In September 1864 Carlos Trower, an Afro-American tight rope walker who called himself ‘The African Blondin’ was engaged by the North Staffordshire Railway to walk across the lake on a rope suspended some hundred feet above the water. This was the first major event organised by the NSR. Special trains were run from nearby towns and the Potteries with over three thousand spectators attending.
Fourteen years later, at the end of June and beginning of July 1878, he returned to Rudyard, performing on three separate days. Again the events proved extremely popular and the special trains laid on were ‘crowded to excess’. The ERA (a stage newspaper) reported that at “Rudyard Lake and Skating Rink the great African Blondin has this week delighted thousands of excursionists by his clever and daring feat of crossing Rudyard Lake on a rope stated to be a hundred feet high.”
In 2010 Carlos Trower’s great-grandson, Ron Howard, visited Rudyard Lake to see where his great-grandfather had performed. And over the May Day bank holiday weekend of 2016 Chris Bull, aka Bullizini (www.bullzinifamily.com) recreated the tight-rope walk of 150 years earlier twice each day.
This advert for his performance at Rudyard in 1864 appeared in the Staffordshire Advertiser two days beforehand:
and on 3 July 1878 his last performances at Rudyard – and England – were advertised in the Staffordshire Sentinel:
A few days later the Era reported it had been a very popular and successful event.