The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.507440, -0.095958


The Bear Garden was situated on Bankside, close to the precinct of the Clinke Liberty, and very near to the old palace of the bishops of Winchester. Stow, to his “Survey,” says: “There be two Bear Gardens, the old and new Places.” The name still exists in a street or lane at the foot of Southwark Bridge, and in Bear Garden Wharf.

6 Annotations

First Reading

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Bear Garden, Bankside, Southwark, a royal garden or amphitheatre for the exhibition of bear and bull baitings; a favourite amusement with the people of England till late in the reign of William III. There was a garden here from a very early date,.

June 16, 1670.—I went with some friends to the Bear Garden, where was cock-fighting, dog-fighting, beare and bull baiting, it being a famous day for all these butcherly sports, or rather barbarous cruelties. The bulls did exceedingly well, but the Irish woolfe-dog exceeded, which was a tall greyhound, a stately creature indeed, who beat a cruel mastif. One of the bulls tossed a dog full into a lady's lap, as she sate in one of the boxes at a considerable height from the arena. Two poor dogs were killed: and so all ended with the ape on horseback, and I most heartily weary of the rude and dirty pastime, which I had not seen I think in twenty years before. —Evelyn, Diary.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Bear-baiting was popular in England, until the 19th century. From the sixteenth century, many bears were maintained for baiting. In its best-known form, arenas for this purpose were called bear-gardens, consisting of a circular high fenced area, the "pit", and raised seating for spectators. A post would be set in the ground towards the edge of the pit and the bear chained to it, either by the leg or neck. A number of well-trained fighting or baiting dogs, usually Old English Bulldogs, would then be set on it, being replaced as they got tired or were wounded or killed. In some cases the bear was let loose, allowing it to chase after animals or people. For a long time, the main bear-garden in London was the Paris Garden, that section of the Bankside lying to the west of The Clink, at Southwark.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Bear baiting and animal fights were banned as public entertainment during the Interregnum, and reinstated by Charles II. Both Pepys and Evelyn document attending at least one afternoon at the Bear Garden.

"Near the end of his 1606 play Macbeth, William Shakespeare included a scene in which the doomed title character says that his enemies,
“have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
But, bear-like, I must fight the course.”

"The line might seem inconsequential to modern readers, but for the audiences who watched the Bard’s plays 400 years ago, it would have been an obvious reference to one of the most popular pastimes of the day: bear-baiting.

"Many of the same Londoners who flocked to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre were also patrons of the nearby “Bear Gardens,” where bears, dogs, bulls, chimps and other creatures routinely fought to the death in front of roaring crowds.

"Along with the theater, animal blood sports were among the most beloved entertainments of 16th and 17th century England. In London, the shows took place in the seamy Bankside district, which was home to several purpose-built arenas.

“There,” wrote one 1639 visitor, “you may hear the shouting of men, the barking of dogs, the growling of the bears, and the bellowing of the bulls, mixed in a wild but natural harmony.”

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.