Leaving Leigh for the Circus
Ann and Charlotte Partridge were the eldest and youngest daughters, respectively, of Isaac Partridge, a Leigh fisherman, and his wife, Elizabeth Bull.
Ann was a good 17 years older than Charlotte (baptised Rebecca Charlotte in 1819) and at the age of 23 married in Gloucester to Jean Pierre Ginnett, the head of a travelling equestrian troupe. One can only imagine the troupe coming to Leigh or close by and Ann's head being turned by the glamour of the travelling showman.
By 1841 Ann and Jean Pierre were on their travels in Birmingham and Charlotte had found her way across country to Bristol where she was living in the house of John Wyatt, landlord of the Duke of Marlborough pub - no doubt she was a barmaid.
Was it in the pub that she met John Samwell, another equestrian showman? In any event they were married in 1849 in Gloucester.
By 1851 the fortunes of the Ginnetts had blossomed. Jean Pierre was the leader of an equestrian troupe employing 34 men, women and children. Charlotte Samwell (clearly lying about her age - 26 when she was actually 31) was living in Lambeth, an equestrian, like her husband John.
The Circus Ginnett still exists today and its origins stem from the Napoleonic period. According to circus history the first Ginnetts came to England from France when Jean Pierre Ginnett (or Jinnett) and his brother, who had been in Napoleon's cavalry, were captured at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and became POW's. They were released and Jean Pierre trained some canaries which performed at Ludgate Circus, London.
Jean Pierre died in 1861 and is buried in Kensall Green Cemetery, but the circus continued and prospered through his and Ann’s son, John Frederick, born in Leigh, who expanded it considerably.
John Samwell was from another famous circus family going back into the 18th Century. In childhood he was billed as ‘the infant equestrian’ appearing from the 1830s onwards and travelling with various circuses, including the Ginnetts. In later years he was billed as ‘John Samwell, the Great Scene Act Rider’ and travelled with his own circus, but after a serious accident during his act he finally gave up in 1868 and began a famous act with a dog troupe which was the talk of London in the 1870s.
John Frederick Ginnett continued after his father's death and this magnificent monument to the family can be found at Woodvale Cemetery in Brighton. The main inscription reads -
To the dear memory of John Frederick Ginnett born in 1819 at Lea in Essex died at Brighton January 12 1892 and of his dearly loved wife Annie Maria daughter of John Snape of Leamington in her 62nd year.
Picture reproduced through Creative Commons