Tag Archives: Henry Machyn

Life and death in Tudor London (Henry Machyn, 1563)


On this day in 1563, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“One master Lynsey armourer dwelling in Bishope-gate street did hang himself in a privy house for he had his office taken away from him … .  The same day there was a maid dwelling in Hay lane … did fall out of a window and break her neck.  The same day … in saint Martens there was a woman dwelling there took a pair of shearers for to have cut her throat, but she missed the pipe in her … madness, and … a day after … died … ”.

Machyn, who lived from 1496/1498–1563, was  a merchant-taylor or clothier but is now best known as a diarist or chronicler.  His  Diary, written between 1550-1563, contains descriptions of such  important events in Tudor history as the Reformation, and the conversion of the country to Protestantism, under Henry VIII, and the reversion to Catholicism under Henry’s daughter Mary.  Judging from his actions, as well as from  the tone of the Chronicle, Machyn would appear to have been at least  a closet Catholic.  In 1561, he committed the sinful act of “spyking serten [slanderous] words against Veron the [Protestant] preacher”, for which he paid penance at St Paul’s Cross.


On This Day In London History

On this day, December 9th, in London history …

“Bere-beyten on the Banke side” 

A Medieval depiction of bear baiting - Copy

In 1554, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“The sam day at after-non was a bere-beyten on the Banke syde, and ther the grett blynd bere broke losse, and in ronnyng away he chakt a servyng man by the calff of the lege, and bytt a gret pesse away, and after by the hokyll-bone, that with-in iii days after he ded”.

Reversal of Fortune 

In 1621, the Fortune Theatre, built by “Good Master” Edward Alleyn in 1600, burnt down.

The site of the theatre is marked by a plaque on Fortune Street.

Fortune Theatre plaque - Copy

Both the theatre and Alleyn are commemorated in a stained glass window in the church of St Giles Cripplegate.

The Fortune Theatre (left) and Edward Alleyn (centre), St Giles Cripplegate - Copy

Readers interested in further information on the theatre and on the contemporary scene are referred to Julian Bowsher’s excellent recent book entitled “Shakespeare’s London Theatreland” (Museum of London Archaeology, 2012).


In 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“[T]o my chamber, and there begun to enter into this book my journal for September, which in the fire-time I could not enter here, but in loose papers”.

Mary Tudor seizes the throne (Henry Machyn, 1553)

July 19th – On this day in 1553, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“The xix day of July was … Mare [Tudor] proclamyd qwene … , [as the] sister of the late kyng Edward the vi and daughter unto the nobull Henry  the viii … , and … ther was … song, and … belles ryngyng thrugh London, and bone-fyres, and tabuls in evere strett, and wyne and beer and alle, … and ther was money cast a-way”.

Queen Mary - quite scary

Queen Mary – quite scary

Meantime, Lady Jane Grey, who had acceded to the throne nine days previously, was imprisoned in the Tower.  She was later tried and convicted on a charge of treason in November, 1553, and eventually executed on February 12th, 1554.

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche