Opposite the City Of London, where the Swan , Hope, Bull Ring and Globe Theatre had also been situated. The Bear Garden was originally built as a blood sport arena. Bear and Bull baiting were major spectator sports and there were several purpose-built arenas in this area specifically designed to house these events. Bear baiting had been introduced to England during the Medieval period of the 1200's - nearly every town in Elizabethan England boasted a Bull and Bear baiting ring. Seen as a great sporting and gambling event Bull and Bear baiting was patronised by all classes of Elizabethans including the Queen, courtiers and foreign ambassadors. Queen Elizabeth I even had a Bear baiting arena built in the grounds of Whitehall. Vast amounts of money were waged on the outcome of the contests. The Elizabethan theatrical entrepreneurs, Philip Henslowe and Jacob Meade demolished the original Bear Garden which dated back to the 1560's and built the Hope theatre on the same site (but slightly further South) in 1613-14, the Hope featured both blood sports and theatre but evolved into a Bear baiting arena only, and popularly became known as the Beargarden rather than the Hope theatre.
Interesting Facts and Information about the Bull Ring Amphitheatre - a Blood Sport Arena
- Blood sporting arenas, such as Bear Garden, provided ready built venues for the first Elizabethan commercial theatre
- Theatrical Performances proved to be so popular that in 1591 the growing popularity of theatres led to a law closing all theaters on Thursdays so that the bull and bear baiting industries would not be neglected.
- The Audience capacity was up to 1000 people
- Gambling was a major feature
- These arenas had protective walls around them made made of stone (flint), not required for the purely theatrical buildings
- The seating arrangements for the spectators were tiered benches
- The temporary stages were erected by the actors
- The floors consisted of earth or sand
- The arena was transformed into a theatre by erecting a stage in the pit, similar to the booth stage used in market places, but larger in size and built on posts
- Bull and Bear baiting was eventually banned in 1835
Bear Baiting at the Bear Garden
Bear baiting were immensely popular during the Elizabethan era and this bloodthirsty entertainment consisted of trained bulldogs or mastiffs attacking tethered bears.