norfolk Heritage Centre. Orla kindly agreed to write a section for our blog focusing on the circus manager and performer, William Darby – aka Pablo FanqueDarby was born in Norwich, but is buried in Leeds; Orla’s section looks at Darby’s early years, while our part concentrates on a tragic event in his life. This is a longer piece than usual to reflect that joint authorship.

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by Orla Kennelly, Archive Specialist, Norfolk Heritage Centre, part of the Norfolk Record Office

Pablo Fanque was the name that William Darby went by but William himself remains an enigma.

In early 2010 a local heritage organisation Norwich HEART appealed to the public for help in generating ideas for blue plaques in the city. Pablo Fanque was one of the names which came up resulting in a plaque to his memory being added to the wall of what is now the John Lewis shop. 1

pablo fanque

Presumably this has now caught the attention of other residents of and visitors to Norwich who may be wondering who was Pablo Fanque. He was, of course, also immortalised in the Beatles song “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite”.

As you can see the Norwich plaque has William being born in 1810. However if I take my information from his gravestone then William was born in 1796. There is a record of a William Dorby born and baptised in Norwich in 1796. He was the son of John Dorby and Mary Dorby nee Stamp. The baptism took place in the parish of Norwich All Saints and the plaque to Fanques memory is on All Saints Green, near where he is said to have lived. This seems a good possibility!

Possible baptism entry for William Darby

Possible baptism entry for William Darby

A look at the burial register for this parish tells us however that this William died aged just one years old. There is also a theory that William who became Pablo was a younger brother of this deceased William hence the confusion over dates of birth. Having checked the parish baptism registers myself I cannot see record of another William baptised at Norwich All Saints. There is however a William born to parents of the same names in the St. Andrews Workhouse Norwich.

Pablo Fanque was obviously still in the minds of Norwich locals as recently as 2010 and so I was hopeful that the collections of the Library Service and Record Office may shed more light on him. Sadly we have only the one item on William, Pablo Fanque “An Artiste of Colour” an article by John M. Turner. 2 Here again we have a reference to William as being born in 1796 and we are told that he was one of four children who were orphaned at a young age.

So Williams’s exact origins remain a bit of a mystery but we do know he had a connection to Norwich. So what was the city like at the turn of the 19th century? Norwich was the second city of the country until the later 1700’s and the 1801 census gives a figure of 38,502 for the official population. 3 Norwich lies on the river Wensum and was a commercial port at this time. There are suggestions that the father of William had himself arrived to Norwich by boat from abroad for a new life.

Whatever his start in life in Norwich we do know William returned as Pablo.  He came to the city in 1849 with an “equestrian spectacle” and rope dancers. 4 That must have been quite a sight!

fanque norwich visit

References

  1. Norwich HEART http://www.heritagecity.org/news . Accessed 01.04.2016. Article: “New heritage signage unveiled in Elm Hill and Timberhill areas -Tuesday, 16th February 2010”. (Please note Norwich HEART ceased trading at end 2015.)
  2. King Pole Circus Friends Association of Great Britain Issue 89 December 1990 and Issue 90 March 1991. In the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre, Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, The Forum, Norwich.
  3. Norwich since 1550. Rawcliffe, C. and Wilson, R. Hambledon and London, London and New York, 2004. P. 245.
  4. The ERA, Sunday 18th February 1849.

You can read further articles about the history of Norwich and Norfolk through the Norfolk Record Office blog.

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by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library

The first recorded mention of William Darby performing in Leeds was with the Batty troupe in 1838; by 1841/42 Darby had separated from that group and made a start at the management of his own circus troupe, one that would focus its attentions on the Northern circuit. In this, Darby demonstrated a startlingly independent approach, becoming the first black circus owner in Britain and, quite possibly, the world.

During this period, Darby made several appearances in Leeds. Perhaps the most interesting was during events held on Saturday the 1st of August, 1846, in celebration of the recent Corn Law repeals:

From the Leeds Mercury, August 1st, 1846. Accessed using the 19th-century British Newspapers Archive, part of the Online Resources available to all Leeds Library and Information Service members

From the Leeds Mercury, August 1st, 1846. Accessed using the 19th-century British Newspapers Archive, one of the Online Resources available to all Leeds Library and Information Service members

As can be seen from the Leeds Mercury article above, Darby and his troupe performed on Woodhouse Moor – a popular spot for summer gatherings in Victorian Leeds – owing to the lack of an alternative venue large enough to accommodate the spectacular feats Fanque and co. would be performing.

In early 1847 a tragic event occurred that proved the rightness of that decision. Darby’s team had elected to stage their performance in a temporary arena squeezed into the space between the 17th-century Red Hall – Leeds’ first brick building, the site of a curious encounter between John Harrison and King Charles I – and the narrow warrens beyond: that space known as King Charles’ Croft.

c.1887 View of the Rose and Crown Yard looking across Lands Lane to King Charles Croft. The larger of the two gas lamps is outside the Theatre Royal, the proprietor of the day was Jos. Hobson. The Rose and Crown Public House was a coaching inn, also known as 'Binks Hotel' after the landlady, Maria Binks. The Rose and Crown Yard was replaced by the Queen's arcade designed by architect, Edward Clark of London and opened in 1889. It linked Lands Lane with Briggate. From www.leodis.net

c.1887 View of the Rose and Crown Yard looking across Lands Lane to King Charles Croft. The larger of the two gas lamps is outside the Theatre Royal, the proprietor of the day was Jos. Hobson. The Rose and Crown Public House was a coaching inn, also known as ‘Binks Hotel’ after the landlady, Maria Binks. The Rose and Crown Yard was replaced by the Queen’s arcade designed by architect, Edward Clark of London and opened in 1889. It linked Lands Lane with Briggate. From www.leodis.net

During a tightrope performance by Darby’s son – Pablo Fanque Junior – the gallery came crashing down under the weight of some six-hundred spectators. Among the vast confusion, horror and panic, one salient fact emerged: Darby’s wife, Susannah Darby, had been instantly killed in the incident. Not even the efforts of the Surgeon General, William Hey III – grandson of the celebrated man of the same name – could help.

Susannah Darby was laid to rest in St. George’s Field, also known as Woodhouse Cemetery. And there she remained, while her husband returned to the life of the travelling entertainer; until, in 1871, William himself died and was buried next to his wife, after a procession – attended by some 10,000 mourners – from that very same King Charles Croft.

William Darby, in life and in death: a man of two cities.

Pablo_Fanque_2

William Darby – aka Pablo Fanque

Exhibition: The Age of Shakespeare

Last week’s main article highlighted some of the amazing Shakespeare-related finds in our Art Library collections. Readers may also be interested to hear about a new exhibition currently on display in the Central Library (outside Room700, 1st Floor).

Entitled “The Age of Shakespeare”, this lovingly-curated exhibition aims to create a sense of the world that Shakespeare inhabited during the late 16th and early 17th-centuries. Told using rare books from our Collections – many not seen in public before – this should be a destination for anyone who has got the Shakespeare bug following the weekend’s #shakespeare400 celebrations. “Come, and take choice of all my library, and so beguile they sorrow…

"The Age of Shakespeare": outside Room700, 1st Floor

“The Age of Shakespeare”: outside Room700, 1st Floor

Shakespeare and the Art world

by Adam Barham, Central Library

Many artists have felt compelled to depict the plays of Shakespeare. Some are attracted to Shakespeare’s universal themes and complex characters, which inspire them to produce stirring representations of the plays’ inner meanings. Others appreciate his combination of exotic locations and sparse scene descriptions, which leave them free to create their own vivid and unique interpretations. Leeds Central Library houses some fascinating books with artists’ interpretations of Shakespeare’s work. To mark this year’s Shakespeare anniversary, we would like to showcase our best examples.

Our first item is an illustrated version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The illustrations were painted by Arthur Rackham, one of the leading artists in the early 1900s ‘golden age’ of British book illustration. We are fortunate to have a 1908 first edition of this book, available for reference use from our Information and Research department. A 1977 reissue of the book is available for loan from our Music and Performing Arts Library.

Our 1906 edition of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham

Our 1908 edition of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham

Rackham received great acclaim as soon as his book was published. Contemporary novelist William de Morgan, for instance, claimed he had produced “the most splendid illustrated work of the century so far”. Even today Rackham’s illustrations are renowned. New editions of his book are still popular, with the demand stretching to e-book versions. Rackham’s continued popularity is also shown by his influence on modern artists, such as Sandman illustrator Charles Vess.

Bottom, pictured in the illustrated ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Bottom, pictured in the illustrated ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Rackham undoubtedly deserves the respect. His watercolour illustrations from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are incredibly detailed and striking, bringing Shakespeare’s surreal characters to life in a truly magical fashion. The depictions of Bottom and Titania’s fairy entourage are especially evocative.

Titania’s fairy entourage, pictured in the illustrated ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Titania’s fairy entourage, pictured in the illustrated ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Our next item is ‘Shakespeare in Art’. This book provides a fascinating retrospective of the different artists who have depicted Shakespeare’s work over the years. Concentrating mainly on paintings, it incorporates beautiful artwork reproductions showing a multitude of Shakespearean scenes and characters. It also includes insightful essays detailing the background story to each piece of artwork.

Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (The Tempest) by John Everett Millais, from the cover of ‘Shakespeare in Art’

Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (The Tempest) by John Everett Millais, from the cover of ‘Shakespeare in Art’

The artists covered in ‘Shakespeare in Art’ include the Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais, who created vivid paintings of scenes set in natural environments, and Henry Fuseli, whose intense paintings often emphasised the supernatural or tragic side of Shakespeare’s work.

Titania Embracing Bottom (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) by Henry Fuseli, pictured in ‘Shakespeare in Art’

Titania Embracing Bottom (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) by Henry Fuseli, pictured in ‘Shakespeare in Art’

‘Shakespeare in Art’ also features William Hogarth, the eighteenth-century painter and pictorial satirist. Hogarth produced one of the earliest known paintings of an actual Shakespearean stage performance, which can be seen below. ‘Shakespeare in Art’ is available from our Art Library.

Falstaff Examining His Troops (Henry IV) by William Hogarth, pictured in ‘Shakespeare in Art’

Falstaff Examining His Troops (Henry IV) by William Hogarth, pictured in ‘Shakespeare in Art’

Our archives also include rare pamphlets and exhibition catalogues relating to Shakespeare and art. One of the most interesting is named ‘O Sweet Mr. Shakespeare, I’ll Have his Picture’. As the title suggests, this pamphlet is concerned with Shakespeare himself rather than his plays. The author traces different depictions of Shakespeare over the years, giving fascinating background details about different portraits and statues. Our pamphlets and catalogues are available for reference use in the Art Library.

Some Shakespeare in Art pamphlets

Some Shakespeare in Art pamphlets

Our next item is the intriguingly titled ‘Flowers From Shakespeare’s Garden: A Posy From the Plays’, illustrated by Walter Crane.  Our collection includes two copies of this title. One copy is a 1906 first edition, which is available for reference use from our Information and Research department. The other copy is a 1980s reissue, which is available for loan from the Art Library.

Our two copies of ‘Flowers From Shakespeare’s Garden’

Our two copies of ‘Flowers From Shakespeare’s Garden’

Walter Crane was part of the Arts and Crafts movement and another key figure in Britain’s golden age of book illustration. The concept behind his book is both charming and unusual. Rather than illustrating existing scenes or characters, Crane chose to portray human personifications of the flowers or plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. The flowers he portrayed come from a variety of plays, including ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’,  and ‘Henry V’. Our favourites include the bizarre lady who sprouts horizontally from a Hawthorne bush, taken from King Henry’s lines in Henry VI.

Illustrations from Walter Crane’s ‘Flowers From Shakespeare’s Garden’

Illustrations from Walter Crane’s ‘Flowers From Shakespeare’s Garden’

Our final item is a last minute addition to the blog, only recently discovered in the depths of our archives. The title of this discovery is ‘A Collection of Prints, From Pictures Painted for the Purpose of Illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, by the Artists of Great-Britain‘. The details and background of this item will be the subject of a future blog entry. For now, all we can reveal is that the item is very old, very striking and very, very large……

Collection of prints 1c

‘A Collection of Prints…’ pictured with an everyday object to illustrate its size

 

Collection of prints 2

Introduction from ‘A Collection of Prints…’

Collection of prints 3

Scene from ‘As You Like It’, pictured in ‘A Collection of Prints…’

If you would like more detailed information about Shakespeare in Art, the best place to come is of course the Art Library. The Art Library stocks many books about the artists who depicted Shakespeare’s work over the years, including Richard Dadd, John Everett Millais, Gustave Moreau, William Blake, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Romney and William Hogarth. These books are on display in the Art Library throughout April 2016.

Meeting the Ghosts of the Brontë Family

by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

Display of relevant materials in our Local and Family History department

Display of relevant materials in our Local and Family History department

In his book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010), James Shapiro makes the point that “every literature professor is in the business of speaking to the dead” and that, by extension, “communicating with the dead is what we all do…[e]very time we pick up a volume of Milton or Virgil or Dickens – all of whom achieve a kind of immortality by speaking to us from beyond the grave.”

I think that is true – though I’d go further and argue that the act of “speaking to the dead” is even more prevalent in those historical memories reclaimed through the making of local and family history(ies) than in the kind of literary readings highlighted by Shapiro.

One place these two slightly different approaches to the past intersect is in the surprising place of the Haworth Parsonage long associated with the Brontë family – fittingly so, at the start of the five-year celebration of their literary achievements. More specifically, it’s in the pages of an odd little book we hold in the Local and Family History department of our Central Library.

That book – News From the Next World by Charles L. Tweedale – was the 1940 sequel to Tweedale’s prior work, Man’s Survival After Death. In that earlier book, Tweedale “answered in the affirmative the age-long question, ‘If a man die shall he live again?'”; in the sequel he hoped to “answer the further question “How does he live and where?'”.

That search appears to have taken, at least in part, the form of written communication with the dead via the hand of his wife, Mrs M.E. Tweedale. Such was the case on Monday the 24th of August, 1931 when, on a journey to Haworth, Mrs Tweedale was physically alerted by forms unknown in the Parsonage. That incident then led to a successful attempt at contacting, first Emily, then Patrick Brontë – both of whom were apparently keen to communicate details of their present existence and, it seems, their signatures – which matched those seen in previously unpublished papers. What to make of this curious episode lay, of course, entirely in the eye of the beholder.

So, to read the entirety of the Tweedale’s eerie encounter with the Brontë – and to see a display of Brontë-related information – please visit our Local and Family History library. You can also browse a guide to our other Brontë holdings by clicking here.

Plate XXXIV of Tweedales book: "Brontë Spirit Signatures"

Plate XXXIV of Tweedales book: “Brontë Spirit Signatures”

A Woman’s Work is Never Done…

by Sally Hughes – Assistant Librarian Manager, Local and Family History

A talk on the history of the voice and influence of women could go on for hours, but I promise you, mine doesn’t!

suffs

(Image copyright of Leeds Library and Information Service,  www.leodis.net)

The Local and Family History Department were asked by colleagues at Leeds Museums service if anyone would like to give a talk on women as part of their month-long programme of talks and events for International Women’s Month. I jumped at the chance, then immediately regretted it, knowing I would have to learn a lot after deciding that my talk should span the timeline of our collections…so only about 350 years or so….!

Don’t worry though, I’ve done it! And I’d like to think it’s fairly concise. I discuss the dawn of a genre of books for women in the 1700’s to improve their appearance, lifestyle and demeanour, to the radical Spare Rib magazine of the 1970s and 80s. I’ve also somehow managed to squeeze in a couple of hundred years in-between  All the books and magazines discussed in the talk are items we have in our collections at the Central Library and I’ve used this opportunity to get some of them out of the stacks that often don’t see the light of day, yet deserve to be shared and are wonderful resources and windows into the past.

accomplished woman2

All are welcome to my talk, Making Our Voices Heard: The Changing Influence and Image of Women told through Leeds Libraries Collections at Leeds City Museum, 28th April 1.30pm.

I’ll be bringing all sorts of treasures from our collections along with me, and would love to see you there.