Shakespeare’s First Theatre Found in ShoreditchDate: 7 August 2008
Archaeologists believe they have found the remains of one of London’s earliest playhouses, which, predating the original Globe by more than 20 years, was where the young William Shakespeare first performed some of his earlier works.
”The Theatre” was built on the north bank of the Thames in 1576, founded by actor-manager James Burbage and used for 20 years as the first permanent base for his company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, of which Shakespeare was a member. But a tenancy dispute in 1599 led to the company dismantling the theatre and moving it across the river where, according to lore, the timber was used in the construction of the Globe, whose 20th-century replica (pictured) now stands near the original site beneath a modern office building.
The remains of The Theatre were found in New Inn Broadway in Shoreditch, east London, where the site is being cleared, fittingly, for a new theatre which will become the home to the respected, 75-year-old amateur dramatics troupe, the Tower Theatre Company.
Museum of London archaeologists – which has also been working on the excavation sites of the Rose Theatre (built in 1587, the first theatre on the south bank, whose remains were unearthed beneath an office block in 1989) and the original Globe – view the latest find as an important discovery.
The Museum’s 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."
Tower Theatre chairman Jeff Kelly said the site’s history will provide inspiration for the aspiring actors in his company.
- by Terri Paddock