Philip Astley: His Life and Legacy


The father of the modern circus – Philip Astley’s life and legacy is celebrated at the Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The Philip Astley Project exhibition uses archive material, costumes and video to examine the creator of the circus and raise awareness of his success in his hometown.

The project marks the 250th anniversary of modern circus. In 1768 the skilled equestrian, Philip Astley, began entertaining crowds on horse back in his 42-foot diameter circus ring. The standard size used in circuses across the world today.

Astley was the first to include other performers in his show, such as clowns and acrobats, which helped his rise to international stardom.

Six original drawings, engravings and prints, on loan from the V&A, document the progression from the wooden outdoor structure of 1768 to the amphitheatre used to entertain royalty in the 19th century.

Not only does it showcase Astley’s road to fame and fortune, the exhibition also gives an insight into his early life in Newcastle-under-Lyme as the son of a cabinet maker. With drawings that illustrate what the market town would have looked like, when Astley was young.

Allowing you to see how each experience as a cabinet maker, equestrian, war hero and pioneer led him towards a career in the circus.

The exhibition will interest adults and children alike, with interactive videos and attractions for all ages.

To discover more about one of Staffordshire’s little-known heroes visit the free exhibition, at the Brampton Museum, on until 15 July 2018.

For more details about Philip Astley and events in Newcastle-under-Lyme visit


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