The mixed race showman of African heritage was the first non-white man to run his own circus, and he often brought his performers to Leeds.
Yet it was in the city – where he was eventually buried – that he was to encounter family tragedy.
Born William Darby in Norwich, it is thought that Fanque’s father may have been brought to the country from Africa as a household servant – although it is also rumoured that he was born in a workhouse. He later adopted the stage name Pablo Fanque after being apprenticed to a travelling circus.
The 19th-century trailblazer is even mentioned in one of The Beatles’ best-known hits. Fanque was a noted equestrian and his circus became the most popular in Britain during the Victorian ‘golden age’ of travelling entertainment….