Building From 1769 To 1893
Considered to be the world's first circus ring. Erected in 1769 on the site of what is now St Thomas's Hospital on the south side of Westminster Bridge Road. The showman Philip Astley, (from British History) "took a large piece of ground, of a timber-merchant, … and, inclosing it circularly with boarding, erected seats for an audience, with a pent-house roof, covered with canvas". The building was subsequently enhanced many times, changed names repeatedly and burnt down thrice. Finally demolished in 1893. Our picture shows the frontage in about 1850. Mentioned by Dickens in 'Bleak House'. And in Jane Austen's 'Emma' Harriet Smith’s visit to Astley’s with the Knightly family results in her engagement to Robert Martin (finally). The V&A have some wonderful pictures of the circus in earlier times.