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The second Globe, built to replace the playhouse burnt down in 1614, as drawn by Wenceslaus Hollar

Globe Excavation

In 1989 a team from the Museum of London uncovered about five per cent of the foundations of the Globe in the car park behind Anchor Terrace on Southwark Bridge Road. The area excavated consisted of the foundations of one of the stair towers and the gallery to which it was attached. Position your mouse over the drawing below for a magnified view of the area excavated.

Conjectural plan of the original Globe; the section excavated was the stair tower at the 8 o'clock position Conjectural plan of the original Globe; the section excavated was the stair tower at the 8 o'clock position

The rest of the remains lie beneath the late Georgian building called Anchor Terrace which is listed for preservation, and a main road. Despite pleas from many people who want to know as much as we can learn about the original setting for those jewels of the English language and culture played here four centuries ago, English Heritage backed by the Government department concerned, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, refused to allow further excavations. In reply to a letter I wrote to the department in 1998, a spokesman wrote: "The remains are being preserved in situ for future generations when, as a result of new techniques, we are likely to be able to derive far more information from archaeological deposits than is possible today, just as we can learn more now than was possible only 50 years ago." This seems to me to be an argument for never excavating any site, because we shall always be able to do it better in 50 years time.

In 2008 builders digging the foundations for a new theatre in Shoreditch in the north of the City of London discovered brick foundations of what is now believed to be The Theatre which was one of the first purpose built playhouses in London. James Burbage and John Braine built it in 1576 and some of Shakespeare's earliest plays were almost certainly performed here. In 1595 Shakespeare was a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men based at The Theatre acting with Burbage's son Richard, and in the following few years he wrote The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream and others for the Lord Chamberlain's Men to perform at The Theatre. In 1598 the timbers of The Theatre were removed to Bankside to build the Globe, as I describe here. These newly discovered foundations are to be preserved apparently, but details of the discovery are currently (August 2008) thin on the ground.

If you want to know more about the 1989 Globe excavations, Shakespeare's Globe on London's Bankside site has some research material. Professor Andrew Gurr was the senior advisor to the Shakespeare Globe Trust which rebuilt the Globe. He has written a number of books about theatres and playgoing in Shakespeare's time which I recommend to anyone interested in this subject.



Original Globe

  The story of how the original Globe came to be built
  The building - a plan and what the Globe may have looked like
  The excavation - what was discovered in 1989
  The Rose - The Globe's great rival playhouse, its star Ned Alleyn and owner Philip Henslowe

New Globe

  The story of how the new Shakespeare's Globe came to be built on London's Bankside in the 1990's.
Mike's Views, Reviews and Previews of all the Shakespeare productions, and some others, at Shakespeare's Globe from the first 1997 season to date.

Globe Main

  Globe Playhouse top page

Recommended Books

  My list of recommended books about the Globe, Rose and other playhouses of the time may be found in the Globe Playhouse section of the Well Furlong Book Shop. If you so wish, you may go on to buy many of the volumes in our Book Shop directly from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
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Updated 20th August 2008