Many theatres boast a resident ghost, but two playhouses are being reminded of the past in a more concrete form as historic artefacts are being recovered during excavation work. Construction workers razing land adjacent to north London’s newly renovated Roundhouse (See News, 1 Feb 2006) have discovered a unique symbol of the venue’s history as a steam engine repair shed, when a bulldozer hit upon one of the original turning tables that would have served as a feeder table for engines entering the Roundhouse to undergo repairs back in the 1800s. Roundhouse chief executive Marcus Davey said: “The unearthing of this beautiful iron turning wheel is a fantastic find. In order to redevelop the Roundhouse, extensive excavations had to be undertaken and nothing of archaeological importance of this scale has been discovered until now. It’s a beautiful iron structure and in fairly good condition considering it must be at least 140 years old. The original features are intact, including the wheels.” At face value, the find could fetch £500 in scrap metal alone but the potential to renovate the wheel and exploit its sculptural potential is also being considered. Meanwhile, archaeological discoveries have also made at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, where a £5.1 million capital restoration project (which started in October 2005) to recreate the theatre’s original Regency features is well underway. As modifications made in the 19th and 20th centuries are gradually being stripped away, features from cesspits from the late 17th or early 18th century to a well dating from the 14th century have been recovered. Director Colin Blumenau commented: “I am absolutely thrilled by what has been unearthed so far, not only about the theatre’s own past but also about the history prior to its construction. Every day I take a look they have discovered something new.”
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