Adeline Gertrude Samwell 1855 – 1944


Adeline Gertrude Samwell was one of twins born in St Helier, Jersey, in 1855 to William and Mary Ann Samwell (nee Fowler).  From childhood, Adeline was on the road with her father, older sister Mary, and younger brother William.  They toured England and the Continent taking short engagements with various circuses.  In 1868 Adeline and Mary made their London debut as equestriennes at the Royal Amphitheatre and Circus on Holborn.  However, Mary left the circus shortly afterwards, preferring to live with her grandparents in St Helier.

In 1872 Adeline, with her father and brother, performed in Spain.  A later advertisement implied that William had died some time between 1872 and 1874.

Adeline’s life after her father’s death is uncertain.  She continued a career in the circus, appearing in Guillaume’s Monster Equestrian Company on a tour of South America in late 1880.  She was next listed in the cast of the Barcelona Circus in 1884.  She died in Barcelona in 1944 at a convent that offered care of the poor and elderly but whether she was a patient or nun is not known.  That her death was recorded with her birth name suggests she did not marry.

Adeline’s sister Mary continued to live in Jersey, marrying in 1876 then moving to London.  Mary named her last daughter Adeline, undoubtedly after her sister.

(Advertisement from The Era 14 August 1870. Image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive

Contact Caroline Cavanagh at to purchase a copy of Once a Famous Circus which provides much more detail on the Saunders and Samwell travelling circus families.

Text © Caroline Cavanagh 2017.