Category Archives: Leisure

London – The First Theatres – 1613 – The Globe

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1613 – The Globe

The Globe Theatre was the scene of Shakespeare’s exertions as an actor, and here many of his best pieces were first performed. The Globe was burnt down on St. Peter’s day, the 29th of June, 1613. The fire originated, according to Winwood, with the mimic discharges in Shakespeare’s play of Henry VIII, when the rushes of the roof caught fire; and he adds, that the attention of the audience was so much engaged with the actors, that they did not notice it. Fortunately, however, there were few or no accidents, a circumstance alluded to in an old ballad of the time, of which the following is the first stanza.

“Now sit thee down, Melpomene,
Wrapt in a sea coal robe;
And tell the doleful tragedie
That late was play’d at Globe:

For noe man that can singe and say e,
Was scar’d on St. Peter’s day.
Oh sorrow, pittifull sorrow; and yett all this
is true.”

The theatre was rebuilt in the following year, in so superior a manner, that Taylor, in his epigram, calls it a stately theatre:

“As gold is better that’s in fire tried,
So is the Bankside Globe, that late was burn’d;
For where before it had a thatched hide,
Now to a stately theatre is turn’d.”

Although the interior arrangements of the theatre in the time of Shakespeare did not, in their leading features, differ from those observed at the present day, yet the construction was rude and inconvenient; galleries were formed on three sides of the house, and beneath them were rooms, which were equivalent to our boxes: and there is reason to believe they were occasionally the property of individuals, and not let commonly. The stage was divided into two parts, namely, an upper and a lower stage; an advantage which was particularly felt in representing the playscene in the tragedy of Hamlet. The musicians did not intervene between the pit and the stage, but were stationed in an elevated balcony, nearly occupying that part of the house now denominated the upper stagebox. At the private theatres seats were placed on the stage for critics and amateurs, a privilege by which Dekker says,

“you have a signed patent to engross the whole commodity of censure; may lawfully presume to be a guider and stand at the helm to steer the passage of scenes.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1629

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1629

When the first London theatre was built, or where it was actually situated, seems doubtful; but early in the reign of Elizabeth, the Curtain, the Red Bull, and the Globe theatres, were all flourishing. The love of the drama appears to have spread with singular rapidity; for Rymer, in his Fosdera, relates, that in the sixty years preceding [1629], no less than seventeen “common play houses” were built in and about London, “five inns or common osteries were turned to playhouses, one cockpit, St. Paul’s singing school, the Globe on the Bankside, the Fortune near Golden Lane, one in White Fryars, etc. besides the new built Bear-gardens, built as well for plays as fencers, bear and bull-baiting.”

Popular, however, as plays were, they appear to have yielded in royal estimation to bear-baiting; and there is an order of the privy council of Queen Elizabeth in 1591 extant, which prohibits plays been acted on Thursdays, because they “were a great hurt and destruction of the game of bear-baiting and like pastimes, which are maintained for her majesty’s pleasure” on those days. Among the early London theatres, the Globe is entitled to the first notice, on account of its connection with the great magician of the drama.

Pennant was so anxious to identify Shakespeare with the Globe Theatre, that in a map he has given, purporting to be a plan of London and Westminster in the year 1563, he has introduced the singular anachronism of “Shakespeare’s play-house,” although the immortal bard was not born until the following year; nor the Globe Theatre built on the site of an amphitheatre for bear-baiting in Bank side, Southwark, until the year 1596-8. It is a round building of wood, a circumstance which seems to be alluded to by Shakespeare in the play of Henry V.

“Can this cock-pit hold
The field of vasty France? or can we cram
Into this wooden O, the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?”

The house was very spacious, the partial roof was covered with rushes, but the area was open. On the turret or roof a silk flag, the usual emblem of places of amusement, was displayed; and in the front of the building was a painting, exhibiting Hercules supporting the globe, with the motto,; Totus mundus agit histrionem.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1574 – Patents

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1574 – Patents

When dramatic representations ceased to be founded on religious subjects, they were no longer performed in churches, as was the case sometimes with the mysteries and moralities, and playhouses became necessary. The convenient form of the  inns (still preserved in many of them) in London, with an open area in the centre, and a gallery on each side of the quadrangle, presented itself as a theatre ready made, with the exception of the stage; this was easily raised either in the centre or on one side of the court, and thus many of our early dramatic pieces were performed in the yards of the inns. Even the first theatres were but a very slight improvement, for the area or pit was generally exposed to the air.

The first company of players that received the sanction of a patent, was that of James Burbidge and others, the servants of the Earl of Leicester, to whom Queen Elizabeth granted a patent in [1574]. The children of the royal chapel, afterwards called the children of the Revels, were next formed into a company; and the Lord Admiral and Lord Strange had each a company of players, who occasionally exhibited at the houses of their patrons, or in other parts of the town. Stowe states, that Lord Strange’s players performed an obnoxious play at the Cross Keys in 1589 and although the lord treasurer had requested the lord mayor to suppress it, they disobeyed the order, which induced his lordship to commit two of them to the Compter, and to prohibit all plays until the pleasure of the lord treasurer was known. Previous to this time the plays were complained of as personal satires; and so early as the year [1574], Sir James Hawes, lord mayor, issued a proclamation in which he claimed for himself and the court of aldermen, the privilege now exercised by the lord chamberlain, of perusing and sanctioning the plays previous to their being acted. A penalty of five pounds and fourteen days imprisonment were inflicted on all actors of plays, “wherein should be uttered any words, examples or doings of any unchastity, sedition, or such like unfit and uncomely matter.” Yet it was provided that this act “should not extend to plays performed in private houses, the lodgings of a nobleman, citizen or gentleman, for the celebration of any marriage or other festivity, and where no collection of money was made from the auditors.”

It appears from Stowe, that the first players were “ingenious tradesmen and gentlemen’s servants,” who united in a company of themselves “to learn interludes, to expose vice, or to represent the noble actions of our ancestors;” but that in process of time it became an occupation, when the players publicly “uttered popular and seditious matters, and shameful speeches; and these plays being commonly acted on Sundays and festivals, the churches were forsaken, and the play houses thronged.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

 

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

Rude as the early dramatic and scenic representations in the metropolis may now seem, they were proofs of an advance in intellectual knowledge and refinement of manners beyond those of our continental neighbours. To England, Germany was indebted for the drama, and in France it only became worthy of notice half a century after Shakespeare had raised it to its zenith of glory in England.

The mysteries, those precursors of the regular drama, which consisted of dramatic representations of religious subjects, either from the Old or New Testament, apocryphal story, or lives of the saints, are clearly proved to have been known in this country in the year 1110, which is more than a century earlier than the first record of them in Italy, where, according to  Dr. Burney, they were not known until the year 1243, when a spiritual comedy was represented at Padua. Matthew of Paris relates, that in the year 1110, Geoffrey, a learned Norman master of the school of the abbey of Dunstable, composed the play of St. Catherine, which was acted by his scholars; and Fitz-stephen, who wrote in 1174, speaks of the mysteries as quite common in the metropolis: “London,” he says, “for its theatrical exhibitions has religious plays, either the representations of miracles wrought by holy confessors, or the sufferings of martyrs.”

That the mysteries were one of the means used by the priests to sustain the Roman Catholic religion, is evident from the pope granting pardons and indulgences to those who attended some mysteries that were represented at Chester about the year 1398. By this time they had become so popular that the audience wished to have them in English, and it is related in one of the Harleian MS. in the British Museum, that the author of the Chester plays, Ranolph Higden, “was thrice at Rome before he could obtain leave of the pope to have them in the English tongue;”  the objection of the pope was no doubt that which the Roman Catholic church so often feels against the people being acquainted with the sacred Scriptures. The inference from this is, that the ancient mysteries were performed in Latin, and yet neither Matthew of Paris nor Fitz-stephen assert this.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – Public Gardens – Vauxhall Gardens

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s public gardens, also known as tea-gardens, in the 18th Century.

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London – Public Gardens – Vauxhall Gardens

For upwards of a century and a half, Vauxhall Gardens, which are situated on the banks of the Thames near Kennington, have, though with various degrees of popularity, continued to be a favourite place of public amusement. It is said the gardens were planted in the reign of Charles I., nor is it improbable, since, according to Aubrey, they were well known in [1667], when Sir Samuel Morel and, the proprietor, added a public room to them, “the inside of which,” he says, “is all looking-glass, and fountains very pleasant to behold, and which is much visited by strangers.”

Addison and the other Essayists of that period all notice Vauxhall as a place of fashionable resort. The entertainments at that time seem to have been entirely of a musical description, nor were they extended to any thing else until the eccentric Jonathan Tyers took the premises; he altered the house considerably, planted several trees, formed shady walks, and opened the gardens with a ridotto al fresco. The success he met with for some seasons, induced and enabled him to make many embellishments in the gardens, and to employ the talents of Hogarth and Hayman in some excellent paintings; and a fine statue of Handel was executed for the gardens by Roubiliac.

The amusements at Vauxhall have been frequently varied, but generally consist of vocal and instrumental music, performed in a large orchestra erected in the gardens. There are also fire-works on a very extensive scale, rope dancing, ballets, ombres Chimris, hydraulics, cosmoramas, etc. Of late years some new buildings have been erected, capable of accommodating several thousands of persons, and entertaining them with various amusements in case of rain; the walks are illuminated with numerous variegated lamps, which are arranged with great taste. The company, which unites the extremes of society, has been known to amount to fifteen thousand persons, most of whom, independent of the price of admission, take refreshments in the gardens.

In [1812], the magistrates of Surrey refused to license the gardens on account of the proprietors having permitted masquerades, but after an explanation the license was renewed. In July [1813], these gardens were the scene of one of the most splendid fetes ever given in this country, in honour of the victory of Vittoria, which was attended by the royal family, and nearly the whole of the fashionable world then in town.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

London Pleasure Gardens in the 1800s on Wikipedia

Marylebone Gardens on Wikipedia

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – Public Gardens – 1770 – Bermondsey Spa

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of Londons public gardens, also known as tea-gardens, in the 18th Century.

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London – Public Gardens – 1770 – Bermondsey Spa

On the Surrey side of the Thames there were formerly several public gardens. The most respectable was the Bermondsey Spa, in Grange Road, Bermondsey. The spring, which was chalybeate, was discovered in [1770]; but some years previous to this time, Mr. Thomas Keyse, the proprietor of the gardens, a self-taught artist, rendered them attractive by exhibiting a collection of his own paintings, principally subjects of still life, which possessed considerable merit. Keyse afterwards obtained a license for opening his gardens with musical entertainments during the summer season. Burlettas were also sometimes performed on small temporary stages, erected in the garden. Fireworks were occasionally introduced; and one season Mr. Keyse constructed an immense model, which covered four acres of ground, of Gibraltar, in order to represent the memorable siege of that place in [1782]. The height of the rock was upwards of fifty feet, and the exhibition was as popular as it was creditable to the mechanical ingenuity of Mr. Keyse, but his talents were almost thrown away from the unfavourable situation in which they were exerted.

Cupers Gardens, near the New Cut, Lambeth, were once celebrated for their fire-works, and were occasionally visited by Frederick Prince of Wales, the grandfather of his present Majesty, and his Consort. The company was entertained with the usual amusements at such places; but the gardens soon became a scene of low dissipation, and they were suppressed in [1753]. The Dog and Duck, and the Apollo Gardens, were of a similar character.

Independent of the public gardens in the immediate environs of the metropolis, attempts have been made to introduce them at some distance from town; and in the year 1742, Ruckholt House, Leyton, Essex, which is said to have been once the mansion of Queen Elizabeth, was opened by Mr. Barton, the proprietor, with public breakfasts, weekly concerts, and occasional orations, but the distance from town was unfavourable, and the entertainments were not continued more than four years. Several of the taverns near London have large gardens, which are much frequented in the summer season, although they possess no attractions beyond the sale of refreshments.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

London Pleasure Gardens in the 1800s on Wikipedia

Marylebone Gardens on Wikipedia

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – Public Gardens – 1700s – White Conduit House

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of Londons public gardens, also known as tea-gardens, in the 18th Century.

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London – Public Gardens – 1700s – White Conduit House

White Conduit House, where the humbler class of the inhabitants hie, merry-hearted, on a Sunday, is one of the most celebrated of all the tea-gardens in the neighbourhood of London, numerous as they are. The house takes its name from an old stone conduit, erected in the year [1641], which supplied the charter-house with water through a leaden pipe. The garden of White Conduit House is very spacious, and a neighbouring field was formerly attached to it as a cricket-ground, where a club of noblemen and gentlemen assembled to practise that game. This house was some years ago occupied by a Mr.  Christopher Bartholomew, a gentleman whose unconquerable passion for gaming in the lottery reduced him to beggary, notwithstanding he was at one time worth £50,000, and had several lucky hits, one of which he celebrated by fete champeire in these gardens, “to commemorate the smiles of fortune,” as the tickets of admission expressed it; it was, however, no wonder that he was ruined, as he sometimes spent two thousand guineas a day in insurance in the lottery, selling his stacks of hay or any thing to raise the money. The last thirteen years of his life were passed in great poverty, yet still his passion never forsook him; and when towards the close of his life he got about £600 by a new adventure in the lottery, and had purchased an annuity with the money, he sold it again to indulge in his fatal propensity.

Near White Conduit House was formerly another tea-garden, called d’Aubigny’s, which is memorable from the circumstance of its being the first place where equestrian exercises were exhibited in London, and that with so much ability, that if the accounts of contemporaries are to be relied on, we suspect that Price and Sampson, the equestrians of the middle of last century, exhibited as extraordinary feats of horsemanship as are to be seen at the Royal Amphitheatre at the present day.

There are several other tea-gardens much frequented on Sundays, but they appear rapidly declining in popularity; and Bagnigge Wells, once the residence of the celebrated favourite of Charles II., Nell Gwynne, is by no means respectably attended.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

London Pleasure Gardens in the 1800s on Wikipedia

Marylebone Gardens on Wikipedia

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – Public Gardens – 1733 – Islington Spa

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s public gardens, also known as tea-gardens, in the 18th Century.

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London – Public Gardens – 1733 – Islington Spa

Islington was long celebrated for its public gardens; for, in addition to White Conduit House, and Bagnigge Wells, now mere tea-gardens, there were the New Tunbridge Wells, or Islington Spa, and Sadler’s Wells, which have been erroneously confounded as the same by most of the London local historians. The Islington Spa, a spring of chalybeate water, now in a small garden in Lloyd’s Row, near the New River Head, was discovered about the year [1690], and was opened to the poor gratis, provided they did not go out of mere curiosity, but with a certificate from a surgeon or an apothecary. A few years afterwards, as we learn by an advertisement of the year [1700], there was “music for dancing all day long every Monday and Thursday during the summer season,” but, with a due regard to public morals, no masks were admitted.

In 1733, the Islington Spa rose to the very height of popularity, in receiving the patronage of royalty. Their royal highnesses the Princesses Amelia and Caroline having been recommended the use of chalybeate waters, repaired to Islington Spa daily during the season of that year. Their example was soon followed by the nobility and gentry to such an extent, that the proprietor frequently took £30. in a single morning. The birthdays of the princesses were always celebrated at the Islington Spa, with discharges of artillery, bonfires, and other testimonials of joy. The breakfast-room, which was forty feet long, contained an orchestra at one end, and the testimonials of the virtues of the mineral waters, written by persons who had experienced its beneficial effects, more numerous (and certainly more authentic) than any dealer in a patent medicine could produce. Even the trees in the walks were converted into an album for the purpose, and the bark of one of them bore the following inscription, curiously cut in the bark:-

“Obstructum reserat; durum terit; humidum siccat; Debile, fortificat, -si tamen art bibas.”

The gardens were for some time opened with music and fire-works and other amusements, to which the more rational entertainment of an orrery and evening lectures was added in Lent.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

London Pleasure Gardens in the 1800s on Wikipedia

Marylebone Gardens on Wikipedia

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – Public Gardens – 1700s – Ranelagh

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s public gardens, also known as tea-gardens, in the 18th Century.

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London – Public Gardens – 1700s – Ranelagh

The ancient sports and pastimes of the citizens of London have already been noticed. When the more chivalrous, but less refined, of these amusements had passed away, and a love of music and the drama had succeeded, a new species of entertainment sprung up, which, to these attractions, united those of sociability and an indulgence in the pleasures of the table. These were obtained at the public gardens, which, in the early part of the last century, were so numerous in the metropolis. The entertainments usually consisted of music, vocal and instrumental; fire-works and transparencies were displayed, and sometimes burlettas, or other dramatic pieces performed. Of these once popular places of amusement, Vauxhall is the only one that retains its original character, the others having either entirely disappeared, and their sites been occupied with buildings, or they have sunk into common tea-gardens, where the humbler classes of society relax on a Sunday evening in summer, and indulge themselves with a glass of “home-brewed ale,” or their wives and families with a cup of tea.

The most celebrated, and one of the most recent of these gardens was Ranelagh, near Chelsea, once the seat of a nobleman of that name. On his death, in 1733, the estate was sold, and fell into the hands of some speculative gentlemen, who determined on forming it into a place of public amusement, similar to Vauxhall, which had just risen into popularity. In the fitting up the gardens, a magnificent rotunda was erected, a hundred and fifty feet in diameter, in which was an orchestra, with numerous boxes and seats for the audience. The entertainments principally consisted of vocal and instrumental music. The rotunda was opened with a public breakfast, in April 1742, which was followed by a concert. The inhabitants of London are, however, too much occupied to assemble in sufficient numbers for entertainments in the day; and the morning concerts at Ranelagh were soon relinquished for evening amusements. For some years the tide of fashion set strong in favour of Ranelagh, which was one of the most attractive resorts of the gay world; but afterwards ceasing to be popular, the proprietors, in [1803], raised the building to the ground, and sold the materials. The price of admission was half-a-crown.

Mary-la-Bonne Gardens occupied the site of Manchester-square; they were not formed into a place of regular amusement until the year [1737], when Mr. Gough, the proprietor, who had before kept them gratuitously open, charged a shilling to each person, who in return received a ticket, which enabled him to have victuals or liquor to the full amount of the money paid on entering the gardens. Charles Dibdin and Charles Bannister made their debut, when youths, in Mary-la-Bonne Gardens, where very splendid fetes were frequently given, particularly on the birth-day of his late majesty. Fire-works, and a representation of Mount Etna, were among the amusements. A sort of fair was once held in the gardens, which were on that occasion fitted up with numerous shops and booths.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

London Pleasure Gardens in the 1800s on Wikipedia

Marylebone Gardens on Wikipedia

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – Fairs – 1731

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London Fairs in the 18th Century particularly the Bartholomew Fair one of the greatest London Fairs of the time.

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London – Fairs – 1731

Bartholomew FairIn another bill, of a later period (1731) a piece was performed, entitled, “The Emperor of China,” written by the author of the “Generous Freemason”. Who this author is, is not stated, but we find the latter piece to have been written by William Rufus Chetwood, who was the tutor of the celebrated Barry, and for twenty years prompter at Drury-lane theatre.

Bartholomew Fair theatricals do not appear to have been thought so contemptible formerly as at present, for both Shuter and Yates had booths there in [1761], when the prices of admission were half-a-crown for the boxes, 1s. 6d. the pit, and a shilling to the gallery.

Dramatic representations, or rather misrepresentations, still prevail at the fair, but they are of the most wretched description. Formerly the lord mayor used to proceed in great state to Smithfield, and after proclaiming the fair, wait to see a wrestling match. The proclamation of the fair by his lordship is still continued, but with much less pageantry than formerly.

Two other fairs were held in London, in Tothillfields, and at Stepney; but these have been suppressed, as have those of Bow, Edmonton, Brook Green, and West End, all in the immediate neighbourhood of London. There is another fair, which, though at some distance from town, claims a notice on account of its popularity with almost all ranks in the metropolis. This is Fairlop Fair, which is held on the first Friday of July, in Hainault forest. This fair was founded by Daniel Day, an eminent block maker in Wapping, who, having an estate in Essex, used to assemble a few friends around him on the 1st of July, under a huge oak in the forest, to dine on beans and bacon. Public curiosity was at length attracted to the spot from this circumstance, and a fair established, which, in fine weather, is frequented by thousands from the metropolis, the block-makers proceeding in a huge boat, rigged like a ship, which is mounted on a carriage and drawn by six horses.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy