Eleanor Bull

Eleanor Bull

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Eleanor Bull was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 woman who is known for owning the establishment in which Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

, the Elizabethan playwright and poet, was killed in 1593.


She was born Eleanor (or Elinor) Whitney, daughter of James and Sybil (Parry) Whitney of Clifford. Although the main branch of the Whitney family had a castle at Whitney-on-Wye
Whitney-on-Wye is a village and civil parish in Herefordshire, England, very close to the border with Wales. It is on the A438 road, and on the River Wye. The village is west of Hereford. The church is dedicated to the Saints Peter and Paul.-History:...

 in Herefordshire
Herefordshire is a historic and ceremonial county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire" NUTS 2 region. It also forms a unitary district known as the...

, Eleanor was from a related branch of that family who resided in nearby Clifford, Herefordshire
Clifford, Herefordshire
Clifford is a village and civil parish in Herefordshire, England, four miles to the north of Hay-on-Wye. It lies on the south bank of the River Wye, which here forms the border between Wales and England....

. Eleanor was a great-niece to Blanche Parry
Blanche Parry
Blanche Parry was a personal attendant of Queen Elizabeth I of England, Chief Gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth’s most honourable Privy Chamber and Keeper of Her Majesty’s jewels.-Early life:...

, a companion of Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

. Blanche gave Eleanor a legacy of £100 in her will
Will (law)
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

 in 1589.

She married Richard Bull October 14, 1571 at St Mary-le-Bow
St Mary-le-Bow
St Mary-le-Bow is an historic church in the City of London, off Cheapside. According to tradition, a true Cockney must be born within earshot of the sound of the church's bells.-Bells:...

, London. He was probably the son of the master-shipwright of that name. He held the post of sub-bailiff at Sayes Court and worked for the Clerk of the Green Cloth. He died in 1590. After her husband's death she stayed on at their house on Deptford Strand, Deptford
Deptford is a district of south London, England, located on the south bank of the River Thames. It is named after a ford of the River Ravensbourne, and from the mid 16th century to the late 19th was home to Deptford Dockyard, the first of the Royal Navy Dockyards.Deptford and the docks are...

, which was in Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, but is now within London. The house became a form of hotel or "rooming house in which meals were served. Her normal clientele would have included supervisors or inspectors at the dockyards, exporters of quality goods and merchants involved in imports from Russia and the Baltic ports."

She died in Deptford and was buried on March 19, 1596.

Death of Marlowe

Eleanor is known because it was at her house that Christopher Marlowe was killed during a quarrel with Ingram Frizer
Ingram Frizer
Ingram Frizer, died August 1627, was an English gentleman and businessman of the late 16th and early 17th centuries who is notable for killing playwright Christopher Marlowe in the home of Eleanor Bull on 30 May 1593...

. Also present were Nicholas Skeres
Nicholas Skeres
Nicholas Skeres was one of the four men present at the house of Eleanor Bull in Deptford, on the occasion of the death of the famous poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe...

 and Robert Poley
Robert Poley
Robert Poley was an agent employed in the secret service of Queen Elisabeth I, being principally employed by the so-called 'spymaster', Sir Francis Walsingham...

. All had spent most of the day at Bull's house, apparently engaged in conversation, eating and drinking. At the inquest it was stated that the quarrel was over the bill (known as "the reckoning") for the day's events. Leslie Hotson, who first identified the documents relating to the inquest described Bull's house as a "tavern", leading to accounts of her as a kind of Mistress Quickly
Mistress Quickly
Mistress Quickly is an inn-keeper who appears in four plays by William Shakespeare:*Henry IV, Part 1*Henry IV, Part 2*Henry V*The Merry Wives of Windsor...

of Deptford "who is always ready to let a room for some disreputable purpose". However, Charles Nicholl, who noted her genteel social connections, states that she was a "woman of substance, well-born and well-connected, not at all the shabby old ale-house keeper she is often portrayed as."


  • The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe by Charles Nicholl [Vintage; New Ed edition (3 Oct 2002)]

External links

Family summary for James and Sybil (Parry) Whitney on the Whitney Research Group wiki website].