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Astley's Amphitheatre, London

Names and directions

The establishment founded by Astley in 1768 changed names six times under his direction. During the 53 years when he himself and then after his death, his son John ran the "amphitheatre", their name was only attached to the establishment for about 25 years. However, despite the evanescence of this "signature" and despite the attempts of several directors who succeeded them to impose their identity on the place by sealing their own name on the pediment or on the posters, the establishment remained known until its destruction. in 1893 as Astley's.

1768-1779:  Astley's Riding School-  Philip Astley (1742-1814)

1780-1782:  Astley's Amphitheater Riding House -  ibid

1782-1790:  Astley's Amphitheateribid

1791-1794 (fire):  Royal Grove - ibid

1795-1801 (fire):  Astley's Amphitheater of Artsibid

1801-1821:  Royal Amphitheater of Arts - ibid then, from 1814, John Astley (1767-1821)

1821-1825:  Davis' Royal Amphitheater -  William Davis

1825-1841 (fire):_cc781905-5cde-3194- bb3b -136bad5cf58d_ Royal Amphitheater ( Astley's ) - Andrew Ducrow (1793-1842)

1842-1862:  Batty's Amphitheater - William Batty (1801-1868)

1853-1860: Astley's Amphitheater -  Batty is the owner but he rents the establishment to William Cooke (1851-1905) director for 7 years

1863-1864:  Theater Royal Westminster  - Dion Boucicault (1822-1890)

1864-1873:  Astley's Amphitheater - ET Smith

1873-1893: Sanger's Grand National then Astley's Amphitheater - Lord Sanger (1825-1911)

Astley's burned down three times. While almost all London theaters have been destroyed by fire in their history, Astley's is breaking all records. Moreover, if Philip Astley "bounces back" immediately after each disaster, on the other hand, Andrew Ducrow is extremely affected by the destruction of the establishment. Depressed and weakened, he died a few months later (January 27, 1842).

Astley's Direction Ducrow.jpg
Astley's Direction Cooke.jpg

Fires in London's theatres

Theater fires are "common" disasters in large capitals. Candlelight and then gas lighting along with highly flammable set materials made them high-risk places.

More than 450 theaters burned down from the end of the 18th century to the 1860s throughout the world. London is the capital city with the most theater fires, ahead of Paris, then New York (although New York has fewer theaters, which proportionally reverses the ranking).


Hereafter, in red, Astley's fires  in the chronology of  London theaters' fires. In orange that of the Royal Circus: 

Italian Opera House (Vanbrugh's) - 17 juin 1789

Pantheon, Oxford street - 14 janvier 1792

Astley's + 19 maisons adjacentes, Lambeth - 17 septembre 1794

Goodman's Field - juin 1802

Astley's + 40 maisons adjacentes - 1er septembre 1803

Royal Circus - 12 août 1805

Covent Garden -  20 septembre 1808

Drury Lane - 24 février 1809

Royalty, Wellclose sq. - 11 avril 1826

Queen's Bazaar (Princess' Theater , Oxford st.) - 28 mai 1829

English Opera House - 16 février 1830

Astley's  - 8 juin 1841

Garrick Theatre -  4 novembre 1846

Olympic, Wych street, Strand - 29 mars 1849

Pavilion - 13 février 1856

Covent Garden - 5 mars 1856

John Astley Young Astley Astley's Amphitheatre Westminster bridge.jpg

La scène et la piste de cirque à l'Astley's Amphitheatre
Andrew Ducrow, c. 1830 dans la pièce "The Yorkshire Sportsman or British Fox Hunter"
©Theatre Coll. V&A Museum

Andrew Ducrow Astley's Amphitheatre, London, c. 1830 by by William Heath.png

To find out more about equestrian theaters and circuses in London and Paris...

Astley's Olympic Pavilion
Late 18th century show posters Astley, Hughes, Hyam
Locations: Maps of circuses in London and Paris
Equestrian theaters and circuses in Paris
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