Archaeologists from the Museum of London have unearthed what they believe to be the remains of one of London’s earliest playhouses and Shakespeare’s first.
The discovery was made during excavations for the building of a new theatre in Shoreditch by the Tower Theatre Company.
According to the museum the precise location of the open air playhouse, called The Theatre, were previously unknown. A venture of the travelling player James Burbage, it was one of London’s first dedicated playhouses when it opened in 1576, and it was here that a young William Shakespeare trod the boards as part of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men company of players, and had his first plays performed.
A tenancy dispute led to The Theatre being dismantled and its timbers transported south of the river, where they were used to construct The Globe in 1599.
Jo Lyon, Senior Archaeologist at Museum of London Archaeology said: “It’s extremely exciting to be so close to the known location of The Theatre and then find remains that look to be associated with it. As well as allowing us to walk in the footsteps of Shakespeare himself, the remains help us to start uncovering one of London’s enduring secrets. We can now start to work on the detail of what the building here might have looked like, and expand our knowledge of the playhouses of Elizabethan London.”
Jeff Kelly, Chairman of the Tower Theatre Company, said he was “very excited that our plans for this site will not only create a valuable community facility for the area, but also bring public theatre in London back to its historic roots. ”
“The discovery that we shall be building a 21st century playhouse where Shakespeare and Burbage played and where some of Shakespeare’s plays must first have been performed is a huge inspiration.”
“We are delighted that informal discussions with Hackney’s planning officers have been extremely positive. In the run up to submitting a formal planning application we, our architect and structural engineer will all be working with English Heritage and the planning authority to ensure that the design of our building enables the archaeology to be retained in situ.”
“We are currently concluding discussions to secure the freehold of the site, at which point we shall be more than half way towards our target. The next step will be a major campaign to raise the remaining £3 million required to complete the project.”
About The Tower Theatre Company
The Tower Theatre Company has been entertaining audiences for over 75 years and operates with only two paid employees. It stages up to 18 shows a year usually in central London and has just just completed a at the Minack open-air theatre in Cornwall.
A forthcoming fund-raising campaign will be aimed purely at securing the remaining capital cost of building the project.
For further information visit www.towertheatre.org.uk