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Philip Henslowe anniversary opens Shakespeare 400 year

The 400th anniversary year of William Shakespeare's death opens with the anniversary of the death - also in 1616 - of his friend Philip Henslowe.

Philip Henslowe anniversary opens Shakespeare 400 year
In 2006 Sir Ian McKellen unveiled a blue plaque on the site of Henslowe's Rose Theatre in Park Street

Henslowe, who promoted plays in Newington Butts and built the Rose Theatre on Bankside where he staged premieres of Shakespeare plays, died on 6 January 1616.

The death, following a stroke, came at Henslowe's house on the site of today's Globe exhibition entrance on Bankside. The timber-framed building became the clergy house, or 'deanery', for the chaplains to St Saviour's Church, now Southwark Cathedral, for the next 250 years. The deanery is now just two doors away to the west.

Henslowe had been involved in buying the former closed down Southwark Priory church and reopening it as the parish church. This superceded St Margaret's which stood in Borough High Street on the Slug & Lettuce site. Henslowe served as vestryman and churchwarden of St Saviour's.

His wealth came from the bear baiting as much as much as the theatre. But Henslowe was a tenant of the Bishop of Winchester who owned Bankside and it was the Bishop's registrar who drew up the will. Henslowe signed the document just one day before his death.

Included were the arrangements for the funeral held the following Wednesday afternoon when forty poor men received mourning gowns to accompany the body to St Saviour's as The Bell tolled. The Henslowe tomb can today be found between the cathedral's choir stalls. His wife Agnes died in 1617 and but was buried in Dulwich.

William Shakespeare died at Stratford on his birthday 23 April 1616 and Shakespeare's Globe is planning a commemoration in April. There will be 37 screens along the riverside between Westminster and Tower Bridges playing specially-made short films and the Globe will see the final performances of its production of Hamlet which has been seen in 196 countries.

On Sunday 10 January, the anniversary of Henslowe's funeral, Southwark Cathedral's bells will ring out before the 11am Choral Eucharist in his memory just as they did for him 400 years ago.

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