Sir John Thynne lived in this Manor at Corsley in the 1560s whilst building his grand estate at Longleat. Later, his widow Dorothy and Sir Carew Raleigh were married from the house, with his brother Sir Walter as best man and a regular visitor for the next 10 years. Whilst Sir John provided the setting, the Raleigh brothers were the artistic inspiration for The Playhouse project.
The Manor at Corsley
The Raleighs and Friends
Wayne House to Playhouse
THE MANOR AT CORSLEY
There has been a building on this site from at least the 13th century when the nuns of Studley built their Priory here.
In 1536 the Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII and given to Edward Seymour, elder brother to Queen Jane, Duke of Somerset and the Lord Protector to his nephew King Edward.
Sir John Thynne
In 1567 Sir John was preparing to move into his new
house at Longleat when it was virtually destroyed by fire. Undeterred, in a matter of months he had commenced work
on the fine building at Longleat we see today. To oversee this project, he moved to Corsley with his family and lived here for over 5 years, until the rebuilding of Longleat was complete.
During his time at Corsley, he extended his parlour, built a school adjoining the house for his many children, and built
his wayne house.
Portrait of Sir John Thynne. Collection of
Marquess of Bath, Longleat House, Wiltshire.
Edward Seymovr, Dvke of SomerSet
Somerset and his Steward Sir John Thynne were both imprisoned in the Tower of London. Somerset was executed for treason, but Thynne was spared, and when Elizabeth became Queen, Thynne got the Manor at Corsley. He started building in 1563 – the house remains virtually unchanged since then.
Portrait by unknown artist, painted cr. 1537,
one year after he was given Corsley.
Collection of Marquess of Bath, Longleat House, Wiltshire.
THE RALEIGHS AND FRIENDS
Carew Raleigh and his only brother of full blood, the more famous Walter, were very close. It was no surprise that they named their sons after the other. They were part of a fiercely loyal West Country tribe who were amongst the most famous sea captains of the Elizabethan Age. The brothers, were also connected to the epicentre of literary talent, were patrons of the Arts and creative forces in their own right.
19th-century depiction of Shakespeare and his literary contemporaries at the Mermaid Tavern
with Walter standing beside him. Painting by John Faed, 1851
Carew married Sir John Thynne’s widow Dorothy
and they lived together at the Manor at Corsley for some 20 years. Carew, with many of his relations, was on the list of sea captains to prepare for the Spanish Armada. The walls here were not only privy
to their Queen’s plots and plans against Spain but
the brothers’ explorations of new lands in America.
And “Sir Carew had a delicate cleare voice, and
played singularly a lute, but well on the olpharion…,
to which he did sing”, (John Aubrey).
Sir Carew Raleigh
Member of Parliament, musician,
sailor, poet, explorer
1550 - 1625
With Carew in situ, Corsley was believed to be Walter’s main country retreat particularly when he was out of favour at Court.
His friends and contemporaries were giants of the literary scene: Shakespeare refers to Walter’s voyages and adventures in his sonnets and plays, Marlowe and Spencer were good friends, Ben Jonson tutored his son, Mary Herbert, author and Countess of Pembroke, regularly entertained him at Wilton House, that "paradise for poets” near Salisbury.
Sir Walter Raleigh
Writer, poet, soldier, courtier, explorer
1552 - 1618
Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh aged 34 in 1588, National Portrait Gallery, London. The year of this painting saw King Philip of Spain launch his Armada.
William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke
Patron of Shakespeare, poet, pipe smoker,
1580 - 1630
William, like his mother Mary and Uncle Sir Philip Sidney before him, was a good friend to the Raleigh family. Carew was Master of St John’s Hospital at Wilton and his son became William’s Chaplain.
In 1603, Shakespeare's company "The King's Men" played to an audience at Wilton which included
King James. Evidence points to the play being “As
You Like It” with Shakespeare himself performing.
The Raleighs would normally have been invited
but Walter had just been found guilty of treason.
Playwright, poet, actor
In between writing his plays, several of which had Shakespeare in the cast, Ben Jonson would have been tutoring Walter Raleigh’s son, Wat. Was Ben a visitor to Corsley? Quite possibly.
Ben Jonson (c. 1617), by Abraham Blyenberch; oil on canvas painting at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
WAYNE HOUSE TO PLAYHOUSE
Original portions of Sir John Thynne’s Wayne House are still very much intact. He built it to house his carts and carriages,
and the building was valued in the inventory in 1580 for the sum of seven pounds.
To create our Playhouse, we have tried to replicate the interiors of the Elizabethan theatres that Sir Carew and Sir Walter Raleigh would have visited. We have taken details, adapted and adopted and been as authentic to that Age as today's world permits.
Early Elizabethan Theatre
Travelling troupes of actors would negotiate with innkeepers to perform in their cobblestone yards.
These were often surrounded by balconies with rooms behind for travellers. These inn yard productions were
the forerunners of the early Elizabethan amphitheatres
The Cvrtain Theatre bvilt in 1577
Our Playhouse is a smaller version of The Curtain in Shoreditch where Shakespeare premiered Henry V and later Romeo and Juliet. To the surprise of the archaeologists, no octagonal building like the Globe was found during the “digs” in 2016, but a rectangular theatre, converted from a large barn!
The Second BlackfriarS PlayhovSe
bvilt in 1596
James Burbage, owner of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, acquired this refectory of the former priory. He converted
it into an indoor theatre, adding two large galleries to
increase the auditorium. Ben Jonson had many of his
plays performed here.
Conjectural reconstruction of the second Blackfriars Theatre from contemporary documents.
The Red Bvll Theatre, bvilt in 1604
Built in Clerkenwell and “noted for the vulgarity and obstreperousness of its patrons…frequented by rowdy neighbourhood theatregoers, several were called before Middlesex Justices in 1610, charged with committing a
notable outrage at the theatre”. Source: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Playing at the Red Bull (Courtesy of the V&A)