Category Archives: Social Change

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 – 1240 – Clerkenwell

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 – 1240 – Clerkenwell

The most eminent performers of the ancient mysteries in London were the parish clerks, who were incorporated about the year 1240; and one of the principal scenes of these exhibitions was at the Skinner’s Well, in Rag-street, or, as it is now called, Ray-street, Clerkenwell. One of the most remarkable of these mysteries, as has already been stated, was performed here on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of July, 1391, when they had for an audience Richard the Second, his queen and court. Another mystery on a more extended scale was performed here in 1409, before Henry the Fourth, several nobles, and the principal citizens: one of the mysteries was founded on the creation of the world, and the performances were extended to eight days.

Few, in London, are the memorials of the olden time that are preserved on modern buildings, a circumstance which is much regretted; to the honour, however, of the inhabitants of Clerkenwell, they have recorded the celebrity which the parish once possessed, by causing the following inscription to be placed in letters of iron on the pump on the east side of Raystreet.

“A.D. 1800. WILLIAM BOUND, JOSEPH BIRD, Churchwardens. For the better accommodation of the neighbourhood, this pump was removed to the spot where it now stands.

The spring by which it is supplied is situated four feet eastward, and round it, as history informs us, the parish clerks of London, in remote ages, commonly performed sacred plays. That custom caused it to be denominated Clerk’s well, and from whence this parish derived its name.

The water was greatly esteemed by the prior and brethren of the order of St John of Jerusalem and the Benedictine nuns in the neighbourhood.

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

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Special Envoy

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Special Envoy

We left Labuan at the end of February, and after calling in at Sarawak, proceeded to Singapore, where a budget of news awaited us. The English Governor had appointed Sir James as Special Envoy to proceed to Siam and Cochin China to form treaties with those states; at the same time we heard of the renewal of virulent attacks on the Rajah’s policy by certain journals and Members of Parliament. After a pleasant stay of a fortnight, we proceeded to Penang in the hope that we should all shake off the fever and ague contracted during our exhausting expeditions.

No man loved nature more than did the Rajah, and he enjoyed his stay on this lofty hill. He could ride, or wander among the lovely flowers and plants of the Governor’s garden, or he could gaze on the beautiful scenery which unfolded itself around us. Those six weeks were indeed delightful, and we often looked back on our quiet sojourn there and its refreshing rest. We busied ourselves also in preparing for our missions to Siam and Annam, to which I had been appointed secretary.

As the ship of war which was to have taken us to Siam was soon expected, we would not wait for the mail steamer, but left Penang in a sailing vessel, and took seventeen days to reach Singapore, a distance of only four hundred miles; in our case it was the greater haste the less speed.

On our arrival in Singapore we found that there was no vessel ready for us, and we had to wait weary months there before one was placed at our disposal. At first we were to have had the Hastings battleship; then, from some personal reason, it was decided by Admiral Austen, brother to Jane Austen, no doubt the ‘William’ of Mansfield Park that we were to have H.M.’s steamer Sphynx to show Captain Shadwell. It was quite useless ourselves in Siam without a commanding force, if we wished to secure a favourable treaty. It was known that the King of Siam had become hostile to Europeans, and nothing but fear would work on his prejudiced mind. Had we appeared off the Menam River with a strong squadron, our mission would have been respected.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Buah Ryah

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Buah Ryah

As dinner was over, we removed to a short distance from our chiefs to have our meal in quiet, and to express to each other our indignation at the decision to which our naval commander had come. Some others joined us, equally disappointed. Towards the end of the meal, I could not help raising my glass and saying aloud, ‘Oh, for one hour of bonnie Keppel’ Captain Farquhar sprang up and came over to us to inquire what I meant. We told him why we considered his determination very detrimental to the cause, as we were approaching Buah Ryah’s stronghold. He urged, however, the fatigue of his men, who had been pulling many days in succession against a strong current. We proposed a day’s rest, but on a hint from Sir James I gave up the discussion. He thought as I did, that Buah Ryah would, with some reason, proclaim that we were afraid to attack him, and would be thus encouraged to hold out. This actually happened, and thus the pacification of these districts was delayed for many years.

There is no doubt that the English sailors were really tired, and possibly also dissatisfied, as all the skirmishing was done by our native contingent, who forged ahead of the slow-pulling men-of-war’s boats. How we missed the special boats of the Meander. The sailors, however, might have been sure that had there been any real fighting ahead, all would have waited for them. As we gloomily fell down the river we met thousands of natives who were coming to join our expedition, and who were desperately disappointed that Buah Ryah had not been punished. When near the mouth of the Kanowit we were hailed by the inhabitants of the villages we had destroyed. A conference ensued; they showed their faith in the white man by boldly pulling out to our prahus. They did not attempt to deny their piracies, but promised amendment; and most of these chiefs kept their word.

As we returned towards Sarawak the native chiefs of all the trading towns on the coast came to express their unbounded thanks to the English Rajah and to the Queen’s forces for the punishment they had inflicted on the pirates, and the prospect it held out of trade being carried on free from danger of pillage and death.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Paku

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Paku

During our stay on the districts of Paku, we lost some men from the over-confidence of the sons of the Orang Kaya Tumangong of Lundu, who advanced to clear the path by which we were to march on the town. They were stooping to pull out the ranjaus when the Seribas, headed by Lingire, sprang upon them, and cut down two, while the third son escaped, as a party of our Malays poured a volley into the enemy and killed several of them. However, we advanced next day and laid their country waste, our native contingent loading themselves with plunder. Having showed the pirates that no defences could prevent our punishing them, it was decided to carry out the original plan and attack those Sakarang and Seribas Dyaks who lived on the Kanowit, a branch of the great Rejang river, about a hundred miles from the mouth of the latter. These men were most feared by the inhabitants of the Sago districts, which were situated near the western entrances of the mighty stream.

Many of our native allies now left us, as they were loaded with plunder and were not provisioned for so long a voyage; so we proceeded with the Nemesis, the English boats, and our principal Malay war prahus, and as soon as we appeared on the Rejang fresh bodies of natives began to join us, eager to retaliate upon those who had so often attacked them and captured their trading vessels. The Rejang is a splendid river, destined some day to be an important highway of commerce, as its various branches open out a large extent of country, and it penetrates further into the great island of Borneo than any other stream on the north-west coast.

The Nemesis towed many of the boats up to the entrance of the Kanowit branch, and anchored there whilst the expedition pushed up to attack the great pirate chief Buah Ryah, who had established his quarters in the interior of this broad river. We advanced rapidly, and were within one day’s pull of his forts, while Captain Brooke, with the light division of fast-pulling boats had reconnoitred some miles ahead, and found that the pirates were beginning to show in great numbers, which made us feel assured that we should soon be in touch with the main body. We landed to inspect a large village house, which was surrounded by a cotton plantation, and found it well built, and full of baskets of the skulls of the unfortunates who had been surprised by these marauders. I counted three hundred heads in one village. We then fell down the river to join Sir James Brooke and the English force, in great spirits at the prospect of coming in contact with the enemy next day. We were therefore astonished to hear, on our arrival, that it had been decided to give up the object of our expedition and return.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

London Corn Exchange

We discovered this interesting article on the history of the London Corn Exchange – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in the London series

London Corn Exchange

The business of a corn-broker is one of modern growth and doubtful utility. Formerly the farmers of Kent and Essex used to send their grain up the river, and attend a sort of market at Bear Quay; but, about the middle of the last century, when grain was cheap, the farmers often returned home without selling their grain. Those from Essex chiefly used the Bull Inn, Whitechapel; and the landlord, who was of  an enterprising spirit, proposed that the samples, with the prices, should be left with him, in order that he might try to dispose of the grain in their absence. This man, whose name was Johnson, and who was originally the “Boots” of the inn, soon got so much business in this way, that he opened an office at Bear Quay as a corn-factor, and amassed a fortune.

The business of corn-factors afterwards increased so much, that they erected a market in Mark Lane, which is called the Corn Exchange. The building, with which two coffee-houses are connected, is of the Boric order; and the quadrangle, where the samples of grain are exhibited, is capacious. The brokers at first wished to render the  Corn Exchange a private market; but on an application to parliament, it was thrown open. Auxiliary to this market is a much neater though smaller structure, called “The New Exchange for Corn and Seed.”

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 Corn Exchange on Wikipedia

 

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Sulu Sultan

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Sulu Sultan

The Meander soon sailed from Sulu, and after calling at Samboangan, the Spanish penal settlement in the island of Mindanau, we returned to our colony of Labuan, where we were pleased to find that all the officers were well, and that they had removed from the swampy plain to the higher land behind it. There was, however, but little progress visible, as the fever panic still prevailed. We did not stay long here, as the Rajah was anxious to begin operations against the Seribas and Sakarang pirates, who had again commenced to ravage the coast. We reached Sarawak on the 16th February. A daring attack of the Seribas Dyaks on the Sadong district, when they captured over a hundred heads, made us move out with our native fleet to pursue them, but a return of the north-east monsoon drove us to shelter. Later on, accompanied by the boats of the steamer Nemesis, we destroyed some of their inland villages, and thus kept them quiet for a time.

To crush these pirates, however, we required a stronger force, and had to wait for the arrival of one of Her Majesty’s ships. In the meantime, in order to save the independence of Sulu, threatened both by the Dutch and the Spaniards, Sir James determined to proceed there in the steamer Nemesis and negotiate a treaty. After calling in at Labuan, we continued our course to the Sulu seas. We were received by the Sultan and nobles in the most friendly manner, and Sir James had no difficulty in negotiating a treaty which, had it been ratified and supported, would have effectually preserved the independence of the Sultan. Our intercourse with these people was most interesting. Preceded by his fame, Sir James soon made himself trusted by the brave islanders, and one proof was that the Sultan asked him to visit him in a small cottage, where he was then staying with a young bride. I was among those who accompanied our Rajah, and on the darkest of dark nights we groped our way there. The Sultan was almost alone, and he soon began to converse about his troublesome neighbours, the Dutch and the Spaniards, expressing a strong hope that the English would support him.

Sir James explained to him our position in Labuan, and cordially invited his people to come and trade there, assuring him that the English had no designs on the independence of their neighbours, but that they only wanted peace and the cessation of piracy. One or two nobles dropped in, and the conversation turned on the subject of hunting, and our hosts proved themselves eager sportsmen, and invited us to return when the rice crop was over and they would show us how they hunted the deer, both on horseback and on foot. The Sultan, during the evening, took a few whiffs of opium, whilst the rest of the company smoked tobacco in various forms. The women were not rigidly excluded, as they came and looked at us whenever they pleased; but we could not see much of them, and it is a form of politeness to pretend not to notice their presence. After a very enjoyable evening, we bade farewell to the Sultan, as we were to sail the following day.

Sir James Brooke had intended to return there, establish himself on shore for a month, and join the nobles in their sports, and thus acquire a personal influence over them. He thought he could wean them from intercourse with the pirates and turn them into honest traders. It must be confessed that when we were there we had abundant evidence that the Balignini and Lanun pirates did frequent the port to sell their slaves and booty and lay in a stock of arms and ammunition. Sir James was, however, persuaded that if British war steamers showed themselves every now and then in Sulu waters, the pirates would abandon these seas. The moment was propitious; the Spaniards had just destroyed the haunts of Balignini, capturing many and dispersing the rest. The sanguinary defeat of eleven of their vessels in [1847], by the Nemesis, was not forgotten, and it required but a little steady patrolling to disgust the nobles with this pursuit; in fact, many had sold their war vessels and guns, saying, that now the English steamers were after them, it was no longer the profession of a gentleman. I never met natives who pleased me more; the young chiefs were frank, manly fellows, fond of riding and hunting, and our intercourse with them was very pleasant. It was always a matter of regret with me that I never had an opportunity of visiting them again.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

The Curtain Theatre – London – 1577

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Following a BBC news article on the discovery of the remains of the Curtain Theatre we had a ‘dig’ around in our library and unearthed the excerpt below; from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

The Curtain Theatre London – 1577

If the Globe was rendered memorable by Shakespeare’s connection with it, the Curtain Theatre near Shoreditch, the name of which is preserved in the Curtain-road, had a similar distinction, by its being the place where “rare Ben Jonson” acted, before he obtained celebrity as an author; yet the Curtain Theatre never appears to have flourished, although it had, as an actor, Dick Tarlton, one of the best comedians of the time of Elizabeth. Aubrey, who wrote in [1678], nearly a century after the theatre was probably erected, notices it as “a kind of nursery or obscure playhouse, called the ‘Green Curtain’ situate in the suburbs towards Shoreditch.” Although there is no positive evidence of the fact, it is by no means improbable conjecture, that the Curtain Theatre took its name from its being the first to adopt that necessary appendage of the stage.

The Red Bull, St. John’s Street, Clerkenwell, was another of our early theatres, where the poor players, when suppressed by the puritans, sometimes assembled, during Christmas and Bartholomew fair, on the summons of Alexander Goffe, the woman actor (for ladies had not been yet introduced on the stage), at Blackfriars. They were, however, frequently disturbed and imprisoned. The Red Bull appears to have been of an inferior rank to the Globe and Blackfriars theatres; for, in a poem addressed to Sir William D’Avenant, in 1633, it is described as that

“degenerate stage

Where none of the untun’d kennel can rehearse

A line of serious sense.”

In the reign of Charles I. there were six playhouses allowed in town, says old Downes, the prompter to Sir W. D’Avenant’s company, which he enumerates as “the Blackfriars company, his majesty’s servants; the Bull; one in Salisbury-court; another, called the Fortune; another, at the Globe; and a sixth, at the Cock-pit, Drury-lane; all of which continued acting till the beginning of the civil wars.

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

BBC News article on the discovery of the remains of the Curtain Theatre