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
Was originally built about the beginning of the century, and a set of tenements, forming a large flat-roofed house and garden, so divided. The house, which was built of wood, is said to have been used as a for the children of HENRY VIII. whither they were sent [*] , Esq. purchased the lease,[*] and finding that the place had , formed it into a Theatre, about the year , which, under his management, rose to great eminence. It was here that the play of "," in which he obtained, or rather such general applause, was unquestionably revived, and the part of (the Jew) performed by him,[*] continued its ferocious and cruel attractions, together with its , which the said was "" This Theatre, that he quaintly denominated ","[*] was destroyed by fire in . It was re-erected in , and having resolved to retire from the stage, left it very shortly after, and resided wholly at , which, while engaged in his professional pursuits, had been the place of his occasional relaxation. After struggling in vain with the difficulties of those times, its company was dispersed, and it was offered for sale ; but although it was temporarily opened in the reign of CHARLES II.; the efforts of such Comedians as could be collected, counteracted as they were by the companies of Sir and , Esq. could be attended with very little success. It was so little, in fact, that finally it was abandoned both by the and muses, who took their flight , and fixed upon more favourable spots.
The , of which our plate exhibits a correct view, is the front of this once famed , situate in , formerly in the parish of , now in that of ; which, although at present so deplorable in its appearance, and abject in its vicinity, was, when under the direction of , of considerable importance, as a source of dramatic amusement to the inhabitants of and ; and which has, we think, been subsequently , when viewed as the , the , from the flourishing state of which part of the means were procured,[*] to found and endow that truly noble and philanthropic establishment, DULWICH COLLEGE. We therefore now look with mingled pleasure and veneration at their last remains, reflecting, also, that from these harmless recreations of our ancestors, not only many persons received support at the time, but a long series of benefits have derived to their posterity. The front of the displayed in the annexed print, on which the , and other and , executed in , are still to be seen, in the whole of its exterior now apparent; its back court, part of which was covered by the stage, dressing-rooms, &c. is now laid out in mean tenements; its garden, and surrounding walks and avenues, of which, it appears, was once called , have been long since formed into a street, which still retains the commemorative name of , though , or , would be far more proper appellations.
With respect to the interior of the front of this , which, having stood near , is rapidly hastening to oblivion, it was probably built in a more substantial manner (as it was consigned to the audience) than the back, in which we have just observed the stage, &c. were placed. It is a curious circumstance still to be observed, that in the upper story the floor of the gallery yet remains, nay, the marks were the seats were fixed are to be discovered: this floor consequently descends in the same manner, though not perhaps so regular in its declination as that of the gallery of a modern Playhouse; and would be rather puzzled to conjecture how it was possible to place any furniture upon this inclined plane, did not solve the difficulty of the case. The poor inhabitants of this Theatre, once the mansion of and (we hope) of , under the impulse of , do, by some means or other, contrive to accommodate their wretched beds, &c. to their situation, though it is certainly like living
[*] The idea of sending royal, or indeed any children to nurse, for the benefit of the air, in Golden Lane, must now astonish us; but it must be considered such was the fashion of those times, when the greater part of Holborn was deemed the country, and the houses therein dedicated to the reception of children, invalids, and convalescents.
[*] This place is described among other domain lands, in a survey of the manor of Finsbury, taken the 30th of December 1567, for the use of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul, and is now among the records of that cathedral, viz. "Of Thomas Walton, Esq. out of certain tenements and gardens lying on the east side of the Golden Lane, formerly called Armitage Alley, late Gregory Nicholas's, and before that Richard Young's, butting upon the lands of Peter Doves, who married Joan, the daughter and heir of John Willoughby, on the north side; and the lands of the said Gregory Nicholas on the south, 2 S."
[*] Baker, in his Chronicles (reign Elizabeth), says, that "Richard Bourbridge and Edward Alleyn were two such actors as no age must ever look to see the like;" and Heywood, speaking of Alleyn, in the Jew of Malta,THE RICH JEW OF MALTA was performed so early as February the 26th, 1591, at the Rose, Southwark, and at Newington Theatre, June 12th, 1594. and other Characters, says he was "Proteus for shapes and Roscius for a tongue." EDWARD ALLEYN was born in London, the 1st of September 1566; was early introduced to the stage, and appears to have been at the head of his profession, by which he acquired a considerable fortune. He retired to Dulwich several years before his death, which happened 25th November 1626.
[*] Johnson's Theatre, on the Bankside, was called "The Hope," probably because the one was secured, the other only expectant.
[*] Alleyn had also, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Henslow, the lucrative place of keeper of his Majesty's Bears, or Royal Bearward, by which he is said to have cleared £ 500 per annum.
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.