To mark Shakespeare’s birthday, which falls this week, we are here highlighting some of the sites in London that are associated with the Bard, and that we visit on various of our walks (note that it is not really practicable to visit them all on one walk, as they are in such disparate locations).
St Olave Silver Street (visited on our Wednesday morning “Historic Smithfield ... ” walk). A church that Shakespeare would certainly have known, having lived for a while in Silver Street. Burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666, and never rebuilt. The churchyard survives as a city garden.
Curtain Playhouse, Shoreditch (visited on our Thursday morning “Aldgate, Bishopsgate and Beyond” walk). Plays by Shakespeare are known to have been performed here, and he is known to have performed here (see Julian Bowsher’s “Shakespeare’s London Theatreland”). Built in 1577, and was pulled down some time in the 1620s.
The Theatre [Playhouse], Shoreditch (visited on our Thursday morning “Aldgate, Bishopsgate and Beyond” walk). The first building in London devoted to the performance of plays. Shakespeare is known to have performed here. Built in 1576 on the site of the dissolved Holywell Priory, and pulled down in 1598, some of the building materials being used in the construction of the Globe.
George Inn, Southwark (visited on our Thursday afternoon “Historic Southwark” walk). An inn Shakespeare is known to have frequented (see Pete Brown’s “Shakespeare’s Local”). Burnt down in the Great Fire of Southwark in 1676, and rebuilt in 1677.
Globe Playhouse, Southwark (visited on our Thursday afternoon “Historic Southwark” walk). “Shakespeare’s (own) playhouse, and the venue where many of his plays were first performed” (Bowsher). Built in 1599, and burnt down in a fire in 1613, after sparks from a theatrical cannon set some thatch alight during a performance of Henry the Eighth. Rebuilt in 1614. Fell into disuse sometime around 1642, when the performance of plays was banned by the Puritan Parliamentarians, and was pulled down in 1644.
Reconstruction, Globe Playhouse, Southwark (visited on our Thursday afternoon “Historic Southwark” walk (entry not included)). Built by the late American film director and all-round good guy Sam Wanamaker (memorialised, alongside Shakespeare, in nearby Southwark Cathedral). Here it is possible to experience performances as the common man would have in the early seventeenth century, standing in the open as a “groundling”.
Rose Playhouse, Southwark (visited on our Thursday afternoon “Historic Southwark” walk). Another venue where Shakespeare’s plays were performed. Built in 1587, and demolished in 1606. The foundations were recently rediscovered and are preserved in the basement of an office building. Occasionally open to the public for performances. And/or for perusal of the free display of artefacts uncovered during the archaeological excavation of the site (see also the Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph on the Rose and Globe by Bowsher and Miller).
Cockpit (visited on our Friday morning “London Wall” walk). This pub is built on the site of a house owned by Shakespeare in Ireland Yard (for which, according to the Deed of Conveyance in the City Archive, he paid £140), and burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.
In nearby Playhouse Yard is the site of the - covered - Blackfriars Theatre, built in 1576 on the site of the dissolved Blackfriars Priory, and burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.
Bust of Shakespeare, Aldermanbury Square (visited on our Friday morning “London Wall” walk). Situated in the ruins of the church of St Mary Aldermanbury, where Shakespeare’s colleagues Condell and Heminge, who after his death oversaw the publication of the First Folio of his works, were parishioners. The church was burnt down during the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt by Wren in 1671-5, only to be destroyed during the terrible incendiary air raid of Sunday 29th December, 1940. There is a faithful reconstruction, using salvaged materials, and Wren’s designs, in Fulton, Missouri!