Thirty-nine storey skyscraper planned at site of Shakepeare’s historic Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch

Architects impression of the new building

Developers are proposing to put a 39-storey skyscraper as part of a major new development of homes and shops on a site where remains of one of Shakespeare’s early theatres have been discovered.

Investigations by archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology, on the site by Ploughs Yard on Curtain Road, have unearthed remains of The Curtain Theatre. The theatre was home to William Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, before they settled at the Globe. The theatre staged several of Shakespeare’s plays including Romeo and Juliet, and the stage was immortalised as a “wooden O” when Henry V premiered there.

Archaeologists believe this may be one of the best examples of an Elizabethan theatre in the UK and include the walls forming the gallery and the yard within the playhouse itself.

Neil Thornton, of the Horse and Groom pub, which sits just above the old theatre entrance, was very excited by the new discovery: “it’s a fantastic find, Shoreditch is a really cultural place and it’s great to see the old merging with the new.”

The remains will be preserved on the site along with an exhibition about Elizabethan theatre. John Drew, of the architectural company Pringle Brandon Drew, told the Architects Journal: ”Having uncovered an internationally important archaeological discovery, we have the unique opportunity to create a centrepiece which is accessible to the public and provides facilities to showcase The Curtain Theatre’s cultural importance.  We will be working closely with the Museum of London Archaeology and English Heritage throughout the process to safeguard this amazing find.”

Plans on the 0.8 hectare site also incorporate 400 residential units, two office buildings and 3,600 square metres of shopping. There are also parts of a nineteenth century brick railway viaduct on the development site, which will be preserved with shops and cafes within the arches.

Chris Thomas from MOLA, who is leading the archaeological work, said: “This is a fantastic site which gives us unique insight into early Shakespearian theatres. We are delighted that Plough Yard Developments plan to preserve the remains in place and open them up to the public as there are few similar sites across the UK.”


By Oliver Shaw 

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