Tudor Inns were built not only to serve ale and food but also to provide
rooms for travellers. The above picture of the White Hart Inn provides
and illustration of what typical inns looked like, detailing the
balconies, rooms and courtyard. The architecture of the inns often
featured the black and white half-timbered style of the architecture of
15th and 16th century houses. During the 15th and 16th century the usual form of transport was on
horseback, so all of the major inns had large cobblestone yards.
The overhanging windows in the upper storeys of the
Tudor Inns, creating the balconies,
were an important feature especially in the towns where space was
at a premium. The building
of such overhangs enabled additional floor and living space which was
not subject to ground rent imposed during the Tudor period and more
profit for the Tudor Inns.
Entertainment at Tudor Inns
The above picture of the White Hart
Inn-yard illustrates a typical Tudor inn detailing the cobbled courtyard
and the balconies and rooms. The number of travellers attracted to these
15th and 16th century inn lodgings increased substantially during the Tudor period due
to the dissolution of the monasteries which had traditionally provided
rooms, food and drink for travellers. There was gambling and there was
even bear baiting in some of the Tudor Inns and travelling
minstrels and troubadours provided entertainment in the inns, using the
courtyards as the area to perform plays.
The Role of Tudor Inns
in the emergence of the theatre
Acting troupes travelled the country
and sought lodgings at inns or taverns and before long entrepreneurs,
like James Burbage, started to produce plays in the courtyards of Tudor
inns. The plays provided an exciting and inexpensive form of
entertainment. Negotiations took place with the owner of the inn in
order to stage a performance of a play. The plays attracted even more
customers from the local area profits increased. A small fee was charged
to playgoers as they entered the inn yard and an additional fee was
added on if they wanted to go up to a balcony level to watch the
performance. The Tudor Inns therefore became a fore-runner to the famous
Elizabethan Theatres - such as the Globe Theatre. The courtyards of
these inns were where the first plays in England were performed - and
the name 'inn-yard' was born. The Tudor Inn yards provided ready built
venues for the first Elizabethan commercial theatre and reached their
peak between 1576 - 1594.
very first purpose-built theatre was built by James Burbage and was appropriately
named 'The Theatre'. The Tudor Inns had served their purpose
providing venues for plays which proved to be
an exciting and inexpensive form of
attracting crowds of up to 500 people.
The vast number of people included undesirables, including thieves,
harlots and pickpockets and there were disturbances and fights which
lead to complaints from local people, especially in London. In 1574 the
City of London started regulating the Tudor Inn yard activities and in
1576 James Burbage built 'The Theatre' in Finsbury Fields, Shoreditch,
London. It was designed in the style of a Roman open air theatre, with
three tiers of galleries and a covered stage. The Tudor Inns reverted to
their original purpose of providing lodgings to weary travellers.
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