Tag Archives: John Chamberlain

Shrove Tuesday riots (John Chamberlain, 1617)

dudley_carleton_by_van_mierevelt-_jpeg

On this day in 1617, a riot took place in London, as described in a letter written by John Chamberlain  (see also January 8th posting) to Sir Dudley Carleton, as follows:

“On … Shrove Tuesday, the ‘prentices, or rather the unruly people of the suburbs, played their parts in divers places, as Finsbury Fields, about Wapping, by St Catherine’s, and in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, …  in pulling down of houses, and beating of guards that were set to keep rule, specially at a new playhouse, some time a cockpit, in Drury Lane, where the queen’s players used to play.  Though the fellows defended themselves as well as they could, and slew three of them with shot, and hurt divers, yet they entered the house and defaced it, cutting the players’ apparel into pieces, and all their furniture, and burnt their playbooks, and did what other mischief they could… .  There be divers of them taken since and clapped up, and I make no question but we shall see some of them hanged next week, as it is more than time they were”.

Bawdy House in 17th Century England

It was not an isolated event.  Between 1606 and 1641, there were a total of 24 such Shrove Tuesday riots, generally targeting “bawdy-houses”.   And on Tuesday March 24th, 1668, there was another particularly large one, involving tens of thousands of the populace, and described by Samuel Pepys  in his diary.

“The Thames is quite frozen over” (1608)

frost-fair-diorama-globe-theatre

In the January of  1608, the Thames froze over  in London, as described  in a letter written on this day, by  John Chamberlain  to Sir Dudley Carleton, as follows:

“Above Westminster the Thames is quite frozen over and the Archbishop came from Lambeth on Twelfthday over the ice to the court.  Many fantastical experiments are daily put in practice, as certain youths burnt a gallon of wine upon the ice and made all the passengers partakers.  But the best is of an honest woman (they say) that had a great longing to have her husband get her with child upon the Thames”.

Further records indicate that the Thames  froze  over  in London nearly forty  times between 1142 and 1895 (see also November 24th posting).

John Chamberlain

John Chamberlain, who lived from 1553/4-1628, and was baptised and buried in the church of St Olave Jewry in the City of London, is best known now as the author of a large number of letters written between 1597-1626, that “constitute the first considerable body … in English history and literature that the modern reader can easily follow”.

Most of the nearly 500 that still survive were written to Sir Dudley Carleton while he   was serving as an ambassador in Venice and The Hague, and were evidently intended to keep the ambitious diplomat abroad  informed  of events – especially those befalling “the better sort of people” – at home  (incidentally, Carleton went on to become Secretary of State).  The letters contain descriptions of such  important events in Elizabethan and Jacobean history as the trial of the Earls of Essex and Southampton in 1601, the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, the trial  of the Earl and Countess of Somerset in 1615, and the execution of Sir Walter Ralegh in 1618.  They also contain much court, City and country tittle-tattle (“who’s in, who’s out”), picked up, no doubt,  in St Paul’s Cathedral, which at the time had a reputation as  the fount of all such – it appears that  Chamberlain was an inveterate “Paul’s walker”!

“The Fatall Vesper”, or “A pittiful accident in the black friers” (John Chamberlain, 1623)

a-contemporary-engraving-of-the-accident-in-blackfriars

In  1623, John Chamberlain wrote in a  letter to Dudley Carleton:

“The next day after I wrote last  here fell out a pittiful incident in the black friers, where the papists had hired a house next to the French Ambassadors (that so they might be as it were under his protection) to hold …  masse, … and perform all other their exercises and rites after the Romish manner; a great multitude being met there on the 26th of the last month [October] to heare father Drurie a famous Jesuit among them preach in an upper roome, the floore sunke under them, or rather the beames and joystes not able to bear the weight brake in the midst.  Many [possibly as many as one hundred] perished, partly battered and bruised, but for the most part smothered, for the first floore fell with such violence that it brake down a second under it.  A number were hurt …, which found little helpe or comfort at first, our people being growne so savage … that they refused to assist them … in their necessitie, but rather insulted upon them with taunts and gibes in their affliction …, but there was as much goode … to represse the insolencie and inhumanitie of the multitude, and for reliefe of the distressed”.

Blackfriars is visited on our “London Wall“ standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

Bear-baiting  

A Medieval depiction of bear baiting

On this day in 1623, John Chamberlain (see also March 4th and March 10th postings) wrote in a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton:

“The Spanish Ambassador is much delighted in beare baiting: he was the last weeke at Paris garden [in Southwark], where they shewed him all the pleasure they could  … and then turned a white [polar] beare into the Thames, where the dogges baited him swimming, which was the best sport of all”.

The Swiss visitor Thomas Platter had written of the practice of bear-baiting earlier, in 1599:

“Every Sunday [!] and Wednesday in London there are bear-baitings.  … The theatre is circular, with galleries … for spectators, [and] the space … below, beneath the clear sky, … unoccupied. In the middle of this place a large bear on a long rope was bound to a stake, then a number of English mastiffs were brought in and first shown to the bear, which they afterwards baited … .  [N]ow the excellence … of such mastiffs was evinced, for although they were much … mauled by the bear, they did not give in, but had to be pulled off by sheer force … .  The bears’ teeth were not sharp so to they could not injure the dogs; they have them broken short.  When the first mastiffs tired, fresh ones were brought in … .  When the bear was weary, another one was supplied … .  … When this bear was tired, a … bull was brought in … .  Then another powerful bear … .  Lastly they brought in an old blind bear which the boys hit  with … sticks; but he knew how to untie his leash and … ran back to his stall”.

“Great marvaile and fair grace of God” (fire at Shakespeare’s Globe, 1613)

On this day in 1613, the original “Globe” play-house on Bankside in Southwark burned down, after sparks from a theatrical cannon set its thatch alight during a performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry the Eighth” (see also June 12th posting).    It was rebuilt in 1614, before falling into disuse sometime around 1642, when the performance of plays was banned by an Act of Parliament forced through by the Puritans; and was finally demolished in 1644, again by order of the Puritans (see also April 15th posting).

Henry Wotton wrote of the fire in 1613, in a letter to Sir Edmund Bacon (reproduced in “Reliquiae Wottoniae”):

“Now, King Henry making a Masque at the Cardinal Wolsey’s House, and certain Cannons being shot off at his entry, some of the Paper, or other stuff, wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the Thatch, …  and … kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole House to the very ground.  This was the fatal period … wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw … ; … one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle ale”.

And John Chamberlain:

“[I]t was a great marvaile and fair grace of God, that the people had so little harm, having but two narrow doors to get out”.

4 - Shakespeare on Fire

The 400th anniversary of the fire, in 2013,   was marked by the reconstructed “Globe” by a series of events on the theme of  “Shakespeare on Fire”.

The site of the original “Globe” is visited on our “Historic Southwark” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special (together with Sam Wanamaker’s reconstruction).

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site (www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk).

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site (www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk), by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

 

Shrove Tuesday riots (John Chamberlain, 1617)

According to the endlessly fascinating “A London Year” by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison, a riot took place in London on this day in 1617.  Four days later John Chamberlain described the event in a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, as follows:

“On … Shrove Tuesday, the ‘prentices, or rather the unruly people of the suburbs, played their parts in divers places, as Finsbury Fields, about Wapping, by St Catherine’s, and in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, …  in pulling down of houses, and beating of guards that were set to keep rule, specially at a new playhouse, some time a cockpit, in Drury Lane, where the queen’s players used to play.  Though the fellows defended themselves as well as they could, and slew three of them with shot, and hurt divers, yet they entered the house and defaced it, cutting the players’ apparel into pieces, and all their furniture, and burnt their playbooks, and did what other mischief they could… .  There be divers of them taken since and clapped up, and I make no question but we shall see some of them hanged next week, as it is more than time they were”.

It was not an isolated event.  Between 1606 and 1641, there were a total of 24 such Shrove Tuesday riots, generally targeting “bawdy-houses”.   And on Tuesday March 24th, 1668, there was another particularly large one, involving tens of thousands of the populace, and described by Samuel Pepys  in his diary.

John Chamberlain

John Chamberlain, who lived from 1553/4-1628, and was baptised and buried in the church of St Olave Jewry in the City of London, is best known now as the author of a large number of letters written between 1597-1626, that “constitute the first considerable body … in English history and literature that the modern reader can easily follow”.

Most of the nearly 500 that still survive were written to Sir Dudley Carleton while he   was serving as an ambassador in Venice and The Hague, and were evidently intended to keep the ambitious diplomat abroad  informed  of events – especially those befalling “the better sort of people” – at home  (incidentally, Carleton went on to become Secretary of State).  The letters contain descriptions of such  important events in Elizabethan and Jacobean history as the trial of the Earls of Essex and Southampton in 1601, the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, the trial  of the Earl and Countess of Somerset in 1615, and the execution of Sir Walter Ralegh in 1618.  They also contain much court, City and country tittle-tattle (“who’s in, who’s out”), picked up, no doubt,  in St Paul’s Cathedral, which at the time had a reputation as  the fount of all such – it appears that  Chamberlain was an inveterate “Paul’s walker”!

“The Fatall Vesper”, or “A pittiful accident in the black friers” (John Chamberlain, 1623)

A contemporary engraving of the incidentOctober 26thOn this day in 1623, Father Drurie preached to a great multitude in an upper room in Blackfriars, with dire consequences.

John Chamberlain wrote about it in a letter to Dudley Carleton:

“The next day after I wrote last here fell out a pittiful incident in the black friers, where the papists had hired a house next to the French Ambassadors (that so they might be as it were under his protection) to hold …  masse, … and perform all other their exercises and rites after the Romish manner; a great multitude being met there on the 26th of the last month to heare father Drurie a famous Jesuit among them preach in an upper roome, the floore sunke under them, or rather the beames and joystes not able to bear the weight brake in the midst.  Many [possibly as many as one hundred] perished, partly battered and bruised, but for the most part smothered, for the first floore fell with such violence that it brake down a second undfer it.  A number were hurt …, which found little helpe or comfort at first, our people being growne so savage … that they refused to assist them … in their necessitie, but rather insulted upon them with taunts and gibes in their affliction …, but there was as much goode … to represse the insolencie and inhumanitie of the multitude, and for reliefe of the distressed”.

A contemporary engraving of the incident

A contemporary engraving of the incident

Blackfriars is visited on our “London Wall“ standard walk, and on our “Tudor London” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).