More from Tamsin Lewis
The Red Bull
A dance from Playford’s Dancing Master (1698) thought to have been named after the Red Bull Playhouse, an inn-yard theatre, built in 1605 in what is now Haywood’s Place. During the early part of the 17th Century, the theatre was used by the Queen’s Men, and their performances rivalled those at the Globe and the Fortune.
During the Civil War and Interregnum, when other theatres were closed or destroyed, the Red Bull remained open, offering illicit performances of jigs, drolls, rope-dancing and much more.
It was demolished during the early years of the Restoration, but its location, Red Bull Yard could still be seen on Ogilby’s map a few years later.
The Red Bull dance doesn’t appear in the Dancing Master until 1698, but the melody is thought to date from c1619.
A description of Bartholomew Fair
Bartholomew Fair was held in Smithfield annually from the 1133 to 1855 at the end of August on the days around St Bartholomew’s Day.
Originally a cloth fair, the event expanded to include a variety of other wares and a number of entertainments and sights.
Listen to this recording of a 17th Century broadside ballad to hear a description of the fair:
All those that have money and want any ware
let them walk to Smithfield and Bartholomew Fair,
All sorts of moveables there may be had,
you may venture your lot ‘mongst the good and the bad
Gloves, ribbands, knives, scissors, with Jack-in-a-box
Fine ladies with patches and powdered with pox
With a cock and a gelding, with whistle and rattle
All which serve to please the young kids that can prattle.
Their children must with them if that they have any
Tis Forty to one that they have a great many
The climate is fruitful, the soil fat and good
All things to be said for to nourish the blood.
There’s no fear of increase which if they can go
They must to the fair for to see a great show,
Being dressed very fine like young lords and young ladies
The boys must have bows and the girls must have babies.
The sprightly young prentice must not be forgot,
One day in the fortnight must fall to his lot.
The servant maid with him so trim doth he take
And briskly doth treat her with a pot and a cake.
If his purse will be strong he will venture to see
The monkeys to dance and the goose with legs three,
All this having seen, he home doth repair
Being enough to talk of until the next fair.
The finnikin shopkeeper once in the year
To eat a boar’s head takes his wife to the fair.
There is no denial, he with her must go
And takes in his pocket an angel or two
Then merry they make while the music doth play
But if I be not mistaken, full dear they must pay –
A crown for the head of a pig three week’s old
All this must be had or my mistress will scold
Then away, bonny lads, and fine lasses make haste
And some of these Bartholomew rarities taste
No question but all of you will be content
And that of your money you will not repent:
Make use of your time whilst time you have here,
Who knows who shall be at the fair the next year
Merry Andrew doth call you, the music invites
To partake of their pleasures and taste their delights.