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When and where was the first in the world of the circus?

The father of the modern circus in the form in which it exists now - the English cavalry Sergeant Philip Astley (Philip Astley; 1742-1814). And began his circus as... riding school!

Philip Astley
Philip Astley

Philip Astley from childhood loved horses and was one of the best riders of his time. After serving in the cavalry regiment, Astley became an instructor in horsemanship.

According to legend, a lucky break helped him to open his own business. According to legend, walking along Westminster bridge, he found a diamond ring. And after some time at the same place, fate brought him to George III. Astley helped to stop the horse of the king, which for no apparent reason suddenly rushed. Saved the king generously thanked Philip. With the money Philip in 1768 opened the riding arena at Halfpenny hatch in Lambeth. It was a round platform.

The riding school Philip Astley, 1777
Riding school Philip Astley, 1777

To attract people's attention and increase the number of students in the school after classes were held demonstrations. The entrance was free, but according to the custom of horse shows those times after each presentation was about money.

Horse view very quickly became very popular, and Philip decided to build a separate building. In 1769 he moved to the more lucrative place near Westminster bridge. The new premises Astley entered entry fee: theatres in those days it was difficult to exist on money philanthropists, and wanted to attract more audience to the performances. The ticket on the view was worth a shilling for seated six pence per standing. Although this building had no roof, but it was protected from the London weather surprises, being a permanent structure made of wood. Also here Astley had built a protective rope barriers around the stage. In addition, he hired a drummer, responsible for sound effects. To make the presentation more interesting, Astley appealed to the successful experience of the London theatres, and decided to bring the views of the artists of the original visual genres - acrobats, jugglers, dancers, tightrope walkers.

In addition to the horses, circus shows and other animals. In 1769 at the arena Astley played "war monkey", named General Jack, but larger animals appeared only in 1816, when the Parisian circus two bishops was presented to the public a performance: took the trunk apples, opened the bottle and drank its contents, playing the hurdy-gurdy.

Thus, by 1770 views of Philip Astley were a mixture of riding, acrobatics and pantomime.

As he expected, the new form view was a great success. Thus was born the circus as we know it. And the institution called "Amphitheatre Astley", was the first circus in Europe.

The honor of the invention of the round shape of the arena is not owned by Astley, as is sometimes erroneously claim. Riders acrobats in those days already arranged presentation on all platforms. So they could always be on the mind of the audience, which is difficult to achieve, rushing gallop across open countryside. However, it Astley has developed an optimal diameter of the arena. At first, the diameter of the circus arena Astley was 62 feet (19 meters). During training with riders Philip found the optimal diameter of the arena, amounting to 42 feet (about 13 meters). He was chosen in such a way that the rider was created optimal centrifugal force galloping horse.

The first circus arena
The Astley's amphitheatre in London circus, 1808

August 4, 1777 opened unusual venues in London. Visitors waited for a real surprise: the first in Europe theatrical circus performance. It was dominated by horse room: curly riding, training, jockeys acrobats, live pyramid of the riders that were built at full gallop. Astley was the first to show the vaulting - complex of exercises on horseback, moving step, trot and canter on a circle.

In 1780 Amphitheatre Astley became an indoor location with stalls, a Lodge and a balcony.

Seeing the success of his invention, Philip organized a similar amphitheatres also in other cities. During his life throughout Europe was opened eighteen branches. He has devoted much time to the circus, built in Paris in 1782, called "English amphitheatre".

Himself Astley never called his establishment "circus"because it's a word invented by his rival Charles Dibdin (Charles Dibdin), 4 November 1782, along with Charles Hughes (a former member of the group Astley) created another amphitheater and part-time horse riding school. He named his property "Royal circus and equestrian Philharmonic Academy (Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy) near "Impietate Astley" in Lambeth. Part of this pompous and cumbersome name became the common name of the new entertainment circus.

Astley died in January 1814 in Paris. His heirs continued the circus business. French amphitheatre existed until 1826, London circus - until 1893.


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