Philip Astley opened Astley's Amphitheatre in London in 1773. * The structure was burned in 1794, then rebuilt. With increasing prosperity and rebuilding after successive fires, it grew to become Astley's Royal Amphitheatre and this was the home of the circus. The location of the theatre was Westminster Bridge Road in Lambeth.
Astley's original circus was 62 ft (~19 m) in diameter, and later he settled it at 42 ft (~13 m), which has been an international standard for circuses since then.
William Batty (1801-1868), perhaps best known as the owner of Batty's Hippodrome, acquired Astley's from Andrew Ducrow (1793-1842) in 1841, after the building sustained its third fire, causing Ducrow to suffer a mental breakdown and die in early 1842. Batty ran Astley's until 1853, at which time William Cooke leased the building. Cooke would run Astley's until 1860.
Charles Dickens wrote a short story titled, Astley's, about the theatre, in his 1836 book, Sketches by Boz. He describes an evening at Astley's in chapter 39 of The Old Curiosity Shop, and the circus is also referred to in Hard Times (Book 3 chapter 7).
Pablo Fanque, the black circus equestrian and circus owner, best known from his mention in The Beatles song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, made his London debut at Astley's in 1847.
The theatre continued to be popular long after Astley's death in 1814. It was finally demolished in the 1890s.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, Templeman Library, University of Kent
- J. Griffin. "Frost, Thomas (1881), "Circus Life and Circus Celebrities." London: Chatto and Windus". Circushistory.org. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
- Illustrated London News, March 20, 1847.
- Sketches by Boz at Internet Archive. Retrieved 2011-4-13.
- "The Illustrated London News," March 20, 1847.
- Rennison, Nick. The Book of Lists, London. Canongate. p. 42.
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