Topsy Sanger

Topsy Sanger

Born in 1852 at Cheadle in Staffordshire, Laurina Sanger was the daughter of the great circus entrepreneur ‘Lord’ George Sanger by his wife Ellen (‘Nellie’) née Chapman, a lion tamer known professionally as ‘The Lady of Lions’ and ‘Madame Pauline de Vere.’

By an early age Laurina has joined her parents in the circus ring, finding fame as a trick rider under the professional name 'Topsy' Sanger. According to a report on Sangers’ Circus [sic] in the Reading Mercury (25 August 1860), ‘not a little amusement and admiration were elicited by the performance of Misses Harriet and Topsy Sangers [sic], said to be the youngest riders in the world.’

The two girls appear on the 1861 census, aged 8 and 6, living with their parents in a caravan, which on the night the census was taken was located on Portland Street in Manchester.

In 1874 Laurina married Alexander Coleman, an ‘equestrian clown’ known professionally as ‘Sandy the Clown.’ The marriage produced three children, Alexander ‘Little Sandy’ George Sanger Coleman, born in 1876; Ellen Burdett Sanger Coleman, born in 1878; and George Sanger Coleman, born in 1880.

Laurina ‘Topsy’ Sanger died on 14 October 1882, aged only 30, at Sanger’s Theatre on Westminster Bridge Road, South London. According to her death certificate, the cause of death was ‘Septicaemia after [an] abortion.’ Like many members of her family, she was buried at St John’s Cemetery in Margate.

Confusingly, her daughter Ellen, who in 1898 was described as a ‘tight rope walker and equestrienne,’ also used the name Topsy Sanger professionally. She died, aged 90, in 1969.

Photographed by husband-and-wife George and Rebecca Lavis of London and Eastbourne.

Code: 126999
© Paul Frecker 2022