In the Ring - 250 years of Circus design

Astley's Amphitheatre, 1808


Print showing Astley's Amphitheatre, 1808, by Pugin & Rowlandson
Theatre Museum, Antony Hippisley Coxe Collection
Copyright: V&A Images

Britain has been at the heart of developments in the circus. The story begins in London in 1768 in the wooden theatre of Philip Astley, a soldier and famous horse-rider. Astley's first inspiration was the traditional form of an Italian theatre, mixed with the circular arena needed for equestrian exercises and trick riding.

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