It’s strange how the imagination works – when I first read about Astley’s I expected a large imposing detached building. But I came across images of the theatre years ago which totally dispelled this misconception

London Street Views

Street View: 69
Address: 6-7 Westminster Bridge Road

elevation 6-7 Westminster Bridge Road
The building you see above is the third on the spot; the two previous ones had burned down. Philip Astley started his circus business in 1768 as just an open-air temporary set-up in St. George’s Fields, on a stretch of land called Glover’s Halfpenny Hatch. The enclosure doubled up as a riding school and an entertainment venue. A few years later, Astley secured a plot closer to Westminster Bridge where he built a more permanent structure, which was roofed over in 1778-9. It was refurbished in 1786 and renamed “Astley’s Royal Grove”. It burned down and was subsequently rebuilt in 1794 and renamed “Astley’s New Amphitheatre of the Arts”. In 1803, the amphitheatre burnt down once again, but was just as quickly rebuilt and that is the building you see above. We would now consider Astley’s entertainment a combination of theatre and…

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