AVictorian

Popular forms of entertainment varied by social class. Usually most societies have some notion of social class, but concretely defined social classes are not found in every known type of human societies.

#Philip Astley opened Astley's Amphitheatre in 1777, and, not surprisingly for a former riding school owner, featured lots of horses. The amphitheatre mixed circus with theatre, having a circus ring attached to a stage and exploiting the circus tricks which horses could do. Astley's was renowned for its historical military and equestrian dramas, which it continued to produce until its destruction in 1895. The huge size of the stage space meant that it could produce huge military extravaganzas with hundreds of soldiers, horses and cannons.

When Lord Sanger and his brother took over the Amphitheatre, in 1871, they moved the style of performance towards a more zoological style. One production featured not only several hundred humans in the cast but fifty-two horses, fifteen elephants, two lions on leads, kangaroos, pelicans, reindeer, chamois and many more animals. At Astley's, the plot was not as important as the spectacle. Visit: circopedia.org— — For Philip Astley complete history.

Astley's Amphitheatre, near Westminster Bridge, was first established by the late Mr. Philip Astley in 1767, and was then an open area. In 1780, it was converted into a covered amphitheatre, consisting of boxes, gallery and pit. It was twice destroyed by fire; in August 1794, and in September, 1803; it was rebuilt in about six months after, and first opened in April 1804. A third fire, attended with fatal consequences, occurred here on the 8th of June, 1841, when the theatre was again destroyed. The dreadful shock sustained by its talented proprietor, the late Mr. Ducrow, from this conflagration, which terminated in the death of one of his oldest servants, and destruction of the whole of his theatrical property, induced a state of insanity, from which he never recovered, and finally sunk on the 27th of January 1842. An elegant Theatre, upon an enlarged scale, and of increased splendour, the decorations being of crimson and gold, has been erected by Mr. Batty, a celebrated equestrian performer.

---Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

#This magnificent theatre will be ready for opening at the usual time, viz., Easter Monday. The external walls, built by Mr. Buckwell, jun., of Brighton, are 148 feet in length, and include an area larger than any other theatre in London. There are two fronts; the old one facing Westminster-road, the only part of the former building left untouched by the late fire; the other facing the intended new street from Westminster-road to Stangate. This will form the entrance to the gallery. The box-entrance will be, as formerly, from the Westminster-road; thus the two entrances will have the advantage of being widely separated from each other.

The general form of the interior is octagonal, and has been constructed by Messrs. Heywood and Nixon, from plans and models furnished by Mr. Usher, of whom those who remember the palmy days of the elder Astley will have an amusing recollection... his plans have succeede in placing the ring, for the equestrian performances, in such a position that a perfect view can be obtained from the distant seats of the upper gallery...

The prevailing decorations are white, lemon-colour, green and gold, with rich crimson hangings for the private boxes. There are two full tiers of boxes, and two half tiers, ranging evenly from the two galleries. Each of the full tiers contains nineteen open boxes. The circles are supported from the pit by eight Doric pillars and forty-six Corinthian columns, fluted in white and gold. There are six spacious saloons - two for the dress circle, two for the pit, two for the upper boxes, with extensive refreshment places for the galleries. In the centre of the first tier is the royal box, tastefully ornamented. The new scenic curtain represents the triumphal procession to the Temple of Fame of the competitors from the games of the athletae with Fame distributing her gifts to the victorious Olympians. The decorations consist of copies of the productions of the ancient masters in entablatures of gold. From the rich, allegorical dome is suspended a crystal and gold chandelier, emblematic of Fame holding the coursers of triumph. The proscenium forms a magnificent triumphal arch, and has been designed and erected by Mr. John Evans, the inventor and builder of the stage and proscenium of the St. James's and other theatres. The stage measurrs 75 feet by 101, and is fitted with substantial platforms for equestrian spectacles.

The proprietor, Mr. William Batty, has undertaken the rebuilding of the Amphitheatre entirely on his own resources.

---from The Illustrated London News, 1843

astleys
Astley's Amphitheatre ... open from Michaelmas to Easter. Performance commences at half-past 6. Admission to the boxes, 4s; pit 2s.; gallery 1s.
Astley's Amphitheatre, near Westminster Bridge, was first established by the late Mr. Philip Astley in 1767, and was then an open area. In 1780, it was converted into a covered amphitheatre, consisting of boxes, gallery and pit. It was twice destroyed by fire; in August 1794, and in September, 1803; it was rebuilt in about six months after, and first opened in April 1804. A third fire, attended with fatal consequences, occurred here on the 8th of June, 1841, when the theatre was again destroyed. The dreadful shock sustained by its talented proprietor, the late Mr. Ducrow, from this conflagration, which terminated in the death of one of his oldest servants, and destruction of the whole of his theatrical property, induced a state of insanity, from which he never recovered, and finally sunk on the 27th of January 1842. An elegant Theatre, upon an enlarged scale, and of increased splendour, the decorations being of crimson and gold, has been erected by Mr. Batty, a celebrated equestrian performer.

---Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844
Astley's Amphitheatre, Westminster Bridge Road

The first amphitheatre on this spot was a mere temporary erection of deal boards, set up, in 1774, by Philip Astley, a light-horseman in the 15th or General Elliot's regiment. It stood on what was then an open piece of ground in St. George's Fields, through which the New Cut ran, and to which a halfpenny hatch led. The price of admission to the space without the railing of the ride was sixpence, and Astley himself, said to have been the handsomest man in England, was the chief performer, assisted by a drum, two fifes, and a clown of the name of Porter. At first it was an open area. In 1780, it was converted into a covered amphitheatre, and divided into pit, boxes and gallery. In 1786, it was newly fitted up, and called "The Royal Saloon, or Astley's Amphitheatre." The entertainment, at first, was only a day exhibition of horsemanship. Transparent fireworks, slack-rope vaulting, Egyptian pyramids, tricks on chairs, tumbling, &c., were subsequently added, the ride enlarged, and the house opened in the evening. It is now both theatre and amphitheatre.

...In 1794 (Aug. 17th), the amphitheatre and nineteen adjoining houses were destroyed by fire. In 1803, (Sept. 2nd), it was again burnt down, the mother of Mrs. Astley, jun., perishing in the flames.
...in 1841 (June 8th) it was a third time burnt down, Mr. Ducrow, who had been one of Astley's riders and became manager, dying insane soon after, from the losses he sustained. Old Astley, who was born at Newcaste-under-Line in 1742, died in Paris, Oct. 20th, 1814. He is said to have built nineteen different theatres.

----Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850
Astley's Amphitheatre

#Westminster Bridge Road, derives its name from Philip Astley, an ex-light-horseman, who in 1774 erected here a temporary wooden building, and meeting with considerable success, enlarged and decorated it in 1786, under the title of the "Royal Grove." Its present appellation was adopted in 1792. Two years later it was burnt down, and again in 1803 - a circumstance which is alluded to in the "Rejected Addresses:"
"Base Bonaparte, fill'd with deadly ire,
Sets one by one our playhouses on fire;
Boils some black pitch, and burns down Astley's twice."
It was destroyed a third time by fire in 1841, and rebuilt.
Class of Performance: Melodrama, farce, light comedy, and pantomime.
Admission: Boxes, 4s. ; upper boxes, 3s. ; stalls, 5s; pit, 2s.; gallery, 1s. ; upper gallery, 6d. Doors open at half-past six; curtain rises at seven.

---Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

#

#

AVictorian.Com © 1997-Present | Hosted by Network Solutions