Goodman’s Fields was a farm beyond the walls of the City.
A House of Minoresses - the Abbey
of St Clare was established in Aldgate
in 1293. The convent ran a farm in the area and the the first recorded tenant was a Mr Trollope, who sold it to Roland Goodman, a wealthy London fishmonger and farmer.
After the Dissolution, the farm became known as Goodman’s Fields. It kept some 30 to 40 head of cattle and was still flourishing in 1601 when the historian John Stowe visited.
An heir of the original Goodman let the field to a variety of small tenants, first as grazing for horses, then for garden-plots and smallholdings, and is said to have lived ‘like a gentleman’ on the proceeds. By 1678, the land was beginning to to be sold off for the construction of housing.
The open ground was bought by Sir John Leman, Lord Mayor of London. His great-nephew William Leman laid out four streets, named after relatives - Mansell Street
, Prescot Street
, Ayliff Street (Alie Street
) and Leman Street
. John Strype in 1717 described them as fair streets of good brick houses. Tenter ground occupied the middle of the area.
By the 18th century the area had acquired a reputation for wild behaviour. John Walsh’s collection of dance tunes, published in the 1730s, includes a ’Goodman’s Fields Hornpipe’.
In 1737 there was a shoot-out in Goodman’s Fields involving the highwaymen Dick Turpin and ’Captain’ Tom King. Turpin had stolen a Mr Major’s horse in Epping, renaming him ’Black Bess’, and hiding him in stables at the Red Lion inn in Whitechapel
. Constables tracked down the horse and a gun battle ensued. In the confusion Turpin shot King, who as he lay dying revealed the location of their hideout. Turpin escaped, but was hanged two years later in York.
The Goodman’s Fields Theatre
- the first theatre beyond the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London - was opened by Thomas Odell in a converted shop in Ayliffe Street (now Alie Street
) in 1727.