The Bankside Playhouses and Bear Gardens

Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1950.

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'The Bankside Playhouses and Bear Gardens', Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark), (London, 1950), pp. 66-77. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "The Bankside Playhouses and Bear Gardens", in Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark), (London, 1950) 66-77. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

. "The Bankside Playhouses and Bear Gardens", Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark), (London, 1950). 66-77. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,

In this section


The situation of the various Bear Gardens and playhouses in Southwark has been worked out by C. L. Kingsford in his article "Paris Garden and the Bear-baiting" in Archaeologia, Vol. 70, by W. W. Braines in The Site of the Globe Playhouse, and by E. K. Chambers in The Elizabethan Stage, but for the sake of completeness, and because one or two pieces of new evidence have emerged in the course of the preparation of this volume, a short account of the Bear Gardens and of the Playhouses is included here.

1. The Bear Gardens And The Hope Theatre

The first specific reference that has been found to bear-baiting on Bankside is in an order of Henry VIII dated 13th April, 1546, to the Mayor and Sheriffs of London, to proclaim the abolition of the Stews on Bankside and of bear-baiting "in that row or in any place on that side London bridge." (fn. 4) Notwithstanding this proclamation Thomas Fluddie, Yeoman of His Majesty's Bears, was granted a licence in September, 1546, to "make pastime" with the king's bears "at the accustomed place at London, called the Stewes." (fn. 4) The Stews were roughly coincident with the thoroughfare known as Bankside, but they did not extend into Paris Garden Manor. The records quoted below show that from 1550 onward the Bear Gardens were in the liberty of the Clink, i.e. near the site of the Stews, and it is difficult to account for the fact that literary allusions to bear-baiting nearly always link it with Paris Garden. Robert Crowley in 1550 speaks—
"Of Bearbaytynge.
What follye is thys, to kepe wyth daunger,
A greate mastyfe dogge and a foule ouglye beare;
And to thys onelye ende, to se them two fyght,
Wyth terrible tearynge, a full ouglye syght.
And yet me thynke those men be mooste foles of all,
Whose store of money is but verye smale,
And yet euerye Sondaye they will surelye spende
One penye or two, the bearwardes lyuyng to mende.
At Paryse Garden eche Sundaye, a man shall not fayle
To fynde two or three hundredes, for the bearwardes vaile." (fn. 139)

In a preface to a sermon preached by John Bradford before Edward VI Thomas Sampson refers to God's judgment on "certayne Gentlemen upon the Sabboth day, going in a whirry to Paris garden to the Beare bayting" who were drowned, (fn. 140) and from 1559 onwards references become fairly frequent.

An extensive search of the records has revealed no evidence of bearbaiting taking place within Paris Garden Manor, but it is possible that bears were baited in the gaming establishment run by William Baseley at the manor house of Paris Garden (see p. 96) though no written evidence of this has been found. It is likely that the association of "Paris Garden" with the Bear Gardens is a simple transference of name through its use in colloquial speech. Men had grown accustomed to crossing the river to Paris Garden Stairs to take their pleasure in Paris Garden. Later they used the same route but turned east instead of west, and they probably continued to speak of "going to Paris Garden." (fn. n1) In support of this theory it may be noted that in the Token Books for the years 1613–18 the heading "Paris Garden" is inserted before the name of "Mr. Jacob of the beare garden" and "Mr. Edward Allen," in the part of the books relating to the area between Rose Alley and Mosses Alley, i.e. near the site of the alley now known as Bear Gardens. This provides an explanation for the references in the Dulwich College manuscripts to Edward Alleyn and Philip Henslowe at Paris Garden, and is probably the result of the linking of the name Paris Garden with bear-baiting in popular parlance.

In the year 1620 a dispute arose between the Crown and the Bishop of Winchester as to the ownership of the ground in the neighbourhood of the Bear Gardens. The evidence (fn. 142) runs into many pages and is frequently contradictory, but it clearly shows that the bear-baiting rings had been moved several times and that the "Bear Gardens" had by that date become a generic term covering the sheds and kennels in which the bears, bulls and dogs were kept, as well as the actual rings and the adjoining houses, most of which were occupied by persons having some connection with the Bear Gardens.

Apart from one statement about baiting near Mason's Stairs (fn. n2) which cannot be confirmed from other sources, all the witnesses agreed that the Bear Gardens were either on part of the Bishop of Winchester's land leased in 1540 to William Payne and formerly known as the Barge, Bell and Cock, or on the King's land leased in 1552 to Henry Polsted and formerly known as the Unicorn and the Rose (see Plate 59). The deeds of the Polsted property have been traced back to the 14th century (fn. n3) but the first reference to a Bear Garden occurs in the lease of 1552 which included "a capital curtilage called le Beare yarde with le Berehouse and a garden" held by John Allen at a rent of £8 a year. (fn. 145) As noted above the first literary allusion to bear-baiting on Bankside occurs in 1550 and the inference is that it had been recently introduced at that time. It seems certain that either William Payne, who died in 1575, (fn. 146) or his son John, built a bear-baiting ring on the land leased from the Bishop of Winchester and that both this ring and the older one farther south were in use for a time. Stow, describing Bankside in 1598, says: "there be the two Beare-gardens, the old and new places wherein be kept Beares, Bulles, and other beastes, to be bayted. As also Mastiues in seuerall kenels are there nourished to bait them. These Beares … are … bayted in plottes of grounde, scaffolded about for the beholders to stand safe." (fn. 26) A conventionalised view of two rings (one marked "The bolle bayting" and the other "The Bearebayting") and of the dogs ready to leap from their kennels can be seen in the part of the Agas map [date c. 1560] reproduced here, but it is possible that the more easterly of these represents an unrecorded ring on the site of the Rose Theatre. In 1583 "the old and underpropped scaffolds round about the beare garden … overcharged with people fell suddenlie downe, whereby to the number of eight persons men and women were slaine, and manie other sore hurt and brused." (fn. 147)

Figure 36:

Part of the "Agas" map view showing the bull and bear baiting rings

Morgan Pope, goldsmith, obtained an exemplification of the grant of the mastership of the Game of Bears in 1585, (fn. 148) and in 1586 he was paying tithes for the Bear Garden. (fn. 16) Thomas Burnaby bought a lease of the Bear Garden on the Bishop of Winchester's property in 1590 and promptly let it to Richard Reve for a yearly rent of £120 under the description of, (fn. 149) "All that Tenemente whearein one John Napton deceased did latelie inhabyte … on the Banke syde … Togeather Wth the Beare garden and the Scaffoldes houses game and dogges and all other thinges thereunto apperteyninge … excepting such fees as shal be … payable to the maister of the said game." (fn. n4) The schedule of stock included three bulls, nine bears, a horse and an ape.

In 1592 Edward Alleyn, who later founded Dulwich College and who was already a well-known actor, married Joan Woodward, stepdaughter of Philip Henslowe, manager of the Rose Playhouse, (fn. 90) and the two men began a profitable business connection. In 1594 Alleyn bought Burnaby's interest in the Bear Garden for £200, (fn. 151) and in 1596 Henslowe acquired a lease of part of the Polsted property. Henslowe and Alleyn tried to get the office of Master of the Royal Game of Bulls and Bears on the death of Ralph Bowes in 1598, but had to be content with the deputyship under John Dorrington. They were, however, more successful in 1604 when they obtained a grant from James I of the "Office of Cheefe Master, Overseer and Ruler of our beares, Bulls and mastiffe dogges." (fn. 151) Having thus consolidated their position Alleyn and Henslowe started to develop their property. In 1606 they contracted with Peter Streete, carpenter, for £65, to pull down "so much of the tymber or carpenters worke of the foreside of the messuage … called the beare garden, next the river of Thames … as conteyneth in lengthe from outside to outside fyftye and sixe foote … and in bredth from outside to outside sixeteene foote" … and to rebuild the same with "good new sufficient and sounde tymber of oke." (fn. 79) From the detailed specification it appears that it was the entrance gate and outbuildings of the Bear Garden which were rebuilt at this time, (fn. 152) but in 1613 the baiting place itself was demolished and Gilbert Katherens, carpenter, undertook for the sum of £360 to build (fn. 79) "one other game place or plaiehouse fitt and convenient in all thinges bothe for players to plaie in and for the game of Beares and bulls to be bayted in the same, and also a fitt and convenient tyre house and a stage to be carryed or taken awaie and to stand uppon tressels" the whole to be "of suche large compasse, fforme, widenes and height as the plaie housse called the Swan in the libertie of Parris garden." The new theatre, the Hope, was slightly more substantial than the Rose, as part of it was of brick, the brickwork being put in by a sub-contractor, John Browne, bricklayer, at a cost of £80. (fn. 79) The contract with Katherens was made in August and it is probable that Henslowe seized the opportunity given him by the destruction of the Globe Playhouse by fire on 29th June, 1613, to establish another playhouse on Bankside. Philip Henslowe and Jacob Meade, waterman, raised a company of players under the leadership of Nathan Field, and in 1614 they acted Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair at the Hope.


In the time of Elizabeth bear-baiting had been a sport for Sunday afternoons, but the Sunday performances were stopped early in the reign of James I. After the building of the Hope it was used for bear and bull-baiting on Mondays, and for plays during the rest of the week. Plays began at 3 p.m., and the players seem to have been paid by receiving a share of the takings. (fn. n5) (fn. 153)

Among the witnesses called during the dispute of 1620 was John Browne (aged 29), who was presumably the bricklayer employed on the Hope. He stated that "there was a sinke or open gutter for the use . . . of the beare garden on the West side of the old beare garden running southward which is now stopped vpp and that the old dogg Kennells were more westward beyond the same and that the now new playhouse is in part built vppon the said sinke and where the old dogg Kennell stood." He also stated that Henslowe started to lay the foundation of the playhouse on part of the old Bear Garden but that on Edward Alleyn's persuasion he moved it southward a few feet so that it should be wholly on the king's land. (fn. 142) It would appear, therefore, that the Hope stood just south of the Bishop of Winchester's ground on the site marked on the plan on Plate 59. (fn. n6) It was pulled down during the Civil War.

A pothouse and glasshouse had been built on the site by 1671 when John Squibb, the then owner of the Polsted property, leased this portion of it to William Lillingston and others. (fn. 155) More glasshouses, i.e. glass-blowing workshops, were erected there by John Bowles at the end of the 17th century. In 1776 a smith's shop and foundry had replaced the glasshouses. The site is now occupied by the premises of Beck & Pollitzer.

In 1662 James Davies, who had held the office of "Master of . . . [the] Games of Beares, Bulls, etc.," under Charles I petitioned that it might be restored to him, and stated that he and his father had laid out £2,000 in rebuilding the Bear Gardens on Bankside. (fn. 156) They were successful in their application and there are a number of allusions to bear-baiting on Bankside in the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys. The last reference that has been found is in an advertisement published in The Loyal Protestant for 1682.

The Bear Gardens of Charles II's reign were south of Henslowe's. The site is marked on the map of Morden and Lea (1682) and on the map in the 1755 edition of Strype's Stow. It seems probable that the small square into which the narrow alley now known as Bear Gardens opens, about twenty yards north of Maid Lane, marks approximately the site of the last bearbaiting ring. (fn. n7)

2. The Rose Playhouse

The property between the site of Southwark Bridge Road and the narrow thoroughfare known as Rose Alley was granted in 1552 to the parish of St. Mildred, Bread Street by Thomasyn Symonds "widowe of Rauf Symondes, late citizene and fysshemonger of London." It was then known as the Little Rose to distinguish it from the messuage known as the Rose which adjoined it on the west. Philip Henslowe acquired a lease of the Little Rose in 1585 (fn. 79) and two years later entered into partnership with John Cholmley, grocer, for the erection of a playhouse thereon. Cholmley undertook to pay £816 towards the cost and was to have in return half the receipts and a small tenement at the south end of the ground near Maid Lane and Rose Alley "to keepe victualinge in, or to putt to any other vse." (fn. 79) The Rose Playhouse was built by 12th April, 1588, when "Phillip Finchley Morgane Pope & John Napton" were ordered by the Sewer Commissioners "to clense and skower & to lope the willowes yt hang over the common sewer to the great annoysaunce of the same cont' x pole more or les lyeing against ther grownd at ye new plaie house." (fn. 129) Further work was carried out at the Rose in 1592 when the expenses are entered in Henslowe's Diary. They include a number of payments to John Griggs, carpenter, the contractor mentioned in the 1587 agreement. (fn. n8) The accounts indicate that the building was of wood and plaster with a thatched roof over the galleries. It had a flagstaff on which a flag was displayed as a signal for the commencement of performances. References to the Rose as "in Maid Lane" in the Sewer Commission minutes indicate that it was built well back from the river bank.

The Rose Theatre was the first of the four playhouses, the Rose, the Hope, the Swan and the Globe, built near the river bank in Southwark circa 1600. Whether Shakespeare ever acted at the Rose is a matter for conjecture. We know that Lord Strange's men, Lord Pembroke's men and the men of "my Lord Admiral" were among the companies which performed there between 1593 and 1598. From a note in Henslowe's Diary it appears that Ben Jonson contemplated buying a share in the playhouse but that the arrangement fell through. Gabriel Spenser, the actor, whom Ben Jonson killed in a duel in 1598, was acting at the Rose in that year and received a share in the takings of the galleries in April, May and June.

After the opening of the Globe Playhouse in 1599 the Rose declined in popularity. The Earl of Worcester's company performed there in 1602–3 (fn. 154) but no reference has been found to plays there after that date. Henslowe's lease of the ground expired in 1605 and he declined the offer of a renewal at an increased rent (£20 instead of £7 and the lessee to spend 100 marks on building), saying that he would rather pull down the playhouse. (fn. 151) The last reference to the Rose Playhouse that has been found occurs in the Sewer Commission minutes for 25th April, 1606, "It is Ordered that Edward Box of Bredstreete in London shall … pyle boorde & fill up fyve poles . . . of the bancke against the sewar by the Late Playhouse in Maidelane called the Rose."

The land comprised in the Little Rose has, apart from two small portions granted to the Commissioners of the Bishop of Winchester's Liberty and to the Southwark Bridge Company in 1812 and 1815 respectively, remained the property of the parish of St. Mildred, Bread Street, until the present day. (fn. n9) It consists of Nos. 25 and 27 Bankside, Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8 Southwark Bridge Road, and warehouses in Rose Alley and Park Street. (fn. 56)

3. The Swan Playhouse

The Swan Playhouse, in Paris Garden, was built by Francis Langley, who had bought the manor of Paris Garden in 1589. Langley, like Henslowe, was a speculator, who hoped to make money out of the growing demand for entertainment. He was described in 1589 as a "citizen and draper," and he held the office of alnager and searcher of cloth in the City of London. The exact date of the erection of the Swan has not been ascertained but it was after November, 1594, when the Lord Mayor addressed a letter to the Lord Treasurer asking him to prevent Langley from carrying out his project of erecting a new theatre on Bankside. (fn. 148) If John de Witt, who made the sketch of the Swan Playhouse, frequently reproduced in books on the Elizabethan stage, journeyed to England in 1596 as is generally supposed, the playhouse must have been erected in 1595–6. It was certainly in existence before April, 1598, when there is an order in the minute book of St. Saviour's Parish, that the wardens should "speake to Mr. Langlye & Mr. Henslowe & Jacob Meade for Monie for the pore, in Regarde of theire plaies." (fn. 16)

The Swan is shown as the "olde playe house" on the copyholders' plan of the Manor of Old Paris Garden, dated 1627 (see Plate 65). It stood to the south of Upper Ground about 400 feet from the river bank and a little to the west of the lane which afterwards became Green Walk and is now Hopton Street. An exterior view of the playhouse is given on Visscher's map, but it is placed much too close to the river. As stated on p. 69 the Swan formed the model for the Hope Playhouse. Part of the particulars specified for the latter are (fn. 154)

"Two stearecasses without and adioyninge to the saide Playe house … of such largnes and height as the stearecasses of the saide playehouse called the Swan. . . .

"… Heavens all over the saide stage, to be borne or carryed without any postes or supporters to be fixed or sett vppon the saide stage, and all gutters of leade needfull for the carryage of all suche raine water as shall fall vppon the same. . . .

"… two Boxes in the lowermost storie fitt and decent for gentlemen to sitt in, particions betwne the Rommes as they are at the saide Plaie house called the Swan; … turned cullumes vppon and over the stage; … the principalls and fore fronte of the saide Plaie house of good … oken tymber, and no furr tymber to be putt … in the lower most, or midell stories, except the vpright postes on the backparte of the saide stories … the inner principall postes of the first storie to be twelve footes in height and tenn ynches square, the inner principall postes in the midell storie to be eight ynches square, the inner most postes in the vpper storie to be seaven ynches square. . . . Also the brest sommers in the lower moste storie to be nyne ynches depe, and seaven ynches in thicknes . . . a good, sure, and sufficient foundacion of brickes for the saide Play house … xiij teene ynches at the leaste above the grounde." The roof of the playhouse was to be covered with tiles.

After the death of Francis Langley in 1601 references to plays or other entertainments at the Swan become scanty. The last payment made to the overseers of the poor in respect of it was in 1620–1 and the last notice of it which has been found is in a tract called Holland's Leaguer (1632) where it is described as a famous fortress "now fallen to decay, and like a dying Swanne, hanging downe her head, seemed to sing her ownne dierge."

4. The Globe Playhouse

The Globe Playhouse, the Glory of the Bank, was the third and the most famous of the four Bankside playhouses. Many of Shakespeare's plays, including the four great tragedies, were written for and first publicly performed upon its stage, and this, combined with the high standard of acting of Burbage's players, has given it a distinction to which no other theatre has since attained.

On 28th December, 1598, Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, Peter Street and others, pulled down The Theatre, Shoreditch, and transported "all the wood and timber therof unto the Banckside in the parishe of St. Marye Overyes, and there erected a newe playehowse with the sayd timber and woode." (fn. 154) The playhouse was erected on a piece of ground in Maid Lane granted to the Burbages by Nicholas Brend for a period commencing at Christmas, 1598, though the lease was dated 21st February, 1598/9. If the allusion to "this wooden O" in Henry V contains, as is usually supposed, a reference to the Globe, the playhouse was in existence by May or June, 1599, but the reference may possibly be to the Curtain Theatre. In any case the Globe was opened before the end of that year, for the production in 1599 of Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour took place there, (fn. n10) and the contract for the erection of the Fortune, dated 8th January, 1599/1600, refers to "the late erected plaiehowse on the Banck … called the Globe." (fn. 158)

The Globe was burnt down on 29th June, 1613, during a performance of All is True (or Henry VIII). On 8th July John Chamberlaine wrote to Sir Ralph Winwood, (fn. 159) "the burning of the Globe, or Playhouse on the Bankside, on St. Peter's Day … fell out by a Peale of Chambers (that I know not upon what Occasion were to be used in the Play), the Tamplin or Stopple of one of them lighting in the Thatch that covered the House, burn'd it down to the Ground in less than two Hours, with a Dwelling-house adjoyning, and it was a great Marvaile and fair Grace of God, that the People had so little Harm, having but two narrow Doors to get out." The playhouse was at once rebuilt. It was open again by 30th June, 1614, when John Chamberlaine wrote to Alice Carleton that he had called upon her sister Williams, and found her "gone to the New Globe, to a play." (fn. 160) Probably as a prevention against fire the new theatre was tiled instead of thatched.

Among the parish papers of St. Saviour's is a return of buildings made to the Earl Marshall in 1634/5. It refers to "The Globe Playhouse, nere Maidelane, built by the Company of Players, with timber, aboute 20 yeares past, vppon an old foundacion, worth 20 li per Annum, being the Inheritance of Sr Mathewe Brand kt. One house thereto adjoyninge, built aboute the same tyme with tymber in the possession of William Millet, gent', also of the Inheritance of Sr Mathew Brand kt., worth 4 (fn. 11) per Annum." The playhouse was pulled down in 1644 and tenements were erected on the site.

William Shakespeare was connected with the Globe as a shareholder and as a player. The lease of the Globe site was for a term of thirty-one years and it conveyed the property in two equal moieties, the one to the Burbages and the other to William Shakespeare, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope, John Heminges and William Kempe. Shakespeare retained his share at least until 1612.

From 1598 until the end of Elizabeth's reign the stage at the Globe seems to have been occupied solely by the Lord Chamberlain's Company of which Shakespeare had been a member since its inception in 1594. (fn. 154) There seems no doubt that Shakespeare trod the boards there on a number of occasions. James I took the Lord Chamberlain's players under his own protection and by patent dated 19th May, 1603, licensed "Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustyne Phillippes, John Heninges, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowly, and the rest of theire Assosiates freely to vse and exercise the Arte and faculty of playinge Comedies, Tragedies, histories, Enterludes, moralls, pastoralls, Stage plaies aswell for the recreation of our lovinge Subjectes, as for our Solace and pleasure . . . when the infection of the plague shall decrease . . . as well within theire nowe vsual howse called the Globe within our County of Surrey, as alsoe within anie towne halls or Moute halls or other conveniente places within the liberties and freedome of anie other Cittie, vniversitie, towne or Boroughe . . . within our said Realmes." Probably on account of the incidence of the plague in London, the company travelled in the provinces in 1602–3. During the winter of 1603–4 it gave eight plays at Court; one of these, Ben Jonson's Sejanus, was the last performance in which Shakespeare is known to have taken part.

The exact site of the Globe has been the subject of much controversy. In 1920–24 W. W. Braines carried out an exhaustive examination of the available evidence and came to the conclusion that the Globe stood on the south side of Maid Lane (now Park Street) at or near the place where it is crossed by Southwark Bridge Road (see Plate 59). (fn. 158) Further research carried out in connection with this volume and the evidence of the 1618 map of Southwark which has recently come to light at the City Guildhall (see Plate 1 and page 133) have confirmed his conclusions. (fn. n11) For a detailed history of the site and an analysis of the evidence on which it is based the reader is referred to Mr. Braines's book. The position chosen by the Shakespeare Reading Society for the erection of a commemorative plaque (on the wall of the Anchor Brewery next to No. 25 Park Street) is about 20 feet too far east.

5. Shakespeare in Southwark

There is no doubt that Shakespeare acted in Southwark but his residence there is another matter. The mass of Shakespearian bibliography grows year by year but the proven facts about his life are few. There is in existence a considerable body of parochial, manorial and other records relating to Southwark for the period during which Shakespeare could have been in London, and, in preparation for this volume, every effort has been made to locate and search these records. In particular the token books, vestry minute books and other records of St. Saviour's parish and the court rolls of the manor of Paris Garden have been thoroughly examined. No fresh evidence has been found to confirm the oft-repeated statement that Shakespeare lived in Southwark. The reasons usually cited to support this statement are as follows—


1. The probability that Shakespeare as an actor at the Globe would have chosen to live near the playhouse.

Some, but not many, of his fellow actors are shown by the token books, etc., to have lived near Bankside; the rest presumably came across the river by boat or by London Bridge as most of the playgoers did.

The token books, which list the names of residents eligible to take Communion, are extant for the Clink Liberty of St. Saviour's Parish for each year from 1596 to 1610 with the exception of 1601 and 1603. Of the eight actors appointed with Shakespeare to be "King's Men" in the Letters Patent of 1603, three, Lawrence Fletcher (1604–10), Augustine Phillips (1593–1604), and William Sly (1593–97), are shown in the token books as living in the neighbourhood of Bankside at the dates indicated in brackets. Edward Juby, Martin Slater and Alexander Cook, who are all known to have been actors, also occur in the token books while Edmund Shakespeare is shown in Hunts Rents, Maid Lane, in 1607, the year of his death. The name of William Shakespeare does not occur.

2. The statements of Edmund Malone and J. Payne Collier.

Malone, in 1796, (fn. 164) wrote: "From a paper now before me, which formerly belonged to Edward Alleyn, the player, our poet appears to have lived in Southwark, near the Bear Garden, in 1596. Another curious document in my possession, which will be produced in the History of his Life, affords the strongest presumptive evidence that he continued to reside in Southwark to the year 1608." Unfortunately Malone's Life of Shakespeare, in his edition of the plays published in 1821, (fn. 153) does not contain this document and, unless the 1596 paper is that mentioned below as being printed by Collier, neither of these documents are now extant among the Alleyn manuscripts at Dulwich College, nor have they been traced elsewhere.

In 1841 in his Memoirs of Edward Alleyn Collier (fn. 165) quoted Malone's statement and, while making no comment about the 1596 reference, printed a document dated 1609 which he thought might be the second one referred to by Malone who could have mistaken the year. Two copies of the 1609 document, which is a list of inhabitants of the Clink Liberty assessed for Poor Rate, are still extant at Dulwich. The first is a contemporary document, but the line "Mr. Shakespeare —Vid" is undoubtedly a later insertion, "the ink being of a different colour and the letters betraying the forger by their studied tremulous imitation of the original hand." (fn. 79) The second copy is "an unquestionable forgery from beginning to end."

Among the Dulwich manuscripts is a paper headed "Inhabitants of Southerk as have complaned this [ ] Jully 1596," which includes the name "Mr. Shaksper." Collier printed this paper as genuine in 1844 (fn. 166) and James Halliwell-Phillipps writing four years later (fn. 167) accepted it as the paper referred to by Malone, though he thought that the latter might have had other papers "detailing more particularly the object of complaint." The extant paper has since "been justly condemned as a forgery." (fn. 79)

3. The evidence of the subsidy and pipe rolls.

In 1596/7 and 1597/8 William Shakespeare of the parish of St. Helen, Bishopsgate, was assessed to pay contributions to the lay subsidy of 5s. and 13s. 4d. respectively, but defaulted. In the Pipe Roll for 1597/8 is a note referring to the heading "Res[iduum] Sussex" in the following roll. There the amount of 13s. 4d. is again entered against the name "Willms Shakspeare" but a marginal note is added "on[eratur] Ep[iscop]o Winton[ensi]." In the next roll Shakespeare's name does not occur but the bishop of Winchester accounts for a sum of money "of the issues of divers persons" which had been referred to him by the Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex. If these issues (including Shakespeare's) are picked out of the preceding roll and added together they amount to within a few pence of the sum rendered by the bishop and it can therefore be assumed that the latter collected Shakespeare's debt. (fn. 168)

On the ground that the bishop of Winchester was the owner of the Clink Liberty in Southwark this set of entries has been accepted as an indication that Shakespeare moved from St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, to Southwark in 1596/7. This deduction implies two assumptions; that the William Shakespeare of the subsidy roll is the William Shakespeare of the Globe and that the bishop of Winchester collected debts from him because he had come to live in the Clink Liberty. We may perhaps accept the first assumption since the name is uncommon, though no other evidence is forthcoming of a connection with St. Helen's parish. The second assumption, though plausible, is by no means certain. The collection of tax may have been made by the bishop as a matter of convenience because Shakespeare was part owner of the Globe in the Clink, or, since the bishop owned many other properties, because of a residence elsewhere.

An impartial review of the existing evidence for Shakespeare's residence in Southwark can only lead to the verdict "not proven." In this as in so many ways Shakespeare the man remains a mystery.


  • n1. Such a transference of name is not unusual. In recent years the Arsenal Station at Highbury, has acquired its name because crowds use it on their way to see football played by a team which was originally associated with Woolwich Arsenal. Mr. Kingsford makes the alternative suggestion that the confusion may have arisen because Sir Richard Longe "Master of the game of bears" to Henry VIII, was also steward of the Manor of Paris Garden when it was in the hands of the Crown after 1536.
  • n2. John Taylor, aged 77, deposed: "that he remembreth that the game of bearebayting hath been kept in fower severall places (vizt) at Mason Steares on the bankside, neere Maidlane by the Corner of the Pykegarden, and at the beare garden wch was parcell of the possession of William Payne and the place where they are now kept." Mason's Stairs are still in existence opposite the end of White Hind Alley (see Plate ). There is no reference to a Bear Garden in the deeds relating to the Great Pike Garden and the land in the neighbourhood, unless the "howse called a Beare howse" said to be "late in the Tenure of … Gilbert Rockett thelder" and mentioned in the litigation over this property in 1604 can be so construed. It is most probable, however, that a "beer" house, not a "bear" house, is meant.
  • n3. The Polsted property comprised the possessions of the priory of the nuns of Stratford at Bow on Bankside, including the Unicorn and the King's Pike Garden and the tenement called the Rose. The latter had been sold by William Spence to Henry Polsted in 1537 under the description of "all that his Tenement and gardens sometyme called The Rose, set and being vpon the Stewes banke … That is to saye bitwene the Tenement and garden of Raff Symonds [known as the little Rose, the ground on which the Rose Theatre later stood] … of the East parte, and the tenement called the Barge and the garden late belonging to [the] priores of Stratford on the West parte, and dothe extende from the water of Thamys ayenst the Northe vnto Mayden lane on the South parte."
  • n4. A man called Wistow is stated in the evidence given in 1620 to have succeeded Payne as deputy master of the "Game of Beares." We know that Robert Wystowe held a "beare yerde" from Alice Polsted, widow of Henry Polsted, in 1559; but in a manuscript list of deeds belonging to Edward Alleyn concerning the Bear Garden there is also mention of a ratification from Joan Payne to "Wistoe" and of "Wistoes sale to Napton of Paynes lease." It would seem, therefore, that Wistow was a tenant of both Bear Gardens and that the Bear Garden of which Thomas Burnaby was lessee, and which had previously been in the tenure of John Napton, was on the ground leased by the Bishop of Winchester to William Payne, i.e., the Barge, Bell and Cock.
  • n5. Later less time was given to plays. A manuscript continuation of Stow's Annales' contains this account of the theatre "The Hope on the Bankside in Southwarke, commonly called the Beare Garden, a playhouse for stage-playes on Mondayes, Wednesdayes, Fridayes, and Saterdayes; and for the Baiting of the Beares on Tuesdayes and Thursdayes, the stage being made to take up and downe when they please. It was built in the year 1610 and now pulled downe to make tennements by Thomas Walker, a petticoate maker in Cannon Streete, on Tuesday, the 25 day of March, 1656. Seven of Mr. Godfries beares, by the command of Thomas Pride, then hie Sheriefe of Surry, were then shot to death, on Saterday, the 9 day of February, 1655, by a Company of Souldiers." Bearbaiting had been suppressed by the House of Commons in 1642.
  • n6. The bishop's land is shown on the plan as it was when it was sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1866 but there is no reason to think that it had varied in extent since the 16th century.
  • n7. The last "Bear Garden" was also on the Polsted property which had been granted to Richard Sydenham by Charles I and sold by his heir, Sir Edward Sydenham to John Squibb. By a long series of transactions recited in a deed of 19th November, 1776, between John Stevens and others, the property came into the hands of George Birch and John Mander. The deed contains a full description of the development of the property. It shows that by 1693 the site of the last Bear Garden was being used for glasshouses and that in 1776 it was known as Glasshouse Square.
  • n8. Ordish suggests that the playhouse was not built until 1592 but the 1588 reference disproves this. Just over £100 was spent in 1592 and a wooden building might easily require extensive repair after four or five years' use.
  • n9. A small plaque fixed to the wall at the south-east corner of Rose Alley records this fact.
  • n10. Every Man out of his Humour is ascribed to 1599 in the Folio of 1606. Shakespeare's name is not included among the "principall Comoedians" who took part in this play.
  • n11. The land on which the Globe stood was bought by Thomas Brend, citizen and scrivener of London, from John Yong, a member of the Skinners' Company, in 1554, and it remained in the possession of the Brend family until the beginning of the eighteenth century. In March, 1623/4, Sir Matthew Brend increased the jointure of Dame Frances, his wife, by "all that the messuage or tenemente and all that the Playhouse comonly called … the Globe … set … in or neere Mayden Lane … now or late being in the possession or occupacion of John Heminges Cutbert Burbage, Richard Burbage, Willm. Shakespare, or any of them." In 1655 twelve messuages, most of which were stated to have been built "where the late playhouse called the Globe stood" were settled by Sir Matthew as a jointure for his future daughter-in-law Judith, daughter of Sir Robert Smith. A comparison of the names of the tenants of these messuages with those of the subscribers to the Hearth Tax for the early years of Charles II's reign, and a careful study of the evidence brought forward during the litigation which took place over this property at the beginning of the eighteenth century show that the messuages lay between Blue Anchor Passage and the eastern boundary of the Bishop of Winchester's property in Maid Lane, with a frontage of 156 feet to the street. If this position is plotted on a modern ordnance map it will be found to extend approximately from the west side of Southwark Bridge Road to the east side of No. 27, Park Street. The "jointure" plot extended about 200 feet south to the common sewer. It included the site of the parish workhouse.
  • 4. Cal. of L. and P., Henry VIII.
  • 11. Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the existing state of the Corporation of the City of London …, 1854.
  • 16. Vestry Minute Books of St. Saviour's.
  • 26. Stow's Survey of London, 1st ed., 1598.
  • 56. Returns of Endowed Charities, vol. II, 1899.
  • 79. Cat. of the Manuscripts and Muniments of Alleyn's College of God's Gift at Dulwich, by Geo. F. Warner, 1881.
  • 90. W. Young, History of Dulwich College, II.
  • 129. L.C.C. Min. of Surr. and Kent Sewers Com.
  • 139. E.E.T.S. Extra Series XV. Select works of R. Crowley, p. 16.
  • 140. Two notable sermons by John Bradford: Preface by Thos. Sampson.
  • 141. Article on "Paris Garden and the Bearbaiting," by C. L. Kingsford in Archaeologia, vol. 70.
  • 142. P.R.O., E/134, 18 Jas. I, Mich. 10.
  • 143. P.R.O., C 2, Jas. I, S.I./39.
  • 144. P.R.O., Anc. Deed E 326/12364.
  • 145. P.R.O., L.R. 2, 190 f. 98.
  • 146. P.R.O., Req. 2/cviii/5.
  • 147. Holinshed's Chronicle, 1587 ed., vol. III, p. 1353.
  • 148. T. F. Ordish, Early London Theatres, 1894.
  • 149. P.R.O., Anc. Deed C 146/8581.
  • 150. P.R.O., C 3/139/4.
  • 151. Henslowe's Papers, ed. W. W. Greg.
  • 152. Article by W. J. Lawrence and W. H. Godfrey in the Architectural Review, vol. XLVII, June, 1920. Conjectural plans and elevations of the building are given.
  • 153. Ed. Malone, The plays and poems of William Shakespeare, 1821, vol. XXI.
  • 154. E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, vol. II.
  • 155. P.R.O., CP 43/833.
  • 156. P.R.O., S.P. 29/448/36.
  • 157. P.R.O., CP 43/776.
  • 158. W. W. Braines, The site of the Globe Playhouse, 1924.
  • 159. Winwood, Memorials, vol. III, p. 469.
  • 160. Birch, The Court and Times of James I, vol. I, p. 329.
  • 161. P.R.O., C 54/504.
  • 162. P.R.O., C 54/2594.
  • 163. P.R.O., Chanc. Proc. Reynardson 320/16.
  • 164. An inquiry into the authenticity of certain miscellaneous papers … attributed to Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry, Earl of Southampton, by Edmond Malone, 1796.
  • 165. Memoirs of Edward Alleyn, by J. Payne Collier, 1841.
  • 166. The Works of William Shakespeare … with … a life of the poet, by J. P. Collier, 1844.
  • 167. The life of William Shakespeare, by James Orchard Halliwell Phillipps, 1848.
  • 168. P.R.O., E 372/443–446, 39–42 Eliz.