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The Woolfes of Wine Street: Middling Culture and Community in Bristol, 1600–1620

Davies, Callan (2022) The Woolfes of Wine Street: Middling Culture and Community in Bristol, 1600–1620. The English Historical Review, 137 (585). pp. 386-415. ISSN 0013-8266. (doi:10.1093/ehr/ceac111) (KAR id:96043)


This article provides an in-depth cultural study of England’s urban middling sort—those in-between wage labourers and the gentry—at the beginning of the seventeenth century, concentrating on one community in a major street in Bristol. This demographic has long been of interest to historians seeking to understand the major social changes of the early modern period, but little is known about the total urban experience of such individuals prior to the Restoration. Wine Street was home to goldsmiths’ standings and shops, instrument-makers, inn-holding widows, aldermen, mayors, and one of the longest-running playhouses in early modern England outside of London—a venue run by Nicholas and Margaret Woolfe. This study seeks to understand more about the everyday lives of this crucial demographic through a holistic micro-history of one particular community—grounding them in a specific place and time and providing an earlier case-study than is generally available in existing literature. Doing so demonstrates how middling status was complicated and defined by neighbourhood, marriage, widowhood, and inheritance. More widely, this group of Wine Street tradespeople, artisans and proprietors lived in a location that was in large part distinguished by forms of ‘play’, the elastic early modern term used here to refer to various forms of commercial recreation, from drama to inn-going to luxury shopping. I establish how, in such urban environments, middling status can be distinctly recognised in the imbrication of play with cultural and commercial identity

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/ehr/ceac111
Projects: Middling Culture
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author(s) has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising.
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council (
Depositing User: Callan Davies
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2022 10:18 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2023 10:23 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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