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Original site of Shakespeare’s Globe uncovered

London SE1 website team

The original site of Shakespeare's first Globe theatre has been discovered in Shoreditch.

The location is New Inn Broadway close to Shoredtich parish church. An open air playhouse called The Theatre was on the site next to the New Inn from 1576. It was there that a young William Shakespeare trod the boards as part of The Lord Chamberlain's Men company of players. It is believed that Romeo and Juliet and Richard III were performed there.

A tenancy dispute led to The Theatre being dismantled whilst the landlord was away during the 1598 Christmas holidays and its timbers were taken to Southwark. Mark Rylance, former director of Shakespeare's Globe, claims that the wood was taken across the frozen Thames to be stacked in the Bishop of Winchester's parkland.

This was, like Shoreditch, beyond the jurisdiction of Lord Mayor and Corporation of London who were not well disposed towards actors.

During the New Year of 1599 the theatre was re-erected beside a farm track, now Park Street, on a site now called Playhouse Court. The players rebranded the building 'The Globe'.

At the time Shakespeare was living near St Helen's Bishopsgate in the City, which was handy for both Shoreditch and the Rose Theatre on Bankside, but in 1599 he moved to Southwark to be near the new Globe.

"One of the most exciting finds of recent years" is how the Museum of London has described its discovery. The Museum, whose previous excavations of the Rose, Globe and Hope theatres has helped map Shakespearian London, found the footings of the polygonal structure during a site evaluation.

Senior archaeologist Jo Lyon 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."

The Tower Theatre Company, which performs a Shakespeare work every year, plans to design a modern playhouse around the remains of the original.

As is normal with special remains, the ground has been temporarily covered and sealed until permanent viewing arrangements can be agreed.

The first Globe in Southwark was burnt down in 1613 after the thatched roof caught fire during a performance of Shakespeare's 'local' play Henry VIII. The theatre was rebuilt with a tile roof but it was eventually demolished in 1644 by the Puritans. The present Globe was opened on its riverside site in 1997.

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