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Theatre, amphitheatre and circus in Sydney, 1833-60.


In London in 1768, a former cavalryman, Philip Astley, gave displays of trick tiding in a field on the south side of the Thames. Within a few years, he had erected a building to present not only equestrian exhibitions but clowns, jugglers, ropewalkers and acrobats. He called his edifice 'Astley's Amphitheatre'--a combination of a circular arena and an adjoining theatre stage--but the establishment was popularly known around London as 'the circus'. To an 18th century Londoner, the word 'circus' referred not to the circus of ancient Rome, but to an open, circular space used to exercise horses. It has been strongly argued that the modern circus, like the names of major London thoroughfares, such as Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, derive their names from this source rather than the circus of ancient Rome. (1)

The Licensing Act, 1737, excluded Astley's and other popular venues from presenting sophisticated performances--such as five-act tragedies and comedies--with dialogue, a privilege confined to London's legitimate 'patent' theatres such as Drury Lane and Covent Garden. (2) Using placards as a substitute for dialogue where necessary, Astley's presented musical and dancing entertainments and sub-dramatic entertainments such as burlettas, pantomimes and ballets d'action, as well as acts of equestrianism. (3) In London in 1782, Charles Hughes and the composer Charles Dibdin opened their Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy. (4) Here, burlettas, dances, sonatas, pantomimes, spectacles and even fireworks were presented along with displays of equestrianism. (5) In April 1787, along with displays of rope dancing, conjuring and horsemanship, Dibdin's light opera Botany Bay was presented at the Royal Circus to commemorate the tax-free haven in the south seas to where the First Fleet would shortly be dispatched. (6)

In 1824, a decade after Philip Astley's death, the 'glorious' equestrian Andrew Ducrow took over the lease of Astley's Amphitheatre. Under his direction, until his death in 1842, Astley's reached the height of its fame. Ducrow conceived a series of elaborate equestrian pantomimes which were mimicked by equestrians throughout the British Isles, his most famous spectacle being Mazeppa, or The Wild Horse of Tartary, first produced in 1831, loosely based on Byron's famous poem. (7)

'Well-to-do' audiences did not regularly patronise Astley's until 1828. The privileges of the 'patent' theatres and restrictions on 'minor' theatrical activity were abolished by the passage of the Theatre Regulation Act, 1843, thus launching 'a new era of rich and colourful presentation'.8 In 1846, Queen Victoria herself attended Astley's. (9) The Queen's patronage of London's theatres in this era led to 'reform in its moral tone and manners'. In due course, these changes in public mood reached Australia. (10) But circus had already assumed the marginalised social standing of the itinerant entertainers it first employed. English showmen remained legally undifferentiated from the 'rogue and vagabond' until as late as 1935. (11) Today, circus is commonly, if begrudgingly, accepted as a legitimate branch of the theatre arts. (12)

Entertainment in Sydney, 1788-1841

The immediate priorities of Australia's early penal settlements did not embrace entertainment. (13) Although there were officially sanctioned attempts at theatrical productions as early as 1789 and the opening of Robert Sidaway's playhouse in 1796, it was feared that theatrical activity could have a disrupting influence. (14) Colonial governors were aware that, as in England, popular recreations could shape the values of the common people and transform them into contempt for moral and legal order. (15)

On the other hand, a temperate climate was a natural inducement to outdoor leisure activities. (16) The convicts and emancipists reproduced the agrarian recreational activities they had known as the 'lower orders' at home--bullbaiting, cockfighting, boxing, ploughing matches, drunkenness, gambling, racing and hunting--activities that were often crude, violent and brutal, and reflective of a 'violent, vindictive and vulgar' Georgian England. (17) For a time, the officer class, gentry and lower orders participated in these recreations together, despite their differing cultural values. (18)

During the 1830s and '40s, immigration, emancipation and natural increase raised significantly the proportion of free people within the population of New South Wales. In 1828, the population of the colony was 35,960, of whom 15,688, or 43.63 per cent, were convicts. (19) By 1846, convicts numbered only 9921 out of a total population of 112,573, or 8.8 per cent. (20) In the decade 1831-40, 40,300 free immigrants arrived in the colony; in the following decade, 1841-50, 76,650. (21) By 1838, Sydney had begun to take on an 'air of permanence and substantial comfort'. (22) Although the native-born 'currency' lads and lasses grew up with limited ideas of pleasure, the unrelenting rise of the free population and the change in its composition inevitably led to demands for entertainment that a restrictive colonial administration was obliged to accommodate. (23)

The appearance of commercially organised entertainment in Sydney in the 1830s and '40s reflected the emergence of a service-based economy, something more than 'mere food production and pastoralism'. (24) But theatrical entertainments were biased towards audiences of 'plebians' more interested in the enjoyable, rather than the educational, qualities of the stage. (25) Furthermore, theatres and plays were rigorously licensed lest they upset the prevailing order. (26) Hotels sponsored their first 'musical nights' in the 1830s, catering for audiences longing for 'light music, gaiety, ribald and sentimental songs, recitations and comedy'. (27) Sydney's soi-disant upper classes tended not to patronise these entertainments. (28)

Overcoming official reservations, Barnett Levey was licensed to open a theatre in the saloon of his Royal Hotel in George Street in December 1832, the successor to the Royal Assembly Rooms he had opened in 1829. The Saloon Royal, as it was called, was converted into the 1200-seat Theatre Royal in October 1833. (29) The content of a theatrical program is dictated as much by what talent is in supply as by what audiences might demand. Barnett Levey constantly sought such novelties as were locally available, such as dancers, singers, musicians or acrobats, by which to satisfy his 'quickly jaded or sensation hunting audience'. (30) Audiences were known to throw fruit and other objects onto the stage as signs of disapproval. (31)

Another theatrical venue, Charina's Theatre and Circus, existed in 1840 on the south side of Hunter Street, between George and Pitt Streets. (32) However, neither contemporary newspapers nor licensing records provide a clue as to the nature of this enterprise or the identity of its proprietor.

The Theatre Royal closed in 1838 just as the new 1900-seat Royal Victoria opened on the west side of Pitt Street, between King and Market Streets. Joseph Wyatt purportedly built the Royal Victoria on a promise from Governor Bourke that he would be protected from 'unjust' opposition. (33)

The first official race meeting had taken place in Hyde Park in 1810 and, by 1822, racing was a feature of Sydney life. Despite the colonial propensity for horses and horse racing, we find no mention of exhibitions of trick riding, the basis of Astley's original entertainments. (34) Instead, the earliest entertainments of a circus nature were the exhibitions of tightrope dancing given by George Croft, 'assisted by Master Quinn, an Australian', on the stage of Levey's Theatre Royal in December 1833. (35)

These performances mark the known commencement of the circus arts--though not circus--in Australia. From where Croft obtained his expertise is unclear, for he was a 'cook and confectioner', aged 18, when transported for stealing, by the Midas, in 1827. (36) That these entertainments were presented on the stage of a conventional theatre, between 'minor' theatrical representations such as The Purse, or The Benevolent Tar, suggests that the Royal catered for a substantially 'plebian' audience.

In February 1837, licences to perform ropedancing, tumbling and horsemanship at country hotels were issued to Croft and the pseudonymous Thomas 'Astley'. (37) However, whether through lack of foresight or lack of resources, no one came forward, as Astley had done in London, to combine these performances into a single sequential entertainment within an enclosed ring around which spectators could sit and watch. At the same time, a distant penal colony held little attraction for itinerant theatrical artists or circus performers, save the most adventurous.

Luigi Dalle Case, 1841-42

In 1841, the free population of Sydney numbered only 29,973 people. The previous year, merchants and workers celebrated the end of transportation as signalling free markets for labour and consumption. (38) The colonial economy remained critically dependent on wool as its major export, the price of which was falling on the London market by the early 1840s. (39) Into a looming economic crisis as well as the undercurrents of parochial power and favouritism, serendipitously stepped the self-styled 'Professor of Gymnastics', the Italian, Signor Luigi Dalle Case, and his little troupe of performers. They landed in Sydney by the Salazes in July 1841, after a 44-day voyage from lie de France. Since leaving Europe about two years earlier, Dalle Case had visited Bahia, Buenos Aires, Cape Town and Mauritius. Along the way, he may have heard encouraging reports about Sydney from the members of a little French troupe that had visited and performed their 'drama, vaudevilles and opera' in 1839. (40)

The 'gold of the Signor' made Dalle Case a man 'of some means' upon his arrival. (41) He soon made arrangements to rent Wyatt and part-owner William Knight's Royal Victoria for the evening of 18 August, a regular 'dark' Wednesday, for the sum of 40 [pounds sterling]. (42) For this single performance, Dalle Case announced 'surprising specimens of athletic, gymnastic and other exercises, tight rope [and] grotesque'. Well-received, he rented the Royal Victoria for another six consecutive Wednesday evening performances. (43)

Further encouraged, Dalle Case contemplated an extended stay in Sydney and planned to erect a tent in Hyde Park for a gymnastic and equestrian 'academy'. Unable to obtain permission from Governor Gipps, he requested permission of the Colonial Secretary to erect a 'spacious and highly ornamented tent' for the dual purpose of a 'gymnasium and theatre' in Hunter Street. (44) By the addition of a theatre, Dalle Case was now contemplating an enterprise that would offer direct, and therefore 'unjust', competition to the Royal Victoria. (45) Securing vacant ground on the south side of Hunter Street, a little to the east of George Street, he began to build his 'Olympic circle', even before the outcome of his application was known. When it was reported that a 'minor theatre' was under construction, the proprietors of the Royal Victoria belatedly realised that they could lose their precious theatrical monopoly. (46) They allowed Dalle Case no further use of the Royal Victoria and did what they could to frustrate his theatrical plans. Undeterred, Dalle Case continued to lobby for a licence and to build his 'Olympic' theatre. (47)

After the expenditure of some 1200 [pounds sterling], Dalle Case was eventually granted a nine-month 'general' licence to give not only theatrical entertainments but equestrian and gymnastic displays as well. (48) The following evening, Wednesday, 26 January 1842, the 54th anniversary of the colony's founding, Dalle Case opened his Australian Olympic Theatre. Despite 'attractions in other places', 300 people were turned away. It was 'in reality only a large tent' although it contained an elegantly fitted up interior. (49) Decorated by the talented artist and decorator, John Skinner Prout, the 'theatre' accommodated upwards of 700 people. (50) As the venue had a stage that overlooked a pit that could be replaced as required with a ring for equestrian and other circus performances, it was demonstrably an 'amphitheatre' rather than a 'theatre' or a 'circus'. (51) However, the inaugural performances were more circus than theatrical in nature. Sydney's critics acclaimed the tightrope dancing, the tumbling and the contortions of the 'man tortoise'. (52) A visitor described the entertainments as 'minor pieces, horsemanship, tomfoolery, and the like'. (53)

The Australian Olympic offered only a dress circle and pit for seating, leading the Sydney Gazette to urge the provision of private boxes to replace the existing 'republican amalgamation'. On the other hand, the Sydney Herald urged Dalle Case to promote the dramatic portion of his program and exercise caution with regard to the acrobatic performances so as not to offend 'respectable women'. (54) Such comments suggest that the novelty of Dalle Case's entertainments, initially at least, had attracted the patronage of Sydney's middle and upper orders. However, within a short time, a visiting observer noted that the entertainments were not much patronised by Sydney's 'soi-disant upper classes'. (55)

Just as the Australian Olympic Theatre opened, the Royal Victoria began a month's recess and Dalle Case was able to entice most of its actors--'respectable in character and talent'--to his Australian Olympic. (56) Wyatt and Knight were shocked out of their complacency. Since Dalle Case's Australian Olympic presented light comedies and plays in 'the minor theatrical line', the Royal Victoria was forced to counter with 'standard British plays' including tragedies and, later, musical drama.

Within a few weeks, it was observed that the rivalry between Sydney's two theatres was working well for the discovery of talent. It was argued that Sydney had room for two theatres if conducted with 'judgement, spirit and energy'. (57) However, the competition soon fell back in favour of the Royal Victoria with the appearance on its boards, from 3 March 1842, of Francis Nesbitt who had fortuitously arrived in Sydney, 'the best actor to have appeared in Australia up to that time'. (58) Having been jolted into action by Dalle Case, and energised by the presence of Nesbitt, more 'standard dramas' were produced at the Royal Victoria in 1842 than in any other year of its existence. (59)

The loss of ground to the Royal Victoria and the general economic contraction put Dalle Case out of business. On 16 April 1842, the Australian Olympic Theatre gave its final performance. A week later, Dalle Case's name appeared on a list of insolvents, his debts amounting to 332 [pounds sterling]. (60) On 29 June everything connected with the Australian Olympic Theatre was put to auction. (61)

In October 1842, Dalle Case and his 'Foreign Gymnastic Company' sailed for Hobart Town. After touring China and India, Dalle Case returned to Cape Town by 1848 where his little company was billed as the Italian Circus. (62)

It has been asserted that Dalle Case's Australian Olympic Theatre was Australia's 'first real circus in the accepted sense', but it was an isolated and short-lived affair. (63) Apart from the presence of the ropewalker Edward La Rosiere in Dalle Case's troupe, there is little to connect the Australian Olympic Theatre to Sydney's first successful circus established in 1850.

City Theatre, 1843-50

Within a few months of Dalle Case's departure, Joseph Simmons was granted a licence for a theatre in a small building in Market Street, between George and Pitt Streets. The 'elegant' theatre was built by knocking the back out of Burdekin's 'spacious store' and extending the stage and auditorium over the ground behind. (64) Named the City Theatre, it opened on 20 May 1843 with 'nearly all the magnates of the Sydney corps dramatique', to the impoverishment of the Royal Victoria. (65)

Although a 'perfect little bandbox of a theatre', the City Theatre could not stage larger dramas of the period because of the restricted size of the stage and other facilities. It could only seat about 1000 people, about half of them in the pit, in contrast to the 1900 that the Royal Victoria could accommodate. Intermittently used for performances, public meetings, lectures, amateur theatricals and other purposes, the building was converted into a furniture warehouse by 1853. (66)

This second theatre had been initiated by ' 18 or 20' actors apprehensive over the work deprived them while Joseph Wyatt imported 'large numbers' of actors from England for his Royal Victoria. (67) While the Royal Victoria held a monopoly of theatre in Sydney, it grew 'arrogant' in its attitude to actors and 'indolent' in serving the public. (68) As Dalle Case's enterprise had encouraged an improvement in Sydney's theatrical standards, so also did the City Theatre. But 'no sane man could have imagined that Sydney could support two theatres' and, not unexpectedly, the effective life of the City Theatre was brief. (69)

The City Theatre's failure against the rise of the Royal Victoria was perhaps fortunate since 'if competition between them did not destroy both, there would not for years be more than a bare and insecure living' for Sydney's actors. (70) Its general licence was retained until 1850 but was used only for theatrical performances if 'things got tough at the Victoria'. (71)

By 1847, the Royal Victoria was attended regularly by 'crowded and fashionable audiences' drawn from Sydney's upper and middle orders. (72) The Sydney stage began 'to adopt and reflect the moral and cultural values of a culture of reason' and better manners prevailed: (73)
   Managers began to stage a higher proportion of opera and
   Shakespeare and other serious English plays. Respectable and
   orderly audiences returned to the theatre as a result. (74)

Dalle Case had unleashed a spirit of theatrical competition, previously lacking, inducing improvements in both theatrical and audience standards. He had also contributed to the growing bifurcation between entertainments that catered for the popular taste, on the one hand, and those that catered for the 'culture of reason' on the other. (75)

Entertainment in Sydney, 1842-50

Even as the Royal Victoria gained in respectability during the 1840s, lesser forms of entertainment continued to evolve. The working-class colonists of the late 1840s, many of them freshly arrived from the newly-urbanised, newly-industrialised Britain, preferred 'melodramas over the higher order of dramatic representations'. (76) A 'low' English actor, George Selth Coppin, who had enjoyed some success at the Royal Victoria during 1842-43, recognised a need for lowbrow entertainment by investing his earnings in the Clown Hotel, opposite the Royal Victoria. He began to advertise 'free and easy' evenings in August 1843, a colonial version of the British music hall, although his American actress wife, a 'leading lady', refrained from being reduced to an entertainer in a public hall. (77) In the same month, a series of promenade concerts was given in the saloon of the Royal Hotel under the management of a former member of the Royal Victoria's orchestra. (78) After his City Theatre foray sent him insolvent, Joseph Simmons recovered to open a music hall in September 1844. In March 1850, an English vocal quartet in blackface, the Blythe Waterland Minstrels, opened in the assembly rooms of the Royal Hotel, singing the popular Christy Minstrel songs of London's music halls. (79)

All of these entertainments were clearly directed at working-class audiences. By the early 1850s, by virtue of lenient liquor and licensing laws, most 'second-rate' inns had a music hall and concert room attached where visitors could sing to the accompaniment of a paid pianist or a small group of instrumentalists. Singing varied between the 'tolerable' and the 'indifferent'. (80)

After Dalle Case's departure, activity of a circus nature was seen, sporadically, in and around the city. In October 1842, William Douglass was licensed to give 'theatrical representation, including gymnastic and acrobatic exercises' in hotels. (81) During 1845, George Croft and Edward Hughes gave exhibitions of ropewalking. (82) In 1848, Croft and his wife gave displays of tightrope dancing at Darlinghurst. (83) According to oral tradition, the equestrian Golding Ashton gave open-air performances in a ring situated near the present-day Central Station, a customary site for 'merry-go-rounds, corn-curers, and countless kinds of hurly-burly showmen'. (84)

The outskirts of London were served by cheap circuses and penny equestrian shows. (85) In Hobart Town, 'numerous gaffs flourished on the Derwent' at this time. (86) Presumably, similar low places of amusement served the Sydney of this era also, although no firm evidence arises. Nothing approaching a circus performance, perhaps the ultimate demonstration of popular entertainment, is apparent in Sydney, for the remainder of the 1840s. Instead, and almost inexplicably, the concept of a circus was tested in a minor coastal settlement, far from Sydney.

Colonial records and contemporary newspapers reveal no earlier successful circus enterprise in Australia than the Royal Circus that Robert Avis Radford opened in Launceston in December 1847. This 'Astley's Amphitheatre on a limited scale' was erected behind, or adjacent to, his inn, the Horse and Jockey. (87) Radford's Van Diemen's Land audiences of emancipists, soldiers, native-born and gentry, were entertained with contemporary British circus, popular drama and music hall for just over two years.

Radford's example was soon replicated, with varying degrees of success in Port Philip (1849), Adelaide (1850) and Sydney (1850). Two of Radford's most talented performers, the equestrian Golding Ashton and the acrobat and equestrian John Jones, would make seminal contributions to the establishment of circus activity on the mainland.

Civil, religious and moral leaders of the early Victorian era promoted the notion of 'rational' recreation to direct the new labouring classes away from vices such as drinking, gambling, fornication and crude entertainments. (88) Radford's 'rational' entertainments, it was argued, would prevent 'vicious associations' and 'humanise the mind' and were thus not only licensed by the 'powers that be' but widely endorsed by the press of Van Diemen's Land. (89) To the extent that we can rely on the observations of contemporary colonial journalists, our only substantial body of documentary evidence, the lowly 'rogue and vagabond' status of circus people within the prevailing English social hierarchy was, if not irrelevant in its antipodean setting, at least relaxed.

Towards the end of 1849, Edward La Rosiere, a ropewalker who had appeared with Dalle Case in 1841-42, returned to Sydney by way of Hobart Town. (90) There he engaged the equestrian John Jones and his troupe at a weekly salary and paid their passage to Sydney. (91) This 'unprecedented novelty' opened at the City Theatre on 21 January 1850, with feats of gymnastics, tightrope, slackrope, vaulting and equestrianism and 'unrivalled' acrobatic feats.xcii In view of the City Theatre's obvious limitations, its selection as the venue by which to introduce a troupe of equestrians and acrobats appears odd. However, it is conceivable that a circus ring of suitable proportions could have been prepared out of the area occupied by the pit.

In the months following the City Theatre engagement, Jones, his troupe and La Rosiere gave open-air performances in and around Sydney and toured to outlying townships, such as Richmond and Windsor, and provincial centres such as Singleton and Maitland. (93) The troupe probably gave its entertainments within an enclosure of canvas sidewalls in 'enclosed paddocks' or in the precincts of hotels. (94) Travelling shows of any kind were rare in provincial New South Wales, although since the mid-1830s, theatrical licences had been granted for minor theatrical entertainments in towns and hamlets across the colony. (95)

During the course of their excursion to the Hawkesbury and Hunter regions, Edward La Rosiere wrote to Sydney's Lord Mayor to seek permission:
   ... to perform feats of horsemanship vaulting &c. by myself and
   company in a circus to be erected in the inclosed [sic] yard of the
   Adelphi Hotel in York Street. (96)

The proprietor of the Adelphi Hotel was an 'astute and ambitious man', John Malcom. (97) The hotel was situated at 49 York Street, about one block away from the City Theatre. (98) Malcom's precise role in the inauguration of the Royal Australian Equestrian Circus, as it would be called, remains unclear but he appears to have made arrangements with Jones and La Rosiere to erect a suitable venue for them to use on their return to Sydney. At 'great expense', Malcom made alterations and extensions to the rear of his hotel to accommodate an arena. (99) The neighbourhood was 'not of the sweetest' and comprised 'some of the oldest bits of old Sydney'. (100)

Royal Australian Equestrian Circus, 1850-51

The Royal Australian Equestrian Circus opened on the evening of Wednesday 16 October 1850, and marked the serious beginning of circus activity in Sydney. For the first time anywhere, the words 'Australian' and 'circus' were spoken of in the one breath. A circus was a complete novelty for the native-born of the colony who, at the time, were numerically stronger than the emigrants, free or otherwise. (101) Like Dalle Case's Australian Olympic Theatre of 1842, the Royal Australian Equestrian Circus had the effect, albeit unintended, of stimulating theatrical competition and diversifying the range and quality of entertainment available to the people of Sydney.

The original edifice of 1850, as contemplated by Ross Thorne, indicates a simple but effective extension from the rear of the building. (102) This extension embraced a circus ring at its far end but no stage, the pit being arranged in a semicircular configuration level with the ring. It was therefore fairly described at this stage as a 'circus' rather than an 'amphitheatre' or 'theatre'. The ring and the pit were open to the sky. Behind the pit, but on a slightly higher level, were the boxes. Alterations made shortly after the opening of the circus enabled patrons to enter the boxes by way of the Adelphi's private door. (103)

It was to Malcom rather than La Rosiere or Jones that the Colonial Secretary, E. Deas Thomson, issued the requisite licence for 'horsemanship, tumbling and rope dancing' for three monthly periods. (104) Thomson imposed a firm condition that no convict:
   ... whether serving under any temporary remission of Sentence or
   otherwise, (was to) to act, perform or appear in said Circus or
   place of exhibition at any time during the term aforesaid. (105)

Malcom devolved matters of artistic performance and direction to his lieutenants, La Rosiere and Jones, while he constantly tinkered with the venue's configuration. (106)

Although this was not the first circus in Australia, as was later claimed, it was clearly Sydney's first successful circus. (107) For the first time since meeting the brief competition of the Australian Olympic Theatre in 1842 and a single season of the City Theatre in 1843, the Royal Victoria Theatre had a serious rival, albeit one that purveyed popular entertainment. The doors of the Royal Australian Equestrian Circus opened at 7.30pm, on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Prices of one, two and three shillings were charged to the pit, gallery and boxes, respectively, with half prices for children under the age of 12. (108)

The provision of carriages to convey patrons home after the performance, 'a cloak room for ladies' and a 'no smoking' rule for all parts of the house, suggest that the patronage of the city's upper orders was earnestly sought. Evidently this patronage was not always obtained since half prices were charged to the boxes after nine o'clock. (109)

Just as the 'indelicate' acrobatic performances of the females in Dalle Case's troupe had come in for criticism in 1841, the 'too short skirts, the tights and the pirouettes' of female riders in the York Street circus came in for criticism in 1850. An observer praised La Rosiere's young new wife for 'jumping through hoops [and] over bars' but disparaged her inclination to run after the clown as 'not at all becoming a respectable filly'. (110) The 'matrons' of the day looked on the circus and its 'aura of wickedness' with suspicion. (111) When La Rosiere advertised for several young females 'as apprentices', he was careful to assure patrons that performances were 'beyond the taint of immorality of the most fastidious'. (112)

The York Street circus offered not only equestrian acts but singing, ballets d'action, pantomimes and melodramatic extravaganzae, in short, popular entertainment. (113) To sustain audiences, it was necessary to frequently change the program. A circus handbill of a later era contained a nostalgic reference to the circus, describing the musical accompaniment as comprising 'a couple of fiddlers, a tin whistle and a sheepskin drum [which] discoursed the popular melodies of the day'. (114)

The opening season of the Royal Australian Equestrian Circus saw a gradual realignment of the working relationship between Malcom, La Rosiere and Jones. Less than two weeks after the opening, La Rosiere and Malcom entered into partnership, to the exclusion of Jones, who quit the enterprise. Then Malcom usurped La Rosiere and, proclaiming himself 'sole proprietor', thanked the people of Sydney for rewarding 'his efforts to promote equestrian performances'. The establishment was customarily known as Malcom's thereafter. (115) The deletion of the word 'equestrian'--for the establishment was now the Royal Australian Circus--suggests that Malcom wanted to diversify the entertainments beyond those of a circus nature.

Henry Burton

Before the end of 1850, Malcom appointed the English circus man, Henry Burton, as 'riding master and manager' and Burton's wife, the renowned equestrienne Rosina Lee, the 'late leading actress [sic] at Astley's Amphitheatre' as leading equestrienne. The Burtons were clearly appointments that raised the stature of the Royal Australian Circus above any 'circus' seen in Sydney to date. Rosina, for example, appeared:
   ... on her spirited steed in an act entitled The Syren's Scarf,
   vividly pourtraying [sic] the following human feelings, viz--Love,
   Joy, Anger, Rage, Prayer, Entreaty, Jealousy, Fury, &c, from the
   celebrated drawings, Le Bruns Passion. (116)

Formerly the manager of Cooke's Circus, one of the largest to travel provincial England, Henry Burton made 'an incomparable' ringmaster. (117) On Boxing Day 1850 and again on New Year's Day 1851, Burton presented his own 'Grand Equestrian Entertainments' at Botany Bay, complemented by several of Malcom's company for each performance:
   The circus was visited by upwards of 2,000 individuals, and the
   unrivalled performances of Madame Rosina elicited the most
   unbounded applause. (118)

Each evening, the combined troupe returned to the city to perform in the York Street circus. (119) But Burton was only 'putting in time' prior to forming his own circus, his original intention in coming to the colonies. From his extensive experience as a manager, Burton realised, as the entertainers who travelled early modern Europe had realised, that it was easier to change audience than program and to change audience it was necessary to travel from town to town. (120)

Late in February 1851, Burton announced the imminent opening of his Circus Royal on ground adjoining Curran's Glasgow Arms, Parramatta. (121) From Parramatta, Burton began the first extended touring circuit by a colonial circus company. At West Maitland in June 1851, suddenly deprived of an audience by the discovery of gold on the Turon, Burton and his troupe travelled by way of Mudgee, across mountains where roads were almost non-existent, to reach their first goldfields audience at Wallaby Rocks. (122)

Burton's arrival on the goldfields signalled the beginning of the rise of the peripatetic circus in Australia. The early itinerant circus companies that evolved from Burton's example lightened their loads of all but the most essential paraphernalia necessary to present equestrian-based performances while the constant movement from place to place reduced the need for innovation in the nature and variety of the entertainments presented. (123)

Royal Australian Circus, 1851

However, Burton's initiative did not immediately signal the end of the fixed-location circus. At York Street in August 1851, Malcom's company went into a brief recess and, 'at very great expense', Malcom roofed the building and re-configured and re-decorated its interior. Seating was divided into dress circle, boxes and a pit which, alone, accommodated 1000 people. Strictly speaking, the building was still not an 'amphitheatre' as it still lacked a stage, all performances taking place in the ring. (124)

The Royal Australian Circus re-opened on 23 August 1851 and was soon joined by the 'British horseman'--the former convict and Essex tinker's son, Golding Ashton--freshly arrived from the clutches of the creditors of his failed amphitheatre in Launceston. Despite the creditable equestrians who had already appeared at Malcom's, Ashton's superlative riding surpassed them all. He even performed Ducrow's masterpiece, The Courier of St Petersburg, on four barebacked steeds. (125)

Olympic Circus, 1851-52

An American circus man, John Sullivan Noble, who arrived in Adelaide with his troupe by way of Cape Town the previous March, briefly opened his Olympic Circus at the Royal Victoria Theatre on 16 May 1851. After visiting the Hunter and Hawkesbury districts, Noble and his little company returned overland on 19 September, to open in a 'very old wooden erection' at the rear of a Castlereagh Street hotel, The Painters Arms. Despite the modesty of this setting, Noble promised his audiences that 'no immoral language or improper performance [will] be introduced by the clown or any of the company'. To judge from advertisements, the programs of Malcom's circus in York Street easily outshone those of Noble's in Castlereagh Street, but Noble's Olympic Circus stimulated rivalry.

Duly aggravated by the disparaging remarks of 'Brother Jonathan', Ashton threw out a challenge to Sydney's equestrians, whether 'professional or nonprofessional' to ride for 'grace, trick and daring'. (126) Ashton's challenge, clearly directed at Noble and his riders, served the essential purpose of exciting popular interest and patronage. Early English circus managers, including Astley, had used similar opportunities to tarnish the reputations of troublesome rivals. (127)

After several months on the goldfields around Bathurst, Noble and his equestrian company briefly returned to Sydney and sailed by the Scotia for Port Phillip early in 1852, there to open the city's 'pioneer' circus. (128) Before leaving Sydney, Noble prudently sought a testimonial from the Colonial Secretary, E. Deas Thomson, to support his licence application to the authorities in Melbourne. Thomson obligingly wrote that he had 'every reason to believe' that Noble had conducted his circus 'with every regard to order and propriety'. (129) Thomson was probably not yet aware of the activities of several unidentified boys, aged from 10 to 15, employed as apprentices in the Olympic Circus during 1852:
   Some girls used to come after these boys and amongst them were
   three, aged respectively 9, 11 and 12. On one occasion, I caught
   two of the boys named M'G. and E. in a hay-loft adjoining the
   circus, having connection with two of the girls ... In 1854, these
   three girls were common prostitutes in Sydney. (130)

If Malcom had counted on Noble's departure to lessen competition for his circus in York Street, he was mistaken. With Noble gone, the licensee of The Painters Arms invited Malcom's equestrians, Ashton and Joachim Cardoza, to take over the lease on the Olympic Circus premises for 30 shillings a week. Malcom wrote to the Inspector-General of Sydney police to describe his 'hired servants' as men 'destitute of principle'. Furthermore, Malcom pointed out, not only was the building unfit for public performance compared to his own brick building, upon which 1000 [pounds sterling] had been spent, but Sydney was 'unable to support ... another circus'. He was over-ruled and theatrical activity in Sydney was driven further in the direction of competition. (131)

Beaumont & Waller's Zoological & Botanical Gardens, 1851-52

It was about this time that a visiting English writer, John Askew, made note of Sydney's two circus establishments, those in York Street and Castlereagh Street respectively, in each of which were presented pantomimes and 'astonishing feats of equestrianism'; a museum of natural history in Hunter Street and another in Darlinghurst; and a menagerie in Elizabeth Street. (132) The menagerie, Beaumont & Waller's at the corner of Park and Pitt Streets, was a recent addition to the range of popular entertainments available in Sydney. It was crowded daily, especially by juveniles. (133) Many of its non-indigenous animals were procured and landed in Australia by mariners, Captain Charlesworth of the Royal Saxon being especially active in this regard. In June 1851, for example, the Royal Saxon arrived in Sydney from Calcutta carrying a young elephant that Charlesworth had procured for Beaumont and Waller. (134)

During 1851, Beaumont and Waller opened their Zoological & Botanical Gardens, an open-air pleasure resort replete with its own amphitheatre, in the grounds of their Sir Joseph Banks Hotel at Botany Bay. Sydneysiders visiting the grounds on weekends and public holidays could see a diversity of wild, exotic and native animals, reptiles and birds. There were also facilities for bathing and boating. People arrived by the large, heavy coaches that ran along the crude road that stretched from the Sydney post office to Botany Bay. Others came by 'the most magnificent steamer in Port Jackson', the Sir John Harvey. (135)

At Beaumont & Waller's Zoological & Botanical Gardens on Easter Monday, 1852, Ashton and Cardoza presented their 'Grand Equestrian Exhibition'. Ashton was to ride four horses from the Botany Road toll-bar to the entrance gates, a distance of five miles. At Botany Bay later that day, some 7000 people saw Cardoza walk a tightrope stretched from the top of an old dead tree to a windlass below. (136)

Olympic Circus, 1852-53

Ashton's detours to outlying settlements, such as Windsor and Parramatta, sealed the end of his partnership with Cardoza and, by the spring of 1852, their lesseeship of the Olympic Circus in Castlereagh Street. Ashton spent most of the following three years on the New England goldfields, as well as touring the Hawkesbury and Hunter Valley districts. His excursion, like Burton's to the Turon in 1851, proved to be the foundation of a fully peripatetic company, Ashton's Circus, that travelled throughout the eastern colonies and remains in existence today. (137)

Over the summer of 1852-53, the Castlereagh Street building was occupied by Henry Burton and his company, newly returned from the goldfields of Sofala and the Turon. (138) Early in 1853, Burton and his company joined the steady traffic--about 100 people a day--heading towards the Ovens. (139)

In April 1853, the Castlereagh Street premises briefly re-opened as the Royal Marionette Theatre, although marionette performances were only a portion of its programs and the premises was soon destroyed by fire. By July 1854, re-built with an enlarged stage, the location was occupied by a conventional theatre, the 450-seat Royal Albert Theatre, but it soon closed. However, until as late as 1977, the same location, progressively altered, served a variety of purposes associated with popular entertainment including, between 1893 and 1929, the Tivoli Theatre, Sydney's major vaudeville venue of the era. (140)

In the 'golden' decade of 1851-60, 127,250 free immigrants arrived in New South Wales, more than in any previous decade. (141) Gold not only swelled the population but significantly altered its composition. These most recent arrivals had left a Britain, urbanised and industrialised, and were unencumbered by the archaic, agrarian cultural values and notions of recreation that accompanied Australia's first arrivals. (142) The immigrants included a higher proportion of skilled and educated people than the earlier immigrants, most of whom were either forcibly transported as convicts or enticed by bounty. (143) However, while their arrival further raised the demand for organised entertainment it did not immediately lead to the provision of entertainments of a higher order or to any great diversification. Initially, gold encouraged audience homogeneity rather than stratification, as in Melbourne when, in 1853, enriched diggers filled the boxes, 'stock-riders from the interior' occupied the gallery, and 'pert gents, fast tradesmen and mechanics filled the pit', all at inflated prices. (144)

Malcom's Royal Amphitheatre, 1852-54

As long as he introduced novelties along the way, Malcom's equestrian-based entertainments could compete with the gradually increasing diversity of entertainments offered in Sydney. (145) In May 1852, he presented two infant Aboriginal riders, a novelty for the time. Shortly after, the Royal Australian Circus was transformed into a genuine amphitheatre with the construction of a stage adjacent to the circus ring. The 'circus' was now appropriately renamed 'Malcom's Royal Amphitheatre'. (146) There was a gradual underlying trend to diversify the entertainments such as the engagement of a magician, Mr Ford, in July 1852. The same evening that the Royal Albert Theatre opened, 20 July 1854, Malcom's presented the drama The Brigands, a further step in the direction of a conventional theatrical fare. (147)

With his most immediate rival, the Olympic Circus, all but dissolved by early 1853, Malcom was temporarily relieved of direct competition although he had 'plenty of competition' from other entertainments, 'intellectual and otherwise'. (148) Between April and September 1853, Malcom raised his prices from 3s for the dress circle and side box seats, and is charged for the pit, to 4s, 3s and 2s respectively. (149) Despite these increases, Malcom's prices were still well short of the prices that the American circus man, Joseph A. Rowe, could charge in Melbourne to visit his North American Circus: 8s for the dress circle, 5s for boxes and 2s 6d for the pit, respectively. In Melbourne, Rowe faced limited competition, well short of what Malcom faced in Sydney--chiefly a 'degraded' 900-seat Queens Theatre, the Salle de Valentino and the Terpsichorean Hall--and the entertainment demands of a grossly swelled and gold-enriched population. (150)

In September 1853, Malcom attempted to sell his amphitheatre. The notice of sale allows us a glimpse inside the venue which was:
   ... handsomely fitted up with a neat circle of dress and private
   boxes ... In the front of the Adelphi Hotel is a spacious entrance
   to the private boxes, enclosed by a pair of gates. The interior of
   the house is arranged into three circles of boxes, with several
   private and family boxes--and extensive pit with raised seats.

The separate entrance to the private boxes of Malcom's amphitheatre hints at the degree to which things had evolved since Dalle Case's 'republican amalgamation' of 1842. However, the attempted sale was unsuccessful, suggesting that Sydney's entrepreneurial class saw little prospect in the venue. Malcom, beset by poor health, remained saddled with a venue that was no longer viable, at least as an amphitheatre. (152)

Competition for Malcom came from a new direction with the opening, on 20 March 1854, of the Royal Polytechnic at the corner of Bathurst and Pitt Streets. Here, people could see 'dissolving views' and 'works of art by the Masters' on a screen, 24 feet wide. The venue also catered for parties, dances and amateur theatricals. (153)

Royal Lyceum, 1854-55

In October 1854, Malcom made further alterations to the York Street building, effectively transforming it from a circus-style amphitheatre into a conventional theatre, although some circus-style entertainment was still evident. The arena was converted into a pit, and a new proscenium was installed before the venue was reopened, as the Royal Lyceum, in October 1854. Admission to the dress circle, boxes and pit was fixed at 5s, 3s and 2s respectively.

While equestrian items were still evident on the program, it was decidedly a theatrical bill that was presented. The patronage of the respectable was elicited with 'every attention' being paid to audience comfort, the provision of police to enforce order, and omnibuses to convey patrons to their homes. The initial success of the Royal Lyceum forced the Royal Victoria's proprietor, Andrew Torning, to make a special effort to retain the popular support he had already secured for his theatre. (154)

Not everyone was satisfied with the alterations made to transform Malcom's amphitheatre into the Royal Lyceum, however. On 20 October 1854, the city's building surveyor reported contraventions of the Building Act:
   A building which was previously illegally erected of wood, canvas
   and other combustible materials ... known as Malcom's Circus, is
   now in course of extensive alterations with similar materials in
   the same illegal manner ... I consider it to be the most dangerous
   building ... that has as yet come under my notice officially. (155)

Similar concerns had been raised when the building was first erected in 1850 but, evidently, no action had been taken. Malcom refuted the accusations, advising the city commissioners on 24 November 1854 that the building surveyor was mistaken since 'the walls from bottom to top are all of stone and brick built' and that the shingle roof comprised 'no combustible materials'. Furthermore the venue had been:
   ... patronised by the Governor and other influential members of the
   community who have expressed their approval of ... the manner in
   which it has been got up. (156)

There was no further action but the re-configured venue enjoyed only several weeks of good houses before audiences began to recede once again. (157) By the end of 1854, a dispute between Malcom and the lessee of the Lyceum Theatre forced its closure. (158) The York Street premises was his most valuable property and, worth about 2000 [pounds sterling], was more than ample to satisfy his liabilities. He sequestrated his estate for the benefit of his creditors on 30 January 1855, offering them a compromise of 5s in the pound. When some refused Malcom more time to settle, he became heavily mortgaged. By March 1855, it was reported that John Malcom, 'late of York Street', was insolvent with debts of 6405 [pounds sterling] and assets of freehold, leasehold and personal property of 6200 [pounds sterling]. A Mr Leopoldt took over the lease obligations of 300 [pounds sterling] a year on the Royal Lyceum and Adelphi Hotel, and Malcom's formal association with York Street ended. (159) After another insolvency hearing three years later, Malcom was reduced to 'a pauper'. (160)

Prince of Wales Theatre, 1855-60

In 1854, unable to renew the lease he had held on the Royal Victoria since 1838, Joseph Wyatt made plans to build his own theatre. Situated in Castlereagh Street, close to King Street, Wyatt built the Prince of Wales, which was opened in March 1855 and promptly leased to Andrew Torning, the new lessee of the Royal Victoria. Larger and better-appointed than the Royal Victoria, the Prince of Wales could seat 3250 people. While not primarily intended for equestrian purposes, its strengthened stage, 87 feet deep and 60 feet wide, accommodated the circus rings of Burton's (1857), Rowe's American Amphitheatre (1858) and several other equestrian companies.

Although equestrian entertainments, such as J. S. Noble's Olympic Circus (1851), the equestrian spectacle Marmion (1854), and Burton's Circus (1857), were occasionally accommodated on the stage of the Royal Victoria, Torning evidently preferred to relegate such entertainments to his second theatre. Indeed, the occasional presentation of equestrian-based entertainments within these large, conventional theatres suggests that Sydney retained the need, partial at least, for an amphitheatrical venue. (161) In any case, the Prince of Wales was not a commercial success. Built at a cost of 30,000 [pounds sterling] it was sold in 1858 for 10,600 [pounds sterling] and destroyed by fire, two years later. (162) The Royal Victoria underwent major reconstruction and remained in use until destroyed by fire in 1880.

Ashton's Amphitheatre, 1855

The Royal Lyceum had been 'closed for some time' by the time Ashton began a lengthy winter season there with his circus company in May 1855. (163) Despite numerous attractions in other parts of the city, including the infamous danseuse Lola Montez, Ashton's equestrian entertainments were well-received by his Sydney audiences, in 'numbers as well as respectability'. During the season, several artistes from the ill-fated Melbourne version of 'Astley's Amphitheatre' joined Ashton. (164) On the other hand, several of Ashton's best artists were lured away when William 'Tinker' Brown announced the formation of his Royal Amphitheatre and Roman Coliseum at Wagga Wagga. (165)

Despite Ashton's attractions and the excellent coverage he and his performers were given in Sydney's illustrated press, the York Street amphitheatre was no more viable in his hands as it was in Malcom's. (166) As well as an amphitheatre, Sydney was now served by two major theatres, the Royal Victoria and the Prince of Wales and several smaller establishments such as the Royal Polytechnic. The three largest venues--the Royal Victoria, Prince of Wales and Royal Lyceum--provided accommodation for some 7200 people, a ratio of about one seat for every 10 of the population (1856 census). (167)

Ashton finished his lengthy season in debt and quietly exited Sydney to avoid his creditors. (168) The Royal Lyceum continued in intermittent use as an equestrian amphitheatre until June 1856 when it was announced that 'an elegant vaudeville theatre' was in the course of erection on the site. The new venue, effectively Malcom's amphitheatre remodelled, was reopened as Our Lyceum, with an inaugural season of Shakespeare. (169) Under various names, the building remained in use as an entertainment venue until 1882 when, as the Queen's Theatre, the building was condemned as unsafe and demolished. (170)


The purpose-built circus--anything from a tented pavilion to a brick-and-stone amphitheatre--was the principal medium by which early colonial circus activity was presented, an adaptation of the original Astley's to the colonial situation, albeit on a smaller and less-extravagant scale. The era of the dedicated colonial amphitheatre lasted some 14 years, from the opening of the Australian Olympic by Dalle Case in Sydney in 1842, until the transformation, by 1856, of Malcom's in Sydney and Astley's in Melbourne, into theatres of a more conventional character. The purpose-built, fixed-location amphitheatre, typical of London or Paris, proved to be of limited economic potential in a colonial context since small cities could not sustain, as London and Paris could sustain, audiences of the size necessary to support these venues and to justify a continuous change of program.

Although its existence was brief, the amphitheatre had introduced a valuable element of competition that forced the legitimate stage to adequately differentiate itself from such 'minor' entertainments and satisfy the demands of an increasingly cosmopolitan, skilled and educated population. In forcing theatre to higher standards, the amphitheatre sowed the seeds of its own destruction, for 'a certain amount of sameness' in equestrian-based entertainments could not indefinitely compete with 'the many novelties put forward by theatrical companies'. (171)

Member RAHS

University of Sydney


(1) G. Speaight, A history of the circus, Tantivy Press, London, 1980, p. 34.

(2) J. M. Golby and A. W. Purdue, The civilisation of the crowd: Popular culture in England, 1750-1900, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 1999, p. 69.

(3) A. H. Saxon, The life and art of Andrew Ducrow and the romantic age of English circus, Archon Books, Hamden, Connecticut, 1978, p. 19.

(4) G. Tyrwhitt-Drake, The English circus and fairground, Methuen, London, 1946, p. 46.

(5) Speaight, Circus, pp. 35-38.

(6) Morning Chronicle & London Advertiser, 24 April, 14 May 1787.

(7) Speaight, Circus, p. 57; Saxon, Ducrow, p. 234.

(8) P. McGuire, E. Amott and F.M.McGuire, The Australian theatre: An abstract and brief chronicle in twelve parts with characteristic illustrations, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1948, p. 100.

(9) Times, 25 March 1846; Golby and Purdue, Civilisation of the crowd, p. 69.

(10) McGuire et al, Australian theatre, p. 101.

(11) Saxon, Ducrow, p. 19; K. Chesney, The Victorian underworld, Penguin Books Australia, Melbourne, 1978, p. 74; H. Cunningham, Leisure in the industrial revolution c.1780-c.1880, Croom Helm, London, 1980, pp. 32, 34; Y. S. Carmeli, 'The invention of circus and bourgeois hegemony: A glance at British circus books', Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 29, no. 1, 1995, pp. 213ff.

(12) P. Parsons (gen ed), Companion to theatre in Australia, Currency Press in association with Cambridge University Press, Sydney, 1995, pp. 138-44.

(13) R. Waterhouse, Private pleasures, public leisure: A history of Australian popular culture since 1788, Longman Australia, Sydney, 1995, p. 10.

(14) J. W. C. Cumes, Their chastity was not too rigid: Leisure times in early Australia, Longman Cheshire Reed, Melbourne and Sydney, 1979, p. 19; K. Brisbane (ed), Entertaining Australia: An illustrated history, Currency Press, Sydney, 1991, p. 24; Waterhouse, Private pleasures, p. 25.

(15) R Waterhouse, From minstrel to vaudeville: The Australian popular stage, 1788-1914, University of NSW Press, Sydney, 1990, p. 20.

(16) R. E. N. Twopeny, Town life in Australia, Penguin Books Australia, Sydney, 1974, p. 203.

(17) Waterhouse, Private pleasures, p. 5ff; Cumes, Chastity, p. 1.

(18) Waterhouse, Private pleasures, p. 45.

(19) W. Vamplew (ed), Australians: Historical statistics, Fairfax, Syme and Weldon Associates, Sydney, 1987, p. 26.

(20) N. G. Butlin, Working papers in economic history: Contours of the Australian economy, 1788-1860, Working Paper No. 21, Australian National University, Canberra, 1984, p. 3.

(21) Vamplew, Historical statistics, p. 4

(22) T. A. Coghlan, Labour and industry in Australia: From the first settlement in 1788 to the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901, Macmillan of Australia, Melbourne, 1969, vol. I, p. 227.

(23) Twopeny, Town life, p. 203; C. M. H. Clark, A short history of Australia, Macmillan of Australia, South Melbourne, 1981, p. 46; L. L. Robson, A history of Tasmania: Van Diemen's Land from the earliest times to 1855, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1983, p. 177; Cumes, Chastity, p. 176.

(24) Butlin, Contours, p. 26.

(25) Waterhouse, Minstrel to vaudeville, pp. 26-27.

(26) E. Irvin, Dictionary of the Australian theatre, 1788-1914, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1985, pp. 273-74, 277; Parsons, Companion to theatre, p. 278.

(27) Waterhouse, Private pleasures, 1995, p. 44; Irvin, Dictionary, p. 206.

(28) J. Hood, Australia and The East: Being a journal narrative of a voyage to New South Wales in an emigrant ship with a residence of some months in Sydney and the bush and the route home by way of India and Egypt in years 1841 and 1842, John Murray, London, 1843, pp. 98-99.

(29) Irvin, Dictionary, pp. 273-74.

(30) E. Irvin, Theatre comes to Australia, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1971, p. 135.

(31) A. Weiner, 'The short unhappy career of Luigi Dalle Case', Educational Theatre Journal, vol. 27, March 1975, pp. 77-84.

(32) J. Fowles, Sydney in 1848: Illustrated by copper-plate engravings of its principal streets, public buildings, churches, chapels, &c, from drawings, facsimile edition, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1962, p. 92.

(33) H. Hall & A. J. Cripps, The romance of the Sydney stage, Currency Press in association with the National Library of Australia, Sydney, 1996, p. 85.

(34) J. O' Hara, 'Horse-Racing and trotting', in W. Vamplew and B. Stoddart, (eds), Sport in Australia: A social history, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1994, pp. 93-111.

(35) Sydney Herald (SH), 16 December 1833.

(36) Barnes, pers. com., 1991; H. Buckler, Central Criminal Court Session Papers, Seventh Session, J. Booth, London, 1825, p. 580.

(37) State Records NSW (SRNSW), 4/5784.

(38) Vamplew, Historical statistics, p. 104.

(39) S. Fitzgerald, Sydney: 1842-1992, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1992, p. 24.

(40) SH, 12 July 1841; Parsons, Companion to theatre, p. 213; Sydney Gazette (SG), 5 March 1839.

(41) Sydney Free Press (SFP), 1 February 1842.

(42) Weiner, 'Luigi Dalle Case'.

(43) SG, 12, 21 August 1841.

(44) O'Flaherty Papers, Box 4/2578, Mitchell Library.

(45) SH, 9 November, 24, 25 December 1841.

(46) Sydney Monitor (SM), 8 November 1841.

(47) Hall & Cripps, Romance, p. 62.

(48) SRNSW, 4/5784; SFP, 6 January 1842; Hall & Cripps, Romance, p. 64.

(49) SH, 26, 29 January 1842.

(50) Speaight, Circus, pp. 41-43.

(51) Irvin, Dictionary, p. 275; Australian, 29 January 1842.

(52) SH, 29 January 1842; SG, 29 January 1842.

(53) Hood, Australia and The East.

(54) SG, 29 January 1842; SH, 7 February 1842.

(55) Hood, Australia and The East.

(56) Hood, Australia and The East.

(57) SH, 7 March 1842; Australian, 24 February, 12 April 1842.

(58) Weiner, 'Luigi Dalle Case'; SG, 19 March 1842.

(59) Weiner, 'Luigi Dalle Case'.

(60) Irvin, Dictionary, p. 277.

(61) SG, 25 June 1842.

(62) The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 14 October 1842; Hobart Town Courier, 11 November 1842, 13 January 1843, 19 April 1848; Launceston Examiner, 6 March 1847; M. Grut, The history of ballet in South Africa, Human and Rousseau, Cape Town, nd, p. 14.

(63) G. Scott, Sydney's highways of history, Georgian House, Melbourne, 1958, p. 240; J. Urquhart, 'Our first circus: Its rise and fall', SMH, 20 June 1931.

(64) I. Brodsky, Sydney takes the stage, Old Sydney Free Press, Sydney, 1963, pp. 10-11; Irvin, Dictionary, p. 277; Sydney Sportsman, 8 November 1905.

(65) Maitland Mercury (MM), 20 May 1843.

(66) Irvin, Theatre comes to Australia, p. 231 ; Hall & Cripps, Romance, p. 85ff; Irvin, Dictionary, p. 277; SMH, 13 January 1848; MM, 18 June 1853.

(67) SMH, 10, 14 February 1843.

(68) A. Bagot, Coppin the great: Father of the Australian theatre, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1965, p. 73.

(69) SMH, 19 July 1843.

(70) Bagot, Coppin the great, p. 81.

(71) R. Thorne, Theatre buildings in Australia to 1905: From the time of the first settlement to the arrival of cinema, two volumes, Architectural Research Foundation, University of Sydney, 1971, vol. I, p. 119.

(72) Bell's Life in Sydney, 9 January, 13, 20 February 1847.

(73) Irvin, Dictionary, p. 34; Waterhouse, Private pleasures, p. 44.

(74) R. Waterhouse, 'Audiences', in Parsons, Companion to theatre, p. 65.

(75) Waterhouse, Minstrel to vaudeville, p. 26.

(76) L. A. Meredith, nd, cited in H. Love (ed), The Australian stage: A documentary history, University of NSW Press, Sydney, 1984, pp. 45-46; Waterhouse, Minstrel to vaudeville, p. 26.

(77) Bagot, Coppin the great, pp. 81-82; SMH, 28 August 1843.

(78) Hall & Cripps, Romance, p. 97.

(79) SMH, 21 September 1844, 28 March 1850.

(80) Sydney Sportsman, 14 February 1906; Brodsky, Sydney takes the stage, pp. 37-42.

(81) SRNSW, 4/5784.

(82) Bell's Life in Sydney, 15 July, 20 December 1845.

(83) SMH, 15 July 1847.

(84) N. Fernandez, Circus saga: Ashton's, Ashton's Circus, Sydney, 1971, p. 15; Fitzgerald, Sydney: 1842-1992, pp. 26-27, 62; Referee, 23 February 1916.

(85) P. Quennell, (ed), Mayhew's London, Bracken Books, London, 1951, p. 501.

(86) Sydney Spectator (SS), 5 February 1908, 10 September 1913.

(87) Cornwall Chronicle, 1, 29 December 1847.

(88) Golby and Purdue, Civilisation of the crowd, pp. 91-92; Cunningham, Leisure, pp. 89-91.

(89) Cornwall Chronicle, 29 December 1847, 12 August, 2 September 1848, 3 November 1849; Tasmanian Colonist, 1 June 1848.

(90) Hobart Town Courier, 28 November 1849; Goulburn Herald, 12 February 1853.

(91) SMH, 25 December 1849, 31 October 1850.

(92) Bell's Life in Sydney, 12 January 1850.

(93) SRNSW, 4/5784, pp. 142-64.

(94) SRNSW, 4/5784, pp. 142; MM, 26 June, 3 August 1850.

(95) R. Jordan, The convict theatres of early Australia, 1788-1840, Currency House, Sydney, 2002, pp. 181-82.

(96) City of Sydney Archives, Letter of E. Rosiere [sic], 12 June 1850, Item 26/005/41.

(97) J. Cannon with M. St Leon, Get a drum and beat it: The story of the astonishing Ashton's, Tytherleigh Press, Sydney, 1997, p. 15; Bell's Life in Sydney, 22 September 1849.

(98) W. & F. Ford (eds), Sydney commercial directory for the year 1851, W. & F. Ford, Sydney, 1851, p. 90.

(99) Ford, Sydney Commercial Directory 1851, no pagination; Thome, Theatre buildings, vol. I, p. 125.

(100) SS, 7 February 1906.

(101) Vamplew, Historical statistics, vol. I, p. 10.

(102) Thorne, Theatre buildings, Plate 38

(103) SMH, 24 December 1850.

(104) Thorne, Theatre buildings, p. 124.

(105) Cannon with St Leon, Get a drum, p. 15

(106) SMH, 15 October 1850.

(107) Anon, 'The Circus', Imperial Review, March 1892, pp. 71-72.

(108) SMH, 19 October 1850.

(109) SMH, 7 December 1850, 1 March 1851;Malcom's Royal Amphitheatre, 11 November 1853, Playbill 430, British Library.

(110) People's Advocate, 7 December 1850.

(111) M. Salmon, 'An old time circus', Australian Town and Country Journal, 3 August 1904, p. 34.

(112) SMH, 24 December 1850.

(113) SMH, 13 November 1850, 21 January 1851.

(114) Mark St Leon Collection, MSS 2165, Mitchell Library.

(115) SMH, 26 December 1850, 21 January, 17 March 1851.

(116) SMH, 24 December 1850.

(117) Port Fairy Gazette, 24 Apr 1900.

(118) People's Advocate, 28 December 1850.

(119) SMH, 24, 26 December 1850; Bell's Life in Sydney, 28 December 1850.

(120) P. Burke, Popular culture in early modern Europe, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, 1994, p. 97.

(121) SMH, 25 February 1851.

(122) MM, 31 May 1851.

(123) H. Stoddart, Rings of desire, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000, p. 22.

(124) Thorne, Theatre buildings, p. 125.

(125) SMH, 25 August, 20 September, 10 December 1851.

(126) SMH, 3, 19 September 1851.

(127) Saxon, Ducrow, p. 261.

(128) SMH, 7, 24 January 1852; Argus, 2 February 1852.

(129) Public Records Office, Victoria, VPRS 1189/28/52/456.

(130) C. Pearl, Sydney revels: The eighteen fifties of Bacchus, Cupid and Momus by Charles Adam Corbyn, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1970, p. 24.

(131) SRNSW, 4/5784, p. 199.

(132) J. Askew, A voyage to Australia and New Zealand, Simpkin Marshall, London, 1857, pp. 105-06. Although Askew places this menagerie in Elizabeth Street, contemporary reports give the location as the corner of Pitt and Park Streets.

(133) MM, 15 September 1852.

(134) MM, 30 August, 1 October 1851; Ford, Sydney Commercial Directory 1851, no pagination.

(135) Salmon, 'An old time circus'.

(136) SMH, 6 April 1852; Bell's Life in Sydney, 10 April 1852; Sydney Sportsman, 5 February 1908.

(137) Bell's Life in Sydney, 24, 19 June April 1852; SMH, 29 May 1852.

(138) SMH, 6, 17 September 1852.

(139) Goulburn Herald, 27 February 1853.

(140) Irvin, Theatre comes to Australia, p. 231; Irvin, Dictionary, pp. 173, 278ff; Parsons, Companion to theatre, pp. 468,605.

(141) Vamplew, Historical statistics, p. 4.

(142) Waterhouse, Private pleasures, pp. 45-46.

(143) R. Ward, Australia since the coming of man, Landsdowne Press, Sydney, 1982, p. 113.

(144) Clark, A short history, p. 117; Sydney Sportsman, 14 February 1906; McGuire et al, Australian theatre, pp. 90-91.

(145) SS, 14 February 1906.

(146) Thorne, Theatre buildings, pp. 125ff

(147) SMH, 19 May, 15, 28 July 1852; 20 July, 2 August, 1854.

(148) Sydney Sportsman, 14 February 1906.

(149) SMH, 14 April, 4 September 1854.

(150) Argus, 29 June 1852; Arm Chair, 10, 24 September 1853, 24 February 1854.

(151) Irvin, Dictionary, p. 278.

(152) SMH, 14 April 1854.

(153) Brodsky, Sydney takes the stage, pp. 20-21.

(154) Hall & Cripps, Romance, pp. 164-65,168.

(155) City of Sydney Archives, Letter of Building Surveyor, 20 October 1854, Item no. 26/12/0933.

(156) City of Sydney Archives, Letter of Building Surveyor, 24 November 1854, Item no. 26/13/1060.

(157) Irvin, Dictionary, pp. 278-79.

(158) Argus, 26 December 1854.

(159) MM, 24 March 1855; NSW Government Gazette, 20 April 1855, p. 1169; SRNSW, Insolvency: John Malcom, File 3256.

(160) SRNSW, Insolvency: John Malcom, File 4083.

(161) SMH, 16 May 1851; 15 June, 10 July 1857; 10 May 1858.

(162) Irvin, Dictionary, pp. 275,278-80; Parsons, Companion to theatre, p. 464.

(163) Irvin, Dictionary, pp. 278-79; SMH, 22 May 1855; Hall & Cripps, Romance, p. 190.

(164) Illustrated Sydney News, 2, 9, 23 June 1855.

(165) SMH, 24 August 1855.

(166) Illustrated Sydney News, 6 May 1854, 2, 16, 23, 30 June 1855.

(167) Vamplew, Historical statistics, p. 29.

(168) Cornwall Chronicle, 19 April 1851; SMH, 28 November 1855.

(169) Parsons, Companion to theatre, p. 566.

(170) Irvin, Dictionary, p. 280,283.

(171) South Australian Advertiser, 5 March 1883.
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Author:St. Leon, Mark
Publication:Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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