(Veronica Horwell’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/18.)

Philip Astley really knew about horses. He’d been a sergeant major with the Light Dragoons, teaching animals and cavalrymen “evolutions” – drill – so they could manoeuvre the many hooves and massive tonnages of horseflesh that 18th-century armies used to haul cannon and supplies – and to attack, mounted, with a kinetic whump of speed. He opened a riding school in the south London fields of Lambeth, then went into showbiz, erecting a performing space south of Westminster Bridge, slowly building it up into Astley’s Amphitheatre, with a very wide proscenium arch stage behind what we’d recognise as a circus ring of fresh pale sawdust.


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