Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
The Bull and the Bear Baiting,
On the , seem to have preceded, in point of time, the several other ancient Theatres of the metropolis. The precise date of their erection is not ascertained, but a on the is mentioned by CROWLEY, a poet, of the reign of Henry VIII. as being at that time in existence. He informs us, that the exhibitions were on a , that they drew full assemblies, and that the price of admission was then
Whether these "rough games," as a certain author terms them, were then exhibited in the same, or similar amphitheatres, to those afterwards engraved in our old plans, or in the open air, the poet does not inform us. Nor does Stowe's account afford any better idea. He merely tells us, that there were on the west bank ", the and the places, wherein were kept beares, bulls, and other beasts to be bayted; as also mastives in several kenels, nourished to bayt them. These beares and other beasts," he adds, "are there kept in plots of ground, scaffolded about, for the beholders to stand safe."
In plan, taken , and the plan of BRAUN, made about the same time, these plots of ground are engraved, with the addition of , for the accommodation of the spectators, bearing the names of the ", and the " These are accurately copied in the accompanying Plate.[*] In both plans, the buildings appear to be completely circular, and were evidently intended as humble imitations of the ancient Roman amphitheatre. They stand, agreeable to the preceding description, in adjoining fields, separated only by a small slip of land; but some differences are observable in the spots on which they are built.
In Aggas's plan, which is the earliest, the disjoining slip of land contains only large pond, common to the places of exhibition; but in Braun, this appears divided into ponds, besides a similar conveniency near each Theatre. The use of these pieces of water is very well explained in Brown's Travels (), who has given, at page , a plate of the "Elector of Saxony his Beare Garden at Dresden," in which is a large pond, with several bears amusing themselves in it; his account of which is highly curious:
"In the hunting-house, in the old town," says he, "are bears, very well provided for, and looked unto. They have and , to wash themselves in, wherein they much delight: and near to the pond are high or , set up for the bears to climb up, and made at the top, to sun and dry themselves; where they will also sleep, and come and go as the keeper calls them."
The ponds, and dog-kennels, for the bears on the , are clearly marked in the plans alluded to; and the construction of the amphitheatres themselves may be tolerably well conceived, notwithstanding the smallness of the scale on which they are drawn. They evidently consisted, within-side, of a lower tier of circular seats for the spectators, at the back of which, a sort of screen ran all round, in part open, so as to admit a view from without, evident in Braun's delineation, by the figures who are looking through, on the outside. The buildings are unroofed, and in both plans shewn during the time of performance, which in Aggas's view is announced by the display of little flags or streamers on the top. The dogs are tied up in slips near each, ready for the sport, and the combatants actually engaged in Braun's plan. little houses for retirement are at the head of each Theatre.
The amusement of in England existed, however, long before the mention here made of it. In the Northumberland Household Book,[*] page , enumerating "al maner of rewardis customable usede yerely
|to be yeven by my Lorde to strangers, as players, mynstraills or any other strangers, whatsomever they be," are the following:|
"Furst, my Lorde usith and accustomyth to gyff yerely, the Kynge or the Queene's If they have , when they custome to com unto hym, yerely—vj. s. viij. d."
"Item, my Lorde usith and accustomyth to gyfe yerly, when his Lordshipe is at home, to his , when he comyth to my Lorde in Christmas, with his Lordshippe's beests, for makynge of his Lordship pastyme, the sayd xij. days—xx. s."
It made of the favourite amusements of the romantic age of Queen Elizabeth, and was introduced among the princely pleasures of Kenilworth in , where the droll author of the account introduces the bear and dogs deciding their ancient grudge [*]
It is not to be wondered at, that an amusement, thus patronized by the great, and even by royalty itself, ferocious as it was, should be the delight of the vulgar, whose untutored taste it was peculiarly calculated to please. Accordingly bear-baiting seems to have been amazingly frequented, at this time, especially on On of these days, in , a dire accident befell the spectators. The scaffolding suddenly gave way, and multitudes of people were killed, or miserably maimed. This was looked upon as a judgment, and as such was noticed by divines, and other grave characters, in their sermons aud writings. The Lord Mayor for that year (Sir Thomas Blanke) wrote on the occasion to the Lord Treasurer, "that it gave great reason to acknowledge the hand of God, for breach of the Lord's Day," and moved him to redress the same.
Little notice, however, was taken of his application; the accident was forgot; and the barbarous amusement soon followed as much as ever.
In the succeeding reign, the general introduction of the drama operated as a check to the practice, and the public taste took a turn. of these theatres gave place to the GLOBE; the other remained long after. This theatre, which retained its original name of the , was rebuilt on a larger scale, about the beginning of James the 's reign; and of an octagonal form instead of round, as before; in which respect it resembled the other theatres on the . Plate II. contains a view of it in this state, from the long print of London by , usually called the Antwerp view.[*] In this representation, the slips, or dog-kennels, are again distinctly marked, as well as the ponds. Plate III. shews it as it was a time rebuilt on a larger scale, and again of the circular shape,[*] when and prize-fighting were added to the amusements exhibited at it.
In the reign of James I. the "Bear-garden" was under the protection of royalty, and the mastership of it made a patent place. The celebrated actor enjoyed this lucrative post, being for several years keeper of the King's wild beasts, or master of the royal Bear-garden, situated on the , in . The profits of this place are said by his biographer to have been immense, sometimes amounting to a year; and well account for the great fortune he raised. A little before his death he sold his share and patent to his wife's father Mr. Hinchtoe, for
We have a good account of the "Bear-baiting," in the reign of Charles II. by Mons. Jorevin, a foreigner, whose observations on this country were published in ,[*] and who has given us the following curious detail of a visit he paid to it:
"We went to see the BERGIARDIN, by SODOARK,[*] , where combats are fought between all sorts of animals, and sometimes men, as we once saw. Commonly, when any fencing-masters are desirous of shewing their courage and their great skill, they issue mutual challenges, and, before they engage, parade the town with drums and trumpets sounding, to inform the public there is a challenge between brave masters of the science of defence, and that the battle will be fought on such a day. We went to see this combat which was performed on a stage of this Amphitheatre, where, on the flourishes of trumpets, and the beat of drums, the combatants entered, stripped to their shirts. On a signal from the drum, they drew their swords, and immediately began the fight, skirmishing a long time without any wounds. They were both very skilful and courageous. The tallest had the advantage over the least; for according to the English fashion of fencing, they endeavoured rather to cut, than push in the French manner, so that by his height he had the advantage of being able to strike his antagonist on the head, against which, the little was on his guard. He had, in his turn, an advantage over the great , in being able to give him the Jarnac stroke, by cutting him on his right ham, which he left in a manner quite unguarded. So that, all things considered, they were equally matched. Nevertheless the tall struck his antagonist on the wrist, which he almost cut off; but this did not prevent him from continuing the fight, after he had been dressed, and taken a glass or of wine to
|give him courage, when he took ample vengeance for his wound; for a little afterwards, making a feint at the ham, the tall man, stooping in order to parry it, laid his whole head open, when the little gave him a stroke, which took off a slice of his head, and almost all his ear. For my part, I think there is an inhumanity, a barbarity and cruelty, in permitting men to kill each other for diversion. The surgeons immediately dressed them, and bound up their wounds; which being done, they resumed the combat, and both being sensible of their respective disadvantages, they therefore were a long time without giving or receiving a wound, which was the cause that the little , failing to parry so exactly, being tired with this long battle, received a stroke on his wounded wrist, which dividing the sinews, he remained vanquished, and the tall conqueror received the applause of the spectators. For my part, I should have had more pleasure in seeing the battle of the and , which was fought the "|
It does not appear at what period the Bear-baiting was destroyed, but it was, probably, not long after the above period. Strype, in his edition of Stowe, published , speaking of "," on this spot, says, "Here is a glass-house, and about the middle a court, well inhabited, called so called, as built in the place where the Bear-garden formerly stood, until removed to the other side of the water; which is more convenient for the butchers, and such like, who are taken with such rustic sports as the baiting of bears and bulls."[*] The Theatre was evidently destroyed to build this then court.
It may seem going too far, to follow this sport to the other side of the water, whither Strype describes it to have emigrated, and where it was jointly encouraged with its former companion, But as many of our old Theatres appear to have been appropriated, on their desertion, to this latter amusement, an account of its modern state, as a companion to the Frenchman's narrative, shall form the conclusion of this article.
was the most renowned continuator of this species of spectacle, which his admirers termed "the noble science of self-defence;" but which Maitland[*] more properly designates as a "barbarous performance, by those whom necessity (occasioned by a scandalous laziness and indolence) induces to expose themselves to be horribly mangled for a little money, while the bloodily-minded spectators satiate themselves with human gore, to the great reproach of religion." This man was in high vogue about the year , and kept a school for instruction in .
Hogarth engraved his card, a copy of which is given in Samuel Ireland's Graphic Illustrations of that artist (p. ), where is the following account of him, and his exhibitions:
"A portrait of Figg is introduced in the plate of the Rake's Progress, amongst other high characters who were to assist in finishing his education. In celebrating the feats of this valiant 'master of fence,' the pen as well as the pencil, was frequently employed; and as the rage for single combat, in some or other of its forms, seems as prevalent now as at any former period, it may not prove unpleasant to the amateur, to find in what style his encomiasts held him forth. Captain John Godfrey, in his Treatise upon the useful Science of Defence, published in quarto, , page , says, 'Figg was the Atlas of the sword; and may he remain the gladiating statue! In him strength, resolution, and unparalleled judgment conspired to form a perfect master. There was a majesty shone in his countenance, and blazed in all his actions, beyond all I ever saw. His right leg, bold and firm: and his left, which could hardly ever be disturbed, gave him the surprising advantage already proved, and struck his adversary with despair and panic. He had that peculiar way of stepping in, I spoke of, in a parry; he knew his arm, and its just time of moving; put a firm faith in that, and never let his adversary escape his parry. He was just as much a greater master than any other I ever saw, as he was a greater judge of time and measure.'"
We shall close our account of this wonderful character, by transcribing of the heroic advertisements that appeared in the daily papers of that time.
"At Mr. Figg's Great Room, at his house, the sign of the City of Oxford, in , to-morrow, Wednesday, the , the Nobility and Gentry will be entertained (for the last time this season), in a most extraordinary manner, with a select trial of skill in the Science of Defence, by following masters, viz.
"We, William Holmes and Felix Mac Guire, the and most profound swordsmen in the kingdom of Ireland, whom in combat the universe never yet could parallel, being requested to return to our native country, are determined to make our departure ever memorable to Great Britain, by taking our solemn public leave of the renowned Mr. Figg and Mr Sutton, at the time and place appointed; to which we hereby invite them, in order to prove we can maintain our titles, and claim a preference in the list of worthies. 'Tis not the accidental blow Mr. Holmes received on his metacarpus, the last time he fought Mr. Figg, has shocked his courage, or given room for Mr. Mac Guire to decline his interest; no, it has been the fate of the best of generals to retreat, and yet to conquer; and the loss of a leg or an arm has augmented the glory of a commander, because blind fortune, and not the want of conduct, forfeited a limb, which force nor envy e'er could take away.
"We, James Figg, from Thame, in Oxfordshire, and Edward Sutton, of renowned Kent, by the lofty language and pointed similes of the above bravo's, guess at their aspiring minds, and sincerely promise, since they covet to be great men, that if, at the time and place appointed, they obtain a victory by the sword, we will present them with our truncheons, being foot longer than that with which Alexander was honoured at the head of his army, and far more serviceable in case of a rupture: on the other hand, if it be our fortune to deprive them of their intended glory in sense, we will endeavour to be grateful in another, by sending them home admirals like Bembo or Carter, whose names, the loss of a leg and an arm, made ever memorable, and may serve for the copy of their departure, if blind fortune (as they call it) act according to custom, &c.
"NOTE: Mr. Holmes and Mr. Figg are to fight the bout; Mr. Mac Guire and Mr. Sutton the ; Mr. Holmes alternately with Mr. Figg: Mr. Mac Guire and Mr. Sutton in like manner, and so successively during the battle; and, if be disabled, his associate to go through the weapons with his antagonists. A full house being expected, gentlemen are desired to meet sooner than usual, the masters being commanded to mount at precisely, by reason of the shortness of the days, and the length of a double battle, &c."
[*] Plate I.
[*] Compiled in the reign of Henry VII. and since privately printed.
[*] Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth, p. 22, quoted by Mr. Pennant, in his Account of London, page 36.
[*] A copy of this view is in the Pepysian Library, Cambridge; a duplicate, from which the present print was taken, was lately in my possession, and has been since purchased by John Dent, Esq.—EDITOR.
[*] This is copied from the large four-sheet view of London, by Hollar, made about 1648.
[*] Republished in the Antiquarian Repertory, Ed. 1806, under the title of "A Description of England and Ireland, in the 17th Century, by Mons. Jorevin." Vol. iv. p. 549.
[*] Bear-garden, Southwark.
[*] Vol. ii. p. 28.
[*] Vol. ii. p. 1327.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.