Bowling Alleys and Playhouses in London, 1560-90


  • Callan Davies University of Kent



Recreational and domestic alleys provide a useful paradigm for understanding the construction of long-standing commercial stages in the 1560s and 1570s, and they provide essential and overlooked contexts that situate playhouses within the wider leisure ecology of Elizabethan London. Bowling alleys’ construction, reception, and activity present striking similarities with multipurpose theatre buildings, and they lay down models not only for those managing recreational space but also for those in opposition to it. They help supply the vocabulary of recreational enterprise later attached to theatrical playing spaces and lay foundations—in all senses—for the development of London’s theatre industry itself.

Author Biography

Callan Davies, University of Kent

Callan Davies ( is a research associate at the University of Kent, where he works as part of the Middling Culture project ( He is also one of the Before Shakespeare team ( and is editor of the Curtain records for Records of Early English Drama, as well as an editor for the Map of Early Modern London’s Lord Mayor’s pageant series. His work covers theatre history, performance, archival research, and cultural history, and he teaches as a Globe Education Lecturer at Shakespeare’s Globe.