El Spelterini at St Aubin

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Maria Spelterini (1853-1912) was an Italian tightrope walker, the first woman to cross the Niagara Falls in 1876. She also crossed again blindfolded, manacled, and with peach baskets strapped to her feet. She was known as the female “Blondin”. Details of her earlier appearance in Jersey are very limited. Her appearances at St Aubin in 1872 were to help the small harbour maintain its status as a busy and thriving part of the island and support the railway link with St Helier. She put on several performances, some of which included illumination and fireworks. This was at the start of her career. There is little detail of her exploits before her performance in Jersey, but it is known that she also performed in St Petersburg, Moscow, and Catalonia.

Weighbridge performance

By Mark Pulley, Maritime Jersey Facebook group

Five years earlier in 1867 another tightrope walker named Artizelli staged a performance at the Weighbridge, after being refused permission to perform in the Royal Square or on one of the piers.

His rope was fixed on top of Customs House Inn, and to a few yards off the Weighbridge. Between 3 and 5 pm he performed in windy conditions with dust blowing off the quays.

He walked the rope normally with his pole, then with his head in a sack. He did other amazing tricks on the rope, which was very high near the hotel.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 people watched. The riggings of some of the ships in the harbour were full of men and boys watching. The crowds cheered loudly, but many left after his first ascent.

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