The Pinto Family

Violinists, Composers

Thomas Pinto (c1714 England – 1782 Dublin), born of Italian migrants, was a noted violinist from childhood.  He toured Scotland and England with various bands and was recorded from the 1750s as lead soloist or first violinist for London performances.  He took in pupils, teaching many men who would later find fame with the violin.  In the late 1760s he bought Marylebone Gardens with a partner but the business failed and Thomas moved to Scotland then Ireland where he spent the rest of his life.  In Ireland he excelled as a violinist and composer, leading the orchestra at concerts in Dublin.

Thomas married twice, firstly to Sybilla Gronaman, a German opera and concert singer in 1745, and after her death, to Charlotte Brent in 1766.  Charlotte was also a theatrical and concert singer who would later play a significant role in rearing Samuel and Julia Saunders’ son.  There were many children born to both marriages but only two survived to adulthood.

Julia Pinto, born to Thomas’ first wife around 1758, made her debut in Dublin in August 1774 as a singer.  For many years she performed on the Dublin stage alongside her step-mother Charlotte Pinto with her father leading the orchestra and playing violin solos.  Julia made her London debut at Drury Lane in March 1779 and later sang at Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells Theatres.

Julia probably met Samuel Saunders, the equilibrist, during one of his shows in Dublin.  They appeared on the same bill for the first time at Sadler’s Wells in early 1781.  They married in 1781 and had two children but only George Frederick survived infancy and became a brilliant violinist before he died at age 20.

After her marriage Julia continued her singing career mainly in London with occasional performances in Ireland.  Most of her London appearances were at Astley’s Amphitheatre.  Shortly after the death of husband Samuel in 1791 she concentrated on her son George’s career and she soon left the stage.  After George’s untimely death in 1806 she fell on hard times and she died in 1828 in London.  With her death there were no living descendants of Thomas Pinto but it is likely he had brothers who pursued musical careers and passed on their talents to later generations.

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.