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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: March ::
Significance of Shoreditch Excavation
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0112  Friday, 13 March 2009

From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Friday, March 13, 2009
Subject:    Significance of Shoreditch Excavation

http://www.tiredoflondontiredoflife.com/2009/03/visit-site-of-shakespeares-first.html

At the Tired of London, Tired of Life, there is an interesting 4 and a 
half minute YouTube video  of current state of excavation of probable 
Shoreditch site of The Theatre, the first purpose-built theater building 
in London after Roman times. In addition, another story from BBC here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7931823.stm

with video London Museum's Taryn Nixon explains the significance of the 
find.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=savcpQFVu8w&eurl=http://www.tiredoflondontiredoflife.com/2009/03/visit-site-of-shakespeares-first.html&feature=player_embedded>

In Elizabethan times on Curtain Road in Shoreditch the second permanent 
theatre ever built in England (and the first successful one) was erected 
by actor-manager James Burbage. It was at The Theatre that many of 
William Shakespeare's plays were premiered, as he was employed as actor 
and playwright by the management on his first job since moving down from 
Stratford.

Nowadays, much of the original site is rather unceremoniously occupied 
by a Foxton's, but behind that some of the area has been excavated and 
exposed  to the air for the first time in generations.

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7931823.stm>

In August last year, the Museum of London announced that they had found 
some foundations which they believed to be the remains of one corner of 
The Theatre. As you can see from the video linked to above, the 
excavations are nearing completion and the Tower Theatre group now 
intends to develop a new theatre on the site. Sadly, the site is not 
accessible at the moment but there is a plaque on the wall in Curtain 
Road to show where it is.

For more information on the project, visit the Tower Theatre Group 
website at www.towertheatre.org.uk.

In August last year, the Museum of London announced

<http://www.museumoflondonarchaeology.org.uk/English/News/Archive/News08/newinnbroadway.htm>

that they had found some foundations which they believed to be the 
remains of one corner of The Theatre. As you can see from the video 
linked to above, the excavations are nearing completion and the Tower 
Theatre group now intends to develop a new theatre on the site. Sadly, 
the site is not accessible at the moment but there is a plaque on the 
wall in Curtain Road <http://knowledgeoflondon.com/theatre.html> to show 
where it is.

For more information on the project, visit the Tower Theatre Group 
website at www.towertheatre.org.uk
<http://www.towertheatre.org.uk/news.htm>.

Archaeologists believe they have unearthed the remains of Shakespeare's 
first theatre, the BBC has learned.

A team from the Museum of London found the remains of the theatre in 
Shoreditch last summer.

Built in 1576, it is thought the Bard acted there and that it also 
hosted the premiere of Romeo and Juliet.

Meanwhile, a portrait of Shakespeare, thought to be the only surviving 
image of him made during his lifetime, has been unveiled in London.

Taryn Nixon, from the Museum of London, said her team had found part of 
the original curved wall of the playhouse, which was believed to be 
polygonal in shape.

A metre and a half below street level, it has also uncovered the gravel 
surface, gently sloping down towards the stage, where the bulk of the 
audience would have stood.

But the archaeologists fear the stage itself may be buried underneath a 
housing development.
Ms Nixon told the BBC the theatre was built in what were known as "the 
suburbs of sin" just outside the city.

"The Lord Mayor actually passed a decree that there shouldn't be any 
theatrical performances in the city... so just on the edge of the city 
is actually, classically, where you find all the slightly wilder, 
slightly more fun activities going on," she said.

Finds made within the gravel yard include a fragment of 16th-century 
pottery featuring the image of a man with beard and ruff.

Relocated

The theatre was constructed by James Burbage, possibly using bricks from 
an old priory. It is thought to have played host to Shakespeare's 
theatre company, the Chamberlain's Men. About 25 years after it was 
built, it was dismantled and moved timber by timber to construct the 
Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames.

In the 1990s the Globe was recreated on a site nearby.

Penny Tuerk, from the Tower Theatre Company, said Romeo and Juliet and 
an early version of Hamlet were thought to have been performed at the 
excavated site, as were some of Shakespeare's comedies, like A Midsummer 
Night's Dream.

"There was a huge appetite for theatre at the time," she said.

"People were flocking into the theatres and they would have grabbed 
anything that they could and put it on to please the crowds."

The site is now owned by the Tower Theatre Company. It plans to preserve 
the architecture in situ and construct a new playhouse around it which 
will open in 2012.

All of this is to advertize Tower Theatre Company, which will be 
building a new theater on the site.

http://www.towertheatre.org.uk/news.htm


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