The circus master, Britain’s first black big top boss, staged an 1843 show in Rochdale featuring renowned acrobat William Kite.
Now the story of the Victorian circus boss, his famous troupe, and how it inspired Lennon will feature in a new display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.
Curators say that, even before the famous 1968 song, the circus performance in Rochdale’s Circus Royal had earned nationwide acclaim, hitting Victorian headlines for its daring display of lion tamers and acrobats.
And star performer Kite, who was famous for balancing upside down on a narrow pole, is also depicted on the poster.
Adam Flint, from the museum, said that acrobat Kite and his ringmaster Pablo Fanque were famous among Victorian audiences.
He said: “Pablo Fanque was a remarkable and important character. He was extremely popular with millworkers in the North West, so we thought he would have been a hero for child labourers, especially as he too was orphaned as a child and sent to the workhouse.
“We encourage our audience to imagine being the poor children in the mill, escaping to their dreams of the circus.”
Fanque, who died in 1871, aged 75, brought shows to Manchester, Rochdale, Oldham and Bolton.
While recording the Sgt Pepper album, John Lennon stumbled across a vintage poster for the Rochdale show in an antique shop, which featured the legend ‘For the Benefit of Mr Kite’.
Lennon later told an interviewer: “The whole song is from a Victorian poster, which I bought in a junk shop. It is so cosmically beautiful.”
The exhibition runs from February 16-24.