Cambridgeshire Collection

Performance Traditions


The city of Cambridge naturally takes preeminence in the county for varieties of dramatic performance, with the colleges of the university hosting more than 400 individual performances, regular payments to the town waits, and regular visits by professional players through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Indeed Cambridge’s status as a centre may overshadow, to a degree, the evidence for public performance in the county, including entertainments sponsored by organizations and individuals in that centre of ecclesiastical control, Ely, as well as by the guilds and parishes of the larger towns, and the noble household of the Norths of Kirtling. Outside of Cambridge, the county offers records from as early as the 1350s, in the accounts of Anglesey Priory (see Anglesey Prior's Accounts, 1356–7), and as late as 1641, in a payment to the Cambridge waits at Ely Cathedral (see the associated records).

The preponderance of documentary evidence in this collection, however, follows the Reformation: the records reveal that while the University was divided between 'older nonconformists' and a younger 'new and larger puritan party,' the county maintained a resistance to radical puritanism and persisted in traditions of town activities that were often denounced by hardline reformists. They also reveal the centrality of that other hub of control, Ely, for which records of the bishopric remain, chiefly in the household accounts of the bishops of Ely (Thomas Arundel, Matthew Wren, and Nicholas West), the diocese (including not only court records, but also a series of visitation articles by Bishops Cox, Lancelot Andrewes, and Wren), and the King’s School at Ely. Thus records of musical entertainment, dramatic production, travelling performers, and other forms of public performance were, in Cambridgeshire outside of Cambridge, largely restricted to religious institutions such as Ely Cathedral and Priory, with sparse secular evidence in the North of Kirtling accounts. The records of the churchwardens of Sts Peter and Paul (Bassingbourn), St Mary’s (Linton), and St Leonard’s (Leverington), and the Holy Trinity guild of Wisbech, however, offer evidence of performance in the larger towns, sponsored by the corporate organizations therein.

Among Cambridgeshire's religious institutions, surviving records detail payments for outside performers at Anglesey, Barnwell, and Ely. The Ely records provide regular evidence for the entertainment of magnates and royalty throughout the period (including at Barnwell, a regular lodging place for the bishop), befitting Ely’s prominence as a frequent host to nobility and a major force in national politics. Further, the King’s School at Ely, established after the Dissolution, gives some evidence of school drama in the early seventeenth century (see Papers Concerning Ely (A), 1609), by way of an accusation that the school hosted dancing late into the night, and which involved cross-dressing.

Evidence for Cambridgeshire's noble households, as represented by the North of Kirtling accounts show that in his travels in the 1570s and 1580s Sir John North not only patronized a fool and paid for lessons on the lute by John Johnson (c 1545–94), court lutenist and composer, but also regularly paid for performances by professional players. Named troupes included the boys of Bury St Edmunds and the players of, variously, Robert Dudley, fourteenth earl of Leicester (1532–88; P&P), Walter Devereux, eighteenth earl of Essex (1539–76; P&P), Thomas Radcliffe, eighth earl of Sussex (1526–83; P&P), and Cuthbert, seventh Baron Ogle (c 1540–97; P&P).

The earliest records of local entertainment are in the accounts of the Holy Trinity guild at Wisbech (see the associated records); the guild held an annual dinner in May or June through much of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the later sixteenth century, the churchwardens at St Mary’s, Linton (see the associated records) coordinated a playing space in Linton’s Townhouse (owned by Pembroke Hall, Cambridge) several times. Likewise the churchwardens’ accounts of St Leonard’s, Leverington (see the associated records), dating from the mid-sixteenth century, reveal regular payments to travelling performers from nearby Wisbech, as well as other towns in other counties, including Fitton Fen, Kirton Fen, and Spalding, Lincolnshire. The most detailed records, however, are found in the churchwardens’ accounts of Sts Peter and Paul (see the associated records) in Bassingbourn, which show about thirty years of regular church ales, celebration of Hocktide, and most significantly, a play of St George on the feast of St Margaret (20 July 1511), to which twenty-eight surrounding parishes and townships contributed.

With these exceptions, the extant records for the thirty-three towns represented in the collection offer little evidence of performance activity, beyond what is documented in the diocesan court records. Such activity was varied and at times obscure, with more typical records of music, dancing during the Sabbath, and enduring Morris customs featuring alongside accusations of cross-dressing (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1599/1600 and Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1600) and cat immolation (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1639), which may have been part of a New Year’s Day ritual.


Religious Institutions

It is the accounts related to the bishopric of Ely that present the greatest evidence for public performance. Among the earliest are those of Bishop Thomas Arundel (1353–1414), detailing a payment to performers at Barnwell (see Bishop Thomas Arundel's Household Accounts, 1383). The household accounts of Bishop Matthew Wren (1585–1667) feature records that predate his tenure by more than a century (probably because of Wren’s focus on historical record-keeping), itemizing payments in 1409–10 to several minstrels through the Christmas season — including those patronized by King Henry V and John Beaufort, fourth earl of Somerset (c 1404–44; P&P) — and to players from Isleham, as well as further payments at Easter 1410 to the minstrels of Thomas, fourth Baron Morley (c 1354–1416). Ely’s prominence continued through the later Middle Ages and early modern period, with Bishop John Morton’s (d. 1500) lavish feast celebrating his 1479 installation (see the Service at the Installation of John Morton, Bishop of Ely, 1479), which presents an attempt to make peace following the complicated religious and political factionalism of the Wars of the Roses. In the next century, Bishop Nicholas West (d. 1533) pays the players of Henry VIII while celebrating the Feast of St Ethelreda, and other players and minstrels during the 1532–3 Christmas season (see Treasurer's Accounts (A), 1526 and Treasurer's Accounts (A), 1532–3).

Although the Cambridgeshire monasteries offer little evidence of dramatic performance, the priories and abbeys of Ely, Barnwell, and Anglesey show connections to patronized travelling troupes and entertainment from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. At Ely visiting troupes were often those patronized by major political figures in East Anglia; the prior’s household accounts (see Prior's Household Accounts, 1428–29, Prior's Household Accounts, 1429–30 and Prior's Household Accounts, 1436–7) show that the prior, who had general charge of the monastery after the creation of the bishopric, paid regularly for dramatic interludes and minstrels. The earliest record for Ely Priory dates from June 1428, when Prior Peter de Ely (d. 1430/1) paid four men for playing an interlude, as well two minstrels. During the Christmas season of 1429–30, up to and including Candlemas, Peter also made payments to ‘various strangers’ (diuresis extraneis) for an interlude, to a treble and harper, and to the minstrels of, variously, John Tiptoft, first Baron Tiptoft (1378–1443; P&P)(perhaps the same who played at the guildhall in Cambridge the year before but who were said to have come recently from Wales), Cardinal Henry Beaufort (perhaps those who played in Dover in the same year), and Ralph, Baron Stafford (1301–72). Some years later, in June and August 1436, Peter paid the minstrels of both King Henry VI and John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk. Similar payments occur under Prior Henry Peterborough in 1467, to the minstrels of King Edward IV, Bishop William Grey of Ely, and William, Baron Hastings. Finally, under Prior John Cottenham are payments to entertainers, players, and pipers (some of King Henry VIII) in 1517–18 (see Treasurer's Accounts, 1517–18) and 1526.

Anglesey Priory, where four compotus rolls survive (now held at the Cambridgeshire Archives, CA L1/29–32), presents a similar scene. The compotus roll of the tenth prior, Richard de Wratting (elected 5 July 1352), records payments to entertainers, including two of King Edward III (a singer named William Pochwykes and a minstrel), as well as a third payment to an unnamed minstrel in the 1356–7 accounting year.

At Barnwell the accounts offer evidence of the priory’s position as a regular lodging house for the bishop of Ely (see Bishop Thomas Arundel's Household Accounts, 1383), as in the 66s 8d paid to minstrels of King Richard II (P&P) 6 July 1383 for meals at Barnwell, which were attended not only by the king and Bishop Thomas Arundel, but also by Queen Anne, Thomas de Mowbray, first duke of Norfolk and second earl of Nottingham (1365/6–99; P&P), John Holland, later first earl of Huntingdon (c 1352–1400; P&P), and (his future lover) Elizabeth Lancaster (1364?–1425), wife of John Hastings, earl of Pembroke. Barnwell records from 1533–37 (see Barnwell Prior's Accounts, 1533/4–4/5, Barnwell Prior's Accounts, 1535–6 and Barnwell Prior's Accounts, 1536–7) also show Christmas payments to players and waits of Henry VIII, as well as to the waits of Cambridge and Nottingham. Although no records survive, the Midsummer Fair at Barnwell may well also have hosted public performances.

Seasonal Festivity

Various seasonal practices were common in Cambridgeshire throughout the year, as they were in other counties. From the indoor entertainments at feasts at Christmas though Candlemas, to the outdoor mid-Lenten festivals of spring, the post-Easter celebration of Hocktide, and the great fairs and other larger outdoor events of the later summer, the calendar offered many opportunities for celebration and performance.


Beyond the evidence from Ely and Barnwell for the employment of performers from Christmas through Candlemas, the records offer little record of Christmas festivities. The St Leonard’s churchwarden’s accounts (see the associated records) mention payments at Christmastime in 1517, 1554, and 1568; other payments in January and February might be connected to the season but are not identified as such. The churchwardens' accounts of Sts Peter and Paul Church in Bassingbourn (see the associated records), dating from 1496–c 1540, detail regular payments for candles and liturgical vestments from the Annunciation and Christmas but offer no record of performance. The diocesan court proceedings from Ely record many infractions to do with disrupting holidays, sermons, and the Sabbath, but only a few mention the Christmas season in particular, if extended to Candlemas. Two of these seem linked to New Year’s Day events (see the Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1639), 1 January 1638/9, one involving a person named William Wade and another involving several local townspeople, in which a William Smith burned a cat alive outside the cathedral (see below, 'Other Performance Traditions'). Another, from 1581, reports that William Typpin, keeper of an alehouse in Leverington 'suffred a piper to be at his house with vther cumpanye, dawnseinge vppon Candelmas daye 1580, at the after none in service time' (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1581). Typpin denied the claim, brought witnesses, and was dismissed with a warning.

Lent and Easter

The St Leonard’s accounts detail a payment to players the Sunday before Lent in 1553/4 (February 4) and some records of mid-Lenten ales at Bassingbourn survive, but no other records of sanctioned seasonal entertainment appear until after Easter. The diocesan courts, however, record a large number of infractions during this period. In 1602, at Carlton cum Willingham, a group of townspeople engaged in an apparent mock shaming ritual, the 'skimmington' or riding of the cowlstaff (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1602). On Easter Monday, an hour before morning prayer, Robert Barker and Jeffrey Marsh, accompanied by several others including a fiddler named Reekwood, brought John Lawrence into the churchyard on a cowlstaff, and Lawrence threw grains out of a pail. The same document records a similar offence at Waterbeach, in which a drum is played (thus disturbing prayers in much the same way as the skimmington), but this occurs in September. In 1590, at Witcham (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1590, several townspeople were charged with Morris dancing on Holy Thursday, as also at Doddington in 1616 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1616. Also see below for other cases of Morris dancing).


The Bassingbourn churchwardens' accounts (see the associated records), suggest that — as in other counties — hocking was a popular custom in Cambridgeshire, although these are the only surviving records from the county to refer to the practice. Dymond describes the custom as a ‘rollicking festival, held in the second week after Easter (usually on the Monday and Tuesday of that week)’ which featured contests, games, and sports. Further, '[a]s at most social gatherings, the opportunity was taken to collect money for the parish':

'Churchwardens recorded the receipt of "hocking money" at Bassingbourn on ten occasions between 1497 and 1534, but its incidence was probably higher and sometimes concealed under other income. Although references are fairly brief, the majority show that money was received from the married women of the parish.'

Entertainment at these events is not recorded, and the practices and games specific to Bassingbourn are likewise not noted. Peter Greenfield offers further insight:

'The most common form of the festivity involved groups of men or women taking "prisoner" individuals of the opposite sex and forcing them to pay a fine to be released. Regional variations appear to have been common, however ... [t]he women were always the victors and in fact the women usually end up dominating the men at Hocktide and gathering the largest sum for the parish. The funds thus gathered were given to the parish especially for poor relief but also to pay for repairs to the church fabric and other parish expenses.'

After Hocktide the liturgical calendar would lead, two weeks later, to the Rogation Days of later May, and then, thirty-nine days after Easter, to the Feast of the Ascension. It is here that the great majority of outdoor festivals, including both church ales and fairs would commence.

Church Ales and Fairs

Although much evidence survives for church ales and fairs (see 'Historical Background'), few of the records explicitly mention performance, with some exceptions. It seems likely, however, based on critiques by ecclesiastical authorities and the inclusion of performance-related activities on lists of condemnable practices issued by the bishops of Ely in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, that games, music, dancing, and other performance were common.

In his 1579 injunctions (see Bishop Richard Cox's Injunctions, 1579 Bishop Richard Cox addresses various seasonal festivities, noting that 'the Saboth day is so fondly abused in going vnto Fayers and visiting of frendes, and acquaintances, and in feasting and making of good chere, in wanton dawnsing, in lewd maygames sometyme continuing riotously with Piping all whole nightes in barnes and such odde places, both younge men and women out of their fathers and masters howses.' Similar concerns were expressed in 1613 in the visitation articles of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (Bishop Lancelot Andrewes' Visitation Articles, 1613), though fairs are not specifically mentioned. Bishop Wren, finally, in his 1638 visitation articles (Bishop Matthew Wren's Visitation Articles, 1638), asks whether any of the parish churches have suffered 'prophane vsage,' including both fairs and church ales, seeking to know whether 'Playes, Feasts, Banquets, Suppers, Church-ales, Drinkings, Temporall Courts, Liets, or Lay-iuries, Musters, exercise of dancing, stoole-ball, foot-ball, or the like, or any Faires, or Markets, boothes, stalls or standings… [have] beene suffered to be kept in your Church, Chappell or Church-yard.' Although both St Edward’s parish in Cambridge and Swavesey parish reply to these articles (Answers to Bishop Matthew Wren's Inquiry, 1638/9), insisting that they have not suffered 'drinkings' or 'Church Ales,' it is notable that many other parishes’ responses are quite brief and do not touch on churchyard indiscretions.

Wren’s criticism is indicative of an opposition to church ales particular only to certain areas of England. As R.A. Houston observes, church ales and parish festivities could be '[r]obustly defended in some parts,' especially 'the Midlands, south-west, and the north-west.' This seems, however, to have been less common in East Anglia, including Cambridgeshire, which experienced a 'quick demise' since funds could be procured through rental incomes in the larger urban parishes, and since poor relief was offered by religious guilds and chantries.

The Bassingbourn churchwarden’s accounts (see the associated records) nonetheless offer evidence of this earlier form of charitable activity until the 1540s. Church ales are very frequently mentioned: while the majority are May ales (Whitsunday or Whitmonday) and mid-Lenten Sunday ales, 'a substantial minority were held in the colder months, for example on or around St. Clement’s Day (23 November), St. Brice’s Day (13 November), and Candlemass (2 February).' None of the entries, however, specifically indicate performance, and indeed, not even a location – whether the churchyard or a hall – is provided. It is nonetheless supposed, as Dymond notes, that the church ales 'combined drinking with popular entertainments such as music and dancing.'

The accounts of the treasurer of Ely Cathedral show regular payments to the waits of King’s Lynn, Newmarket, and Cambridge from 1617 to 1635 for playing at the Old and New Ely Fairs. The Cambridge waits may have travelled to Ely from the Reach Fair outside of Cambridge. The Reach Fair was held around Rogation Monday. Ely’s Old Fair was held for one week around the feast of St Etheldreda, running from 20 June–6 July, while the New Fair, celebrating the Feast of the Ascension, would begin on the Vigil of the Ascension and run for twenty-two days.

Barnwell also had a popular Midsummer Fair, commencing 22 June and initially lasting three days, but extended to two weeks in the late fourteenth century. Nelson presents one record from the thirteenth century (BL: MS Harley 3601) that supports the claim for performance at this event:

'Concerning the site of Barnwell ... that is, on the eve of the nativity of St John the Baptist, boys and youths, coming together there, took part in wrestling in the English manner and other boyhood games and praised one another in turn with songs and musical instruments'.

'De loco de Barnewelle. ... In vigila scilicet Nauitatis sancti Iohannis Baptiste illic conuenientes. more anglorum luctamina & alia ludicria exercebant puerilia. & cantilenis & musicis instrumentis sibi inuicem applaudebant.'

Even so, no contemporary records of performance at Barnwell survive.

Beyond the play presented at Bassingbourn in celebration of St Margaret’s Day (20 July), discussed below ('Civic Entertainment'), there is no further evidence over the remaining year for the celebration of seasonal festivities, despite a number of minor festivals and saints' days.

Civic Entertainment


The most detailed evidence for dramatic performance in the towns is in the Bassingbourn churchwardens' accounts (see the associated records), which record two plays. The first account offers limited detail, but notes 2d paid on Whitmonday 1500 (7 June) 'ffor a playe Book,' along with 2d to the bearer of the book (John Best, clerk), and 3d to a taberer and minstrel (f 19v). Far more detailed, however, are the many expenses associated with the Sunday, 20 July 1511 (St Margaret’s Day), production of a play of St George. Producing over 150 entries in the accounts (ff 30v–2), the play cost £4 1s 10d, and (somewhat unsuccessfully) brought in a profit of £1 12s 11½d. Bassingbourn raised 16s for the play and sought support from twenty-seven rural villages, nineteen of which were located in Cambridgeshire (six others in Hertfordshire and one in Bedfordshire), and all but one of which was no more than ten miles from Bassingbourn, as well as from the market town of Royston. As the play has already been considered at length by Anne Brannen, Stephen Doree, and David Dymond, the following discussion will offer only an overview.

The date for the play 'may have been chosen partly as a token of respect for Lady Margaret Beaufort, lady of Bassingbourn’s principal manor, who had died two years earlier.' The playbook (possibly drawn from The Golden Legend), the wardrobe, and the properties were contributed by a man, perhaps named Pyke, who was also paid for making some of the sets, and was boarded for six days with his servant and a horse. The record of props includes three curved swords, four tormentors’ axes (evidence that St George’s martyrdom was included in the narrative), and, naturally, a dragon. No payments to actors are recorded, implying the use of amateur performers. Perhaps 2000 gallons of ale was brewed, seven and a half sheep, three and a half calves, and four chickens were reserved for 'the gentlemen,' and an additional half a sheep was used in the making of pasties on the Tuesday after the play, all of which indicates an audience of hundreds.

As Dymond notes, 'the wardens and parishioners of Bassingbourn must have worked hard to advertise the forthcoming play, to persuade people to attend, and to encourage the giving of money, materials, and labour.' The banns were announced the Wednesday before and the Cambridge waits were hired for the Wednesday and the Sunday. During the carrying of the banns, the attending players were given lunch at Royston. The stages were set up on at least two days: the Friday (hence the payments for fish to feed the people putting up stages) and the Saturday (hence the payments for beef to feed the people putting up stages). A number of the townspeople who supplied malt and wheat for the church ales also contributed the same for the ale served at the play, and celebrations following the play continued for two or three days after.

The production was not a financial success, but 'the main legacy of the play was,' as Dymond notes, 'surely an increased enthusiasm for the cult of St George, and the establishment of a special fund to commission an image of him’ (f 32), a goal finally achieved in 1522, when the image, carved by Robert Ives of Saffron Walden, was installed in the church (only to be torn down as idolatrous between 1538 and 1549).

Beyond these records and those of players and interludes at Cambridgeshire's religious institutions, few records of dramatic performance survive. The accounts of the churchwardens of St Leonard’s, Leverington (see the associated records), dating from the mid-sixteenth century, record payments for plays from 1518 to 1566. The St Mary’s churchwardens’ accounts (see the associated records) record payments for plays at the townhouse from 1577 to 1590. The Holy Trinity guild accounts of Wisbech (see the associated records) also record numerous payments from 1380 to 1489 for minstrels, players, harpers, and dancers at annual guild dinners, which name several professional players (Nicholas Tyneteshale, Thomas Foster, Nicolas Maunger, and Robert Greyson). Finally, the diocesan court proceedings for Witchford in 1614 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1614) record a Nicholas Sunman charged with suffering a stage play to be performed in his barn on the Sabbath.


Beyond the offerings of travelling troupes, or of musicians attached to guilds and other civic organizations or patronized by the county's religious institutions, the Cambridgeshire records provide considerable insight more localized forms of musical performance, most prominently through the diocesan court proceedings. A number of the musical performances identified in these records seem to have been private events held in residences, alehouses, and victualling houses. At Barrington in 1615 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1615) the keeper of an alehouse is charged with ‘suffer[ing] disorder in his howse,' including the singing of 'bawdy & ribald songes.' At Comberton in 1598 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1598) Thomas Roger and his wife Ellen were charged for lying unquietly and keeping a victualling house, 'dawnseinge in the night tyme. & sometymes all the nighte tyme.' At Little Abington in 1598/9 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1598/9) Philipp Fuller was brought to answer for having company dancing and playing in his house on Sunday. William Everard and William Shepherd were charged in 1608 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1608) with minstrelsy on the Sabbath at the house of William Melbourne of Sutton, accompanied by several others. Finally, Robert and Joanna Gonne of Thetford were accused in 1606 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1606) of giving entertainment to diverse, lewd, and lascivious company, and for making libellous and lascivious ballads.

Records of public music-making and minstrelsy also survive. From a case now recorded in a legal formulary (see Legal Formulary, 1583–4), a John Jacklyne of Croydon cum Clopton, when accused in 1583/4 of not attending church, answered that he was a minstrel and was abroad at a bridale with friends, but went to church there. A similar defense, that the absence was occasioned by a bridale, was offered by Richard Cobbe of Leverington in 1576 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1576/7). The bridale defense could also be used to justify disturbing church services: Robert Goodwin of Elm was charged in 1607 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1607) with striking and playing a drum on Sunday morning before prayer time and answered that he was hired to do so for a bridale. In Tydd St Giles in 1609 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1609) Edward Towe, called a fiddler or minstrel, was accused of 'laughinge and gernynge' with Edward Brigstocke in the church of Tydd St Giles. These charges could also be applied to musicians disturbing the church more directly by playing in the churchyard, as in Whittlesey in 1466 (see Diocese of Ely Consistory Court, 1466), when Henry, servant of John Lawrence played and perturbed the 'domina' in the church, or in the town of March(see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1616), where Nicholas Thompson fiddled and piped.

Household Entertainment

Few surviving records report household entertainment for many of the notable Cambridgeshire families, including the Scales and Wendys of Haslingfield and the Huddlestons of Sawston; indeed, the only records of secular household entertainment are found in the accounts of Sir John and Dorothy North of Kirtling (see the associated records and 'Historical Background: Cambridgeshire Families'). John North’s accounts are extensive, detailing music and performance-related activity at points in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, as well as at Dover and London, but with no record of performance at Kirtling. There are payments to a woman playing the lute at Dover (f 3v), gifts to dancers and singers of a school (f 27) at London, and numerous payments to dance teachers, including a Rouland (f 28) and a Sprignal the Barber (f 28v), and payments to John Johnson, the court lutenist, for lute lessons (f 30), also at London. Sir John also pays for a play put on by the earl of Leicester’s players in 1577/8 (P&P), but this is at another of the family’s residences, Mildenhall in Suffolk (f 45).

The household accounts of Dorothy North, on the other hand, give far more record of Kirtling performances, including a visit by Queen Elizabeth in 1578 that featured a singer (see Lady North's Household Accounts, 1578–9 f 74); the Queen’s players were also paid twice in 1583 and 1584 (see Lord North's Household Accounts, 1583 f 35v and Lord North's Household Accounts, 1584 65v). Additionally, many payments to other patronized performers are documented, including the fools of both Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester and Cuthbert Ogle, Baron Ogle, the players of Walter Devereux, earl of Essex, the minstrels of Thomas Radcliffe, earl of Sussex, and the boys of Bury St Edmunds, all in 1567, and many additional payments in the following years to morris dancers, minstrels, and the players and minstrels of Robert Dudley and of Henry Stanley, twelfth Baron Strange (1531–93; P&P). The Norths also seem to have employed a fool, as the accounts record many payments to both the fool and his lackey.

Travelling Performers

Beyond those incidents of travelling performers who performed at the religious institutions and at Kirtling, and those individuals charged with various ecclesiastical infractions who claimed to be acting as travelling performers (see above, 'Civic Entertainment'), the churchwardens' accounts of St Leonard’s, Leverington (see the associated records), offer the best evidence for travelling performers in the county. Most notably here the churchwardens seem to have drawn regularly on Lincolnshire performers. On Whitsunday 1568 there were players from Spalding, in 1543 from Frampton Fen, in 1564 from Kirton Fen, and in 1566 from Bolingbroke. James Stokes discusses the nature of these performers at length in REED's Lincolnshire collection, noting that 'the many players who cried the banns of their plays in other towns were by definition usually amateur actors (though some might have been companies of professional waits)'; these performances would have included 'history, saint, biblical, Passion, morality, and (in Lincoln) Pater Noster plays.'

As the largest town near Leverington, Wisbech too seems to have been a source of performers. Players from Wisbech performed on three occasions in 1564 and 1565. On at least two of these occasions the players are identified as either scholars or as school children and their master. These school performances also travelled to Lincolnshire in the same time period; at the church in Long Sutton 'the churchwardens paid 6s 6d "to the children of wisbich whan they played here".' Stokes notes that records such as these serve as an 'indicator of involvement by schools in drama during the second half of the sixteenth century,' as illustrated by 'payments to travelling troupes of children’ as also seen in a 1572–3 payment at Long Sutton '"to the children of Spaldinge".'

School Drama

The only evidence for school drama in Cambridgeshire outside of Cambridge and Wisbech is found in a single record from 1609, an eighteenth-century copy of a list of reasons why Dean Humphrey Tyndall (1549–1614) dismissed Headmaster William Pamplyn from his position at the King’s School of Ely (see Papers Concerning Ely (A), 1609). Although little is known about Pamplyn prior to and following his mastership, he seems to be the William Pamplyn of Chesterton (d. c 1612), 'who matriculated sizar from Trinity in 1566, becoming B.A. in 1571 and M.A. in 1574.' Although his family history is difficult to trace, he was likely a member of the Pamplyn family that resided in Cambridgeshire, at Fen Ditton, Chesterton, Burwell, Ely, and Gnapwell. Pamplyn’s will dictates that he be buried in the parish church of Chesterton and lists two sons, John and Nathaniel, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Anna.

The charges against Pamplyn are extensive: the record accuses him of receiving no scholars into his school unless they pay him bribes, teaching from his own irregular collection of books rather than a fixed curriculum, and being absent from the school for days at a time. Finally and most importantly, Pamplyn is accused of a number of moral infractions: that both he and some of his scholars are absent from church and that his daughter teaches dancing at night when Pamplyn is absent, during which time she dresses in boy’s clothes and has the boys dress in hers. Though unnamed in the record, this is very likely Anna, who seems to be unmarried or childless at the time of his will and to whom Pamplyn leaves all his English books.

The accusations against Anna, importantly, were cancelled by Tyndall. Tyndall’s reaction to the very recent unrest at King’s College, 1607, and his subsequent actions in the riot of 1611, as well as his condemnation of Smith and other university member’s sermons, would seem to indicate that his antipathy to disorder was great (see 'Historical Background: Humphrey Tyndall and the King's School, Ely'). From this perspective, Anna’s actions were worthy of condemnation, particularly given early modern attitudes towards cross-dressing and its potential, as David Cressy observes, to 'signal subversion, resistance, and transgression' and 'upset patriarchal values, assault cultural boundaries, and unravel the sexual separators of ambivalence, androgyny, and eroticism.' The available evidence, however, suggests a moral panic surrounding cross-dressing out of proportion to the actual practice or treatment of offenders. Cressy contends that contemporary diatribes are part of a 'fundamentalist critique,' and argues that 'we need to differentiate kinds of behavior that the moralists deliberately blurred.' In particular, he points out that '[t]heatrical cross-dressing' — here referring to characters that use cross-dress as a plotting device — 'is not portrayed as threatening, effeminizing, and certainly not an abomination unto the lord.'

Anna Bayman, citing an outpouring of pamphlets and preaching against cross-dressing in the second decade of the 1600s, sees a divergence between the pamphlets, which on the one hand 'offer an irreverent and, at times, politically charged take on the fashion for cross-dressing,' but also 'a systematic preaching campaign [which] could indeed exert significant pressure.'

Bayman goes on to claim that actual punishments for cross-dressing were typically lenient, and Cressy notes that 'the courts, more interested in restoring charity and harmony than in meting out punishment, were content to secure acknowledgment of error and to pass out a mild rebuke,' with 'the stiffest punishment ... [being] performance of public penance.' Together these conclusions present a society that was rhetorically concerned with cross-dressing, but in which ultimately it 'was neither the subversive abomination nor the eroticized transgression that some scholars have claimed.'

There is then ample contemporary justification for Tyndall's decision to strike the section concerning Anna, particularly considering his support for public performance despite the potential for disorder. Ursula Ann Potter suggests that Pamplyn’s daughter may have been acting in an official capacity and that '[d]ancing and cross-dressing by boys were sanctioned features of school drama where they were conducted under male authority.' Latin instruction at the King's School could well have involved reading and performing comedies and dramatic dialogues in the language, although no records survive.

Discussing Tyndall’s letter, Lynn Enterline identifies the role that dramatic cross-dressing may have played in the construction of Latin training as 'a kind of "male puberty rite",' noting that '[w]ith great frequency over the course of the sixteenth century, schoolboys preserved—indeed, extended—the long-standing medieval custom of playing female parts on holidays. And they did so as part of their introduction into the successful performance of genteel masculinity.' In addition to instances of cross-dressing at Ely, Enterline highlights records of dramatic cross-dressing at the grammar school attached to Magdalen College, Oxford from 1509, a performance at Greenwich on November 10, 1527, by the boys of St Paul’s School, and a general rapid increase in 'cross-dressing playing ... after 1525, beginning at Eton.' The possibility exists, then, that Anna was training students in this or other forms of drama and that '[t]he transgression here is the fact it took place under female authority, which, as the complainants’ comments indicate, was socially and sexually suspect.' Given Pamplyn’s propensity for eschewing his duties and being often absent from the school, Tyndall may have elected to strike out a complaint about a potentially justified pedagogical enterprise and accepted that any irregularities were a result of Pamplyn’s irresponsibility and that Anna, effectively, was picking up her father's slack. Perhaps, too, the complaints brought by parents of the schoolboys or the townspeople represented a misunderstanding of the role and curriculum of a grammar school education, something Tyndall would have understood far more readily.

Other Performance Traditions

Non-dramatic Cross-Dressing

The case of Pamplyn’s daughter and the King’s School is not the only evidence from the Cambridgeshire records of official leniency toward cross-dressing, in contrast to contemporary religious and social critique. The proceedings of the diocesan court held at Babraham 29 January 1602 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1602) report that Anna (also named Nan and Alicia later in record) Pettingale, dressed in men’s apparel and was harboured by Goodman Banks, who claimed she was his niece; the same record also charges a Joan Buninges with the same offence. Likewise in Grantchester, 22 February 1599/1600 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1599/1600), Joan Bigges, a single woman, was brought before the court 'for that lately she did weare mans apparell, and also in time of harvest laste in vilde manner turned vp her cloathes & shewed those partes that should be hidden, willinge the company to loke what a clocke it was if they had any skill of the Dyall.' For this behaviour, the judge ordered Joan to confession 'and advised her to perform the same in the church there, wearing a sheet [et monuit eam ad peragend eand in Ecclesiam ibidem lodice indicta].' Though the wearing of a sheet might seem particular relevant to sumptuary or other sartorial infractions, this form of penance was in fact commonplace in the English church. As Emily Winerock notes in her study of dancing and other forms of disorder in churchyards, '[i]f the accused failed compurgation or admitted guilt, he or she would be assigned penance, which was typically performed barefoot and wearing a sheet, in the parish church.' Winerock cites David Klausner’s Herefordshire/Worcestershire collection, which records similar punishment for a number of violations in Herefordshire, here specifically in the case of the minstrel John Botchet, charged with playing at the house of James and Mary Polsons in Bishops Frome, Herefordshire on the Sabbath evening of December 1619, who 'had to confess the article in the usual garb before the minister and churchwardens, etc [habet ad confitendum articulum in vsuali vestitu coram ministro et gardianis &c].' The same punishment was given to Richard Andrew for dancing at the same event. The Cambridgeshire diocesan records bear this out: in addition to Joan Bigges, a piper by the name of Spence in the 1602 court at Sutton (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1602) was charged with drawing 'the youth of Sutto{n} to ill order on the Sabaoth dayes, & being admonished by the Minister he would doe yt in spite of him.' For this, Spence was similarly ordered by the judge 'to do penance in the church of Sutton (covered) in a sheet and to certify [penitenciam faceiendam in Ecclesia de Sutton in lodice].' The terminology employed to describe the penitential garb could differ depending on the record, and perhaps indicate some degree of local variation, referred to variously as 'lodix' (for example, in 'lodice', 'lodice indut'), or 'usualus uestitus' (for example, in 'usuali uestitu').

Cat Immolation

One particularly curious (and odious) element of public performance appears in the diocesan court proceedings from Ely, on 1 January 1638/9 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1639). One William Wade attested to performing in the choir of Ely Cathedral 'when a great noise & disturbance was made neere the Quire … by the Roasting of a Catt tyed to a spitt by one William Smith & there a fire made about it. whereby much people were gathered together & a great prophanacion made both of day & place.' William Smith was accompanied by Thomas Barkinn, Reynoldes, a servant (turnspit) of Thomas Draper, and Bartholomew Scott. Though the document fails to provide any context for the actions of Smith and company, including their motivations, the activity could be related to a variety of European traditions of cat immolation, a practice that was both symbolically and ethically complex and variable according to place and time.

Robert Darnton discusses the phenomenon comprehensively, observing that, '[e]arly modern Frenchmen probably made more symbolic use of cats than any other animal.' The inhabitants of Paris, Saint Charmond, Burgundy, Lorraine, and Metz were attested to celebrate the feast of Saint John the Baptist (24 June) regularly with bonfires, into which they would cast cats:

'Crowds made bonfires, jumped over them, danced around them, and threw into them objects with magical power, hoping to avoid disaster and obtain good fortune during the rest of the year. A favorite object was cats — cats tied up in bags, cats suspended from ropes, or cats burned at the stake.... Although the practice varied from place to place, the ingredients were everywhere the same: a feu do joie (bonfire), cats, and an aura of hilarious witch-hunting.'

The meanings behind these rituals are complex and vary according to place and time. While '[f]irst and foremost, cats suggested witchcraft,' they also held a variety of other non-specific superstitious powers, frequently associated with sex, violence, and disorder. Although Darnton singles out the Feast of St John the Baptist, carnival, and Lent as periods when cat torture was particularly common, Bruce Boehrer notes 'that cats were tortured throughout early modern Europe on numerous occasions that do not bear any clear relation to seasonal [Christian] holidays.' The celebrations may be more closely and regularly connected to purported pagan witch festivals. In particular, Mardi Gras and Saint John’s Eve 'coincided with — and coopted ... Candlemas and Beltane.'

English examples of recreational cat murder are considerably sparser and seem not to mark religious or quasi-religious observances, but instead feature as 'impromptu divertissements,' similar in character to 'the charivari and its regional variants [ie, faire le chat and Katzenmusik], which often employed cat abuse to help create ... rough music.' Such cat abuses were widespread across England:

'The nonseasonal practice of whipping a cat to death, for instance, proved lastingly popular in some parts of the realm. In 1615 Richard Braithwaite could ask rhetorically, "Set out a Pageant, whoo’l not thither runne, / As twere to whip the cat at Abington" (M1v). Over two centuries later a village inn at Albrighton in Shropshire still retained an inscription reading, "The finest pastime, that is under the sun, / Is whipping the cat at Albrighton". In a related vein, Benedick’s famous remark in Much Ado about Nothing, "If I do [marry], hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot at me" (1.1.256–57), alludes to a form of early English archery drill in which a live cat was placed in a bag or basket and used as a target.'

Ritualistic cat murder was considerably less widespread: 'although the English followed the continental custom of building Midsummer’s Eve bonfires, they do not seem to have shared the French predilection for roasting cats in them,' and 'with the Reformation even the bonfires proved controversial since Protestant reformers concluded early on that the coincidence of Catholic feast days and ancient pagan festivals attested to the corruption of both.' Despite the Protestant mistrust of potentially corrupt practices, cat immolation was at times nevertheless a part of anti-Catholic celebration, though little evidence survives for such events as early as the 1630s. On Elizabeth Day (17 November, from her accession in 1558), bonfires were common and on the day in 1677 a celebration in London included the burning of cats in an effigy of the Pope, as well as 'mighty bonefires and ye burning of a most costly pope, caryed by four persons in divers habits, and ye effigies of 2 divells whispering in his eares, his belly filled full of live catts who squawled most hideously as soone as they felt the fire; the common saying all ye while, it wase ye language of ye Pope and ye Divel in a dialogue betwixt them.'

Boehrer identifies — in addition to the William Smith cat-burning in the records here — a case 'in 1643 [where] the parliamentary troopers who overran Lichfield Close used hounds to hunt cats through the cathedral on successive days,' an act that Katherine Rogers claims was 'to demonstrate their contempt for Anglican Churches.' Earlier, in the 1550s, during the tense religious moments following Mary’s plan to marry Philip II of Spain, Charles Wriothesley reported another cat killed in effigy:

'Sunday the 8 of Aprill was a villanouse fact done in Cheape earlie or daye. A dead catt having a clothe lyke a vestment of the priest at masse with a crosse on it afore, and another behinde put on it; the crowne of the catt shorne, a peece of paper lyke a singinge cake putt betwene the forefeete of the said catt bownd together, which catt was hanged on the post of the gallows in Cheape beyond the Crosse in the parishe of St. Mathewe, and a bottle hanged by it; which catt was taken downe at vi of the clock in the morninge and caried to the Bishop of London, and he caussed it to be shewed openlye in the sermon tyme at Paules Crosse in the sight of all the audience there present.'

Cambridgeshire offers no further evidence of ritualized cat torture or killing. Closer to Ely, the play Gammer Gurton’s Needle (produced at Christ’s College, Cambridge) features Gib the cat, who 'is held aloft — no doubt squirming — for a full scene while the bumpkin Hodge, convinced that Gib has swallowed the play’s lost needle, first threatens to kill him and then prepares to probe the animal’s rectum.' This performance act, however, would seem rather to fall under the category of 'impromptu divertissements,' than to be connected with either traditional Catholic and Continental (chiefly French) practices of burning cats as symbols of witchcraft, or English examples of ritual cat killing in anti-Catholic protest.

For William Smith, however, the roasting of a cat on a spit may have had some significance, even though this instance precedes both anti-Catholic celebrations of Guy Fawkes and Elizabeth Day. As Alec Ryrie observes, '[t]raditional Christianity generously provided [milestones] in the liturgical calendar, but that calendar’s place in everyday life and devotion was directly challenged by the Reformation,' particularly since 'St Paul’s polemic against observing "dayes, and moneths, and times, and yeres" fitted well with Reformed Protestants’ wariness of treating any time or place as holier than any other.' While England generally observed major feast days, the distrust of those days and the fear that they could lead to sloth and disorder meant that 'Protestants [both puritan and conformist] ... develop[ed] new ways of marking time.' The Sabbath day, for example, created an opportunity for 'earnest Protestants to take a retrospective look at the week’s sins and successes,' but '[t]here was also a need for more considered reviews at longer intervals.' A birthday allowed a Protestant to engage in one aspect of William Pemble’s encouragement for 'Christians to review their lives "every weeke, moneth, and yeare",' but New Year’s Day was also a popular, if ‘unacknowledged,’ Protestant feast day. Ryrie here cites the advice of Calvinist theologian Daniel Featley, who correlated the traditional feast day of the Circumcision of Christ with a request 'for spiritual circumcision and thanking God for the first-fruits of Christ’s blood to praying, "Thou hast begunne a new yeere, beginne in mee a new reformation".'

It is not certain that William Smith was burning a cat in a demonstration of Protestant zeal on New Year’s Day, perhaps concatenating his own spiritual rebirth with a show of anti-Catholic sentiment. He may just as likely have been celebrating the day with a traditional English 'impromptu divertissement'; the record is unclear. The significance of the day and the long history of cat immolation, however, at least signal at a potential meaning for the act.

Morris Dancing

Morris dancing is most often associated with major festivals such as Christmas, Shrovetide and Holy Week, and Midsummer, but the practice occurred at many times of the year, fixed to no holiday in particular. In Cambridgeshire too, Morris dancing is the performance activity most frequently cited in the diocesan court proceedings (see the associated records), evidence of the 'church’s reversal of policy towards Morris dancing from active support to rigorous prosecution' in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Approximately one-third of the towns and parishes featured in this collection report Morris dancing in their court proceedings, from 1590 to 1615. Minstrels are sometimes recorded as participants, such as John Loughts, cited for piping and playing in Pampisford for Morris dancers on Trinity Sunday 1591 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1591), and John Sutton, for the Morris dancers of Thetford, who travelled from there to a feast in Wilburton in December 1604 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1605). Like the dancers of Thetford, Maria Goodenough and Joanna Malyn of Witcham were charged with dancing to Coventry in December 1610 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1610).

Playing Places

The Cambridgeshire records offer insight only rarely into specific performance venues, and even more rarely have those spaces survived. Anglesey and Barnwell were either heavily remodelled or demolished following the Dissolution, Ely Priory and Cathedral had several potential performance spaces, all of which have been heavily reworked, and Kirtling Hall was demolished in 1801. In addition to the institutions and households already discussed elsewhere in this introduction, however, the sites of Linton, March, and Wisbech offer further secular and corporate venues.

Linton Townhouse. Photo: John H. Turkentine.

Linton Townhouse

The St Mary’s churchwardens’ accounts (see the associated records) of Linton note several receipts of money for players at the Townhouse, from 1577 to 1590, as well as rent of the space for weddings. This building was the new guildhall, used jointly by the town’s religious guilds of Our Lady and St Lawrence, but owned by the Trinity guild (prominent in Linton from 1400 to the 1530s), and rebuilt in the early sixteenth century. In 1507 Nicholas Wickham, priest of the parish, had left two marks for the construction of a new guildhall, and in 1508 Pembroke Hall leased a plot of rectory land to the northwest of the church for the project, and construction was nearly complete by 1523. After the suppression of the guilds in 1547, however, the Townhouse (as it was then called) was given to the management of the churchwardens, while the property itself was leased by Pembroke College in 1564. Now known as the Old Guildhall, the building still stands; it is a timber-framed, two-story building. The likely space for performances would have been a large room on the east end, since separated into four bays..

March Townhouse

The diocesan court proceedings for March in 1607 (see Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1607) note that a townsperson, Robert Coney, was absent from service on Sabbath in order to watch players at the townhouse. This is likely the 'small former guildhall' on High Street, which Pevsner notes was rebuilt as a school in 1827 and is now the site of the March and District Museum.

Wisbech Holy Trinity Guildhall

The Holy Trinity guild accounts of Wisbech (see the associated records) record many payments from 1380 to 1489 at annual guild dinners, and the building that housed the guildhall still stands on Hill Street in Wisbech. After the suppression of the guilds in 1547 the building was converted to become the town hall and a grammar school (1549–1898) and is now the Conservative Club. Although Pevsner claims that this building dates from the 1585, the hall range in fact dates from c 1379, though much of the rest of the structure has been heavily reworked multiple times.

  • Footnotes
    • Nelson, Cambridge, vol 2, pp 703–809.
    • Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Oxford, 1990), 122. See also 'Historical Background: The Reformation in Cambridgeshire.'
    • Nelson, Cambridgeshire, vol I, p 25; James M. Gibson (ed), Kent: Diocese of Canterbury, vol 2 (Toronto and Buffalo, 2002), 324.
    • Although it is impossible to suppose which minstrels these were, see Eliza Tiner, ‘Patrons and Travelling Companies,’ in Nelson, Cambridge, vol 2, pp 1269–70 and pp 1277–8. See also P&P pages for Henry VI and John de Mowbray.
    • In 1383, Elizabeth was betrothed to John Hastings (1372–89), heir to the earldom of Pembroke, but began a relationship with Holland, probably in 1385, leading to a repudiation of the betrothal. Elizabeth married Holland on 24 June 1386; see Anthony Goodman, ‘Elizabeth of Lancaster (1364?–1425), noblewoman’ ODNB, accessed 23 September 2004.
    • For further discussion of Barnwell’s use as a lodging house for the bishop and the interactions between the priory and the Midsummer Fair, see ‘Historical Background: Barnwell Priory’; see also VCH: Cambridgeshire, vol 2, pp 234-249, British History Online,, accessed 24 September 2021.
    • For further details on this practice, see Brian Weiser, ‘The Shamings of Falstaff,' The Oxford Handbook of the Age of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2016).
    • David Dymond, Churchwardens’ Book, p lviii.
    • Peter Greenfield and Jane Cowling, ‘Performance Traditions,’ Hampshire.
    • See also the diocesan court proceedings for West Wratting (Diocesan Court Proceedings, 1593/4), which report that a John Blackbone danced through the evening prayer on the Sunday before Whitsunday, 27 May 1593.
    • See Palmer, Visitation Returns for Cambridgeshire, pp 15, 25.
    • R. A. Houston, Bride Ales and Penny Weddings: Recreations, Reciprocity, and Regions in Britain from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries (Oxford, 2013), 31–2.
    • Houston, Bride Ales, p 47. For a discussion of what replaced the church ale, see Rubin, Charity and Community, pp 237–45.
    • Dymond, Churchwardens’ Book, p lix.
    • Dymond, Churchwardens’ Book, p lviii.
    • Performance at the Reach Fair is frequently recorded in Nelson, Cambridge; see especially vol 2, p 1482.
    • VCH: Cambridgeshire, vol 4, p 50, British History Online,, accessed 24 September 2021.
    • Nelson, Cambridge, vol 2, pp 987, 1196. Nelson includes the record in his Appendix 2, 'Cambridge Ghosts,' which collects 'misunderstandings or mistranscriptions.' In this case, the name 'Barnwell' was misunderstood to have derived from 'children's well,' and the tradition of the Midsummer Fair itself from 'the resort of children and young persons thither yearly on Midsummer Eve' (Nelson, Cambridge, vol 2, p 987; citing John Willis Clark, Liber Memorandum Ecclesie de Bernewelle (Cambridge, 1907), 41–2).
    • Brannen, ‘Parish Play Accounts,’ pp 55–72, and ‘Bassingbourn St George Play'; Stephen Doree, ‘St George Play,’ 36–45; Dymond, Churchwardens’ Book, pp lx–lxviii.
    • Dymond, Churchwardens’ Book, p lxv.
    • Dymond, Churchwardens’ Book, p lxiii.
    • Dymond, Churchwardens’ Book, p lxvi–lxvii.
    • For possible play performances and the presence of travelling productions originating in Spalding in the mid-1500s, see records included in James Stokes (ed), Lincolnshire, REED, 2 vols (Toronto and Buffalo, 2009), particularly the St Mary’s Churchwardens’ Accounts, Long Sutton, vol 1, pp 225, 227, 229, and vol 2, pp 425–6; for possible play performances originating in Frampton Fen in the mid-1500s, see Stokes, Lincolnshire, particularly the St Mary’s Churchwardens’ Accounts, Long Sutton, vol 1, pp 224, 330, and vol 2, pp 425–6; for possible play performances originating in Kirton Fen in the mid-1500s, see records included in Stokes, Lincolnshire, particularly the St Mary’s Churchwardens’ Accounts, Long Sutton, vol 1, pp 227, 330 and vol 2, 425–6; for possible play performances originating in Bolingbroke in the mid-1500s, see records included in Stokes, Lincolnshire, particularly the St Mary’s Churchwardens’ Accounts, Long Sutton, vol 1, pp 225, 227–8, and vol 2, pp 425–6.
    • Stokes, Lincolnshire, vol 2, pp 404 and 406.
    • Stokes, Lincolnshire, vol 2, p 433. See also vol 1, p 229 for the Spalding payment.
    • See ‘Historical Background: Schools,’ for further context for this account.
    • Based on a will proved in the vice-chancellor’s court in that year, as cited by Owen and Thurley, King’s School, p 55, and found in the National Archives (PROB 11/119/272); Owen and Thurley, King’s School, p 55. See also 'William PAMPLYN (PMLN566W),' ACAD: A Cambridge Alumni Database, accessed 20 July 2022.
    • See, for example, the notarial instrument regarding a debt owed to the prior of Anglesey by a John Pamplyn in 1500 (TNA E 135/22/6), as well as the wills of John (d. c 1552), yeoman of Fen Ditton (TNA PROB 11/35/79), Joan (d. c 1595), widow of Chesterton (TNA PROB 11/86/130), William (d. c 1598), gentleman and yeoman of Burwell (TNA PROB 11/92/293), Bridgette (d. c 1650), spinster of Ely (TNA PROB 11/212/444), and Thomas (d. c 1660), yeoman of Gnapwell (TNA PROB 11/300/325), and the certificates of residence for a Robert Pamphline in the last two decades of the sixteenth century (TNA E 115/305/82).
    • David Cressy, ‘Gender Trouble and Cross-Dressing in Early Modern England,’ Journal of British Studies 35 (October 1996), 439. It should be noted, however, that Cressy argues against this prevailing view, claiming that ‘cross-dressing was not so transgressive as critics and scholars have suggested, nor was it necessarily symptomatic of a sex-gender system in distress’ (‘Gender Trouble,’ p 439).
    • Cressy, ‘Gender Trouble,’ pp 445, 451.
    • Cressy, ‘Gender Trouble,’ p 458.
    • Anna Bayman, ‘Cross-Dressing and Pamphleteering in Early Seventeenth-Century London,’ Moral Panics, the Media, and the Law in Early Modern England, David Lemmings and Claire Walter (eds) (London, 2009), 65, 73.
    • Bayman, ‘Cross-Dressing,’ p 73; Cressy, ‘Gender Trouble,’ p 461-2.
    • Cressy, ‘Gender Trouble,’ p 464.
    • Ursula Ann Potter, ‘Performing Arts in the Tudor Classroom,’ Tudor Drama before Shakespeare, 1485–1590, Lloyd Kermode, Jason Scott-Warren, and Martine van Elk (eds) (New York, 2004), 157.
    • Potter, ‘Performing Arts,’ p 151.
    • Lynn Enterline, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion (Philadelphia, 2001), 17–18. Enterline here uses the phrase coined by Walter Ong, ‘Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite,’ Studies in Philology 56.2 (April 1959), 103–124.
    • Enterline, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, p 18. For the record of a 1518 payment to the schoolmaster of Magdalen College ‘for the dyeing and making of the coat for him who played the part of Christ and for wigs for the women [pro tinctura et factura tunice eius qui ageret partem Christi et pro crinibus mulieribus],’ see John R. Elliott, Jr. et al (eds) Oxford, REED, 2 vols (Toronto, 2004), vol 1, 61; vol 2, 949.
    • Potter, ‘Performing Arts,’ 157.
    • Emily Winerock, ‘Churchyard Capers: The Controversial Use of Church Space for Dancing in Early Modern England,’ The Sacralization of Space and Behavior in the Early Modern World, Jennifer Mara DeSilva (ed) (London, 2015), 246.
    • David Klausner (ed), Herefordshire/Worcestershire, REED (Toronto, 1990), 64 and 207–8. See also, among many others, the punishments for Margaret Gwillim for dancing in Kingsland, 13 March 1588/9, Edward Hall for music and dancing in Ledbury, 16 November 1618, Thomas Hamon for music in Much Marcle, 5 December 1618 (Klausner, Herefordshire/Worcestershire, pp 140, 142, 156).
    • Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, EDR B/2/53, f 17v.
    • Bruce Thomas Boehrer, Animal Characters: Nonhuman Beings in Early Modern Literature (Philadelphia, 2010), 117.
    • Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes In French Cultural History (New York, 2009), 92.
    • Darnton, Great Cat Massacre, pp 83–5. For the roasting of cats specifically on spits, Darnton notes that ‘[o]n the dimanche des brandons [ie, Quadragesima Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent] in Semur, for example, children used to attach cats to poles and roast them over bonfires’ (p 90).
    • Darnton, Great Cat Massacre, p 92.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, p 111.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, p 111.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, pp 112–13.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, p 113.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, p 114.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, pp 115–16, citing Edward Maude Thompson (ed), Correspondence of the Family of Hatton, vol 1 (Westminster, 1878), 157.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, p 117; Katherine M. Rogers, The Cat and the Human Imagination: Feline Images from Bast to Garfield (Ann Arbor, 1998), 39.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, p 118, citing Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England during the Reigns of the Tudors, William Douglas Hamilton (ed) (Westminster, 1877), 114.
    • Boehrer, Animal Characters, p 107.
    • Alec Ryrie, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain (Oxford, 2013), 456.
    • Ryrie, Being Protestant, p 458.
    • Ryrie, Being Protestant, p 458.
    • Ryrie, Being Protestant, pp 458–9.
    • Ryrie, Being Protestant, p 459.
    • John Forrest, The History of Morris Dancing, 1438–1750 (Toronto, 1999), 186.
    • The original sixteenth-century gatehouse still stands, however (‘Kirtling Tower,’ Historic England; Pevsner, Cambridgeshire, p 420).
    • VCH: Cambridgeshire, vol 6, pp 80-105, British History Online,, accessed 24 September 2021.
    • ‘The Guildhall,’ Historic England
    • Pevsner, Cambridgeshire, p 355; ‘March and District Museum,’ Historic England.
    • Pevsner, Cambridgeshire, p 410; ‘The Conservative Club,’ Historic England.