XLIX.–LII— Nos. 2, 4, 6, and 8 HEWETT STREET.
The freehold is a portion of the Stainton estate.
General description and date of structure.
These premises consist of a terrace of three-storey brick houses, dating
from the latter portion of the 18th century. Relief is afforded to an otherwise
plain front by the ground-floor windows having folding-back shutters,
semicircular fanlights over the entrance doorways, and the windows divided
up into small panes by well-proportioned sash bars. The whole is compact
Condition of repair.
From the facts recorded in the earlier part of this volume, (fn. 1) it will be seen that there
is no doubt whatever that the Curtain theatre was situated in Curtain Close, and that it was
either identical with or adjacent to the house called The Curtain. This absolutely disposes
of the idea that the site is now indicated by St. James's Church, (fn. 2) which is on the wrong side
of the street. Further than this, however, it is hardly possible to go. On the whole, the
probabilities seem to be in favour of the suggestion that the site is approximately indicated
by the opening called Curtain Court, in Chassereau's map, (fn. 3) though no positive evidence can
be adduced therefor. The site of Curtain Court seems to have been approximately in the
neighbourhood of the present Hewett Street, and it therefore seems probable that the Curtain
theatre occupied a site somewhere near the south side of that street.
The Curtain, the second theatre to be built in London, (fn. 4) was opened some time in 1577.
It is known that in 1585 Henry Lanman was the proprietor and manager and from the fact
that Lanman is mentioned in March, 1580–1, as one of the lessees of Curtain Close it is a
fairly warrantable inference that his connection dates back to that time. From 1585 to
1592, however, James Burbage appears to have shared in the management, using the building
as an easor to The Theatre. (fn. 5) The association of the two managements may have lasted even
later than 1592, for two actors in the companies of Burbage and Lanman at their deaths
(Thomas Pope, in 1603, and John Underwood, in 1623) owned shares in the Curtain. (fn. 6)
The building survived orders by the Privy Council in 1597 and 1600 (fn. 7) that it should be destroyed,
and is referred to in a licence in 1603 to Thos. Green and others to act "in their usual houses
"called the 'Curtayne' and the 'Bore's Head' in Middlesex," (fn. 8) and in a letter dated 9th
April, 1604, from the Lords of the Council to the Lord Mayor and other magistrates. (fn. 9) It
gradually fell into disuse, the last reference to it which has been traced being in 1628, in the
recognizances of Thos. Roades, Wm. Crosswell and Rich. Burford "to answear the complaint of the inhabitants of Shoreditch for casting six tuns of filth . into the common
shoare near the Curtaine Playhouse." (fn. 10)
It would, however, appear to have been in a sorry condition some years previously,
for in the indenture of 1st July, 1611, accompanying the transfer of Curtain Close to Edward
Morris (fn. 11) , it is referred to as "all that large mesuage or tenemente, built of timber and thatched,
"now in decay, called the 'Curtaine,' with a parcell of ground adjoyning thereto, wherein
"they use to keepe stage playes, now or late in the tenure or occupacion of Thomas Greene."
Very little is known of the plays which were performed at the Curtain. In 1598 the
Lord Chamberlain's company of players, of whom Shakespeare was one, was acting there, (fn. 12)
and we have the contemporary evidence of John Marston that, about this time, Romeo and
Juliet was performed there. It is also said (fn. 13) that Ben Jonson acted in the building, and it
is practically certain that it witnessed the production of his principal comedy, Every Man in
His Humour. (fn. 14)
The Council's collection contains:
General exterior (photograph).
No. 10. Hewett Street, doorway, detail (measured drawing).