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


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Bear Gardens, Southwark, London, SE1P 5LX


Ordnance survey map of The Hope Playhouse, and the remains of three further bear gardens, Bankside
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Statutory Address:
Bear Gardens, Southwark, London, SE1P 5LX

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Southwark (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


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

Reasons for Designation

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.


Numerous documentary sources and accounts record that animal baiting by dogs, particularly that of bulls and bears but also horses, was an enormously popular sport in the C16 and C17, on a par with the entertainments provided at the playhouses. The entertainment was enjoyed across all strata of society, from royalty through to the lower classes. Bear baiting was officially sanctioned, the Master of the Games being a royal appointee. The Master of the Games was responsible for the Yeoman of the Bears, who received licences, for a fee, to host baiting and obtain profit.

Within London, by the mid C16, the Bankside area of Southwark was the usual venue for animal baiting. This area, between modern Park Street and Bankside, had previously been the site of a number of medieval fish ponds, tenement buildings and inns, collectively known as the ‘stews,’ and was the centre for brothels and prostitution from the C13 to C15. Five bear gardens were known to have been built here. The earliest Bear Garden (no. 1) lay north of Tate Modern, and Bear Garden no. 2 was to the south-east of it. The archaeological evidence for both is thought to have been removed by later development. Of the three later bear baiting pits, Bear Garden 3 (also known as Payne’s Standings and later replaced by Bear Garden 3A) was erected before 1540; the Hope Playhouse (Bear Garden no. 4), which had a dual function of a bear baiting arena and a theatre, was built in 1613, and the last of the bear gardens, Davies’ Bear Garden (Bear Garden no. 5) opened in 1662. These three arenas were all situated in the area contained by the modern Bankside to the north, Rose Alley to the east, Park Street to the south and New Globe Walk to the west. Accordingly, by the C17 century the general area had become known as the bear gardens, a term encompassing the actual bear baiting arenas as well as the associated kennels, sheds and adjoining houses. The name of the road Bear Gardens, which runs north-south between Bankside and Park Street, derives from the historic place name. There is both a direct and indirect association between the bear baiting arenas and the playhouses, including the form of the buildings, their physical locations and connections between individuals involved in both enterprises.

The 1562 Agas Map provides early cartographic evidence of the Bear Gardens, indicating that the arenas were circular in plan at this time, the central area where the bear was attached to a post, was surrounded by scaffolding. Single storey in height and roofed, viewing was from an upper stand and underneath the galleries at the ground floor. In addition to the arena, the Agas map shows the dog kennels, ponds for the washing of bears and the disposal of dead dogs, and adjacent buildings.

There is a substantial documentary record for Bear Gardens 3 (also known as Payne’s Standings) and its successor 3a, in part due to a series of legal depositions of 1620 relating to a long running dispute between the Crown and the Bishop of Winchester over land ownership and documentation of property transfers in Bankside, which assist in identifying the location of the arena, the owners and use. Following the Dissolution, the land on which Bear Gardens 3 was located was transferred in 1539/40 from the Bishop of Winchester to William Payne. The land as described correlates to the eastern half of the Benbow House site and the western side of the Riverside House development, and south to the northern boundary of 20–22 New Globe Walk. In January 1583, the scaffolds of Payne’s Standings collapsed, killing seven people and injuring many others in the audience of approximately 1,000 spectators. The arena was swiftly rebuilt, the replacement Bear Gardens 3a mirroring the Theatre playhouse, in Shoreditch (built 1576), with tiered galleries and a polygonal form. A visitor’s account of 1584 describes the building as round and of three stories, with separate wooden kennels for large English dogs.

By December 1594, the lease of the Bear Garden was purchased by Edward Alleyn for the sum of £200, and was also licenced to hold games. His father-in-law, Philip Henslowe, who built the Rose Playhouse to the south-east in 1587, bought the lease of the tenement properties on which the Bear Gardens was built – the Bell and Cock and the Barge. These properties were situated to the north of the arena and may have provided access into it. In 1606 Alleyn and Henslowe employed a carpenter, Peter Street, to carry out renovation work on the buildings to the north of the Bear Garden, which included the rebuilding of some of the tenement houses, such as the Bell and Cock inn. Street had previously built the Globe Theatre (1599), and in 1600 completed the Fortune, Henslowe’s second playhouse after the Rose, demonstrating the close ties between the bear-baiting arenas and the playhouses.

In 1613 the Bear Garden was demolished, with Henslowe and his new partners Jacob Meade and Gilbert Katherens entering a contract (which survives as part of the Henslowe papers at Dulwich College London) for the replacement with a new building, a joint playhouse and bear baiting arena, to be known as The Hope, similar in size and form to The Swan theatre of 1595, located c.450m to the west, also on Bankside, the archaeological evidence for which is thought to have been lost. Henslowe’s original intention was to have the Hope situated partly upon the site of the old Bear Gardens. However, as this location would have spanned two separate properties, one leased from the Crown, one from the Bishop of Winchester, it was moved slightly to the south to be entirely on the king’s land. A suggested reconstruction by Museum of London Archaeology places the Hope to between 2.0m and 4.05m to the south of the Bear Gardens. The new playhouse was thus built over a ditch on the west side of Bear Garden 3A and the site of the old dog kennels. Timbers, tiles, bricks and slate were all to be recycled and reused in the new building.

The building contract is very specific in intent and provides written evidence of the form and construction of the new building. The instruction is to “newly erect, builde, and sett upp one other Game or Plaiehouse fitt and convenient in all thinges, bothe for players to playe in, and for the game of Beares and Bulls to be bayted in the same, and also a fit and convenient Tyre house and a stage to be taken and carried awaie, and to stand upon tressells good, substanciall, and sufficient for the carrying and bearing of suche a stage […] And to builde the same of suche large compasse, fforme, widenes, and height as the Plaie house called the Swan […] and of such largnes and height as the stearcasses of the saide playehouse called the Swan now are or bee And shall also builde the Heavens all over the saide stage, to be borne or carryd without any postes or supporters to be fixed or sett upon the siade stage, and all gutters of leade needful for the carryage of all suche raine water as shall fall uppon the same And shall also make two Boxes in the lowermost storie firr and decent for gentlemen to sitt in And shall make the particions betwn the Rommes as they are at the saide Plaie house called the Swan.” The facilities at the Hope were also to include a bull house and stables.

The Hope was the last of the playhouses to be built, opening in approximately 1614; the first play staged here, by Lady Elizabeth’s Company, was the premiere of Ben Jonson’s 'Bartholomew Fair' on 31st October 1614. Within the play, Jonson makes several references to the dual-purpose nature of the Hope, such as likening the smell of the playhouse to that of the animals at Smithfield market. Jonson is widely considered to be second in importance to Shakespeare for his contribution to English literature during the C16 and C17.

The Hope, and the Globe, are shown in the 1647 Hollar map known as the ‘Long View of London’. This map erroneously labels the Hope as the Globe (the Hope is on the right on the map) with the Globe, to the left, labelled ‘Beare baiting’, but it nonetheless provides details of the Hope’s layout. The stage is shown as being on the southern side of the structure, with the main entrance opposite on the riverside. Also visible is the ingressus, an internal doorway or entrance to a staircase, providing access to the upper galleries. Contemporary accounts suggest that theatregoers paid extra admission fees to access the upper levels. The original intent was to hold animal baiting only on Sundays and Thursdays, with plays in between, combining Henslowe’s and Alleyn’s business interests as well as maximising ticket sales. However, the animal baiting and other entertainments gradually eclipsed the playing, with increased tension between the actors and playhouse owners, which finally led to the acting company leaving The Hope in 1617, after which very few plays were put on there. By the 1620s the playhouse had reverted to its old name Bear Garden. The Hope was ordered to be closed by Parliament in 1643, however it continued to operate until 1656, during the English Civil War, when it is recorded that the Hope was eventually dismantled. Industrial buildings were constructed over the site of The Hope, with the brick foundations being reused in a possible glasshouse.

Davies’ Bear Garden was the last of the bear baiting arenas to be built on Bankside, and in fact was the last of the polygonal timber-framed buildings erected, including the playhouses. Perhaps fittingly, it was the largest of them all, with an external diameter of approximately 30m. Following the Restoration in 1660, there was a resurgence of animal baiting as a “sport” and a new arena was built. Documentary evidence for the Davies’ Bear Garden is first seen in records of a suit brought by John Squibb against James Davies and others in 1675/6. In the suit Davies, who was Master of the Bears under Charles I, had, since the Restoration, kept the games in other places, but stated that he had been ordered by the Privy Council to return ‘'to the uccustomed place on bankside in Southwarke, and to reduce the said ground to its former use'’. Davies further stated that he and his son, Thomas Davies, had spent £2,000 in building and fitting the new arena and associated facilities at Bankside, saying that this included, ‘'a theatre, dwelling house with stable, a barne and other places fitt for Beares, Bulls, Doggs and other conveniences for the game.'’ It was located to the south-west of The Hope, fronting onto Park Street. There is a wealth of contemporary descriptions of Davies’ Bear Garden, which provide evidence for the nature of the games and activities at the venue, as well as a shift in social mores. Samuel Pepys visited the Davies Bear Garden on at least four occasions from 1666 to 1669. His diary entries from 1667 both relate that the Bear Pit was so busy that Pepys had to enter through an adjoining inn or ale house and into the pit, while on the other two occasions he sat in a box. Morgan’s map of 1682 shows a large courtyard surrounded by buildings labelled ‘bear gardens.’ Davies’ Bear Garden was demolished in 1682.

Potteries and glasshouses were built over the remains of the Bear Gardens, and the industrial character of Bankside in general remained until the regeneration of the late C20.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS Archaeological investigations in the area from 1995 onwards have discovered buried archaeological deposits pertaining to Bear Gardens no. 3/3a, The Hope and the Davies Bear Garden (no. 5), and have been reported in published and unpublished archaeological evaluation and post-excavation assessments. The archaeological discoveries are summarised in the details below. Preservation in situ strategies deployed by the London Borough of Southwark have ensured that these deposits remain protected and preserved beneath the redeveloped sites. The survival of the buildings and their associated deposits beyond the areas of archaeological intervention has been extrapolated by Stabler (2016, 15-6, 27, 41). For Bear Gardens 3/3a the archaeological remains beneath Benbow House and 20-22 New Globe Walk are preserved in situ and there is no indication of systemic modern truncation on the remainder of the projected footprint of the site. For The Hope, with the exception of the known truncation beneath Empire Warehouse, there is no known modern disturbance at the depth of the arena’s archaeological deposits, and so the potential for archaeological remains of the arena is high. It is estimated that over 50% of the foundations of the Davies Bear Garden have been investigated and survive, and as neither of the modern buildings at 58 or 60 Park Street have basements the archaeological remains of the arena are likely to survive. A recent archaeological watching brief along the road Bear Gardens observed late C17 century brick walls with a base depth of 2.55 and 2.68m OD. This would suggest that they relate to post-arena constructions, but also that there is limited modern truncation in the south end of Bear Gardens, thus the arena is likely to survive under the road surface.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS 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.

DESCRIPTION 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.

EXCLUSIONS 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.


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


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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