Who was Blondin?
Jean-François Gravelet was born in 1824, changed his name to Charles Blondin and became a world famous French acrobat and tightrope walker. His fame and fortune followed his tightrope walk over the gorge below the Niagara Falls in 1859.
The Kibworth Connection.
Rumour has it that Blondin visited Kibworth Beachamp for a demonstration of his skills.
Myth or Fact?
Francis P Woodford in his book, A History of Kibworth, adds some weight to the story that Blondin gave a performance in High Street, Kibworth Beauchamp.
Woodford describes the event as follows:
‘The Royal Oak Public House (in High Street) was kept by Mr Staines. It was from the roof of this house to that of one of the houses opposite, that Blondin had a rope stretched, on which he walked blind-folded, and wheeled a barrow across; and also on which he balanced a stove and cooked a pancake, which he tossed in the air, to the thrills and wonder of a great crowd below but only to a small addition to his purse.’
The performance by Blondin followed his usually performed stunts. Woodford does not give a date for this performance but Blondin gave a number of performances in England including locations in and near Leicestershire.
12th July 1861 Derby ArboretuMr John Stain ham.
13th July 1861 Aston Park, Birmingham.
30th July 1861 Nottingham.
1st July 1862 Whitwick Cricket Ground, Leicestershire.
11th and 12th September 1862 Campbell Street, Leicester .
These performances indicate that Blondin was near enough to Kibworth to have given his performance, most likely between his performances at Whitwick and Leicester. There is no record of a Mr Staines as the landlord of the Royal Oak Public House, however on 28th May 1867 the licence for the Royal Oak was granted to a Mr John Stain. Blondin was in England during 1869 and gave a performance at the Crystal Palace in November that year.
So examining the evidence, if indeed he did visit Kibworth Beauchamp, it could have been in 1861 whilst in England giving performances at Whitwick and Leicester or during John Stain’s tenure as landlord of the Royal Oak when he was in England in 1869.
Myth or Fact-will we ever know for sure, but it makes for a good story.
NB. Blondin gave his last performance in Belfast in 1886.
Kibworth to Smeeton A Stroll Down Memory Lane by Philip J Porter