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Archaeologists explore Shakespearean-era Whitechapel playhouse site

PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 September 2019

An archaeologist holding part of a money pot found on site at the Boar's Head. Picture: MOLA

An archaeologist holding part of a money pot found on site at the Boar's Head. Picture: MOLA

MOLA

A money pot and a bone needle pin are among the artifacts uncovered during the excavation of a Shakespearean-era playhouse in Whitechapel.

The archaeological dig on the site of the Boar's Head Playhouse in Whitechapel. Picture: MOLAThe archaeological dig on the site of the Boar's Head Playhouse in Whitechapel. Picture: MOLA

The Boar's Head was converted from an inn to a playhouse in 1598, but there are references to open air performances on the site as early as 1557.

And the dig, carried out by a team from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), aims to uncover artefacts relating to the playhouse, as well as its performers and audience.

Archaeologist Heather Knight said: "Theatre emerges and booms in 16th century London and made its lasting mark on theatre across the world.

"The Boar's Head Playhouse is often overlooked when considering Elizabethan playhouses, yet the site has an extraordinarily rich legacy, cited in one of the first-known references to theatre in London, at which stage plays were performed in open-air spaces and city inns.

The archaeological dig on the site of the Boar's Head Playhouse in Whitechapel. Picture: MOLAThe archaeological dig on the site of the Boar's Head Playhouse in Whitechapel. Picture: MOLA

"It's going to be really interesting to compare the archaeological remains and artefacts from this site with other Shakespearean-period playhouses and we look forward to sharing these findings with the public."

The excavation is being funded by student accomodation provider Unite Students, with the company sent to build new residences on the site once the dig has been completed.

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Once the remains of the theatre have been studied, they will be preserved within the development - set to house around 915 students when it opens in 2021.

A bone needle pin for tying a corset found at the Boar's Head Playhouse. Picture: MOLAA bone needle pin for tying a corset found at the Boar's Head Playhouse. Picture: MOLA

Richard Smith, chief executive of Unite Students, said: "We've been providing homes for students for nearly 30 years and it's the first time we've revealed something of such archaeological significance on such a grand scale.

"We are very excited to be working with MOLA and Historic England to preserve the Elizabethan theatre's remains."

Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, added: "The archaeological remains of the Boar's Head are an important survivor from this rich period in the history of theatre.

"Historic England has worked closely with the developers and archaeologists to secure the investigation and preservation of

this important historic Elizabethan site."

Tours of the site are taking place on Saturday, October 5, led by a team of experts.

Tickets, which cost £2.99, must be booked in advance at mola.org.uk

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