Weaste Cemetery

Biographies of people buried between 1920 & 29

George James Proctor (1857 - 1926)

George Proctor started his career as a gymnast in his father's travelling circus and became its proprietor on the death of his mother in 1906.


George was born into the travelling circus in Islington, London, in 1857. His father was Robert Alexander Proctor (born 1832 in Surrey, died 1888 in Barnsley), and his grandfather Robert Proctor had established Proctor's Circus in 1829. George's mother was Maria Codman, daughter of another travelling show family, who was born in 1836 in Norwich.


George was the eldest of nine children, who all became performers in their father's circus. Robert (born 1859 in Burry, Suffolk and died aged 10 in 1869 at Caistor, Lincs); Louisa (born 1862 in Ridgewell, Essex), William (born 1864 at Misley, Essex), Harriet (born 1867 in Colchester), Maria (born 1869 in Grimsby), another Robert (born 1871 in Grimsby), Arthur (born 1873 at Mortomley, Yorks) and John Albert (born 1877 at Whitby).


In March 1880, George was 23 when he married Annie Williams aged 18, at Grantham in Lincolnshire. She was the daughter of Thomas Williams, travelling showman and sister of Randall Kaye Williams (who was to become "The King of Showmen" with his Ghost Show and pioneering cinematographic exhibition). George and Annie's children were: Mary Ann (born 1880 in Sheffield), tightrope dancer; Louisa (born 1881 at Harthill, Yorks), wire walker; Maria (born 1884 at Silkstone, Yorks), horse rider; Robert Alexander (born 1885 at Adlington Lancs), horse rider and later circus proprietor; George (born 1887 at Pendlebury), horse rider; William (born 1888 at Pendlebury), horse rider; Hariette, (born 1892 at Cowhill, Oldham); Edna/Ada, (born 1893 at Hunslet); John, (born 1895 in Blackburn), performer; Henriette/Annietta (born 1896 in Stockport); Randall (born 1900 in Widnes), performer and showman; and Albert (born 1901 in Wakefield), performer.   


In June 1888, George's father Robert died in Hoyland, near Barnsley after a long and painful illness. His mother Marie, took over running the circus, which became known as Mrs Proctor's Circus of Varieties. It would appear that George branched out on his own in 1893, as an advert in "The Era" magazine states "Wanted by G Proctor for Circus or Pantomime, comical act on tight wire and wrestling donkey, other acts required, contact George Proctor, Grapes Inn, Keighley, Yorkshire. However, in 1906, George's mother Maria, died and George combined the two circuses which became known as G. Proctor's Circus.


George Proctor's Circus continued its performances around Lancashire and Yorkshire, with the occasional venture to Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham. In 1925 at the Hull Fair, the "World's Fair" magazine (24th October) gave the following description "George Proctor's circus looks new, bright and clean as a new pin, and what a crowd of paraders, no band, but an organ and drums told the tale that they were here. Mr Proctor's programme was not quite as big as Fossett's Circus, but what it lost in numbers it made up in talent. The performance was really splendid, done by two families, the Proctor family and another family of five people (three gents and two ladies), riders and performances with horses and ponies. I think they must be continental artistes, as their style and acts were away from the usual circus acts. In fact they were too good for fair business. They introduced five splendid piebald horses at liberty. Then one of the ladies did a bareback trick act. Two of the men did a great trick on two horses then the other rode four horses. This is the best riding we have ever seen at a fair pony. The Proctor boys and girls did their world-famed acts and their talking horse was up-to-date. The reputation left in Hull this year will surely make both circuses a big success next year.


However, it was to be George's "swan song" as he was to die the following year, on 29th March 1926 in Manchester. He was aged 69. The "World's Fair" magazine records "Another link with the older generation of showmen has been taken from us by the regrettable death of Mr George Proctor of circus fame. Although the end was expected in the family circle, its suddenness came as a great blow to the family and relations and equally so amongst the vast number of showmen who enjoyed his friendship, and this means everybody who knew him, for George had not an enemy in the whole world. His winning personality made him hundreds of friends, but never an enemy. There was a vast concourse of showmen and the general public to meet all that was mortal of our dear friend, at the cemetery gates, to show sympathy with his widow and family in their sad bereavement". He was buried in plot N of the Roman Catholic portion of Weaste Cemetery.


The circus continued touring with George's eldest daughter Mary Ann as Manager, until the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939.