You are a very wealthy widow of George Harrington, an alderman of Bristol. In your will you gave £210 to the mayor and commonality of Bristol to be divided between all of the city’s parishes for poor relief and the indentures made after your death for each church describe you as having a ‘charitable deposition’. You were buried in St Peter’s church in a tomb alongside your late husband in 1640. From your will, it is clear that you lived comfortably, and were able to give money to your friends and family in addition to your charitable bequests. You also gave ‘forty black firze gownes’ and handkerchiefs so that forty poor women could attend your funeral to commemorate your generosity. It is clear that you were involved in your city’s civic world and sought to use your wealth and status as a means to help those in need.
Edward Alleyn, Bearward and Benefactor [1604- 1626]
You are happily in the prosperous period of your life. By 1604, you and your partner Henslowe had secured office in the mastership of the bears—care for the royal dogs, bears, and bulls that were baited for sport in early modern England. This role was a prestigious one, and it was also lucrative—particularly in London, thanks to regular public entertainments, commission, and court performances.
By this stage of your life, you had amassed a significant entertainment empire in collaboration with your father-in-law and partner Henslowe, moving to inherit his estate after his eventual death in 1616.
Over the subsequent decade, these business successes crystallised into more formal signs of “new gentry” status.
In 1605, you purchased the manor of Dulwich, in essence making you a “lord” of this hamlet.
You go onto build a major educational institution in the shape of Dulwich College from 1613, aimed at poor scholars and build almshouses for the local dependent poor.
In these later years, you also commission portraits of yourself, engage in significant “modern” building work on your properties in Dulwich, and amass substantial assets including books, clothing, and ceremonial items like the stave (a staff) that came with the mastership of the bears.
You had hoped before death for “greater office” in the form of a knighthood, and while that official “gentleman” status may never come to pass, you secure one major sign of higher status—a coat of arms, issued to you upon official foundation of the college at its completion in 1619.
Inventory: Thomas Thropp, Alderman, citizen, vintner and Innkeeper of Chester. 1621 Inventory. [Extract: Street Chamber]
This inventory indented maketh mention of all and singular the goods chanells Rightes creditts and debts which late weare of Thomas Throppe late citizen and Alderman of the citty of Chester deceased as They weare seene vallewed and appraised w[i]thin his late dwellinge howse in the Bridgstreete within the cittie of Chester by Randle Holme painter Thomas Weston glouer Peter Goose draoer and Thomas Wealche Cooper Citizens of the said citty of Chester in and upon the Thirtieth daie of March 1620. And in the XVIIIth yeare of the Raigne of our Soueraigne Lord King James over England France and Ireland and over Scotland the three and fiftieth as hereafter p[ar]ticulerly are mentioned vizt/
In the Streete Chamber
Item a faier drawinge table XLVIs 8d
Item a dozen of hie stooles couered w[i]th greene Ymbroidered and fringe XVs
Item half a dozen of lowe stooles wrought with an irish stitche and their covers XIIs
Item three hie chaiers weought and fringed Having yellowe covers to them XLs
Item a halfe backed chaier covered with silk and fringed havinge a yellow cover Xs
Item one courte cubbord XIIs
Item one paier of brasse Aundirons IIIli
Item a fier shovel and tongs and three barrs Of Iron in the Chimney Vis VIIId
Item three trunkes XVs
Item one new cipres chest XXVIs VIIId
Item a wallnuttree bedsteed with the trundell Bedsteed with the tester of the hie bed couered and the curtens and vallens to the same IIIIli
Item one other paier of vallens with a tawney Silke fringe and greene curtains IIIli
Item three featherbed one flockbed & a Matt VIIli
Item two boulsters and two fustian pillows XXVIs 8d
Item one ould blanket two new blanketts and one greene covering XXs
Item the kings picture the Queens picture and the princes picture in frames oyled work XXXs
Item one oyled picture being of the three Kinges and sett in a frame XIIs
Item four pictures of an other sorte Xs
Item XIIII pictures of an other sorte XIIIIs
Item a gilded looking glasse with the cover IIIIs
Item the wainscot of this chamber w[i]th the Benches and the portal doore XXs
Item the glasse windowes with 4 casements XXXIIIIs 4d
Item a hand skreene XIId
Item two foot paces IIIs IIIId
Item one dozen of greene cushionsVIIIs
Item six Thrume cushionsXXs
Item two cushions wrought with needlework IIIIs
Item one longe cushion for the chumney of A brancht silke worke XIIIs IIIId
Item flowers for this chamber with two gilded Potts and the box that keepes them in Xs
Item two corsletts XXXs
Item a musket a bandalyer a rest & a sworde XXVIs 8d
Item a Table for the maiors sworde & the mace Xs
Some XLIli Is IIIId