In the early modern period the church was obviously not a performance site in terms of London’s theatre culture. But it is of great significance to the ‘Shakespearean London Theatres’ project as various key characters from our narrative are buried here. These include the religious writer John Foxe (author of the famous Acts and Monuments, an Elizabethan tome which chronicled the suffering of protestants in England under the catholic Queen Mary I). Other notable burials are the churchman Lancelot Andrewes (who often preached before James I at court), as well as the writer and cartographer John Speed who wrote and published The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine in 1611. Most famously, the poet John Milton is also buried here. Milton is of interest in his own right as the author of numerous poems and political pamphlets, most notably the epic poem Paradise Lost in the later Restoration. But in his younger days he was a keen playgoer attending performances at the Fortune and other playhouses in the Jacobean period.
The church’s most significant link to the Shakespearean theatres lies in the fact that Edward Alleyn, prominent actor and (along with Philip Henslowe) builder and co-owner of the nearby Fortune theatre, was a local benefactor to the area in the early 1600s. A stained glass window in the north wall of the church shows an image of Alleyn (based on the Dulwich picture gallery painting), describing him as ‘Benefactor of this Parish’. The adjacent window gives an impression of the Fortune theatre, which formerly stood at nearby Golden Lane, at what is now Fortune Street.