Battys Traveling Menagerie (Battys Hippodrome, Astleys Amphitheatre) in United Kingdom

Battys Traveling Menagerie (Battys Hippodrome, Astleys Amphitheatre)
Typecircus
Founded1784
First elephant0
Closed down1893
Address225 Westminster Bridge Road
PlaceLondon
CountryUnited Kingdom

Batty's Hippodrome was originally known as Astley's Amphitheater.

Astley's Amphitheatre, London, on the south bank of the Thames, where in 1951 a plaque was unveiled to its memory at 225 Westminster Bridge Road. This hybrid building, remembered mainly for its equestrian drama, was immortalized by Dickens in Sketches by Boz (1837), and one of its chief actors, Edward Alexander Gomersal (1788–1862), is described in Thackeray's novel The Newcomes (1855). Its history began when in 1784 Philip Astley (1742–1814), a cavalryman and horse trainer, who was responsible for many such ‘amphitheatres’ in Britain, France, and Ireland, erected a wooden building with a stage for displays of horsemanship on the site of an open circus ring. Burned down in 1794, rebuilt and again destroyed by fire in 1803, it became famous for its ‘equestrian spectacles’, which continued after Astley's death, the theatre then being renamed Davis's Amphitheatre. One of its great attractions was Andrew Ducrow (1793–1848), who because of illiteracy seldom played a speaking part, but was unrivalled in equestrianship. The building was again destroyed by fire, in 1830 and in 1841, after which William Batty (1801–68) rebuilt it and gave it his own name.

His successor, William Cooke, is memorable for having turned Shakespeare's Richard III into an equestrian drama, giving Richard's horse, White Surrey, a leading role. In 1862 Dion Boucicault made a disastrous attempt to run the theatre, renamed the Theatre Royal, Westminster. His successor reverted to the old name of Astley's, and drew large audiences across the river to see Adah Isaacs Menken in a drama based on Byron's poem Mazeppa. In 1871 the control of the theatre passed to the circus proprietor ‘Lord’ George Sanger. In 1893 the building was declared unsafe and closed, being finally demolished by 1895. No trace of it remains.

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