Privy Council Letters to the JPs of Middlesex and Surrey and the Lord Mayor

TNA: PC 2/26

pp 514–15 (31 December) (Whitehall)

Two Lettres of one tenour to the Iustices of Middlesex & Surrey. It is in vaine for vs to take knowledg of greate abuses & disorders complayned of, and to giue order for redresse, if our directions finde no better execution and observation then it seemeth they do: and wee must needes impute the fault and blame thereof to yow or some of yow the Iustices of the peace that are put in trust to see them executed and perfourmed: whereof wee may giue yow a plaine instance in the great abuse contynued or rather encreased in the multitude of Plaie howses and Stage Plaies in and about the Cittie of London. ffor whereas about a yeare & a half since (vpon knowledge taken of the great enormities and disorders by the overmuch frequentinge of Plaies) wee did carefullie sett downe and proscribe an order to be observed concerninge the number of Playhowses, and the vse and exercise of Stage plaies with lymytacion of tymes and places for the same, (namely that there should be but two howses allowed for that vse, one in Middlesex called the Fortune, and the other in Surrey called the Globe; and the same with observacion of certaine daies and times as in the said order is particularly expressed) in such sorte as a moderate practice of them for honest recreation might be contynued, and yet the inordinate concourse of dissolute and idle people be restrayned; wee do now vnderstande that our said order hath bin so farr from taking dew effect, as in steede of restrainte and redresse of the former disorders the multitude of play howses is much encreased, and that no daie passeth over without many Stage plaies in one place or other within and about the Cittie publiquelie made; The default of perfourmance of which said our said order, we must in greate parte the rather impute to the Iustices of the peace, because at the same tyme wee gaue earnest direction vnto yow to see it streightly executed; and to certifie vs of the execution; and yet we haue neither vnderstoode of any redresse made by yow nor receaved any Certificate at all of your procedinges therein; which default, or omission, wee do now pray and require yow foorthwith to amende; and to cause our said former order to be putt duely in execution; and especiallie to call before yow the Owners of all the other Play howses (excepting the two howses in Middlesex, and Surrey aforementioned); and to take good and sufficient bondes of them, not to exercise vse or practice, nor to suffer from henceforth to be exercised, vsed or practized any Stage playinge in their howses, and if they shall refuse to enter into such Bondes, then to Comitt them to prison, vntill they shall conforme themselues. And so &c.

A lettre to the Lord Maiour & Aldermen of London. Wee haue receaued a lettre from yow, renewing a Complaint of the great abuse and disorder within and about the Cittie of London, by reason of the multitude of Play howses, and the inordinate resort and Concourse of dissolute and idle people daielie vnto publique Stage plaies; for the which information, as wee do commende your lordship because it betokeneth your Care and desire to reforme the disorders of the Cittie; So wee must lett yow know, that wee did muche rather expect to vnderstand that our order (sett downe and prescribed about a yeare and a half since for reformation of the said disorders vpon the like Complaint at that tyme) had bin duelie executed, then to finde the same disorders and abuses so muche encreased as they are. The blame whereof, as wee cannot but impute in great part to the Iustices of the peace or some of them in the Counties of Middlesex and Surrey, who had speciall direction and charge from vs to see our said order executed, for the Confines of the Cittie, wherein the most part of those Play howses are scituate; So wee do wishe that it might appeare vnto vs that any thing hath bin endeavoured by the Predecessours of yow the Lord Maiour and by yow the Aldermen for the redresse of the said enormities, and for observation & execution of our said order within the Cittie; wee do therefore once againe renew hereby our directions vnto yow (as we haue donne by our lettres to the Iustices of Middlesex and Surrey) concerninge the observation of our former order: which wee do praie and require yow to cause duelie and dilligentlie to be put in execution for all poyntes thereof, and especiallie for thexpresse & streight prohibition of any more Play howses then those two that are mentioned & allowed in the said | Order: Charging & streightlie comaunding all such persons as are the Owners of any the howses vsed for Stage plaies within the Cittie; not to permitt any more publique Plaies to be vsed, exercised, or shewed from hencefoorth in their said howses, And to take bondes of them, (if yow shall finde it needefull) for the perfourmance thereof, Or if they shall refuse to enter into bonde, or to obserue our said order, then to comitt them to Prison vntill they shall conforme themselues thervnto. And so praying yow as yourself do make the Complaint and finde the enormitie; so to applie your best endeau<..> to the remedie of the abuse, wee bidd &c.


  • Marginalia
  • Footnotes
    • Two: T in display script
    • Middlesex: in a more formal script
    • Fortune: in a more formal script
    • Surrey: in a more formal script
    • Globe: in a more formal script
    • Middlesex: in a more formal script
    • Surrey: in a more formal script
    • A: in display script
    • Order: also written as a catchword at the bottom of p 514
    • endeau<..>: reading lost in gutter; likely for endeauour
  • Endnote

    The Privy Councillors present at the meeting on 31 December and listed in the left marginalia are as follows: Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper, 1596–1603; Sir William Knollys, Comptroller of the Household, 1596–nd; Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst and Lord Treasurer, 1599–1608; Sir Robert Cecil, Principal Secretary, 1596–1612; Charles Howard, tenth earl of Nottingham and Lord Admiral, 1585–1618/19; Sir John Herbert, Second Secretary, 1600–17; Gilbert Talbot, tenth earl of Shrewsbury; and Edward Somerset, ninth earl of Worcester.

    The signatories included not only the Privy Councillors listed in the left marginalia but also John Whitgift, archbishop of Canterbury, 1583–1604; Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, 1592–1607; and Sir John Stanhope, Vice-Chamberlain, before 1600/1–1616, and Treasurer of the Chamber, before 1597–1617/18. The full text of the Remembrancia letter is printed in Greg and Chambers, 'Remembrancia,' pp 83–5.

  • Document Description

    Record title: Privy Council Letters to the JPs of Middlesex and Surrey and the Lord Mayor
    Repository: TNA
    Shelfmark: PC 2/26
    Repository location: Kew

    The aggrieved letters on pages 514–15 to the apparently lax JPs for Middlesex and Surrey and to the more responsive Lord Mayor of London refer to an order dated 22 June 1600 intended to establish only the Fortune and the Globe playhouses as approved operations and to restrain the continuance or further development of playhouses beyond the city limits in Middlesex and Surrey. The Swan and the Rose on Bankside resisted the restraint and continued operations while the Curtain and the Boar's Head Inn playhouses maintained activities north of the city.

    A copy of the letter to the Lord Mayor and aldermen was recorded, with only minor variants in spelling, in the city's Remembrancia, LMA: COL/RMD/PA/01/002, ff 94v–5 (31 December).

    For an abstract of the document and details of its transcription history, see the related EMLoT event record.

    7 December 1600–2 January 1601/2; English; paper; i + 307 + i; 405mm x 255mm; ink pagination 1–521, followed by 46 unnumbered 19th-c. leaves (unpaginated index in a different hand); good condition; bound in maroon leather over boards, tooled, spine partially loose, gold- stamped title on spine: 'ELIZABETH. | VOL.XVII. | COUNCIL | REGISTER. | 7. DEC. 1600. | TO | 2.JAN 1602.'

  • Manuscript Images

    The National Archives of the UK, PC 2/26

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