Put up thy gold

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One of the things that happens when you start an improbable mission* is that people start to associate you with one thing and one thing only. Thus my father brought me back this little curio from the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.

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This is an Elizabethan money box**. Made of earthenware and without an opening to remove the money from, they were cheap, disposable items for holding money and were used to collect the gate money from theatre performances (people paid a penny on the gate to enter, and more pennies for sitting higher up in the galleries, or to buy refreshments (there’s a good description of it in here, taken from a 1599 diary).

The Museum of London’s archeological work on The Theatre and The Curtain (see past post) – and further back on The Rose and The Globe has yielded a fair amount of information about the process and even the people who collected the money***. The 2010 dig at The Theatre apparently found seven knobs from money boxes – some fewer than the 162 found in the Rose and Globe excavations, but showing that the practice was as old as theatre itself. There’s more information in a blog post about the dig.

Apparently the term Box Office originated from the place where these money boxes were broken open and counted to work out owners’ shares. So again it turns out that language is more durable than the objects it describes…


* I am sure it isn’t impossible…

** A replica, at least.

*** In The Theatre these included Henry Johnson, a cloth worker or silk weaver, who may also have been a costumer for The Theatre, and was in post for the first 10 years; also Margaret Brayne, the widow of Burbage’s erstwhile partner and brother-in-law John Brayne. She succeeded Johnson as a gatherer. Information taken directly from the Museum of London blog – and setting up a few fascinating speculations about back stories…

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