Circus Incident in Laindon 1948.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)

During the forties, in addition to regular visits by Presland’s Travelling Fair, on at least one occasion Laindon enjoyed the spectacle of a circus.

I was recently told a story of an incident that occurred involving a knife throwing act.  It’s unknown exactly where the ‘big top’ had been erected in Laindon, but during a knife throwing act, the lady assistant was hit in the leg by a knife and rushed to hospital.  Apparently there was ‘blood everywhere’.  The incident was reported in the press.  The Knife Thrower was Hal Denver and the incident happened in 1948.

Photo:The National Fairground Archive.

The National Fairground Archive.

"Reproduced with permission of the University of Sheffield"

I found a small article from  ‘The Argos’ (Melbourne) which reads as follows:

1948  -  Knife thrower's wife wounded in leg

Three thousand spectators at a circus at Laindon, Essex, gasped with horror when a knife thrown by Hal Denver, who was blindfolded, struck his wife in the right leg and made a deep gash in it.

The woman was taken to hospital, where the wound was stitched.

She returned to the circus with the leg bandaged and told some of the other performers that she would not let the accident unnerve her.

The link to this article is as follows:-  http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/22687135

I’m sure we would be most interested to hear from anyone who happened to be at that performance and anything they can remember about it.

Photo:Hal Denver and his assistant holding their knives.  The National Fairground Archive.

Hal Denver and his assistant holding their knives. The National Fairground Archive.

"Reproduced with permission of the University of Sheffield"

Apparently somewhere there is a newspaper cutting from ‘The Performer’ dated 29/7/1948  advertising the availability of the Knife Throwing Denvers in the near future, with a photograph, and featuring headlines from recent newspapers which refer to an accident to Ella Denver during the act 1948. (Perhaps it was thought that pointing out and emphasising the dangerous nature of the act might attract an even larger audience).  

For anyone interested in further information about Hal Denver, I attach the following link:- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-hal-denver-1384050.html

This page was added by Nina Humphrey(née Burton) on 27/12/2015.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

At a rough guess I would imagine the big top would have been placed on the field at the back of the Laindon Hotel. I could never see the purpose of the knife thrower being blindfolded and clearly although it made for crowd pulling it was highly dangerous. Lucky then that Hal wasn't made to face Ella judging by the size of her axes. Thanks for this Nina a really great find.

By Richard Haines
On 28/12/2015

I have no memory of this incident. What I do remember is that, whenever the fair visited Laindon, they were always located in a field at the bottom of Denbigh Road. There must have been other locations available but I cannot remember them anywhere else. This location did have the advantage of being centrally located for their clientele and, being located perhaps a hundred yards from the High Road, made set up and packing up of the fair easier. Perhaps those were the reason for the choice of this particular location.

By Alan Davies
On 28/12/2015