Circus legend Gerry Cottle leaves £5.7million estate to betrayed wife

Circus impresario Gerry Cottle who died of Covid, aged 75, leaves £5.7million estate to betrayed wife who put up with his decades of womanising and cocaine addiction before they split in 2001

  • Circus star Gerry Cottle died aged 75 after contracting Covid in January 2021
  • He died at a Bath hospital just a week before he was due to be vaccinated 
  • Mr Cottle found fame in the 1970s when his Gerry Cottle Circus toured the UK  
  • His persistent philandering led to wife Betty leaving him in 2001 after 33 years 
  • The wife of Britain’s greatest showman Gerry Cottle, who died of Covid-19 at 75 last January, once told him that he was ‘not a proper husband’.

    Betty Cottle suffered decades of the veteran circus impresario’s sexual infidelities, relentless womanising and cocaine addiction before splitting with him in 2001. 

    She left the circus boss having spent years waiting in their caravan for the philanderer to return home, telling him: ‘You are never here. I never have a clue where you are. You’re not a husband – you’re a lodger and a bloody ungrateful one at that’.

    But more than twenty years after they separated, Betty has been named as a beneficiary in his will – which leaves a fortune of more than £5.3million.

    Betty was also mentioned in the personal items section, as she is to be handed his share in a painting by Edward Seago, who was appointed as the official artist for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.  

    Cottle has died shortly after contracting Covid – just a week before he was due to be vaccinated. He died at a hospital in Bath in January 2021. He was survived by four children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

    Gerry Cottle on his 72nd birthday in April 2017 with his WOW Circus troupe. He died last year aged 75 after catching Covid

    Gerry Cottle on his 72nd birthday in April 2017 with his WOW Circus troupe. He died last year aged 75 after catching Covid

    Betty Cottle, the wife of Gerry Cottle with their daughter April, would leave him after 33 years. She is he main beneficiary of his £5.3million will

    Betty Cottle, the wife of Gerry Cottle with their daughter April, would leave him after 33 years. She is he main beneficiary of his £5.3million will

    On top of the world: Gerry Cottle is pictured on stilts with his stars at the peak of his fame. At one point he ran Britain's biggest circus and needed 150 trucks to transport the acts around the country

    On top of the world: Gerry Cottle is pictured on stilts with his stars at the peak of his fame. At one point he ran Britain’s biggest circus and needed 150 trucks to transport the acts around the country

    Flying high: Gerry Cottle at his funfare in 1993. Alongside success, Cottle also weathered two bankruptcies, a sex addiction, cocaine habit and the breakdown of his marriage

    Flying high: Gerry Cottle at his funfare in 1993. Alongside success, Cottle also weathered two bankruptcies, a sex addiction, cocaine habit and the breakdown of his marriage 

    Bettyis to be handed his share in a painting by Edward Seago, who was appointed as the official artist for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. Gerry in front of the art in 2009

    Bettyis to be handed his share in a painting by Edward Seago, who was appointed as the official artist for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. Gerry in front of the art in 2009

    The son of a stockbroker, he was born in Carshalton, Surrey, but ran away to join the circus at 14 after being impressed by a show he had seen at Earl’s Court, west London.  

    His son Gerry will receive any cars that he had, along with his number plate GWC1

    His son Gerry will receive any cars that he had, along with his number plate GWC1

    Cottle’s circus career began as ‘Gerry Melville the Teenage Juggler’, but by the mid-1970s his Gerry Cottle Circus was touring Britain with three shows.

    Later he married Betty Fossett who came from one of the oldest circus families in the UK going back two centuries.

    The circus legend, who previously suffered from prostate cancer and had an earlier addiction to cocaine, was able to see most of his family in hospital before passing away and spoke to his son Gerry Jnr who lives in the US. 

    Cottle was impulsive, running away from his strict middle-class Surrey home, where he wasn’t even allowed tomato ketchup, to join the circus at 15.

    He went on to run circuses around the world and made extraordinary purchases, including a joke shop, a lido and a 75ft Cadillac with a jacuzzi.

    In 1968, he married Betty, who was a 16-year-old tightrope performer and the daughter of showman and circus proprietor Jim Fossett. 

    Cottle’s compulsiveness led him to financial ruin and he was declared bankrupt twice. He was continually forced to sell his assets, including elephants, baboons, lions and other circus paraphernalia.

    Yet Cottle worked his magic and now leaves a gross estate of £5,676,272, with a net value of £5,365,973.

    Building an empire: Gerry Cottle with his circus in Toulouse, France, in November 1983

    Cottle was fined £500 by Chertsey Magistrates for cocaine possession

    Building an empire: Gerry Cottle with his circus in Toulouse, France, in November 1983. A few years later he was fined £500 by Chertsey Magistrates for cocaine possession

    Living his dream: Cottle, pictured, fell in love with the circus at just eight years old and would run away from home aged 15

    Living his dream: Cottle, pictured, fell in love with the circus at just eight years old and would run away from home aged 15

    Gerry Cottle waves a top hat while displaying some of the circus fancy dress costumes wauctioned at Bonhams, in London during 1994

    Gerry Cottle waves a top hat while displaying some of the circus fancy dress costumes wauctioned at Bonhams, in London during 1994

    It includes his Somerset estate Wookey Hole Caves, a tourist attraction including arcades and a circus museum, which he bought in 2003 when he retired from the traveling entertainment world. 

    It was a place close to Cottle’s heart, so much that he has named its night manager as a beneficiary in his will.

    Other beneficiaries include Cottle’s son and his three daughters, as well as the husband of one of his daughters, Willie Ramsay, who he wished to be ‘regarded the same as one of my descendants’.

    His son Gerry, daughter Sarah, her husband Willie, and a Jade Dunbar are named as his executors and trustees and they will decide how much each beneficiary will receive. 

    Cottle specified: ‘In respect of financial sums that I would like to be paid to certain individuals I express the wish that my Trustees have regard to any letter of wishes stored with my Will or with my papers at my death.’

    Willie, Cottle’s son-in-law, worked with Cottle’s Circus of Horrors before training Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

    Cottle is also handing down a sovereign ring to his grandson and any cars that he has, along with his number plate GWC1, to his son Gerry.

    His substitution trunk, used for magical illusion tricks, is to be given to his daughter Sarah.

    Cottle was known for surprising us with daredevil stunts and marvelous illusions. In that case, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at Betty being named in his will.