Pablo Fanque was a British circus performer and the first non-White circus promoter and owner in England. He was extremely successful during the Victorian period with his circus running for roughly 30 years. Fanque was born William Darby in 1810 in Norwich. His parents were a butler, John and Mary Darby. The family lived in Norwich for years and Fanque had several siblings.
He became an apprentice with the circus of William Batty in late 1821 and did horse riding stunts, rope walking and tumbling. He would take the name “Pablo Fanque” when he became an adult with some fame for his performances.
Fanque would leave Batty to work for another promoted by the name of “Ducrow.” Eventually, he returned to Batty’s circus for some time before holding his own shows in Lancashire county.
London was the goal for regional circus acts and Pablo Fanque made his major debut in 1847 at Astley’s Amphitheatre. He had purchased a black horse named Beda from William Batty. The condition and performance of the horse and Fanque garnered acclaim for his training and abilities. Publications promoted Fanque’s advanced skill level as rivaling German and French riders. Prior to that he debuted in Croydon doing a rope walking act but not yet in London proper.
Pablo Fanque passed in May 4, 1871, as a result of bronchitis.