She was born Eleanor (or Elinor) Whitney, daughter of James and Sybil (Parry) Whitney of Clifford. Although the main branch of the Whitney family had a castle at Whitney-on-Wye in Herefordshire, Eleanor was from a related branch of that family who resided in nearby Clifford, Herefordshire. Eleanor was a great-niece to Blanche Parry, a companion of Queen Elizabeth I. Blanche gave Eleanor a legacy of £100 in her will in 1589.
She married Richard Bull October 14, 1571 at St Mary-le-Bow, London. He was probably the son of the master-shipwright of that name. He held the post of sub-bailiff at Sayes Court and worked for the Clerk of the Green Cloth. He died in 1590. After her husband's death she stayed on at their house on Deptford Strand, Deptford, which was in Kent, but is now within London. The house became a form of hotel or "rooming house in which meals were served. Her normal clientele would have included supervisors or inspectors at the dockyards, exporters of quality goods and merchants involved in imports from Russia and the Baltic ports."
She died in Deptford and was buried on March 19, 1596.
Death of Marlowe
Eleanor is known because it was at her house that Christopher Marlowe was killed during a quarrel with Ingram Frizer. Also present were Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. All had spent most of the day at Bull's house, apparently engaged in conversation, eating and drinking. At the inquest it was stated that the quarrel was over the bill (known as "the reckoning") for the day's events. Leslie Hotson, who first identified the documents relating to the inquest described Bull's house as a "tavern", leading to accounts of her as a kind of Mistress Quickly of Deptford "who is always ready to let a room for some disreputable purpose". However, Charles Nicholl, who noted her genteel social connections, states that she was a "woman of substance, well-born and well-connected, not at all the shabby old ale-house keeper she is often portrayed as."
- Whitney Castle, Whitney on Wye
- Park Honan, Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy, Oxford University Press, 2005, p.344.
- H. N. Gibson, The Shakespeare Claimants: A Critical Survey of the Four Principle Theories concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays, Barnes & Noble, 1962, p.129.
- Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, p.36
- The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe by Charles Nicholl [Vintage; New Ed edition (3 Oct 2002)]
- Family summary for James and Sybil (Parry) Whitney on the Whitney Research Group wiki website].