History of The Bull & The Hide

In 1550 an aspiring nobleman, Jasper Fisher, built a house on this site (No. 4 18 Devonshire Row) described as “sumptuously builded and beautiful…with gardens of pleasure and bowling lanes.” Fisher’s house being considered far too splendid for a mere clerk of the Chancery, and now much in debt, became mockingly referred to asĀ “Fisher’s Folly”. In 1579 the estate was sold to Edward de Vere, the popular Earl of Oxford who lived here until 1588. Sir William Cornwallis acquired Fisher’s Folly next and lived here until 1603 when the property fell to Roger Manners, Earl of Rutland, one of the most well-educated and remarkably literate people of Elizabethan England. Lord and Lady Harrington are the next occupants, and notable for their responsibility in being made ward of the new Stuart King James’ children. In c1625, William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire, purchased Fisher’s Folly, promptly renamedĀ “Devonshire House”. His wife Christian, Countess of Devonshire, the last resident of Fisher’s Folly, held the property until her death in 1675 when it was sold to Nicholas Barbon for development. Barbon laid out the courtyard design of Devonshire Square with Devonshire Row connecting to Bishopsgate and we have the first accounts of the “Bull Tavern” operating on Devonshire Row. The Tudor mansion house was pulled down in c1680 but the remains of Fisher’s Folly can still be seen today at the rear wall of this establishment.

It is noteworthy that two of the former owners of Fisher’s Folly (de Vere and Manners) have alternately been reputed as the true authors of Shakespeare’s plays.

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