In May 2007, whilst at the funeral of my father-in-law.s sister, Mary Laurette Drewson, family members were reminiscing when a casual mention was made of the fact that Mary.s grandmother had married into the circus. This was the start of a bug that has taken me into researching my family history,
So my search was on to find the circus connection, starting with my father-in-law, Charles Drewson now in his 90th year. He told us how his grandmother Mary Ann Powell born c1858 in Merthyr Tydfil, had as a young girl worked with her sister in a tobacconist shop. Here she met Frederick Frank Taylor, who would always come in to buy tobacco and snuff when the circus was in town. Their relationship grew and on the 28th December 1881 at the age of 23,
Mary married Frank at Cardiff Register Office; both fathers were recorded as deceased.
Frank.s occupation was a violin and euphonium player in the circus band.
It was Frank.s brother Joseph and his father-in-law who owned the circus and insisted that as a wife of a circus man, Mary, who was looked on as a Josser (someone not born in the
circus), would have to contribute a skill. She joined the circus as a cashier, selling tickets in the pay box and also sewing sequins on the costumes. Later she was to become a bare back rider; her favourite pony was Black Bess. Other stories tell of her being dressed as Britannia for the parades, riding high on a wagon accompanied by a lion and a sheep. Her only fear was of thunder storms, terrified that the lightning would be attracted to the metal parts of her costume.
Through research we have discovered the family connection with the circus began when Joseph, one of twelve children, left his Suffolk home during 1851 to go tenting. with W.H. Stevenson, who had been a bandmaster with the volunteer corps. By 1856 Joseph had met and married Harriet Hutchinson, an equestrian performer of just sixteen years of age.
Harriet.s father, David Hutchinson, was a circus agent. When Joseph.s father died he returned to Suffolk with his bride for a period. Their only son, David was born in 1867 in Bristol.
David Hutchinson and Joseph Taylor later appear to have formed a business partnership, Hutchinson and Tayleure Circus'- going on the road in March 1886. At the end of what appears to be a successful season that had started in Lincoln and ended in Worcester, early in September, Hutchinson and Tayleure applied for a license to site a circus in Swansea for the winter. The Swansea based newspaper, The Cambrian dated 6th November 1868 reported; "Hutchinson and Tayleure are duly licensed by the magistrate for an equestrian
establishment in our town, for a winter season at Wind Street.”
The circus opened on Monday 9th November in a large specially erected building, “tastefully decorated, well lighted and well warmed, with every accommodation”. The main entrance was situated in Wind Street, with an entrance to the gallery and other areas in York St. The performance began at 7.30 p.m. The admission price was two shillings for a chair in one of the boxes and one shilling for the pit or to promenade the lounge. Half -price was charged for children and after 9 p.m. The gallery seats were sixpence. Season tickets were also available.
The manager of the circus was T. Fillis, formerly of Quaglieni's Italian Circus. The acts billed on that first night included riders, vaulters, acrobats and gymnasts. They were reported to be
unequalled in the province, whilst the well known reputation of the proprietors was said to be a sufficient guarantee that the whole arrangement was to be constructed with the greatest order and decorum. The Cambrian advertised that Hutchinson and Tayleure were on Friday 13th November to
present their, “First Grand Fashionable Night”
A Recherché programme of elegant and refined scenes of equestrian
and gymnastic exploits.
The following night, Saturday 14th November was, “The Peoples Night” and on November 20th there was - “A Second Grand Fashionable Night
For the benefit of the Swansea Infirmary
On which occasion the Circus will be honoured with the
Presence of Several County Families of distinction.”
The benefit for the New General Hospital was a success with a donation of £20 being made to Mr J, W, Morris, the secretary of the infirmary. The Cambrian again reported; “The boxes were crowded with some of the principal families of the town and neighbourhood. The daring exploits of the various riders, the stunts of the acrobats and gymnasts and the jests and puns of the clowns were much admired, and received with rounds of applause and laughter.”
A new performer was advertised on Monday 14th December. Niblo (Thomas Clark) will commence a run of 12 performances, to run every night at eight prompt. Niblo was billed as “the greatest gymnastic artist the world has ever witnessed.”, and “Messer’s Hutchinson and Tayleure beg to state that they have succeeded in doing so at an enormous expense of £100.” Niblo proved so popular that his run was extended for 3 extra nights with an additional performance on 1st January 1869 with the proceeds benefitting the Deaf and Dumb Institute.
Over a hundred years later members of our family still use the word “Niblo” in conversation. “Like Niblo” or “ Niblo over there”. Is this just coincidence?
On February 19th another special performance was given by the circus this time to aid the National Lifeboat Institution. A few weeks later a report appeared in The Cambrian stating that, “Hutchinson and Tayleure have had a lifeboat specially built by Mr. William Brown for the express purpose of taking it with them, in their peregrinations through the Kingdom, that
landsmen may have the opportunity of seeing the sort of craft, manned with a fully equipped crew, that steering out of every British port, dares to meet the how long tempest and buffet the ruffian”.
During that four month stay in Swansea, The Cambrian made other glowing reports on the Circus, including one from the Head Constable Mr Allison who was reported to have said there had been a decrease in drunkenness in the town due to the circus presence!
Great tableaux were performed, e.g. St George and the Dragon in which “the dragon did wonderful executions with his tail and breathing flames from his nostrils attacked the gallant knight with terrible fury. The brute however was forced to succumb to the desperate energy of St George’s blows.”
So after a successful season, the circus closed on Saturday 30th March and went on tour throughout South Wales and on to some of the principal cities and towns of the United Kingdom.
The Circus made further visits to Swansea on a regular basis, returning in 1871 (&1888) amalgamated with Howe & Cushing.s great American Circus, performing in Walters Rd.
They were sited again in Wind St in 1872 and at Walters Rd in 1873. Further visits took place in 1876 and 1877.
In 1870 Hutchinson and Tayleure applied to build and open a circus in Cardiff for the winter months on the Junction of Wood Street and St Mary’s Street.An article appeared in the Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 12th November 1870 advertising the new circus in Westgate St. Cardiff. Hutchinson & Tayleure's CIRCUS and Grand Palace Of Variety, St Mary Street, Cardiff. This new and magnificent building, erected upon improved principles at acost of £1,000 will OPEN FOR THE SEASON on MONDAY EVENING, NOVEMBER 14th, 1870 Messrs. Hutchinson and Tayleure, in drawing the attention of the public to the above elegant and capacious building, flatter themselves that they can with confidence assert it to be the handsomest Circus ever erected in Cardiff, and it will be found a most convenient arena, replete with every
comfort, and capable of accomodating 2,000 visitors, presenting a perfect model of classical ornamentation of taste.
The finest equestrian troupe of Male and Female Artists that has ever appeared here. The stud of trained Arabian Blood Horses and Ponies will compromise animals
of the most rare and beautiful symmetry, which cannot be excelled by any other Equestrian Establishment.
The Entertainments will be varied nightly, and include brilliant Equestrian Achievements, daring Gymnastic Exploits, grand Entrees and Cavalcades,
brilliant Spectacles, Historical Pageants, and a host of Novel Scenes new to the public of this town.
Grand Fashionable Juvenile Morning Representations every Saturday, at half past two o'clock. Families residing at a distance should avail themselves of these
opportunities to bring their little ones to visit the most sparkling entertainment ever introduced to a Cardiff audience.
A public notices also appeared in the Western Mail
The circus which Messrs. Hutchinson and Tayleure have erected for the amusement of residents of Cardiff during the winter months was opened on Monday evening, on which occasion there was an audience present that crowded every part of the spacious building. The entertainment was of a varied and most entertaining description. The agility of the acrobats, the extraodinary
feats of the other performers, both human and animal, and the buffonery of the clever clowns afforded a treat to the frequenters such as Cardiff seldom affords. We can recommend those persons who are anxious for a night's
amusement to visit the circus, where they will find that their comfort is made complete, while their pleasure is provided for in the most effective manner.David Hutchinson died 21st April 1890. His funeral took place at St Mary the Virgin, Cardiff and he is buried in Cathays Cemetery. His will raised questions on the validity of his marriage to Elizabeth but that is another story!
Taylor.s American Circus toured the country until the early years of 1890. The last
appearance in Swansea was in March 1892. Joseph Taylor died on 28th November 1894 at
St Helens Rd. Swansea. The funeral also took place at St Mary the Virgin in Cardiff and his
burial at Cathays Cemetery.
Frank Frederick Taylor left the circus to take up a post in the Swansea police force. In 1891 he was employed as a Police constable, living with his wife Mary Ann and five children, Joseph, Ethel, Mabel, David and Charles.
Frederick along with his son Joseph, were members of the Swansea Police Band. Frederick retired in 1911 and lived at Alexandra Arcade, Swansea where his son Charlie was the caretaker. He died 10th December 1914 aged 58 and is buried at Dan-y-Graig Cemetery.
His brother Joseph died aged 57 on 28th November 1894 at St. Helens Road, Swansea, The Funeral took place at St Mary’s the Virgin in Cardiff on 30th November. The Minister was Howard Lewis. Joseph is buried with his wife Harriet at Cathay’s Cemetery Cardiff plot number L 561.
His son David was Born 14th October 1867 in Bristol.he married a performer in the Taylor company,Ada, Alexandra, Knight, the daughter of George Knight and Mary Ann Sturgis of Manchester. The wedding took at St Mary’s Cardiff on 6th June 1888 The bride was given away by David’s grandfather David Hutchinson. David’s best man was Mr Walter Hemingway the Chief Constable. They had 5 Children, David born 1880George, born 1891 in GreenwichHarriet Agnes (Hetty), born 22nd December 1894Harry Hutchinson born 25th July 1896Ivy Alexandra born …?
David was Ringmaster and Equestrian and circus proprietor. One of the good old showmen, he ran a good show until in 1892 David Tayleure was declared bankrupt..He later toured as the “Ada Alexandra Mammoth Combined Circus and Menagerie”. David Tayleure’s “Mexican Circus” was broken up at Yarmouth in 1914 when his horses and wagons were taken for war purposes. 180 horses and wagons were used from the circus for the 1st world war.His advance agent was then Mr. E Tayleur.
David Taylor’s experience, gesture, correct English and ringcraft, stamped him as one of the three best ringmasters in Britain during the 1920’s.
David Taylor was the Manager of Broncho Bill's circus in 1922.
In 1934 he was with Pinder's circus, said to be seriously ill. David Burrows Taylor Died aged 70 at Worcester 1937 and is buried at Astwood Road Cemetery, Worcester Probate 22 January1938 to Ada Alexandra Taylor, Ivey Alexandra Clements wife of George Clements and Frederick Roger Russell Solicitor Effects £5696 14s 1d