​ Theatre | The Theatre Royal, Darwen | Music Hall | Owd Chipper and his Peepshow | Memories of Chipper
When the Circus came to Town | Madam Tussaud Visits Blackburn



The inhabitants of Blackburn were imbued with a deep seated Puritanism which made them suspicious of mere play acting, with the result that performances were often poorly attended.
Blackburn's first theatre was the New Theatre which was actually the Theatre Royal on Ainsworth Street. A number of theatres throughout the country were known as "Theatre Royal" and were set up by Act of Parliament between 1767 and 1775. Architectural details about this theatre are sparse, except that it was bigger than similar places of entertainment in Prescot and Chorley. It was not a popular venue with visiting actor managers, mainly because of its inadequate heating and lighting.  A new Theatre Royal was built in 1816. It was to undergo various alterations and improvements during its life, notably in 1886 when the theatre was completely rebuilt. At this time Blackburn became central to the national theatre scene because eminent theatre architect Frank Matcham was appointed.
The Theatre Royal enjoyed great success and was renovated again in 1908. A fire in 1913 necessitated further changes. In 1931 it was converted into a cinema.
Another theatrical venue of note was the Exchange Hall or the Cotton Exchange which opened in 1865. Notable entertainers who appeared there were The Christie Minstrels and Houdini. Subsequently it was rebuilt and reopened as a cinema. As we shall see, Blackburn's theatres eventually turned into cinemas to reflect the times and the demand for "movies". Some started to include film at the end of their variety performances, before converting entirely to cinemas.
In January 1875 a plan was put forward to build a new Temperance Hall in Railway Road with an Assembly Room to seat a thousand with other rooms for smaller meetings. The prospectus called for a capital of £10,000 and shares were issued. The construction work was to be carried out by Messrs Kay & Rucklidge of Darwen. Late in December, it was decided that the building was to be adapted for "theatricals, etc" as there was a need for a "respectable and properly furnished theatre" in the town.
The decision to build the theatre was not universally accepted by the people of Darwen, indeed the Darwen News was very hostile about the idea and it's views were expressed clearly in it's editorial columns. The new building was built on a site next to the Wesleyan Chapel in Railway Road. The building was built in an Italianate style, fronted by four shops with spacious cellars. Above them were offices suitable for “professional” men. The main floor was for other activities. The unusually large stage was designed by Mr Hawley of Prince's Theatre, Manchester. The house, which had a dress circle and a roomy gallery, was brilliantly lit by two hydrocarbon gaslights. Two sculptured panels depicting music & drama, the work of Thomas Allen of Blackburn, decorated the exterior.
The total cost, including furnishing was between £9,000 & £10,000. It became the town's first purpose built theatre and was opened on the 12th March 1877. A large audience saw the first show, a performance by Mr Walsham's English Opera Company. The town continued to support the new Theatre and was for a time, highly successful. Even the sceptical Darwen News had to admit that the Theatre was good for the town. The first pantomime was "Babes In The Wood" and in 1878 the first Music Hall bills were offered. In 1879 the theatre was offered for sale by its original owners, The Temperance Hall Company, and was purchased by William Snape, the first Mayor of the Borough. Even though it had a new owner, the Theatre was in jeopardy for a number of years. In December 1879 the proprietor was a Mr Jimmy Wearden (“Owd Peg Leg”) and the name was changed to the Royal Star Music Hall and Theatre of Varieties. February 1880 saw another re-opening with the owner being a man called Campbell who also ran the Alhambra Music Hall in Blackburn. The Post Office took over the premises below the Theatre in 1890.
Although the Theatre only opened occasionally, amongst the attractions was Van Bienne's English Opera Company, who arrived in 1881 with a cast that is said to have included Albert Chevalier. Jimmy Wearden, “Owd Peg Leg”, had one wooden leg, some say two, returned with a variety show but had to leave town after assaulting a lady artiste in the middle of the night. Mr Wearden had such a reputation for the ladies that one of his companions, a Mademoiselle Norrie, had to take his leg(s) off him, locked them in the wardrobe and brought the key with her as “he had been gallivanting a bit that day”. There was further trouble when a visiting company was such an utter failure that they had to rely on collections in order to get to their next date in the Isle of Man.
There were many changes of management over the years, with the theatre opening only for short runs. The shows were varied, from Shakespeare to Opera to Pantomime, but the stars of the time continued to appear. Paganini Redivivus topped the bill in August 1886 and returned the following year. Hermann Vezin brought his company to Darwen and played the parts of Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth & Shylock all in one week. Dr Walford Bodie, the Electrical Wizard also appeared around this time, billed as "scientist, ventriloquist & electrician". In 1894 Jack Higgins, the Champion standing jumper appeared. The pantomime of 1898, Dick Whittington, featured the star attraction of Professor Rosco with his "talking pigs". Earlier in the year Dolly Harmer, later to become famous in association with “Wee” Georgie Wood, appeared in the cast of “One In The Family”.
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At the turn of the century, more and more animated pictures began to creep into the entertainment line-up, from pictures of the war in South Africa, the funeral of Queen Victoria, even a football match were shown but live variety continued to dominate, the most notable being Chung Ling Soo, “The Chinese Magician” who visited the Theatre on two occasions before later meeting a tragic end on stage when his trick of catching a bullet from a revolver in his teeth went horribly wrong. Leoni Clarke was another memorable visitor whose act included 170 performing cats, rats, mice, canaries, cockatoos and other livestock. The stage must have needed some cleaning afterwards! In 1907 & 1909 the pantomimes featured a certain Stanley Jefferson in the cast, later to become better known to you and me as Stan Laurel. It has recently come to light that Stan Laurel’s Father was the Agent or as it was listed in the programme “Sole Manager & Director” for the visiting “Steen’s American Mystifiers” who visited the Theatre Royal in 1897.
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In February 1908 the Theatre’s name was changed to the Hippodrome and for some time the programmes were of the music hall variety, which included the delightfully named “Mile Florence and Her Rolling Globes”. This act featured the said lady balanced on two large revolving globes, propelling them around the stage with grace and ease. To attract an audience she went through the centre of the town on her “transport” and the local news reported that there were so many people out to watch that it was like “election time”. Despite live variety remaining in the forefront of the entertainment menu, almost every programme now included motion pictures and the clearest indication of what was to come was when Ralph Pringle’s World Renowned Animated pictures were retained for twelve successive weeks. Live artists supported the show but it now seemed that the pictures were the main attraction, albeit more due to the novelty factor than anything else.
At the end of 1908 the Theatre changed name again, becoming The Darwen Picture Palace and Theatre Royal, a clear indication of the future. Some live shows were still shown including pantomimes and a visit from Harold Pyott, The smallest man in the world at only 23 inches high and by the end of 1909 the live variety has temporarily ousted the films and the advertisements noted that the venue had reverted to its original name, The Theatre Royal. 1910, however, brought more changes and temporary closures before it was renamed The Theatre Royal Picture Palace with the promise of programmes of “pictures, dramas & variety”. It wasn’t to last though. It closed for almost a year before opening in September 1911 with the original name ”The Theatre Royal”, offering variety programmes with “cinema pictures, if time permits”.  By early 1912 though, acts such as Eva Lancaster, Lancashire’s Singing Pit Girl was competing with such fares as a film of the recent Titanic disaster. In spite of their increasing length and improving quality, films continued to take second place to live performances, sometimes even relegated to the interval, although on occasion films were given preference especially when it involved local interest, such as a cup-tie between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley.


During the First World War, a man called Baker was in his second spell as manager and began to use the name The Hippodrome again and also brought Lily Langtry to Darwen, although curiously billed her as a comedienne. Charlie Chaplin’s films were also popular at this time and almost every programme included one of his short films. Darwen audiences, though, clearly still flocked to the live shows, not surprisingly since there were such delights as “La Modele”, billed as “the most beautiful and symmetrical and physically perfect woman on earth”. The show was rather obviously “for adults only”.
The Theatre was refurbished in 1918 and on Sunday 3rd November, General Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army preached in the Theatre. The spring of 1919 brought the sport of Boxing into the theatre and later Randolph Sutton of “On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep” fame also made an appearance. The threat of the cinema was meanwhile growing rapidly. The Savoy opened in February 1920 and the Public Hall changed its name to the rather flamboyant “The Premier Picture Palace de-Luxe”. Live shows continued to fight on however, attracting Harold Walden, the former Olympian and professional footballer and included local acts to swell the dwindling crowds, including Darwen’s own Nellie Brierley. Prices were also lowered to combat the economic problems, including the coal strike, and prices now started at only seven pence.
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By 1923, a new threat emerged to the live theatre, the wireless, but in spite of this the theatre still had something to offer the people of Darwen and famous people still appeared, Jimmy James, the comedian. Norman Shelley, of the Archers fame, appeared in a week of Shakespeare plays, Jimmy Jewell & Sid Field all trod the boards over the coming years. The introductions of the “talkies” were another nail in the Theatre’s coffin. In the autumn of 1929, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson premiered at The Albert Hall and all the other theatres quickly followed and began to include “talkie comedies” in their programmes. The Theatre Royal resisted such action until October 1930 when it was announced that the theatre was closing for a temporary period to allow it to be adapted into a picture house.
When the theatre re-opened its first show was Harold Lloyd in “Welcome Danger” with the added attraction of the British Movietone News. It offered films for a couple of years, even re-naming itself the Royal Cinema from mid-1932 but it did continue to put on occasional show and pantomimes. By 1934 however, business had virtually ceased. The last performance in the theatre was in March 1936 when the Darwen Musical Society presented “The Waltz Dream”. The Theatre Royal became a storage depot for the Ministry of Supply during the Second World War and made a final appearance in 1960 when it was disguised as a public house “The McKillup Arms” in the Norman Wisdom film “There Was A Crooked Man”.
The theatre was demolished in 1961 and is now history but for many years it was an integral part of the social life of Darwen. Only a few who used the seven small dressing rooms went on to become famous but all of the artists who used them brought welcome entertainment into the relatively laborious lives of the local people. The scenery would arrive on the Sunday; band call was normally at 1pm on the Monday. The artists would normally seek lodgings in Bank Street and elsewhere nearby. The scene on the Monday afternoon must have been chaotic but come Monday evening and the first performance, everyone would be ready for the magic of Chung Ling Soo or Darwen’s Own Nellie Brierley, who sang on crutches on a darkened stage, or for the revue “Wild Oats” in which nudes were seen in Darwen for the first time. They stood in frames, forbidden by law to move a muscle. How sad that so much was lost when the building was demolished, what happened to the posters, the equipment which was stored in the old property room? The programme which was produced to celebrate the Jubilee in 1927 included a message from the management “ And of the years to come we can say the best is yet to be”. Unfortunately it was not to be.
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By Roger Booth with inspiration from Howard Peters and special thanks to Mary Painter and her team at Darwen Library
The era of the Music Hall lasted for about 100 years from the 1860's to the 1960's. Its origins can be traced to song taverns that were attached to inns. Many were modest affairs, with a dais for the performers. The customers would be sitting round the room drinking.The landlords engaged the entertainers, often for a very meagre salary. Many of these would then go onto to be the "stars" of their day."Refreshment Check" was the way to admission, because it was returnable by drink to the value of the check.
Blackburn's music halls were mainly created from former theatres. In 1851 the Old Assembly Rooms in Market Street Lane were converted into the Music Hall. This later became "Papa" Pages's Lyceum.
In 1934 the Grand Theatre re-opened as a Music Hall. The Palace opened at the end of 1899, as a once-nightly hall. It got off to a good start, but the company who managed it (Livermore Brothers) got into financial difficulties and went into liquidation in June 1900. It was sold to the MacNaghten Vaudeville Circuit and re-opened in September 1900. It now operated as a twice-nightly hall and the prices were reduced, ranging from 2d (2pence) to 2/- (2 shillings or 10 pence). Some of the famous names that appeared there were Charlie Chaplin, George Formby and Gracie Fields. It eventually closed as a music hall and re-opened as a cinema in 1936.

Owd Chipper and his Peepshow 

One of Blackburn's well known characters was Robert Reynolds, who went by the nickname"Owd Chipper" . He was born in Cuerden Green, Walton-le-Dale in 1824. When he was eight, the family moved to Knuzden. He was a spinner by trade, but had a fascination for the theatre. Appearing as an extra in a play at the Theatre Royal,"Chip off the Old Block", was how he acquired his nickname.
His parents disapproved of his theatrical interest.
Chipper later became a rag and bone man. He devised a peepshow as a way of fulfilling his theatrical aspirations. He made this himself using a large box on wheels, with two broom handles for shafts. On this he mounted a puppet show, using old war pictures and toy soldiers, which were activated when he pulled  afew strings.
The admission fee to Chipper's show was a handful of rags or some empty bottles. For this you could see a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo or Spion Kop. In answer to a child's question as to which was Napoleon, "Ony on'em" Chipper replied. He delighted many children in the innocent times before World War 1.
Chipper lived on Rodgett Street in the Audley area for many years. In his later years failing eyesight and deafness caused him to give up his show. He received an old age pension which enabled him to manage. He died in March 1912 and his funeral was witnessed by a great crowd.
The image of him performing his show was taken by William Smith of Audley Range. He was the maternal grandfather of well known local historian Jim Halsall.


Memories of Chipper 

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When Chipper died in 1912, the Blackburn Times of the 9th March published this tribute-
There are many people, not only in Blackburn, but in all parts of the world, who will learn with something of regret of the death, which occurred on Monday, of old "Chipper", the showman of their youthful days. "Chipper" who was 88 years of age,  had been in failing health for sometime. It is just four years since a sketch of this well-known character appeared in "The Blackburn Times", and for the benefit of readers who knew the little old man, we reproduce portions of the articles here.
It was dusk when I knocked at the door of No. 1 Rodgett Street, off Accrington Road; not a very salubrious part of the town. An elderly woman opened the door and preceded me along a dark passage used for the storing of "Chipper's" historic peepshow, of which more anon, into a sparingly-furnished small room, which apparently, does duty as a living room. A low fire burned in the grate, casting a ruddy glow o'er the face of a little old man sitting on a chair by an old-fashioned little round table on which were the remains of the evening's frugal meal. So much in the twilight one was able to take in at a glance, and the scene with "Chipper" as the central figure, was one which would have delighted the heart of Dickens.
"Chipper" was born at Cuerden Green, but was only seven or eight when his parents removed to Blackburn and settled at Knuzden. He was greatly fascinated with the stage, but a stern parent disapproved and threatened vengeance if "Bob" dared to go to the theatre. A piece called "Chip Off the Old Block" came to the Royal and our young hopeful determined he would see it. Someone told his father whose wrath was very great. The fear of parental punishment did not deter the lad from going to the theatre. The father knew that he had gone and thought to teach him a lesson. Bribed by a gallon of beer, two cronies disguised  themselves as ghosts. So it happened that walking home to Knuzden late that night, along  Accrington Road- then a lonely thoroughfare, for this is about 65 years ago - two apparitions in white came from behind the hedgerow, and in what was meant to be disguised voices, called upon the boy to stop. Not at all scared, and expecting some trick to be played upn him, the youth paid no heed to the command, but continued to walk on. Seeing that the trick had failed, the two men burst into laughter, and recognising their voices, young Reynolds, now some distance ahead, called out that he knew who they were. They went home together. Ever after that young Reynolds got the name of "Chipper", whether because he was too sensible to belive in ghosts and therefore was a "chip off the old block" or because he had seen a play by that title, I have not been able to ascertain.
"Chipper" is credited with having said that if he could earn five shillings a week outside the mill, he would give up spinning. Fond of his glass of beer, it was nothing unusual for him to lose his work. One day about the middle of last century, when out of employment for the reason just given, he conceived the idea of becoming a showman. Accordingly he procured a large box, which he mounted on wheels, and with two broom handles for shafts, it resembled the old-fashioned coal waggon.Across the tail of the cart he fixed what looked like a kennel for a toy dog; in reality it was his peep-show,he suddenly discovered he could not "cheek" taking it out. However he eventually mustered up sufficient courage to start away. With head bent and eyes fixed on the ground, he trudged along with his show, never pausing until he came to a part of the town where he thought he was not likely to be recognised. When he halted, a group of children collected, and when told that for a handful of rags they could see "the mysteries of the great show", he very soon  had quite a respectable lot of customers. From that day, now over 50 years ago, to this, "Chipper" has continued to tour the town and district, so that he has become a well-known quaint character. He has found many imitators, but "Chipper" is prime favourite with the children of today as he was with their fathers and grandfathers. How many thousands of people have seen his "wonderful" show, it is impossible to estimate, but as giving some idea of the great number of Blackburnians who remember the little old man, I may mention that from six to seven thousand picture postcards of him either as showman or in some other character, have been sold, and great numbers of them have been sent to all parts of the world. So that if "Chipper's" ambition to become a famous actor never got beyond the dream stage, he has the satisfaction of knowing that in the popularity of his photograph he has achieved distinction with the greatest of actors.
"Chipper's" show consists of a few war pictures and a number of toy soldiers which come into action when he pulls the strings. A precocious child once startled the old man with the remark "I say Chipper, which is Wellington?" But "Chipper" was equal to the occasion. "Onny o 'em" he promptly replied. As a business, "Chipper's" peep-show is not the profitable concern it was in the early days. He could then command 3s.6d. per score for certain sorts of rags: at the present time the sam kind only bring him 3d. "Chipper" is something more than a showman. In certain circles he is a well-known reciter of Shakespeare's poetry. The habitues of the cosy pub parlour know him in the character of a tragedian. His repertoire is an extensive one, but his favourite pieces are in tragedies, Macbeth and Othello; in comedies, the Merchant of Venice; and in histories King Richard the Third. Blessed with an excellent memory, he has only to hear a piece to be able to repeat it, and once he has learnt a poem, he never forgets it.
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The eyes of the audience are all looking up.  The artiste, ` Flies through the air with the greatest of ease` he is the `daring young man on the flying trapeze`. Suddenly, his hands slip off the bar and he plummets towards the ground, for a second the crowd is silent, and then, a cry of `OH MY!` goes up, but the trapeze artist is in no danger, his safety rope prevents him from falling into oblivion…What a way to get a name!...What a name to call a circus!... Ohmy’s.
Ohmy’s real name was a rather plain and ordinary one; it was Joe Smith, who came from Nottingham.  He was married and had at least two children, Claude and Minnie who were both circus artistes and appeared regularly in Ohmy’s circus.  Claude, while in Blackburn, lodged at 44 Mill Lane and was married to Lizzie Yelding who was a bare back rider from Nottingham. They were both interned in Germany during World War One.
Plans were submitted by Ohmy for a circus building to be erected on Jubilee Street, approximately where the Palace Theatre was built in 1899.  I cannot find any record saying that a circus was built on the site, however it does throw up a mystery.  In an advertisement which appeared in the Blackburn Times for the 8th of May 1897 the address of the circus is shown as Mill Lane, yet on the 4th December 1897 again in the Blackburn Times it seems to have moved to Jubilee Street.  Was this just a temporary move? I don’t know.  What ever the explanation may be for this it is certain that for at least three years Ohmy’s circus stood on the corner of Mincing Lane and Mill Lane, in a wooden building.  As far as I know there are no photographs remaining to tell us what it might have looked like. The circus on Mill Lane was demolished in September 1900 and a roller skating rink named Central Hall was built in its place, this lasted until November 1909 when the rink closed and reopened as a picture place.
It is hard to say when Ohmy’s circus first `came to town` but it is thought to have been in Blackburn in 1896, however, I cannot find any mention of the circus or any advertisements for it until May 1897. Although the date may be forgotten the artistes who appeared on that first night are not;
The Ring Master was Mr. Ohmy himself he was also known as King Ohmy.
The other artists were;
The Steins—Second sight artists;
Lochart and his Elephants;
Claude Ohmy—Rider;
Minnie Ohmy—Rider;
Aguste and September—Clowns;
Tom Alvante—Gymnast;
Padley Brothers—Clowns and Acrobats;
Sirins and Maud—Musical act.
Where the elephants were kept is not mentioned. How these acts were received no one now knows, but I can picture the children of Blackburn seeing elephants, clowns and acrobats, maybe perhaps, for the first time in their lives, it is not hard to imagine the atmosphere and the noise in the building.
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What of the artist who appeared in the ring?  The only permanent members of Ohmy’s circus were said to be Ohmy himself, Claude, and Minnie, (his son and daughter), Cruikshank (the clown) and an acrobat called Silent Joe who also did knock about comedy. The other acts were changed weekly or fortnightly and were a varied lot which included such wonderful names as Paganini Redivivus the demon violinist, Madam Rose St. Clare gymnast and high wire, Jack Higgins the famous Blackburn Standing Jumper .The Padleys who, I think, also came from Blackburn appeared in the circus. ‘Pa’ Padley, the father, was a clown and two of his sons followed in his footsteps when they became clowns, and appeared as the Padley brothers all over the world.  One act appearing at the circus was Prof. Norton B. Smith who was billed as the `Emperor of all Horse Educators` and had taken his act all round the World.  On the bill he asks the people of Blackburn to `bring or send your kickers, runaways, jibers, shyer’s, plungers, strikers fighters, nervous horses, horses afraid of streets and other objects, biters, halter-breakers, young colts wild mustangs, wild horses and man eating stallions`.  He goes on to say that he will `handle and subdue these free of charge`. this well before the `Horse Whisperer` was thought of. Click here for more information on Norton B. Smith
Another world famous act was Rivalli the `Fire Proof` man. He would go into an iron cage taking a raw steak with him, the bars of the cage would then be wrapped in inflammable material soaked in oil and set alight. When the fire went out Rivalli would exit the cage carrying the steak which was burnt to a crisp. He of course would be unharmed.
 Other acts included musical turns, water carnivals, acrobatics, clowns and all kinds of wild animals.
The elder Ohmy performed an act called `Dick Turpins ride to York with Black Bess`. The scene was set at a toll gate, and the gate being shut Ohmy’s horse, would have to jump it. They would then leave the ring, when they returned the horse would be limping and covered in lather. Ohmy would dismount, talking to the horse to encourage it on for the last few miles but the horse could go no further, it would lay down on the floor with Ohmy still trying to encourage it on. The horse would die. Then the circus hands would come on, cover the horse with a sheet and carry it off. This act had the audience in tears.  Claude Ohmy was also a very good rider and would finish his act by being blind folded.   He would then get his horse to run around the ring.  As the horse passed him he would run across the ring and leap onto its back.
Ohmy also held benefit nights for various good causes. Below is an advertisement for one that was held for the benefit of the Blackburn Infirmary, half the gross receipts from the night were donated to the cause.  It must have been a grand occasion, with the Mayor and Mayoress in attendance and no doubt many other dignitaries.  It can only imagined as to what the atmosphere was like on that night.  There were 160 performers taking part in the show with a 100 Blackburn children also playing their part. 
Another benefit night held at the circus was for a much sadder cause.  It was held on Wednesday the 8th Of December 1897 and was for funds for recovering the body of a young boy named George Hacking from the coal-pit at Little Harwood.  The night after this was to be a benefit night for Ohmy’s son Claude Ohmy.
The cost of going to the circus varied depending on where you sat and when you went.  The prices were 3d (1¼), 6d (2½p), 1s 6d (7½p), and 2s (10p). 
Saturdays had two performances at 2.30 and 7.30.  It would cost 2d  (just under 1p) extra if you attended the early  performance.  There would be no performance on Sundays.
There were other circuses which lived permanently in Blackburn, dates for them are hard to come by but perhaps some one out there can enlighten me as to when they were.  Culeen’s circus was one; this was situated in a wooden building on Blakey Moor.  Part of the Technical school was built on the site and it is now occupied by Blackburn College.   The acts included Thomas Henry Culeen who was a bare back rider, Little Peter on the high trapeze and Funny Fernd the clown.  The Culeen family eventually gave up the circus and went over to Burnley to run the Gaiety theatre.  Others who had circuses on this site were the Newsomes and the Boswells.  Another circus located in the Town was Transfield’s, which was on the corner of Weir Street.
There are no permanent circuses in Blackburn any more but they still regularly visit the town.  In this day and age animal acts are frowned on and the turns usually consist of acrobats, high wire, and trapeze artists and jugglers.   But the clowns are still there throwing their custard pies, doing their best to wet each other and the audience and yes, I suppose the kids love it just as much today as they did over 100 years ago.
If you have any further information about Ohmy's or Culeen's circuses, or any other local circuses,we'd love to hear from you.
Written by Stephen Smith, a CottonTown volunteer

Madam Tussaud Visits Blackburn 


The famous Madame Tussaud visited Blackburn in 1822 as part of a tour of Britain. Her exhibits were on show in the Assembly Rooms, Market Street Lane.The map from the time shows Market Street Lane between Clayton Street and Darwen Street. The later one from 1848 shows the area in more detail.

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She was born Marie Gosholz in Strasbourg in 1761. Her father died when she was young and she and her mother lived with Dr. Phillipe Curtius, a physician and skilled wax sculptor, where her mother was housekeeper. Marie became his assistant and soon was allowed to make masks of many famous people including Louis XIV and Benjamin Franklin. Her first wax figure was Voltaire who she modelled in 1777.
During the French Revolution it is alleged that she searched through corpses for decapitated heads from which she could make death masks.
When Dr. Curtius died in 1795 he left his entire collection to her. In the same year she married Francois Tussaud. They had 3 children- a daughter who died and 2 sons. 8 years later she moved to England with her eldest son and began touring.
In 1822, the year she visited Blackburn, a ship carrying her exhibition to Ireland hit a rock, but most of the sculptures were saved.
 In total she spent the next 33 years touring around Europe. Her grandchildren carried on her work and in 1888 they set up a permanent home for her exhibits in Marylebone Road, London, where it remains to this day.
The Blackburn Mail of April 8th advertised her visit to Blackburn-
Positively for a fortnight only
Magnificent Coronation Group which has been visited in Liverpool and Manchester by upwards of 80,000 persons. Will be opened for inspection on Monday next in the old Assembly Room, Market Street Lane. Which has been fitted up to represent the Splendid Hall of the Throne Room, Carlton House and will form one of the most spacious and elegant rooms in Blackburn. (This was the Coronation of George IV).
Madam Toussaud , artiste most respectfully informs the Ladies and Gentlemen of Blackburn and its vicinity that her unrivalled collection which has had the honour of receiving the most flattering marks of appreciation from the spirited inhabitants of Lancashire, will be open for inspection as above, when she hopes to meet with the support that her Exhibition has ever met with in every town where it has been exhibited and she pledges herself to do everything in her power to make the collection worthy of the inspection of the Inhabitants of Blackburn.
In addition to King George’s Coronation there was also a representation of the Coronation of Bonaparte. 
Admittance was 1s. There was a promenade each evening from 6 til 10, accompanied by a full military band.The doors were open from 11 in the morning til 10 at night.
In the Mail of the following week Madam Tussaud thanked the ladies and gentlemen of Blackburn for the  patronage she had already received. She urged those who had not visited to do so as they would not want to miss the collection that has no equal in Europe. This time the figure of visitors to the collection in Lancashire alone has risen to upwards of 120,000.
Interestingly, a much earlier exhibition of wax figures was held at the Assembly Rooms. This was as far back as November 1795 and the promoter of this was a Mrs. Bullock. The life size figures represented the British Royal Family along with several foreign royals.
The Blackburn Mail advertised the event.
Admittance was 1s,(the same price as Madam Tussaud’s 30 years later) with children and servants half price. Nothing less will be taken. The company are requested not to bring dogs.
T​he Blackburn Mail was very impressed with the lifelike qualities of the figures saying-
Those figures are executed in so masterly a manner, they being as near as possible to the likeness of living human beings. They are so judiciously placed in the room, as to mix with the numerous spectators that it is quite common for them to direct remarks to one or other of the inanimate forms, only discovering their mistake by the silence of the figure or the laughter of those who have acquired their knowledge by having previously given signs of the like inadvertency.
As well as Mrs. Bullock there were several women at the time who ran travelling wax exhibitions.
Mrs Bullock seemed to have exhibited in Hull regularly and died in Liverpool Museum from a burst blood vessel. This Museum was run by her husband who eventually moved his premises to London.
Whilst still in the world of waxworks-
Blackburn man William Fish assaulted, murdered and dismembered the body of Emily Holland, aged 7 in 1876 .He was of grotesque appearance and his peculiarly shaped head was described in minute detail in reports of his case.  He was in Kirkdale Gaol in Liverpool and Liverpool Waxworks had made a likeness of him before he was even executed. It was a cause celebre at the time.

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