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Paris Garden Bear-Baiting


The location of the bear-baiting arena within Paris Garden is unclear, not least because the Paris Garden Stairs labeled on the Agas map merely reference the Thames access to a far larger area that is located outside the mapped illustration. There is, however, tantalizing though contradictory evidence with the 1627 Survey of Paris Garden map (Survey of Paris Garden). This map shows the outline of a circular building, labeled Olde Playe house, adjacent to Paris Garden Manor House. Since theaters and bear gardens often shared the same buildings, it is possible that this is the location of bear-baiting arena, which is separate from the two arenas labeled on the Agas map. The image appears, however, like a birdseye view of the shape, and is notably dissimilar from the perspectival views of the surrounding structures. This anomaly may indicate that what remains of the Olde Playe house is merely the footprint, or later addition to the original illustration. Similar consideration must be given to William Camden’s 1637 description of buildings in Southwark. Camden references that among these buildings there [was] a place in manner of a Theater for baiting of Beares and Buls with Dogges: and certaine kenels appointed severally for Band-Dogges or Mastives (Camden sig. 2N5r). Since Camden was writing ten years after the Paris Garden map, and five years before the closure of the playhouses in 1642, he is likely referencing the Hope, developed by Philip Henslowe on the site of the earlier Bear Garden. What is less clear, however, is why Camden should describe the site in manner of a Theater, rather than mention the dual purpose of the place itself.

Literary Significance

Paris Garden is particularly famous for its appearance in Robert Crowley’s 1550 epigram Of Bear Baytynge:
And to this onelye ende to se them two fyght,
Wyth terrible tearynge a full ouglye syght.
And yet me thynke those men be mooste foles of all
Whose store of money is but verye smale.
And yet euerye sondaye they wyll surelye spende,
One penye or two the bearwardes liuyng to mende.
At Paryse garden eche sondaye a man shall not fayle,
To find two or thre hundredes for the bearwardes vaile.
One halpenye a piece they vse for to giue
When some haue no more in their purse I beleue.
Well, at the laste daye theyr conscience wyll declare
That the pore ought to haue all that they maye spare.
For God hathe commaunded that what we maye spare,
Be geuen to the pore that be full of care.
If you giue it therefore to se a Beare fyght,
Be ye sure goddes curse wyl vpon you lyght.
(Crowley sig. B3v-B4v)
Not only does Crowley’s poem describe the ubiquity, regularity, and popularity of Paris Garden baitings, but it also values this mid-sixteenth century entertainment at One halpenye.
Clergyman John Bradford describes one insicdent in his 1559 Complaint whereby a:
certaine Gentlemen, vpon the Sabboth day, going in a whirry to Paris Garden, to the Bearebayting, were drowned: & that a dog was met at Ludgate, carying a piece of a dead child in his mouth. (Bradford sig. A3r-A3v)
A later account by Raphael Holinshed describes how his friend, beyng of late demurrant in London, and the weather by reason of an hard hoare froste beyng somewhat nippyng, repayred to Paris garden (Holinshed sig. B5r). This account demonstrates how the garden did not suffer a loss in popularity, even after violent accidents like the one appearing in Bradford’s sermon. With regards to bear-baiting in particular, Paris Garden continued to flourish even after another tragedy described by Lewis Bayly:
On the 13, of Ianuary, Anno Dom. 1582. being the Lords day, the Scaffolds fell in Paris Garden, vnder the people at a Beare-baiting, so that 8. were suddenly slaine, innumerable hurt & maimed. (Bayly sig. 2A11v)
This architectural failure was due to the large size of the attending crowd. In 1613, thirty-one years after his previous description, Bayly attacked those who take more pleasure, on the Lords day, to be in a Theatre beholding carnall sports and enjoined them to remember the 1583 tragedy when the Scaffolds fell in Paris Garden (Bayly sig. 2A11v). Also in 1613, John Boys complained that Paris garden in a flourishing estate makes a great noyse still (Boys sig. B4v). While it is unclear whether this noyse came from bear-baiting or another recreational activity, sufficient instances associating bear-baiting with Paris Garden suggest a public perception of the location as London blood-sports venue for much of the early modern period.


  • Citation

    Bayly, Lewis. The practise of pietie directing a Christian how to walke that he may please God. London: for John Hodgets, 1613. STC 1602.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

  • Citation

    Boys, John. An exposition of the last psalme delivered in a sermon preached at Pauls Crosse the fifth of Nouember, 1613. London: Felix Kyngston for William Aspley, 1613. STC 3464.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

  • Citation

    Bradford, John. The complaynt of veritie. London: John Day for Owen Rogers, 1559. STC 3479.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

  • Citation

    Camden, William. Britain, or A chorographicall description of the most flourishing kingdomes, England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the ilands adjoyning, out of the depth of antiquitie beautified vvith mappes of the severall shires of England: vvritten first in Latine by William Camden Clarenceux K. of A. Translated newly into English by Philémon Holland Doctour in Physick: finally, revised, amended, and enlarged with sundry additions by the said author. London, 1637. STC 4510.8.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

  • Citation

    Crowley, Robert. One and thyrtye epigrammes wherein are brieflye touched so manye abuses. London: Robert Crowley, 1550. STC 6088.3.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

  • Citation

    Holinshed, Raphael. The firste [laste] volume of the chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande. London: for John Hunne, 1577. STC 13568b.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

  • Citation

    Survey of Paris Garden, 1627. The Greater London Record Office.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

Cite this page

MLA citation

Bearbaiting at Paris Garden. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022, mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BBPM1.htm.

Chicago citation

Bearbaiting at Paris Garden. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022. mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BBPM1.htm.

APA citation

2022. Bearbaiting at Paris Garden. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/editions/7.0/BBPM1.htm.

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Bearbaiting at Paris Garden
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BBPM1.htm
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/xml/standalone/BBPM1.xml
ER  - 

TEI citation

<bibl type="mla"> <title level="a">Bearbaiting at Paris Garden</title>. <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, Edition <edition>7.0</edition>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2022-05-05">05 May 2022</date>, <ref target="https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BBPM1.htm">mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/7.0/BBPM1.htm</ref>.</bibl>

Documents discussing Bearbaiting

MoEML has a number of pages on bearbaiting. See the Bear Garden; the poem The Great Boobee, in which a tourist visits the Bear Garden; the topics page on Bearbaiting at Paris Manor; the bibliography entry for the digital resource How to Track a Bear in Southwark; and dramatic extracts from Bartholomew Fair, a play performed at the Hope, which doubled as a bear garden.