Welcome to the first post of the weblog that will be covering our work at a most important and exciting site in London’s Shoreditch, that of not just a theatre, but The Theatre, London’s first, purpose built playhouse, The Theatre of James Burbage and, of course, a certain William Shakespeare.
This will be a brief introduction to the site and the people working there. Over the next few weeks we will be investigating a direct, physical connection with some of the giants of our cultural heritage and we want to show you a little of how archaeology works and to give you insights into what it can tell us about our past.
We will provide you with pictures, plans, videos and will keep you up to date with what we uncover and discover as work progresses.
We will introduce you to some more of the history of this place and the stories of those real people who were a part of that history, and of how the Tower Theatre Company is to revive a tradition of theatre on this site and protect this unique discovery. It is, perhaps, more than a mere stroke of good fortune that a theatre will once again stand on this spot.
Tower Theatre Company
The Tower Theatre Company has made this work possible by funding the dig as a part of the site development. You can find more details about them on their website:
You can also find more details of the new and old Theatre at:
This site includes pictures, plans, video and details of the fundraising appeal to help pay for this important development.
We’d also like to thank Keltbray, the demolition and civil engineering specialists, who carried out the demolition of the previous building on site and are providing assistance on site over the course of the dig, Sir Robert McAlpine, civil engineers, who are the project management consultants for the project, Hannah Reed Civil and Structural Engineers who are working very closely with us to design the foundations of the new theatre around the remains of the old and the architects Bland, Brown and Cole who have managed to come up with a great outline design for the new theatre, based on the foundations that can be got in around the archaeology!
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances….
So, enter then, our humble players (from left to right): Ralph, Charlotte, Heather (in charge on site), Mark and Val. These are the archaeologists who will be digging the site; they are backed up by a large team at Museum of London Archaeology including photographers, surveyors, finds and environmental specialists and processors and researchers to name but a few, but more of them later.
The story so far…..
Over the last few years we have been building up to this excavation, with geophysical surveys (using technology to “see” into the ground) and with small evaluation trenches. To see some of the work from last year’s evaluation, follow this link:
and Heather will show what went on.
In the last few weeks the final preparations have been completed: the last of the 19th-century warehouse that stood on the site has been demolished, the modern concrete floor broken up and taken away, the cabins containing the all important kettle are in place, the old evaluation trenches cleared and the digging has begun.
Already, the ground is yielding more of its secrets, 18th and 19th-century buildings, signs of local industries such as glass making, The Theatre and, predating The Theatre, parts of buildings that formed the large Holywell Priory, founded in the 12th-century and once the ninth richest in the country, more of that and the other discoveries in the next few weeks.
Finally, for this post, we leave you with a face:
Does he look familiar? We’ll explain more in the next post as well as bring you the latest finds, stories from site and the past.
So, the stage is set, the players have their parts, the curtain has risen and more anon!
Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say goodnight, until it is next time……