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 2

Wilkinson, Robert
1819-1825

The Tennis Court Theatre, Bear Yard, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields.

The Tennis Court Theatre, Bear Yard, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Remains of the Gibbon's Tennis Court, as it appeared after the Fire, 17 September 1809.

Henry Killegrew having obtained a patent from King Charles II. to build a Theatre for dramatic entertainments, collected a company of performers from among those dispersed at the breaking out of the civil wars, and until such time as he could get his Theatre in Drury Lane ready for their reception, had plays for a time at the Red Bull, in St. John's Street, and afterwards converted Gibbon's Tennis Court, Clare Market, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields, into a temporary Theatre; at which two places his company continued performing in all 1660, 1661, and some of them during 1662 and part of 1663: at which period the Theatre in Drury Lane was finished and made ready for performances, where they in future continued acting, calling themselves His Majesty's Company of ComediansThe performers were Mr. Theophilus Bird, Mr. Hart, Mr. Mohun, Mr. Lacy, Mr. Burt, Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Clun, Mr. Baxter, Mr. Robert Shatterell, Mr. William Shatterell, Mr. Duke, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Kynaston, Mr. Wintersel, Mr. Bateman, Mr. Blagden. It appears by this list of the actors of Drury Lane, that all the performers who had acted before the civil wars, were selected to complete the King's Company, and Kynaston taken from the company that acted under Rhodes, the bookseller, at the Cockpit, Drury Lane.; which olearly proves Gibbon's Tennis Court was never other than a temporary Theatre, and no way connected with the Duke's Theatre in Portugal Street, with which its history has been often confusedly blended. How this Theatre, or Tennis Court, was appropriated from 1663 to 1690 does not appear; but in that year we find it again in use for dramatic amusements: as on the 24th of March, 1690, Mr. Charles D'Avenant sold his patent of Drury Lane Theatre to Christopher Rich, Esq., a lawyer, who, in consequence of professional skill, and more than professional diligence, contrived to engross the whole power, and reign despotic in the MIMIC EMPIRE: however, in this tyranny he was opposed by the actors. The nobility likewise bestowed their influence; the Lord Chamberlain also interested the KING in their favour, as men that had suffered much and gained little; so that, under the royal sanction, aided by the liberality of the Court and of the City, the interior of the Great Tennis Court in Lincoln's Inn FieldsThis Tennis Court is mentioned in old plays, and indeed in documents of superior authority, as situated near Holywell Street, St. Clement Danes. It was a licensed gaming-house, under the direction of Clement Cotterell, Esq., groom-porter to King James I. The Duke's Theatre was in this place, then called Little Lincoln's Inn Fields, Bear Yard, &c., but totally distinct from the other. was a second time cleared, and within its walls a Theatre was erected; which, under the auspices of Congreve, Betterton, &c., was opened on the 30th of April, 1695, with the new comedy of "Love for Love" (which was performed with extraordinary success the remainder of the season), and closed in June. Mr. Betterton is said to have been induced to quit Drury Lane, partly by ill treatment from the managers, and partly with a view to repair, by more enlarged profits from speculation, the loss of his whole fortune (upwards of 2000l.), which he had suffered in the year 1692, by adventuring it in a commercial scheme to the East Indies.

The prosperity of this new Playhouse, though great at first, was by no means permanent; and after two years' sunshine, the affairs of the Company suffered so much, that the concern was entirely broken up, and the performers dispersed: from that time the Tennis Court Theatre was never used for any public dramatic purpose.

The site of Gibbon's Tennis Court, and other tenements, in Bear Yard, near Clare Market, was the spot originally called Ficket's Fields, where the Lollards met temp. Henry V. and were joined by Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham. It was granted April 8, 34 Hen. VIII. to Anthony Singer; rent to the Crown 17s. 4d. Charles I., in his fifteenth year, granted to Thomas York, his executors and assigns, license to erect as many buildings as they thought proper, upon St. Clement's Inn Fields, in that parish, the inheritance of the then Earl of Clare, to be built on each side of the causeway leading from Gibbon's Booling Alley, at the coming out of Lincoln's Inn Fields, to the Rein Deer Yard, that leadeth to Drury Lane. When Clare Market was erected, 1657, Rein Deer Yard was, from the sports of the butchers, called Bear Yard; and the south-west corner of the square, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields. A part of this Theatre was occupied by James Belbon, a brewer, who, about forty-five years ago, kept the Lamb Brewhouse, in Vere Street, Clare Market, from which there was a passage into Bear Yard. His ale, &c., was brewed on or under the stage part of the Theatre: and we are informed that, at the time the affairs of the Roman Catholics demanded privacy, they used to meet in this house, which had an oratory standing, until about the year 1680. The original sign of the HOLY LAMB in stone was preserved. Dr. Oates resided near this place at the beginning of his career.

The remains of this little Theatre, which, from their obscure situation, had long been unnoticed, were accidentally discovered after a fire, which happened Sept. 17, 1809, and which left nothing but a portion of the bare walls. The inside, in the various transformations it had undergone, had been stripped many years before, and retained but little to remind us of its former destination: for some time it had been respectively devoted to the purposes of a carpenter's shop, and to boiling the provisions of a neighbouring dealer in tripe.

At the back of Bear Yard, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields, is a public house, still remaining, known by the name of the Black Jack, long celebrated as a rendezvous for players, who have used it as a place of general meeting since the time of Shuter, the comedian, who frequented it; and where the performers of Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres, mostly met the friends to whom they had promised orders: it used to be constantly attended by Suett, Sedgwick, Quick, Munden, Edwin, &c., of late days; and heretofore by Shuter, Dunstall, Weston, and other celebrated comedians; but the present resort of most theatrical persons is the O. P. and P. S. Coffee-house, Russel Court, Drury Lane, and the Coal Hole Chop-house, Fountain Court, Strand, where most country managers and theatrical candidates daily meet on business as well as pleasure.

The view representing the ruins occasioned by the fire in Bear Yard, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields, Sept. 17, 1809, is that of the original Tennis Court, used first as a Theatre by the King's Company of Comedians, under Killegrew's patent, until the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane was built, and made ready for their reception: but not at any period occupied by the Duke of York's Company, under Sir William D'Avenant, as often erroneously it has been thought.

 

Henry Killegrew having obtained a patent from King Charles II. to build a Theatre for dramatic entertainments, collected a company of performers from among those dispersed at the breaking out of the civil wars, and until such time as he could get his Theatre in ready for their reception, had plays for a time at the Red Bull, in Street, and afterwards converted Gibbon's Tennis Court, , Little , into a temporary Theatre; at which places his company continued performing in all , , and some of them during and part of : at which period the Theatre in was finished and made ready for performances, where they in future continued acting, calling themselves His Majesty's Company of Comedians[*] ; which olearly proves Gibbon's Tennis Court was never other than a temporary Theatre, and no way connected with the Duke's Theatre in , with which its history has been often confusedly blended. How this Theatre, or Tennis Court, was appropriated from to does not appear; but in that year we find it again in use for dramatic amusements: as on the , Mr. Charles D'Avenant sold his patent of to Christopher Rich, Esq., a lawyer, who, in consequence of professional skill, and more than professional diligence, contrived to engross the whole power, and reign despotic in the MIMIC EMPIRE: however, in this tyranny he was opposed by the actors. The nobility likewise bestowed their influence; the Lord Chamberlain also interested the KING in their favour, as men that had suffered much and gained little; so that, under the royal sanction, aided by the liberality of the Court and of the City, the interior of the Great Tennis Court in [*]  was a time cleared, and within its walls a Theatre was erected; which, under the auspices of Congreve, Betterton, &c., was opened on the , with the new comedy of "Love for Love" (which was performed with extraordinary success the remainder of the season), and closed in June. Mr. Betterton is said to have been induced to quit , partly by ill treatment from the managers, and partly with a view to repair, by more enlarged profits from speculation, the loss of his whole fortune (upwards of ), which he had suffered in the year , by adventuring it in a commercial scheme to the East Indies.

The prosperity of this new Playhouse, though great at , was by no means permanent; and after years' sunshine, the affairs of the Company suffered so much, that the concern was entirely broken up, and the performers dispersed: from that time the Tennis Court Theatre was never used for any public dramatic purpose.

The site of Gibbon's Tennis Court, and other tenements, in , near , was the spot originally called Ficket's Fields, where the Lollards met temp. Henry V. and were joined by Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham. It was granted , Hen. VIII. to Anthony Singer; rent to the Crown Charles I., in his year, granted to Thomas York, his executors and assigns, license to erect as many buildings as they thought proper, upon St. Fields, in that parish, the inheritance of the then Earl of Clare, to be built on each side of the causeway leading from Gibbon's Booling Alley, at the coming out of , to the Rein Deer Yard, that leadeth to . When was erected, , Rein Deer Yard was, from the sports of the butchers, called and the south-west corner of the square, Little . A part of this Theatre was occupied by James Belbon, a brewer, who, about years ago, kept the Lamb Brewhouse, in , , from which there was a passage into Bear Yard. His ale, &c., was brewed on or under the stage part of the Theatre: and we are informed that, at the time the affairs of the Roman Catholics demanded privacy, they used to meet in this house, which had an oratory standing, until about the year . The original sign of the HOLY LAMB in stone was preserved. Dr. Oates resided near this place at the beginning of his career.

The remains of this little Theatre, which, from their obscure situation, had long been unnoticed, were accidentally discovered after a fire, which happened , and which left nothing but a portion of the bare walls. The inside, in the various transformations it had undergone, had been stripped many years before, and retained but little to remind us of its former destination: for some time it had been respectively devoted to the purposes of a carpenter's shop, and to boiling the provisions of a neighbouring dealer in tripe.

At the back of , Little , is a public house, still remaining, known by the name of the , long celebrated as a rendezvous for players, who have used it as a place of general meeting since the time of Shuter, the comedian, who frequented it; and where the performers of and Covent Garden Theatres, mostly met the friends to whom they had promised it used to be constantly attended by Suett, Sedgwick, Quick, Munden, Edwin, &c., of late days; and heretofore by Shuter, Dunstall, Weston, and other celebrated comedians; but the present resort of most theatrical persons is the O. P. and P. S. Coffee-house, Russel Court, , and the Coal Hole Chop-house, , Strand, where most country managers and theatrical candidates daily meet on business as well as pleasure.

The view representing the ruins occasioned by the fire in Bear Yard, Little , , is that of the original Tennis Court, used as a Theatre by the King's Company of Comedians, under Killegrew's patent, until the Theatre Royal in was built, and made ready for their reception: but not at any period occupied by the Duke of York's Company, under Sir William D'Avenant, as often erroneously it has been thought.

 
 
Footnotes:

[*] The performers were Mr. Theophilus Bird, Mr. Hart, Mr. Mohun, Mr. Lacy, Mr. Burt, Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Clun, Mr. Baxter, Mr. Robert Shatterell, Mr. William Shatterell, Mr. Duke, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Kynaston, Mr. Wintersel, Mr. Bateman, Mr. Blagden. It appears by this list of the actors of Drury Lane, that all the performers who had acted before the civil wars, were selected to complete the King's Company, and Kynaston taken from the company that acted under Rhodes, the bookseller, at the Cockpit, Drury Lane.

[*] This Tennis Court is mentioned in old plays, and indeed in documents of superior authority, as situated near Holywell Street, St. Clement Danes. It was a licensed gaming-house, under the direction of Clement Cotterell, Esq., groom-porter to King James I. The Duke's Theatre was in this place, then called Little Lincoln's Inn Fields, Bear Yard, &c., but totally distinct from the other.

View all images in this book
 Title Page
collapseCourts, Halls, and Public Buildings
collapseSchools
collapseAlms-Houses, Hospitals, &c.
collapsePlaces of Amusement
collapseMiscellaneous Objects of Antiquity
collapseAncient and Modern Theatres
collapseTheatres
The Bull and the Bear Baiting,
The Red Bull Playhouse, Clerkenwell.
Fortune Theatre
Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre
D'Avenant's Theatre Otherwise the Duke's Theatre, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Destruction of Drury Lane Theatre by Fire
Opening of Drury Lane New Theatre
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden
The New Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.
Theatre Royal, Haymarket
New Theatre Royal, Haymarket
The King's Theatre, or the Italian Opera, Haymarket
Theatre in Goodman's Fields. The whole of Goodman's Fields was formerly a farm belonging to the Abbey of Nuns, of the Order of St. Clare, called the Minories or Minoresses, from certain poor ladies of that order; and so late as the time of Stow, when he wrote his Survey in 1598, was let out in gardens, and for grazing horses. One Trolop, and afterwards Goodman, were the farmers there. But Goodman's son being heir by his father's purchase, let the grounds in parcels, and lived like a gentleman on its produce. He lies buried in St. Botolph's church, Aldgate.
The Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square
The Tennis Court Theatre, Bear Yard, Little Lincoln's Inn Fields
Olympic Theatre, Newcastle Street, Strand
Sadler's Wells.
The Pantheon Theatre, Oxford Street
Strand Theatre, the Sans Pareil
Astley's Amphitheatre, Westminster Road
The Regency Theatre. Tottenham Street Tottenham Court Road
The Cobourg Theatre
Royal Circus or Surrey Theatre
Lyceum Theatre, or English Opera, Strand.
Theatre in Tankard Street, Ipswich
Checks and Tickets of Admission to the public Theatres and other Places of Amusement.

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.

This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
Subjects
London (England)--Antiquities
London (England)--Description and Travel
Wilkinson, Robert, d. ca. 1825
Bolles, Edwin Courtlandt
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/53839
ID: tufts:MS004.002.057.001.00001
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights