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The Hope Playhouse, and the remains of three further bear gardens, Bankside

A Scheduled Monument in Cathedrals, Southwark

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Latitude: 51.5074 / 51°30'26"N

Longitude: -0.0962 / 0°5'46"W

OS Eastings: 532223.5683

OS Northings: 180435.1914

OS Grid: TQ322804

Mapcode National: GBR QF.KT

Mapcode Global: VHGR0.9C0S

Entry Name: The Hope Playhouse, and the remains of three further bear gardens, Bankside

Scheduled Date: 20 September 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1433280

County: Southwark

Electoral Ward/Division: Cathedrals

Built-Up Area: Southwark

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Saviour with All Hallows Southwark

Church of England Diocese: Southwark


Elizabethan and Jacobean bear baiting arenas on Bankside, including the remains of The Hope Playhouse.

Source: Historic England


The monument comprises two separate areas of protection and includes the buried archaeological remains of Bear Gardens 3 and 3a and The Hope (also known as Bear Gardens 4) in one area, and the Davies Bear Garden (Bear Gardens 5) in a separate area of protection to the south. A 5m buffer zone has been included around these two areas for the preservation and protection of the monument.

The buried deposits of Bear Gardens 3 (also known as Payne’s Standings) and 3A are situated at approximately NGR TQ 532242 180492. The arena is known to be located beneath the south-east corner of the building and office block known as Benbow House, 24 New Globe Walk, SE1, and is projected to extend to the east beneath the road, Bear Gardens.

Archaeological investigations indicate the earliest remains on the site date to the C13 and C14, with evidence of land reclamation in the form of crushed chalk stabilising deposits, followed by the remains of nine or ten buildings. These had chalk walls and are probably the remains of the stews, the tenements and brothels known to be in the area from documentary sources. It is likely that one of the buildings on the north-east corner of the site can be identified as the Bell and Cock Inn, as it has later C17 alterations and is of a size consistent with the documentary evidence.

Beneath the south-east corner of the Benbow House site, archaeological investigations revealed a large C16-C17 building constructed on timber piles. The alignment of the robbed out wall foundations indicates that the building was elliptical or polygonal in plan, likely with 12 sides, and was c16m in diameter. The investigation uncovered the remains of three timber piles cut into deposits dated to the early C17. The piles are clustered together, and survive to a maximum of 1.50m OD. Pottery recovered from a clay deposit sealing the primary post is dated to c1580–1600. Above the timber piles were two robbed out wall foundations, both with evidence for the removal of brick and chalk walls, which were elliptical rather than straight. Further to the north a similar robbed out wall foundation was observed, although there was no evidence of supporting piles. The robbing events were dated to c1640–1660 based on clay tobacco pipes. To the north and west of this structure a number of deposits, including a possible surface, were observed that contained significant assemblages of bones probably associated with animal baiting. These included a large number of horse and dog bones, with substantial evidence for the horses being butchered, possibly to feed the dogs. Interestingly, some of the horse skulls recovered indicate pulling from reins, which are perhaps indicative of the nature of the entertainments.

The dog bones recovered were mainly from large, mature dogs such as those that would have been used during bear baiting, and may be the remains of dead fighting dogs, all deposited in one discreet area. It has also been suggested that a small and poorly built C16/C17 structure, in the north-west of the site, may be one of the dog kennels known to have been within the Bear Gardens complex. A ditch drained southwards towards the former Maiden Lane (Park Street), to the west of the arena, which was lined with hurdles and covered with boards. The dog kennels were situated to the west, beyond the ditch, along with bear houses, a pond to wash the bears and another to dispose of dead dogs. Other archaeological investigations in the area, such as at 20–22 New Globe Walk, immediately to the south of Benbow House have yielded large assemblages of dog, horse and bear skeletal remains from one of the nearby ponds, said to be for the deposition of dead dogs. This could be associated with any of the three bear baiting pits in the immediate vicinity. At Benbow House, the southern area of the site was sealed by glasshouse waste, which further supports a terminus ante quem of the mid C17 or earlier for the building’s use and demolition.

The buried archaeological remains considered very likely to be those of The Hope are located beneath the car park on the southern side of Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 9HA (NGR TQ 532259 180478). The centre of the playhouse is conjectured to be beneath the surface of the road Bear Gardens and to extend westwards to the east side of the property at 20-22 New Globe Walk. Archaeological works here in 2000 found evidence of kennels or stables associated with the arenas, as well as a significant amount of animal remains (dog and horse) from waterlain deposits. To the south-east, the foundations and basement of Empire Warehouse have removed the structural remains of The Hope and this area is not included in the scheduling.

The substantial brick remains of the north-east quadrant of The Hope were found and are preserved beneath the southern part of Riverside House. Prior to the construction of the playhouse, this area of the site had a series of waterlain silt deposits that had a very high concentration of animal bones, particularly dog and horse although a few bear bones were also present. Some of the bones exhibited signs of butchery and dog gnawing, and it is probable that these deposits directly relate to the activities and stables associated with Bear Gardens 3 and 3A. Cutting into these deposits are angled, brick, subsurface foundations of an outer and inner wall survive to a height of 1.38m OD and supported a plinth wall surviving to 1.75m OD. This would have been above ground, upon which the timber framed superstructure would have rested. The two walls were 1.55m apart and angled at between 140 and 145 degrees; it is postulated that the outer wall may be a middle structural element to support the galleries above. This would suggest, if the angles and dimensions were repeated, that The Hope was a polygonal building with ten sides, with an internal diameter of 16m (52ft 6in) and an external diameter of between 24 and 25.4m. The depths of the foundations are consistent with the surviving building contract. Pottery assemblages of a C16 to C18 date, which consist largely of table and serving ware, may be associated with entertainments and activities during the performances and at the Barge alehouse.

The surviving foundations were re-used to form the base of an arched or vaulted brick structure, with the addition of a new north-south wall and steps leading down between the brick walls. This structure preserved the original polygonal shape, although the angles were altered. This is consistent with the remains being that of a vaulted brick-lined flue, associated with the glassworks, as has been recorded elsewhere.

The remains of Davies’ Bear Garden (Bear Gardens no. 5) are centred at NGR TQ 32222 80440 and lie to the south of the bear baiting arenas 3/3a and The Hope. They are preserved in situ underneath standing buildings at nos. 58 and 60 Park Street, SE1, which are on either side of the southern end of the road Bear Gardens and extend northwards beneath 20-22 New Globe Walk and southwards beneath the pavement and Park Street. No. 60 Park Street, also known as the Union Works, is listed at Grade II (National Heritage List for England ref. 1385754, 1867-68) and the monument also extends beneath an early-C19 post on the west side of Bankside, also listed at Grade II (NHLE 1385756). Both are excluded from the scheduling.

The archaeological evaluation and excavation on 60 Park Street revealed a substantial survival of the western side of a timber-framed polygonal structure, with a complete inner wall and an outer wall of brick foundation piers. The brick inner foundation wall was exposed, measuring 0.48m wide and 0.38m tall – the top of the wall was recorded at 2.11m OD. The inner wall consists of jointed segments of brickwork, with a line of broken tiles forming a cill on the top course, c0.22m wide, upon which the timber superstructure would have rested. The size of the inner wall, the width of the cill and the general construction is consistent with the excavated remains of the Globe Theatre and what is specified in the building contract for The Hope. A wall of a similar size, construction and height was observed on the western side of 58 Park Street, and it is thought that this marks the inner wall of the eastern side of the Davies Bear Garden. Here, a clay tobacco pipe bowl, dated to 1660–1680, was recovered from silts adjacent to the wall, providing a date consistent with the documentary sources. The outer wall of Davies’s Bear Garden is formed of a series of brick pier bases, c3.80m apart. The piers are constructed of unfrogged bricks, with the top of the piers at c2.20m OD. Between the outer and inner walls is a cobbled floor surface, providing a walking area in the galleries. The surface of the arena comprises compacted black silt with gravel and pebbles. Overlying this surface was a layer of ash and clinker, containing numerous clay tobacco pipes dating from 1690–1710, confirming the demolition date of 1682. To the north of 60 Park Street deposits, a pit, ditch and timber lined channel, which contained horse, dog and a single brown bear metacarpal, were found and may relate to Bear Gardens 3/3a.

To the north of the Davies Bear Garden a contemporary east-west aligned brick wall was found, which runs parallel to the projected back wall of the Bear Garden. Although a polygonal building, this gives the bear baiting arena a straight northern back wall that may have been related to an entrance gate there. This has been interpreted as being the remains of the ale-house as described by Pepys. The overall size of the building as extrapolated from the size and angles of the foundations would have made it the largest of the Bear Gardens and playhouses. It is estimated that the external diameter would be around 30m, with the internal yard some 21m wide. This is slightly larger than the Swan, Globe and Hope Playhouses. The foundation, timber cills and superstructure width also compares favourably with the Hope and Fortune, and demonstrates a continuity of style despite design changes.

The buildings above the remains, including their foundations, utilities and basement slabs and all external surfaces, including the car park to Riverside House, and the modern overburden beneath these, are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included. The monument extends beneath the road Bear Gardens and the pavement to, and part of, Park Street: all street and pavement surfaces, modern overburden and utilities beneath them, and street furniture, are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The remains of The Hope and three bear gardens, operational on Bankside in the London Borough of Southwark between c1540 and 1682, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Historic importance: a monument of national (arguably international) historic importance representing a distinctive Elizabethan and Jacobean leisure activity enjoyed by a cross-section of society. Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair was first performed on 31st October 1614 at The Hope conferring additional national literary importance on the monument;
* Survival: buried archaeological deposits pertaining to the individual arenas include structural remains and are preserved in situ; the rest of the monument is projected to survive beneath the existing buildings, streets and structures on the site;
* Documentation: historic mapping and documentation support and augment the findings from archaeological excavations, giving details on land ownership and leasing, and the construction, form and demolition of the arenas;
* Rarity: these bear gardens are very rare survivals, no other examples of which are known nationally, and include the likely remains of The Hope, the only known dual purpose bear baiting arena and playhouse, and the last playhouse to be built on Bankside;
* Fragility: the monument’s recorded and projected buried archaeology is fragile and vulnerable to redevelopment;
* Potential: the potential to discover further structural remains of the arenas, and associated ecofacts and artefacts, is high - further informing on their form and the lives of the people who attended them for their leisure;
* Period: the bear gardens are a distinct monument type of the period, found only in London;
* Group value: associated with playhouses of the period, two of which are scheduled and are in close proximity, the Rose and the Globe on Bankside.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bowsher, Julian, Shakespeare's London Theatreland: Archaeology, History and Drama, (July 2012), 151 - 159
Mackinder, A, The Hope Playhouse, animal baiting and later industrial activity at Bear Gardens on Bankside, (2013), 10-20
Mackinder, A, Blatherwick, S, Bankside: Excavations at Benbow House, Southwark, London SE1, (2000), 17-33
Stabler Heritage: London's Elizabethan and Jacobean Playhouses and Bear baiting arenas.January 2016

Source: Historic England

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