John Lennon’s Lyrics For “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” Came From This Circus Poster

On January 31, 1967 The Beatles went to Knole Park to make the promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever.  John Lennon walked into an antique shop and basically bought a song.  John spotted a framed Victorian Circus poster from an event that happened on Tuesday Evening, February 14, 1843.

Inspired by the names on the poster, he put together the lyrics and on February 17, 1967 "Being The Benefit Of Mr. Kite" was recorded at EMI Studio Two.  Lennon said that "Everything from the song is from that poster, except the horse wasn't called Henry."  (The poster idenitifies the horse as "Zanthus".)  Some of the other facts he changed were, the circus was coming to Bishopsgate rather than Rochdale, the circus became a fair, Mr Kite was 'late of Wells's Circus' rather that of Pablo Fanque,  and Mr Henderson, rather than Mr Kite, promised to challenge the world.

Text from Poster

PABLO FANQUE'S CIRCUS ROYAL 
TOWN-MEADOWS, ROCHDALE

Grandest Night of the Season! 
AND POSITIVELY THE LAST NIGHT BUT THREE! 
BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR.KITE, 
(LATE OF WELLS'S CIRCUS) AND 
MR. J. HENDERSON, 
THE CELEBRATED SOMERSET THROWER! 
WIRE DANCER, VAULTER, RIDER, etc. 
On TUESDAY Evening, February 14, 1843.

Mssrs. KITE and HENDERSON, in announcing the following Entertainments ensure the Public that this Night's Production will be one of the most splendid ever produced in this Town, having been some days in preparation.

Mr. Kite will, for this night only, introduce the 
CELEBRATED HORSE, ZANTHUS! 
Well known to be one of the best Broke Horses IN THE WORLD!!!

Mr. HENDERSON will undertake the arduous Task of 
THROWING TWENTY-ONE SOMERSETS, 
ON THE SOLID GROUND.

Mr. KITE will appear, for the first time this season, On The Tight Rope, 
When Two Gentlemen Amateurs of this Town will perform with him.
 
Mr. HENDERSON will, for the first time in Rochdale, introduce his extraordinary 
TRAMPOLINE LEAPS AND SOMERSETS! 
Over Men & Horses, through Hoops, over Garters and lastly through a Hogshead of REAL FIRE! In this branch of the profession Mr. H challenges THE WORLD!

Here is a run down on the people mentioned in "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite."

"Mr. Kite" was William Kite, son of circus proprietor James Kite, and an all-round performer.  The poster shows Mr. Kite balancing, head down, on top of a pole, playing a trumpet.  Mr Kite was also riding master for Pablo Fanque at this time.  He is believed to have worked in Pablo Fanque's Circus from 1843 to 1845.

Here is a photo of Pablo Fanque, Britain's first black circus owner.  He was born William Darby in 1796, died in 1871 and was buried Woodhouse Cemetery.  Below you will find a photo of his grave courtesy of Phil Dawson © phill.d.

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The Henderson's, John and his wife Agnes were wire-walker, equestrian, tramplinist and clowns.  The Henderson's traveled all over Europe and Russia during the 1840's and 1850's.  I don't have any photo's available…

John's original poster was last known to be in the posession of his son Sean Lennon.

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