At the end of my first season touring with a circus, I went home and went to the library.   I took out the three books they had on circus, and began to learn about its rich history.

I now have a library of over a hundred circus books.  Plus newspaper cuttings, illustrations, copies of artworks, and personal anecdotes and experience relating to the history of the circus and its many personalities.

My own researches have identified the site in London of the first-ever modern circus (read about it below). Discoveries collated during further research are helping me write a one-man play about the characters - Philip Astley and others - whose vigour and imagination laid the foundations of what rapidly became a world-wide art-form and entertainment.  

There's a wide range of research resources.  Personal involvement has made me aware of many of them.  

Let me help you find out more.  Just ask...


Philip Astley presented performances in 1768 which led to the invention of the entertaining art-form we know as the circus.

Astley rented a field on the South Bank of the River Thames in London.  The site was named 'Ha'penny Hatch' because a busy footpath ran across it; the many people using the path as a short-cut between Westminster and London Bridges were charged a halfpenny     ( = "ha'penny') by the land-owner, paying the fee at the window or 'hatch' cut in a small toll-hut.    

For many years, although it was well known that Ha'penny Hatch was the site of Astley's first such shows, the exact site could not be identified.  It was circus ringmaster Chris Barltrop, founder of the Centre for Circus Culture, who finally identified the spot.  See where this historic place was in the comparative maps below, published in the Summer 1989 edition of the 'King Pole' magazine of the Circus Friends' Association of Great Britain.

 

Maps © drawn by Robert Barltrop 

Maps © drawn by Robert Barltrop