The History of Theater - In One Amazing City

Phillip Astley and John Bill Ricketts - Blog Post and Bibliography for Episode 4

Phillip Astley and John Bill Ricketts - Blog Post and Bibliography for Episode 4

(Image of Astley's Amphitheatre, above, courtesy of the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London)

Phillip Astley, the only known depiction of him:

Philip Astley

Handbill for Astley's British Riding School, Westminster Bridge:

Astley's Riding School

Here is the Thomas Bewick drawing of Ricketts performing in Newcastle, England in 1789
(Image is under the copyright of the Trustees of the British Museum, and is shared with their permission.)

Bewick drawing of Ricketts Night

Finally, a YouTube video of the American rodeo comedian David Donnert in 2011. This is essentially the "Taylor of Brentford" sketch, that Astley began performing in the 18th Century:

Donnert: Don't Drink and Ride Comedy Horse Act

Select Bibliography for the Episode:

Baston, Kim, “Transatlantic Journeys: John Bill Ricketts and the Edinburgh Equestrian Circus”. Popular Entertainment Studies, Vol. 4, Issue 2, pp. 5-28, 2013.

Greenwood, Isaac J., The Circus: Its Origins and Growth prior to 1835, with a sketch of Negro Minstrelsy. William Abbat, New York, Second Edition, 1909.

Jando, Dominique, Philip Astley and the Horsemen Who Invented the Circus. Circopedia, 2018.

Kuntz, Andrew, "At the Circus: Astley, Ricketts and Durang", Online article (

Poppiti, Kimberly, A History of Equestrian Drama in the United States: Hippodrama's Pure Air and Fire, Ebook from Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018. pp. 1-37.

Shaw, Karl, 
The First Showman: The Extraordinary Mr Astley, The Englishman Who Invented the Modern Circus, Amberley Publishing, 2019.

“The Circus in Newcastle”, dated July 7, 2016. Online article (