Shakespeare finds return to their local roots

Photo: Steven Ren

Artefacts from Shakespeare’s Theatre in Shoreditch will be on display at the Hackney Museum
from May 17 to  September 15. The exhibition coincides with the World Shakespeare Festival, launched at April 23.

The display, as part of the Mapping the Change exhibition, will include finds discovered at an excavation site of Shakespeare’s first theatre in Shoreditch. These finds were discovered at the location of one of the earliest of London’s playhouses, called The Theatre, built in 1576 by James Burbage.

The location was confirmed by Museum of London Archaeology following excavations of the site in Shoreditch. The site, which was excavated in 2010, was a former warehouse on New Inn Yard.

Pottery from the 16th century, including money boxes, used to hold the theatregoers’ fee were found on the site, and as well as other assortments of pottery, original roof tiles, pipes, and drinking vessels, and Victorian domestic items including a well-used toothbrush, which are to be displayed at the exhibition.

Shakespeare wrote and performed at The Theatre from 1594 to 1597; and Romeo and Juliet was almost certainly premiered there and was written to be performed in The Theatre, as details of the stage layout in the script show.

In 1597 due to the disagreement between the Burbages and their landlord, the wooden structure was dismantled and taken south of the river to become part of The Globe theatre.

Photo: Steven Ren

Councillor Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture said: “I’m delighted that we will display important artefacts showing Hackney’s link with Shakespeare and the arts, as far back as the 16th Century. Through Mapping the Change the Council is showing the public part of Hackney’s past while providing an insight into the 2012 Games for future generations.”

Senior Archaeologist for Museum of London Archaeology, Heather Knight, said: “Shakespeare has not only helped to shape the culture of the capital, his influence is evident across the globe. Excavating the Theatre gave Museum of London Archaeology the opportunity to add to the knowledge of this extraordinary figure. It’s been a privilege for us to be involved with this exciting project and we are delighted that the finds are going to be displayed to the public at the Hackney Museum.”

The Mapping The Change exhibiton is an attempt by the Hackney Museum and Hackney Archives to record the changes to local people’s lives and creating a lasting legacy for future generations to experience and understand.

These records will be shown in a special exhibition in 2012 and will form a key part of Hackney’s Museum and Archive collections as a snapshot of a crucial period in history for Hackney, seen through the eyes of local people. The Hackney Museum is free to enter, and lets residents discover the past and present of Hackney, with exhibits and hands on activities.

Location of Hackney Museum

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Shakespeare’s Theatre in Shoreditch will be on display at the Hackney Museum

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