DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Philip Astley (aged 72)
-“Father of the modern circus”
Philip Astley (8 January 1742 – 27 January 1814) was an English equestrian, circus owner, and inventor, regarded as being the “father of the modern circus”. The circus industry, as a presenter of an integrated entertainment experience that includes music, domesticated animals, acrobats, and clowns, traces its heritage to Astley’s Amphitheatre, a riding schoolthat Astley founded in London following the success of trick-riding displays given by him and his wife Patty Jones in 1768.
DEATH: Even after his death Astley’s “Royal Amphitheatre” remained famous throughout the nineteenth century, being mentioned by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. It was closed in 1893 and was demolished the next year. The garden of St Thomas’s Hospital now occupies the site. On 14th September 2018, a flagstone commemorating the Amphitheatre was inaugurated in the Hospital garden. The flagstone was the initiative of Martin Burton, founder and director of Zippos Circus. A group of fully costumed performers from Zippos, including a trick-rider and his horse, accompanied Mr Burton to help inaugurate the flagstone.