Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 8. Saturday, 12 Jan 1991.
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 91 14:39 EST
Subject: Globe theatre site (again)
I have not heard from Andrew Gurr since my Dec. 20 message to SHAKSPER-
eans, but in view of Stephen Miller's message, I think it would be help-
ful to include the text of Gurr's Dec. 4 letter in full (except for the
addresses, which I included earlier). Here it is:
A lot has happened since the last time I wrote to you about the progress
of the rebuilding-the-Globe project. The main development has been that
while the archaeological discoveries of 1989, so far as they went, have
been digested, the main effort has been put into the immense fund-raising
that is still required to get the building on its feet, or rather to set
up the floor or piazza on which the Globe is to stand. We hoped that
more archaeological work could be done fairly quickly, and that it was
worth waiting for any new information that might come out of the ground
to clarify or confute the shape and dimensions we've tentatively given to
the rebuilt Globe's ground plan.
At the Stratford conference in August I tried to mumble some warning
noises that there might be problems over getting more digging done. I
reported that Geoffrey Wainwright, the chief archaeologist at English
Heritage, had stated in the press that in his opinion the only thing to
do with the Globe's remains was to leave them buried for the next
twenty-five years. That statement was made after Hanson Trust had
applied to do some keyhole digging in the Anchor Terrace cellars, which
cover most of the Globe remains. The application went to the Department
of the Environment, which looks after scheduled monuments. Since then
the Museum of London has had to sack half of the field staff in their
archaeology unit, including John Dillon and Simon McCudden, who were the
two senior people involved in the initial Globe dig. And Hanson Trust's
application has run into trouble with English Heritage.
English Heritage is the only body the Secretaryof State for the Environ-
ment is obliged to consult in evaluating applications to work on histo-
ric sites. On the Globe application, EH first raised the question of the
stability of Anchor Terrace and the possible damage that could be caused
by digging in the cellars. That concern Hanson responded to by inviting
Ove Arup to report on its structure. Now EH has indicated that it will
allow only a single trial dig to ascertain whether there are any Globe
remains under the cellar floors of Anchor Terrace. If none are found,
there is to be no more digging. If remains of the Globe's foundations
are found, EH will think again about whether to allow any more digging.
There is some reason to be hopeful about the trial dig. Simon McCudden's
dig in October 1989 established that the remains to the east of Anchor
Terrace are substantial, in good condition and that their grade level is
more than three feet (call it one metre) below the floor level of Anchor
Terrace's cellars. So the trial dig ought to find something.
It is unlikely, however, that things will then run smoothly enough to
permit an immediate expansion of keyhold digs throughout the cellerage.
English Heritage is evidently unenthusiastic, to put it mildly. The
Georgian Society is concerned about the long-term fate of Anchor Terrace.
Whatever the outcome of the trial dig, it seems likely that we are head-
ing towards another conflict of interests in which there will be some
powerful resistance to digging up any more of the Globe.
The EH policy of letting sleeping Globes lie (which actually meets its
statuary obligation to 'preserve' historic sites, whatever the state of
ignorance about them that leaves us in) is on its way to becoming govern-
ment policy. I think that if possible we should provide a little heat to
the pot before its contents congeal into a settled policy. The Globe is
a unique site, in value fundamentally different from the two-hundred-and-
twentyfifth Roman theatre. If you agree, then please write your views to
the Secretary of State for the Environment and to Geoffrey Wainwright.
Thus ends Gurr's letter. I would only add that in my letters to Messrs. Heselti
ne and Wainwright, I pointed out the loss to a whole scholarly generation
if work on the Globe site is terminated at this point.
John D. Cox