Astley's Circus

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Astley's Circus is the name given to the famous London based circus founded in 1784 by entrepreneur Philip Astley(1742–1814)[1]. He had begun by giving shows with two horses in the open air in Lambeth Marshes, but soon developed a series of amphitheatres throughout Britain, Ireland and the continent in which audiences could watch equestrian battles and water epics. Many of his performers would later set up their own circus-related businesses.

Astley's Circus in South Africa

In August 1808 it appears a pupil of Astley's appeared at various Cape Town theatres, making birdcalls and doing some tumbling acts.

During 1840-1841 former members of Astley's Circus established their own professional circus under the same name, also referred to as Astley's Company or Astley se Geselskap in Dutch. During 1840 and 1841 they charmed audiences, especially the Malays, with extravagant equestrian shows and short plays, performing in Astley's Theatre and Andrew's Eating House. They were apparently the only purely professional theatrical company recorded in the Cape during 1840 and 1841. In 1840 they collaborated with the musical company Harmonie en Eendragt ("Harmony and Unity") on some events.

Astley's Theatre, Cape Town

An amphitheatre with an open acting area, built by the owners of the Cape Town based Astley's Circus in the 1840s to house their equestrian shows, short plays and circus acts. Referred to locally as Astley's Theatre.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp. 76, 434, 500

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