The remains of a Shakespearean-era playhouse in Whitechapel, the Boar’s Head is starting to be uncovered, and this weekend is a chance to have a look.

(c) MOLA _ An archaeologist records 17th and 18th-century brickwork

The site has a long theatrical history – it was converted from an inn to a playhouse in 1598 but there are references to ‘lewd’ open-air performances on the site as early as 1557, pre-dating the known playhouses of London, such as the Globe and Rose.

Heather Knight, Archaeologist from MOLA, 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.”

Archaeologists are hoping to discover artefacts that relate to the playhouse, the performers and theatregoers that frequented the site, and are exploring areas of the playhouse’s structure, including the galleries on the eastern side of the stage.

(c) MOLA – depiction of the playhouse

Archaeologists from Museum of London Archeology (MOLA) will be opening the site to the public on Saturday 5th October for pre-booked tours. Visitors to the site will be able to see the exposed remains of the playhouse, as well as some of the finds from the excavation so far.

The excavation is funded by Unite Students who is developing the site – and monitored by Historic England. Once exposed and studied by MOLA archaeologists the remains will be preserved in-situ within the footprint of the development.

Tickets to go on a site tour cost £2.99 per person, and can be booked here.

(c) MOLA – A bone needle pin for tying a corset

As an added bonus, the site is next to the former Aldgate East tube station, the remains of which can just about be seen in a deep cutting next to the road.

 

 

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