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Newington Butts.
St Mary's Churchyard's playground complete with mounds reflecting the historical archery butts.
St Mary's Churchyard's field, with more butts.

Newington Butts is a short road in Southwark, London, England, leading south-west from the Elephant and Castle. The road forks into Kennington Park Road (the A3, to the left) leading to Kennington and Kennington Lane (the A3204, to the right) leading to Vauxhall Bridge.

In previous centuries, Newington was a village that lay about a mile to the southwest of the original London Bridge in the county of Surrey, across St George's Fields from the Bankside.

History and theatre

The area was the site of an archery practice field, with mounds of earth used for the targets. This was known as an "archery butts" — hence the name. For a time, it was compulsory for all yeoman in England to learn archery. ("Butt" was the term for an archery target; consider "Here is my journey's end, here is my butt" in Othello, V,ii,267.)

A little-known theatre called the Newington Butts Theatre was used from around 1580 in William Shakespeare's time, located there partly to avoid the regulations of the city of London to the north. The theatre was in the form of an amphitheatre. Lord Strange's Men acted there in 1592. In the first half of June 1594, both the Admiral's Men the Lord Chamberlain's Men gave performances at Newington Butts, including the earliest recorded performances of the Ur-Hamlet (June 11) and The Taming of the Shrew (June 13),[1] and early performances of Titus Andronicus as well.

The theatre fell into disuse, perhaps as early as 1599; but subsequently the area became a theatre district again.

The playwright Thomas Middleton died at his home here in 1627.

Much later, the leading scientist Michael Faraday was born at Newington Butts in 1791.


In the spring of 2008, St Mary's Churchyard, the green open space on the northern border of Newington Butts, was given a face lift. The largely grassy area now contains a children's playground. Dotted about within the playground and on the grass elsewhere are concrete mounds with rubber (safety) surfaces which were designed to add interest and topography to the developed area. These mounds might reflect the local history, resembling the eponymous archery butts of the area. However, this theory has not been supported by the team responsible (The Elephant and Castle Regeneration Team).


In Cockney rhyming slang 'Newington Butts' means 'guts'.


  1. ^ This was most likely Shakespeare's play, though a performance of the alternative version, The Taming of A Shrew, is not impossible; Halliday, p. 483.

See also


  • Chambers, E.K. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923.
  • Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964. Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.

External links


Coordinates: 51°29′31″N 0°06′11″W / 51.49189°N 0.10292°W / 51.49189; -0.10292



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