Newington Butts

Venue Type & Location

Theatre

Site Name: Newington Butts
Location: Newington
County: Surrey
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location

Overview

The first known playhouse S of the Thames in Surrey was located in the parish of St Mary, Newington, originally part of the manor of Walworth belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The playhouse stood for a couple of decades in the late 16th c. on the E side of the high street of Newington, on a property known as Lurklane, approximately 1 mile from Bankside. The enclosed property was 33 yards wide on the W side, 42 yards wide on the E side, and 48 yards deep on N and S sides (Ingram, Business of Playing 158). The site has been suggested to lie under the Elephant & Castle junction where New Kent Road and Newington Causeway meet (Bowsher, Shakespeare's London Theatreland, 54). For a recent argument that the site is  further S under the modern site of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre, see Johnson, Shakespeare’s Lost Playhouse, 72-3.

Although typically referred to simply by its location as 'Newington Butts', Laurie Johnson has recently made a case for using the name 'Playhouse' as cited in a 1590 lease of most of the Lurklane property to Richard Cuckowe by the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury (''Two Names').

Performance History

ca. 1576 Jerome Savage, a lead actor in Warwick's Men, established the playhouse where his own company may have performed. Other companies probably used the playhouse subsequently but records do not reveal their identities before 1590.

ca. 1590 Strange's Men ordered to play for 3 days at Newington Butts while playing at the Rose was prohibited (for unknown reasons). (Foakes, Henslowe's Diary 285).

3-13 June 1594  Admiral's Men and the newly formed Chamberlain's Men mounted 10 performances, either together or individually, including Titus Andronicus (twice) and Jew of Malta (twice) (Johnson, Shakespeare's Lost Playhouse, passim).

Current Status

Long demolished: the site has not been excavated.

History of the Venue

1566 35 acres, including a field called Lurklane, leased by Richard Hicks from the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury. Hicks enclosed part of the field and built a tenement there, subsequently subleased to Richard Thompson.

ca. 1576 Jerome Savage, a leading player with Warwick's men, granted a sublease from Thompson on the property. Savage converted the tenement as a playhouse.

1576--8 Jerome Savage named as a resident sharing responsibility for cleaning the common sewer running along the W side of his property.

1577 Court of Requests case, Savage v. Honingborne et al: Savage appears to have settled this case against Hicks' son-in-law, Peter Honingborne, who had made his first attempt to take over the property.

ca. 1580 Peter Honingborne became the landlord, assuming the main lease; Savage relocated to London in the 1580s.

1580, 13 May Privy Council ordered the Surrey JPs to seek out players performing regularly at Newington Butts contrary to an injunction against playing in and around London until Michaelmas.

1586, 11 May Privy Council ordered the Surrey JPs to restrain playing at Newington.

1594, 6 July Paul Buck granted the lease of the property and playhouse, on condition that he convert the playhouse to some other use, and not to allow any plays there after Michaelmas 1594.

1595, 5 April Paul Buck redemised the property, presumably having satisfied the condition set previously for conversion of the playhouse. The dimensions as stated on 5 April were corrected by Buck on 6 April.

1599 Sewer commissioners reported on other houses standing on the site of the 'old playhouse' (Wickham et al, English Professional Theatre 329).

Record Source

REED Newington Butts Theatre records (forthcoming).

Bibliographic Sources

Adams, Joseph Quincy. Shakespearean Playhouses : a history of English theatres from the beginnings to the Restoration. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1917.
Bowsher, Julian. Shakespeare's London Theatreland: Archaeology, history and drama. London: Museum of London Archaeology, 2012.
Chambers, E.K. The Elizabethan Stage. 1923. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1974.
Darlington, Ida. St George's Fields (The Parishes of St. George the Martyr Southwark and St. Mary Newington). Survey of London 25. London: London County Council, 1955.
Foakes, R.A. . Henslowe's Diary. 1st ed [1961]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1968.
Ingram, William. The Business of Playing: The Beginnings of the Adult Professional Theater in Elizabethan London. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Ioppolo, Grace. Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project. 02/25/2014 (http://www.henslowe-alleyn.org.uk/index.html)
Johnson, Laurie. Shakespeare's Lost Playhouse: Eleven Days at Newington Butts. Routledge Studies in Shakespeare: 24. New York and London: Routledge, 2018.
Johnson, Laurie. 'The Two Names of Newington Butts' Shakespeare Quarterly 68.2 (2017): 192–8.
Wickham, Glynne, Herbert Berry and William Ingram, eds . English Professional Theatre, 1530–1660. Theatre in Europe: A Documentary History. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.