Tag Archive | Elizabeth I

Amusements of Old London: Hockley in the Hole

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

Hockley in the Hole, Clerkenwell

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Hockley was a venue which provided entertainments reminiscent of Elizabethan times, such as bear- and bull-baiting, sword- or cudgel-bearing gladiators, and such. It was, in the early 18th century,

the headquarters of… the “fancy,” … the organisation of rather low caste sporting characters who devoted themselves to forms of sport… more or less frowned upon by the respectable and law-abiding.

Hockley had “an atmosphere of blackguardism about [it]”. While its claims to represent the tradition of the old Bear-Garden of Queen Elizabeth I at Bankside were questionable, it did receive enough patronage to rank it as “one of the chief amusements of the town for the next half century.”

Animal-baiting (Mondays and Thursdays)

Queen Bess herself was such a “grand connoisseur” of the sport that she forbade the acting of plays on Thursday, which was the day specified for bear-baiting at Bankside. By the time of the Stuarts, however, it had descended into the ranks of “lower entertainments,” but was still “patronised more or less furtively… by persons of high station.”

Both bulls and bears were chained to a staple in the arena or pit by a chain of about fifteen feet in length, so that the defending animal had relative freedom of movement over a circle of thirty feet. “They… are fastened from behind… and worried by great English bulldogs, not without great risque from the horns of the one and the teeth of the other.” The dog, attended by his owner, was held in front of the chained animal by the ears until he was wild with fury, and then let go.

An experienced bull

kept his feet close together to avoid any attack from beneath, and presented a horn at the advancing enemy. The horn… was either blunted at the point or provied with a sheath which minimised the risk of a gore… The old bull… relied chiefly upon getting the dog in the hollow of these long horns… and upon disabling it by a toss in the air and a drop of perhaps thirty feet on the hard floor of the pit. The experienced dog knew the danger, and avoided it as much as possible by crouching on the ground in the preliminary fencing for an opening, which usually preceded the rush for the throat. If the bull made his coup, the dog went flying into the air, often into the boxes twenty feet above the pit, as when Mr. Evelyn saw one dropped into a lady’s lap… in 1670.

PFA109529 Bull Baiting (oil on paper laid on panel) by Alken, Samuel Henry (1810-94); 17.8x26 cm; Private Collection; Photo © Bonhams, London, UK; English, out of copyright

PFA109529 Bull Baiting (oil on paper laid on panel) by Alken, Samuel Henry (1810-94); 17.8×26 cm; Private Collection; Photo ¬© Bonhams, London, UK; English, out of copyright

Bear-baiting was more dangerous to the dog and thus was more rarely seen. Variations of the sport might have two dogs attacking a bull, as well as animals such as leopards, tigers, and horses (including one ferocious horse owned by the Earl of Dorchester who had killed other horses and was deemed untamable).

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Note: The Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 forbade the keeping of any house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bull, bear, dog, or other animal.

Prize-fighting with weapons (the rest of the week)

The prize-fight of Hockley in the Hole “was organised solely for the purposes of exhibition and the resulting gate-money” and “performed with lethal weapons, or with cudgel and quarter-staff.” The meetings between participants (“gladiators”) were organized in advance and announced with handbills such as this one from 3rd July, 1709:

At the Bear Garden at Hockley in the Hole, near Clerkenwell Green, a trial of skill shall be performed at the noble science of self-defence, on Wednesday next, at two of the clock precisely.

I, George Grey, born in the city of Norwich, who have fought in most part of the West Indies—viz., Jamaica and Barbadoes, and several other parts of the world—in all twenty-five times, and upon the stage, and never yet was worsted, and being now lately come to London, do invite James Harris, to meet and exercise at these following weapons, viz., backsword, sword and dagger, sword and buckler, single falchion and case of falchions.

I, James Harris, master of the noble science of self-defence, and formerly rid in the Horse Guards, and have fought an hundred and ten prizes, and never left the stage to any man, will not fail, God willing, to meet this brave and bold inviter at the time and place appointed, desiring sharp swords and from him no favour.

No person to be upon the stage but the second. Vivat Regina.

While the swords were sharp and blood flowed freely,

there was never a serious attack with the point, and there is only one record of a single death as a result of half a century of fighting, and that an accidental one from blood-poisoning. No padding was used, apparently, no masks or jackets, which are necessary even in foil practice to-day, and yet it is certain that great injury was as a rule avoided.

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Mr. Figg’s Establishment on Oxford Road had no animal-baiting and was patronized by a higher class than than Hockley. Figg’s specialized in self-defence and prize-fighting, of which Figg himself was the acclaimed master.

Female prize-fighters were popular in nearly all of these establishments, including Figg’s, and “supplied a pleasant change from the ordinary attractions of the place. The challenges were certainly arranged beforehand like [those of the men], and “words” referred to by Elizabeth [in the handbill] were no doubt exchanged over a friendly pot of porter at some favourite house of call near the Fleet Ditch… The artificial character of the quarrel and of its preliminaries, however, does not appear to have diminished the realities of the encounter.

[Hockley’s] final overthrow was the result of the growth of London and the municipal improvements which accompanied it. The whole district was drained and its level raised in 1756, when it is probable that the bear garden disappeared. The cult of the London prize-ring had already supplanted the attractions of its contests with sword and quarter-staff, and its bull and bear baitings found patronage further afield.

Amusements of Old London series

Susana’s Adventures in England: Charlecote Park

In my mind, Charlecote Park will always be associated with buses—and the frustration of trying to find the one you need to take you to your destination. Maybe it’s not fair, since the problem I had was in part due to my own error, and it was certainly not the first time I’ve had issues finding transportation between train stations and stately manors, but it will forever be remembered as the place where I “lost it.” Or, as I put it when relating the story later to my friend Cora Lee, “I totally freaked out.”

rail-station

The rail system in the UK is fabulous, especially if you get a BritRail pass before you leave. The BritRail pass makes reservations unnecessary, so you can get on any train without having to worry about timing. Unfortunately, there is a little matter of the distance between the rail station and your destination.

I’ve found Cheryl Bolen’s England’s Stately Homes By Train very helpful in this regard because she gives specific instructions for buses and taxis. But things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to. For example, when you leave the train station and are confronted with a listing of buses that shows every number except the one you need, and nobody around you knows anything about that one, what do you do? My solution: find a taxi. The extra money is definitely worth the peace of mind.

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But you still have to find a way back to the train station. If you have a mobile phone, you can call the cab company that brought you there. Or you can make an arrangement with the taxi driver to pick you up at a certain time, but then you might have to cut your visit short, which is a shame, since these stately manors have so many sights to see besides the interior of the house.

So, make sure you have a mobile phone. Because you never know when you are going to find yourself at a station that has no taxi and no pay telephone. Even if the online information says there is a telephone there, it won’t help you if the telephone is inside a building and the building is closed for the weekend—or the bank holiday—or is just always closed and nobody bothered to update the information on the website.

So what happened at Charlecote Park?

At Leamington Spa, I walked outside looking for a bus station adjacent to the train station. (Later, I realized the directions said “bus stop”, but the bus stop in front of the train station did not list Charlecote anywhere, and the one across the road had a sign that said, “Check schedule,” which was not helpful, since I didn’t have one.) I walked around and asked several people if they knew how to get to Charlecote Park. They did not. So I returned to the train station and asked an employee at a window there where the bus station was. He said to take the path to the left, follow it around a bend, and it would be on the next street. Um, no. It was just a street.

I walked one way for a few blocks, then saw a bus going the other way, so I changed direction. On the way, I asked a construction worker, who scratched his head and said first one way, then the other. I kept walking. The road curved around and I asked an older couple who were getting out of a car with tennis racquets.

“The bus station? Oh, it’s right next to the rail station, right around this curve!”

Really? How had I missed it? I must be a real dunce. So I asked them if I should turn and go back the way I came or just keep going around the curve. They discussed it for a few moments, and then shrugged and said it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. So I decided to follow the curve rather than retrace my steps, which was probably a mistake, since I found myself on a busy highway that seemed to go on forever.

By the time I had reached the rail station again, I had already walked four miles and was about to lose my temper. But then I saw a taxi stand, and my problems were over. Or so I thought.

I did finally get to Charlecote Park. My first action was to get a latte and scone at the cafe and rest my aching feet. I did feel better after that, and kept telling myself the same thing I told my ten-year-old nephew when I took him and my sister to Mexico for two weeks: Think of it as an adventure you can brag to your friends about. What are a few hardships to a veteran traveler?

scone

But getting there is only half the problem. You always have to find a way to get back.

This time, I queried the staff in the ticket office, telling them the story of the non-existent bus station. They were sympathetic, but couldn’t tell me anything about a bus station. An elderly volunteer “who knows everything about the buses here” shook his head and said, “There hasn’t been a bus station in Leamington Spa for more than fifteen years.”

Aha! No wonder I couldn’t find it!

But there are buses to Leamington Spa. One employee got out the schedule to prove it to me. The bus stop is just around the corner. Turn right at the entrance and go around the corner and it’s right there. Such nice, reassuring people. This time I would find the bus stop!

But I didn’t. There wasn’t any bus stop. Had I misunderstood the directions? Or was this an unmarked bus stop that only locals knew about? By this time, I was really upset. Hopping mad, in fact.

But I had to do something. So I found myself at the Charlecote Pheasant Hotel. At first there didn’t appear to be anyone there. Really? This just wasn’t my day. Finally, I found a workman who directed me to the front desk, where, when I got there, I promptly burst into tears.

Humiliating, you say? I was way beyond that. The kind young woman at the desk offered me water and showed me to a place where I could sit and calm down. She was so helpful! When I was ready, she showed me where the bus stop was (and no, there wasn’t a sign), and I managed to get back to the train station all in one piece, and only slightly the worse for wear.

The moral of the story is—. Well, there really isn’t one. Having a mobile phone wouldn’t have helped in this situation. But when you travel, even if you have a great guidebook, expect to find unexpected difficulties. Do not expect that locals will always be able to help you—especially if you ask them for something that doesn’t exist. But do expect to find kind, compassionate people who will help you when you need it most. In the end, it will turn out to be a grand adventure you can tell all your friends and even laugh about. Maybe.

Charlecote Park

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Charlecote Park was built by Sir Thomas Lucy in 1558. Located in Warwickshire, four miles from Shakespeare’s home, Stratford-upon-Avon, it is famous for having housed Queen Elizabeth I. According to legend, a young William Shakespeare was caught poaching deer here, and he took his revenge on Sir Thomas by portraying him as the fussy Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor. The famous Capability Brown worked his magic on the landscaping here, but he had to do it without cutting down a single tree.

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George Hammond Lucy and his wife Mary Elizabeth refitted the house in the mid-nineteenth century in the style of “Good Queen Bess” or Elizabethan Revival. With the help of designer and heraldic expert Thomas Willement, they filled the new rooms with heraldic stained glass, early editions of Shakespeare, and ebony furniture (which they thought to be Tudor). Many tables and cabinets came from the bankruptcy sale of collector William Beckford.

Check out my photos from Charlecote Park here.

The Dover Road: “Rich crowds of historical figures”

dust jacket

The following post is the thirteenth of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is replete with commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

Note: Comment to enter the contest for Susana’s September Giveaway, a lovely necklace from London’s National Gallery (see photo at right).

“Rich crowds of historical figures”

One can almost imagine Mr. Tristram trembling with anticipation to relate to us the countless numbers of historical personages who passed along this timeworn route—so many that he skips over the Romans and barely mentions the pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. In fact, he admits

And here I may perhaps remark with advantage—to myself (in case it may appear that I am on a history bent rather than on coaching)—that the purely coaching record of the Dover Road is a thing only to be touched on briefly. For in point of fact it is “thin”, as dramatic critics would say, in the extreme.

dover road

Deptford: Elizabeth I, Christopher Marlowe, Sayes Court

In 1581 Elizabeth I traveled along a turnpike that ran from New Cross to Deptford to board Drake’s ship, the Golden Hind, that circumnavigated the globe. Apparently it was later

converted into a sort of dining-house for London visitors; in which case all I can say is that I hope that they recollected in what sort of sanctuary of heroism they were dining, and drank the health reverently of the great man who made English commerce possible, and so, indirectly, enabled them to pay the bill.

Replica of the Golden Hind

Replica of the Golden Hind

It was in Deptford that “the greatest perhaps of our Elizabethan dramatists was killed here in a tavern brawl.” Our author goes on about Christopher Marlowe‘s birth at Canterbury and insinuates that “the greatest of our poets is unrepresented in our pedantic Pantheon,” that other lesser poets were honored with slabs of marble while he only with an unmarked grave in the churchyard at St. Nicholas’s Church in Deptford. As to that, I feel I must add that had he not died at the age of thirty (under circumstances that are murky at best), his achievements might have been unequalled even by Shakespeare or Cervantes. And that a memorial window in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey was laid in for him in 2002, which must have given great gratification to all Marlowe devotees.

Memorial window to Christopher Marlowe, Poets' Corner, Westminst

Sayes Court, known for its exquisite gardens, was the setting for “some of the most brilliant scenes in Kenilworth” by Sir Walter Scott. Kenilworth is the story of a secret marriage between Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and Amy Robsart. Click here to download this classic for free on your Kindle.

Set in 1575,

the tragic series of events begins when Amy flees her father and her betrothed, Tressilian, to marry the Earl. Amy passionately loves her husband, and the Earl loves her in return, but he is driven by ambition. He is courting the favour of Queen Elizabeth I, and only by keeping his marriage to Amy secret can he hope to rise to the height of power that he desires. At the end of the book, the queen finally discovers the truth, to the shame of the Earl. But the disclosure has come too late, for Amy has been murdered by the Earl’s even more ambitious steward, Varney. (Wikipedia)

sayes court

Sayes Court

Tristram remarks:

I confess that it does me good when in the course of these disjounted rambles along the great roads of England I can find some spot haunted by the, to me, charmed figures which throng the pages of the Waverley Novels. Hitherto I have not reaped much of a harvest of joy in this direction it must be confessed; but Deptford has given me my first opportunity; and the Dover Road, a little further on, will give me my second; with which remark I think I may leave Deptford altogether, lamenting that all that can be seen of Sayes Court is now a parish workhouse, which stands on its site; and marvelling at the imperial relaxation of Peter the Great who stayed here in 1698 (at the Court, not at the workhouse), and who was wont to unbend a mind wearied with shipbuilding, by being driven through the world-famous hedges of the garden in a wheelbarrow.

A Kindred Spirit

It occurs to me that Mr. Tristram, in the above paragraph, has captured for me the essence of my fascination for this book. While I’m always interested in how people lived—and that includes travel—in the past, it’s not the listings of coaches and their travel times that holds my interest, anymore than it’s the grandeur and magnificence of stately homes that draws me to England year after year. It’s the history—the people who traveled there, lived there, had experiences there that catches my imagination. Standing on the same ground where countless others stood so many years ago, I feel privileged to be a part of it. There’s a sense of continuity of life, of gratitude for events and people that made it possible for me to live in relative safety, and sorrow that so much of what could have been learned from the past continues to be replayed again and again in the modern world.

History has so much to teach. If only people would listen to its wisdom!

 Index to all the posts in this series

1: The Bath Road: The (True) Legend of the Berkshire Lady

2: The Bath Road: Littlecote and Wild William Darrell

3: The Bath Road: Lacock Abbey

4: The Bath Road: The Bear Inn at Devizes and the “Pictorial Chronicler of the Regency”

5: The Exeter Road: Flying Machines, Muddy Roads and Well-Mannered Highwaymen

6: The Exeter Road: A Foolish Coachman, a Dreadful Snowstorm and a Romance

7: The Exeter Road in 1823: A Myriad of Changes in Fifty Years

8: The Exeter Road: Basingstoke, Andover and Salisbury and the Events They Witnessed

9: The Exeter Road: The Weyhill Fair, Amesbury Abbey and the Extraordinary Duchess of Queensberry

10: The Exeter Road: Stonehenge, Dorchester and the Sad Story of the Monmouth Uprising

11: The Portsmouth Road: Royal Road or Road of Assassination?

12: The Brighton Road: “The Most Nearly Perfect, and Certainly the Most Fashionable of All”

13: The Dover Road: “Rich crowds of historical figures”

14: The Dover Road: Blackheath and Dartford

15: The Dover Road: Rochester and Charles Dickens

16: The Dover Road: William Clements, Gentleman Coachman

17: The York Road: Hadley Green, Barnet

18: The York Road: Enfield Chase and the Gunpowder Treason Plot

19: The York Road: The Stamford Regent Faces the Peril of a Flood

20: The York Road: The Inns at Stilton

21: The Holyhead Road: The Gunpowder Treason Plot

22: The Holyhead Road: Three Notable Coaching Accidents

23: The Holyhead Road: Old Lal the Legless Man and His Extraordinary Flying Machine

24: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part I)

25: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part II)

26: Flying Machines and Waggons and What It Was Like To Travel in Them

27: “A few words on Coaching Inns” and Conclusion

Hever Castle: Anne Boleyn’s Childhood Home

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The original defensive castle was started in 1270, and in the 15th and 16th centuries, it became the home of the powerful Bullen (Boleyn) family, who added the Tudor dwelling to the castle. This is where Thomas Boleyn, a diplomat and politician who later became the 1st Earl of Wiltshire and the 1st Earl of Ormond lived with his wife, Elizabeth Howard (daughter of the Duke of Norfolk), and their three surviving children, George, Anne, and Mary.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Anne, of course, was destined to become the second wife of Henry VIII—and the reason for his break from Rome to make himself the Head of the Church of England so that he could grant himself a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to give him a son. And since Anne herself could only give him a daughter, a pretext had to be found to get rid of her so that he could find a woman who would. She was convicted of adultery and incest with her brother George, and both of them were executed on the block.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Very tragic. But it was Anne’s daughter Elizabeth who would become one of the greatest monarchs of England, the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I. And Thomas Boleyn, who lies in the nearby church, is her maternal grandfather.

Church where Thomas Boleyn is buried

Church where Thomas Boleyn is buried

Poor Henry is more known for his marital discords than anything else he did, unless it might be destroying England’s greatest monasteries in order to steal their wealth to fund his lifestyle. (Apologies to anyone reading this who might be a Henry VIII fan, but as you can see, I’m not one.) His third wife gave him a son and promptly died, and he had his marriage to Anne of Cleves, annulled. In the annulment document, she was granted Hever Castle, which had come to him at the death of Thomas Boleyn, among other properties.

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves

By the early 20th century, the property was in poor repair and was purchased by the American millionaire, William Waldorf Astoria, for a family residence. He added the Astor Wing, built in Tudor style, which has now become the Hever Castle Luxury Bed & Breakfast. I stayed there and highly recommend it! Be sure to book ahead, as rooms are limited.

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Astor Wing

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Astor Wing

One of the things I noticed here was the large number of families, including seniors in wheelchairs, visiting the castle and grounds. I’m pretty sure the castle isn’t accessible to wheelchairs, but the gardens have ramps so that Granny and Aunt Sally can come to enjoy the beauty of nature. I have also noticed that many of these sites offer playgrounds and activities for children, and that school children come here for field trips. Lucky kids! Imagine how much more knowledgeable and interested in history they will be when they are older than our American kids are!

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Yes, it has a moat and a drawbridge!

Yes, it has a moat and a drawbridge!

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Banquet Hall

Banquet Hall

Maze

Maze

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For more photos, check out my Pinterest page.

Hever Castle is near Edenbridge, Kent. And if you go there by train, make sure to have a mobile phone with you, because there is no one, absolutely no one, at the Hever train station!