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Huxter, Percy, 1890 - 1960



  • Existence: 13 January 1890 - 4 April 1960


Percy Huxter is one of the most iconic and recognisable British circus clowns of all times.

Percy Henry Huxter was born on 13 January 1890 in Bath, Somerset. His father, Edward Partridge Huxter (1860-1928) aka ‘Teddy’ was a famous circus equestrian, stilt walker and acrobatic clown. His mother was Elsie Maud Makin, a circus equestrienne. Percy had three brothers, all of whom followed their parent’s footsteps into circus performance; Cecil, Edward ‘Ted’ and Ecidro ‘Cyd’.

Percy started his training as an acrobat at a young age with his brothers Cecil and Syd, while Edward junior performed as a solo act tumbling clown known as ‘Makin’. The children were soon involved in circus and pantomimes performance as they travelled with their parents around the UK, Europe and South Africa. It wasn’t long before the three brothers achieved global fame as ‘The Three Huxter Brothers’ or ‘The Three Dawsons’ a novelty acrobatic act.

At the outbreak of World War I the brothers were separated as they enlisted to serve in the armed forces. Percy joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and was posted to the Aegean Sea where seaplanes conducted anti-submarine patrols.

The RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy, which on 1st April 1918 became the world’s first independent air force. As well as maintaining airship stations around the coast of Britain the RNAS had several fighter squadrons posted on the Western Front. Their main assignment was to scout for enemy ships and submarines but they also provided cover and support to other forces during battle, including the air defence of London.

After the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the ‘Three Huxter Brothers’ reformed and appeared in public for their first time with Sir Oswald Stoll on 3rd November 1919. Soon after, they were noticed by Bertram Mills who engaged them for the 1920-21 circus season at Olympia. By the 1930s the brothers’ careers had taken different paths and their act had been dissolved. Percy stayed with Bertram Mills as a solo tumbling and dancing white face clown act. He appeared at Olympia and toured with Bertram Mills from 1933 to 1937.

Percy married Elsie Ellen Austin, from the famed Austin circus family, in 1922 and they had two daughters, June Mary and Ann Margaret.

At the outbreak of World War II, Percy, who by this time was 48 years old, was once again serving his country as a Civil Servant and an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) volunteer.

The ARP was set up to protect civilians from the danger of air raids. Every local council was responsible for organising ARP wardens, messengers, ambulance drivers, rescue parties and liaison with police and fire brigades. They also enforced the ‘blackout’ and reported and dealt with all sorts of bombing incidents and drills, including rescuing the injured. Although a civilian role, it wasn’t without danger as proven by the almost 7,000 Civil Defence workers who were killed during the war.

Percy also organised shows, pantomimes and concerts to entertain children and distract their minds from the horrors of the war.

Percy re-joined the Bertram Mills circus after the war and stayed until he retired in 1955. Percy became one of Bertram Mills’ iconic resident clowns and was part of the ‘Four Maniacs’, eccentric clowning act together with Coco, Albert Austin and Bob Beasey at Olympia. In total he was associated with Bertram Mills' circus for forty years. Percy was dubbed, one of the most dignified and elegant white-faced clowns of his time. Towards the end of his career he spent much of the programme greeting children in the audience.

Percy appeared in several Royal Gala performances including; at the Royal Variety in front of King George and Queen Mary at the Victoria Palace in 1928, the Royal Command Performance at Olympia for Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 and the Royal Gala Performance at Olympia in 1959, for which he briefly returned from retirement, although by this time his health was poor. Percy died on 4th April 1960 aged 70.

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Circus Life No. 3, Whirlings, Circus and Vintage Thrill Makers 'Circus Edition' Films, c1927 - 1989

Reference code: 178D13.5
Scope and Contents Vintage Video Productions, Peak Film Productions. Colour and black and white, sound and background music. DVD 1 'I Want to be a Lion Tamer', documentary narrated in English by Zac Radcliffe who talk about life in Whirlings circus, shows the circus travelling, setting up, acts in the ring and back stage scenes c1980s, 'Here's the Circus' documentary, scenes in black and white, narrated in English, c1950s-c1960s, 'American Circus Life Vol 2', black and white scenes of circus performers,...
Dates: c1927 - 1989

Circus Photographs, 1910 - 1964

Reference code: 178C108.5141-5337
Scope and Contents Black and white and some colour photographs of circus scenes, animals, people and personalities including; Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Dame Laura Knight, Bertram Mills, Cyril Mills, Winston Churchill, Coco, Whimsical Walker, A. Pearson equestrian director at Bertram Mills Circus, Percy Huxter, Lulu Adams, Cissie Rosaire, Aubry Rosaire and Zena Rosaire, also Rosaire Circus, Bertam Mills Circus, Tom Arnold's Circus, Ginnett's and Fossett's Circus and a large Barnum shows...
Dates: 1910 - 1964

Films, 1927 - 2007

Reference code: 178D13
Scope and Contents

Compilation of circus films showing acts on the ring as well as interviews with performers and proprietors, mainly produced by tv companies in the UK and Europe. Many of them narrated in German.

Dates: 1927 - 2007

Additional filters:

Archival Object 3
Collection 1
Acrobats 2
Aerialists 3
Animal trainers 1
Animals 3
Art 1