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here were many types of entertainment available in Tudor London. The main entertainment district was Bankside on the south side of the River Thames. Here there were the playhouses (purpose-built open-air theatres) for watching plays, pleasure gardens for admiring the plants and many taverns for drinking and eating. There were cock-fighting pits and the bull- and bear-baiting arenas where animals were made to fight each other for sport. People paid between two and four pence to watch bears and bulls being attacked by mastiff dogs.

Find out about the entertainment district of Bankside and how people travelled there from the City of London


Items can reveal people's pastimes from this period, such as counters from board games, dice for gambling and leather balls for tennis. Tudor children's toys rarely survive though several examples have been found in London, including metal dolls wearing fashionable clothes.

Going to plays was a hugely popular pastime in Tudor London. From the 1530s actors began to hire large halls to put on plays but in 1567 the first purpose-built open air theatre, known as a playhouse, was built in Stepney. It was called the Red Lion. From then on other theatres were built around the outskirts of London where there was more space for such large buildings. The authorities in the City of London disliked plays as they encouraged large crowds to gather, which might increase crime and spread disease, so playhouses were generally built outside the City's area of control.

See a Tudor gaming counter from a board game

Wooden counter or game piece from a board game like backgammon, 16th century

See Tudor dice used for playing games and gambling

Bone dice used for games and gambling, 16th century

See a Tudor tennis ball

Find out how Tudor tennis was different to the modern game

Leather tennis ball stuffed with dog's hair, early 16th century

See two toy dolls

Toy female doll made from metal, mid-late 16th century

Toy male doll made from metal, 1550-1560

See a bird feeder for feeding pet birds

Small trough used to hold water or food for caged pet birds, early 16th century

Find out about jousting and other entertainments that took place in royal palaces

Detail from a painting of London, showing the theatres in Southwark, mid-17th century

Rose Theatre

ankside, on the south side of the River Thames, was an area with several playhouses. The first to be built here was the Rose Theatre, in 1587. Its remains were discovered by archaeologists in 1989 and are preserved underneath a modern office building.

Reconstruction of the Rose Theatre © Bill Dudley/The Rose Theatre Trust

Find out how the Rose Theatre was discovered and how a Tudor playhouse worked

Find out where the remains of the Rose Theatre were discovered

Find out about the layout of the Rose Theatre

Find out what the stage was like at the Rose Theatre and about the actors' costumes

Find out what Tudor plays were like and who the actors were

Find out who visited Tudor playhouses and where wealthy people sat to watch plays

Find out what it was like to be in the audience at the Rose Theatre

Find out how money was collected at Tudor theatres

Ceramic money boxes like this were found on the site of the Rose Theatre and were used to collect entrance fees

See remains of money boxes from the Rose Theatre

Tops from smashed ceramic money boxes found on the site of the Rose Theatre

Find out how the Rose Theatre had to close due to an outbreak of plague

Find out about Tudor special effects and a terrible accident that happened during a play at the Rose Theatre

Find out how the remains of the Rose Theatre have been preserved

Globe Theatre

he Globe playhouse was built in 1599. Parts of it were discovered by archaeologists in 1989. The archaeological excavations at the site of the Globe and its neighbour, the Rose, have told us a great deal of information about what it was like to visit a Tudor playhouse and see the plays of William Shakespeare and other playwrights.

Reconstruction of the Tudor theatres in Southwark. The Globe Theatre in the foreground. © Faith Vardy/MOLA

Find out how audiences at a Tudor playhouse knew a play was about to start

Find out about the Globe Theatre and what the outside of a Tudor playhouse was like