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The Cockpit Theatre

Picture of a Cockpit dating from 1759

The Cockpit Theatre - A Playhouse (Re-named the Phoenix Theatre)
As its name indicates, the Cockpit started life as a venue for cock fighting. It has a special place in the history of London as it became the very first theatre to be located in Drury Lane.

The cockpit was originally built in 1609 for cockfighting. The blood sport venue was converted into a playhouse theatre in 1616 by Christopher Beeston. In 1617, just a year later, there was some rioting in London and the newly converted theatre was burnt down by the mob. The Cockpit theater was rebuilt in 1618 and given the name the Phoenix, as it rose from the ashes.

Habits die hard and the Phoenix continued to be referred to as the Cockpit. Christopher Beeston was a member of Queen Anne's Men and he had his own troupe called the Beeston's Boys. 

Sir William Davenant became manager of Theater after the death of Christopher Beeston in 1638. Sir William Davenant was rumoured to be the illegitimate son of William Shakespeare. In 1642 an act of Parliament closed all theatres. The Cockpit, however, continued to illicitly stage shows, and in 1649 it was raided. In 1659 Davenant was granted special permission to present one of his operas at Theater "Sir Francis Drake". In 1660 theatres were allowed to reopen, and John Rhodes became manager of The Cockpit. Competition from the nearby Drury Lane Theater, however, forced the playhouse to close in 1665.

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