Archie and the Trick Cyclists

Archibald Daunton Shaw of Thundersley

I wonder how many people living in the Kenneth Road area of Thundersley, between 1929 and 1963 realised that at number 165 there lived a famous but retired Music Hall star? The house was called Woodside and the star was the creator and lead cyclist of the Daunton Shaw Troupe.
Archibald Daunton Shaw was born in 1879 near Bendigo in the State of Victoria, Australia, one of 12 children of William Fleetwood Shaw and his wife, Mary Ann née Tuckey, both of whom had emigrated from England to Australia where they met and married.

Archie Daunton Shaw

Archie, as he was commonly known, lived his childhood on a farm close to Bendigo. He and one or two of his siblings used to “cycle” using an old cartwheel and then on an old boneshaker with iron rims which caused the wheels to slip and slide on the rough ground of the farmyard. Soon Archie became adept at controlling the bicycle and he said later in an Adelaide Mail interview that he also became very inventive. “Yes, I was working in this line…….. but by myself, giving exhibitions at shows and fetes……. I had a whole act planned and worked out, but no one would give me a chance in Australia.” In 1898 with determination he set out to England (which he referred to as “home”) with two sisters and two male assistants to try his luck.

After a few months they were given a chance in Liverpool which proved a great success and from then onwards they were on an upward path. Within six months they were working in London and so popular that they could spend four months a year just touring the many London Music Halls. In the first decade of the 20th century the troupe seem to have had, what must have been at times, an exhausting life travelling around England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, changing theatres weekly.

“Cissie” Shaw née Delaney

The winter may have been more restful, regularly appearing as the novelty act in pantomimes for the season. At Bolton in 1902 Archie married Cork born Eleanor Mary “Cissie” Delaney. Archie and Cissie had three daughters between 1902 and 1906, including a pair of twins. So far I have only found evidence of the twins joining the troupe.

Archie reckoned they were the first bicycle set to appear entirely on safety bicycles whose gradual replacement of the old penny farthings had begun in the 1880s.

Penny Farthings

By the turn of the century safety bicycles had become generally very popular. As the troupe developed it took on bicycles of all shapes and sizes including monocycles.

Early Safety Bicycles

By 1914 a tour to his birth country had been arranged taking in a number of places including Perth, Adelaide and Sydney. In his interview for the Adelaide Mail (11 April 1914) Archie was able to say despite several offers from America he had to decline them as they were so well booked in England. Archie revealed that he also had another troupe working on the continent of Europe. The main troupe, now six in number, did eventually appear in the USA between 1927 and 1929.

Daunton Shaw Troupe


The Indianapolis Times of 9 Jul 1927 reveals their participation in a show called Meet The Navy where they seem to have been booked for several weeks. In May of 1928 the Daunton Shaws were booked at the renowned Palace Vaudeville in Chicago. I believe, although I cannot be certain, that their home base in the USA was in Boston, Massachusetts, because that is where a tragedy overtook Archie in 1929 when Cissie died. Whether it was the original intention or not, that was the end of the USA tour and Archie and some of the troupe returned home. Archie, apparently, already had a house in Bradley Avenue, Thundersley, and at this point he retired. He had led a very hardworking life, travelling Britain and the world achieving considerable fame. Whether that fame followed him to Thundersley I cannot discover.

In Boys Own Paper, Saturday, March 22, 1913.

Archie in a feat of trick riding

In 1933 Archie married again, to Emma Kathleen Williams, who was twenty years his junior. From then onwards their address was Woodside in Kenneth Road.  Archie died aged 84 in December 1963 leaving £6,922 (more than £123,000 today). Emma remained at Woodside and passed away in March 1984, ten days before her 86th  birthday.

Is there anyone out there who is descended from Archibald Daunton Shaw who would like to tell us more? Why did he choose Thundersley for retirement?


The Six Daunton Shaws

Doris is on the bottom right next to Archie, Ivy is on top of the pyramid, the other riders are believed to have been Archie’s sisters and his brother-in-law; with thanks to Alan Bainbridge for the picture and information

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  • Great article about Archie Daunton Shaw.
    These people deserve their place in Music Hall & Entertainment history, fantastic to read about them!

    Archie’s second wife Emma Williams (née Cranness) was born in Thundersley.
    She married Herbert Williams in 1916 & was widowed in 1927, perhaps she returned to Thundersley & that is how she met Archie..?

    I would love to know what became of Archie & Cissie’s daughters, I know Doris passed away in 2000 but it would be great to find out what became of Ivy & Thelma – can anyone help ?

    By music hall fan (25/09/2023)
  • Very good Bob, I have a fb page Mulga Bill Cycles here in Australia.

    By Lyle Paull (06/04/2023)
  • Archie was my great grandfather, who was one of the “best-known and cleverest cycle trick-riders in the World” (Boys Own, 1913). One of his three daughters, Doris, was my paternal grandmother. She lived in 21 Bradley Avenue, which was one of the many cute bungalows generously built by Archie for his wider family.

    Doris lovingly named her house ‘Bendigo’ after her father’s birthplace. Doris and her twin sister Ivy, who lived two doors down, were both in the Daunton-Shaw Troupe and they travelled the world for many years, approximately between the ages of 15 to 25, which was in the 1920s and 1930s. As well as the USA, they performed all over Europe, even in Russia. When they were performing in Hollywood they worked alongside famous names like Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. In fact Doris’ talent was noticed and they offered her a Hollywood acting job, but her Dad didn’t allow it. My Grandmother stopped performing when she married at the age of 25, but she loved to play the piano and still rode a unicycle even when she was in her 80s. Although I moved to Australia in my teens, we had very memorable family times in the Thundersley house and garden, I was quite close to her, she was a wonderful person and an amazing woman.

    Cycle Pyramid Photo now included at the end of the article: Doris is on the bottom right next to Archie, Ivy is on top of the pyramid.

    By Alan Bainbridge (09/09/2022)
  • Thanks Maureen and David for providing more information and comments about Archie and his family. Apologies to David for my delay in responding.
    Always grateful for any comments. It is very encouraging for those of us who spend time researching people and places.

    By Bob Delderfield (24/05/2022)
  • Archibald Daunton Shaw was my grandfather. I am the daughter of his third child, Thelma Irene. She never joined the act but became a dancer. As for Bradley Avenue, it is my understanding that he built the bungalows in the Avenue and both his daughters from the act (Doris and Ivy) lived there for many years. Although I lived in Thundersley, I seldom saw my Grand Father although I do remember his workshop housed a penny farthing bicycle. He was a very clever man but I do not remember him being very close to his family.

    By Maureen Comley (20/05/2022)
  • Archibald Daunton SHAW
    BIRTH 1879 • Goornong, Victoria, Australia
    DEATH MAR 1964 • Rochford, Essex, England
    was my great-granduncle.

    By David Carey (24/01/2022)
  • Wow, that was a fast response, Eileen. Thanks very much. It is most encouraging to know that someone remembers seeing Archie and Emma. Perhaps someone else out there also knows something about Archie or his troupe.

    By Bob Delderfield (05/11/2021)
  • I was really interested to read this article. From around 1957 to 1963 I passed ‘Woodside’ twice daily on my walk to school with my mum. My best friend, Susan Elsdon, lived on the same side of the road a little further up closer to the school and another friend, Pip Marshall, lived exactly opposite ‘Woodside’. My mum was good friends with Pip’s mum and we often spent time idling by her front gate and passing the time of day. Mrs Marshall was friends with the Shaw’s and I do remember both Archie and Emma, although I don’t remember ever talking to them. Sadly, I have no idea why he chose Thundersley as his home in retirement.

    By Eileen Gamble (05/11/2021)

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