World famous clown who performed for Queen is remembered

Whimmie the clown with the plaque to his great grandfather the Whimsical Walker

Whimmie the clown with the plaque to his great grandfather the Whimsical Walker, inset - Credit: Central England Co-operative Funeralcare

He was a clown that entertained crowds across the globe and performed in front of Queen Victoria.

Known as Whimsical Walker, Thomas Walker toured the world three times and performed at Windsor Castle in 1886 at a royal command performance where he hoped to amuse Queen Victoria.

The entertainer moved to Gorleston in about 1910, ran a shooting range in the town and died in the borough aged 83 in 1934.

Whimsical Walker is buried in Gorleston Old Cemetery

Whimsical Walker is buried in Gorleston Old Cemetery - Credit: supplied

And now the antics of the world famous clown and actor have been remembered with a ceremony at Gorleston Old Cemetery with a blue plaque being placed on his unmarked grave.

The ceremony was organised by the Gorleston-on-Sea Heritage Group and featured Whimsical Walker's great grandson who is upholding the family tradition of making people laugh out loud.

Whimmie the clown, of Zippo's Circus, attended the ceremony and was pleased to see his great grandfather's legacy remembered.

Whimmie the clown by his great grandfather's grave and plaque

Whimmie the clown by his great grandfather's grave and plaque - Credit: Central England Co-operative Funeralcare

Les Cockril, from the heritage group, said: "He was a world famous clown and was a vital character in Gorleston's history.

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"The Gorleston-on-Sea Heritage Group are extremely grateful to Central England Co-operative Funeralcare for their sponsorship by financing the polished granite plinth for the plaque."

The service was performed by Dusty Miller and the blue plaque was unveiled by borough mayor Adrian Thompson.

Mayor Adrian Thompson unveils the blue plaque

Mayor Adrian Thompson unveils the blue plaque - Credit: Central England Co-operative Funeralcare

Emily Braisher, funeral arranger from the Gorleston branch of the Central England Co-operative Society, said: "The unveiling of the plaque has now given Whimmie and his family an exact location as to where Whimsical Walker is buried and allowed the community to visit and pay their respects to this amazing, talented man for generations to come."

The plaque celebrates the live of Thomas Walker

The plaque celebrates the life of Thomas Walker - Credit: Central England Co-operative Funeralcare

There was an exhibition of pictures and posters illustrating Whimsical Walker’s life in the Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre on the same day.

The ceremony was well attended

The ceremony was well attended - Credit: Central England Co-operative Funeralcare

When Whimsical Walker came to live in Gorleston he took over the site of Peggotty’s Hut on Brush Quay and expanded it into a rifle range.

Little is known of his life between 1910 and when he died in 1934. In the early 1930’s he moved from Brush Wharf to a new council house at 42, Suffolk Road, Southtown.

His spare time was devoted to shrimping and it was reported that he kept a number of cats for company.

Clown Whimsical Walker outside his Gorleston waterfront premises.
Pictures: Peggotty

Thomas Walker outside his Gorleston waterfront premises. - Credit: Archant

The life of a clown

Born in Hull, his father worked in a circus. At the age of eight he was performing in Pablo Fanque’s Circus.

Also Known as the ‘Mystery Clown’, he toured the world three times during the 14 years he was with Hengler’s Circus

He was a frequent visitor to America, having visited 16 times. His first visit was in 1874 with a contract with John Murray’s Railroad Circus.

In 1887 while with Barnum and Bailey’s Circus he purchased Jumbo the elephant from the London Zoological Gardens for £2,000.

Thomas Walker put on a profitable pantomime presentation of W.S.Gilbert’s The Three Wishes at the Metropolitan Alcazar Theatre in New York, becoming the only person to put on a successful English pantomime in America during this period.

He then became bankrupt due to a defective theatre balcony.

In 1886, he was to commanded to appear at the first Royal Command Performance, staged at Windsor Castle, before Queen Victoria. His last performance before royalty was for the first visit to a circus of Princess Elizabeth in 1934.