Search

Archaeologists blow the whistle on Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre unearthed at Shoreditch

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 May 2016 | UPDATED: 15:13 27 May 2016

Archaeologist Paul McGarrity holds 16th century bird whistle

Archaeologist Paul McGarrity holds 16th century bird whistle

Museum of London Archeaology

A 450-year-old children’s bird whistle is among artefacts unearthed by archaeologists excavating Shakespeare’s historic Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch.

Elizabethan children's bird whistle... uncovered at remains of Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre Elizabethan children's bird whistle... uncovered at remains of Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre

The Elizabethan playhouse recently discovered at a building site in Curtain Road, by Great Eastern Street, appears to be a rectangular building, measuring about 65ft by 90ft, rather than polygon like “the wooden O” playhouse narative in Shakespeare’s Henry V, as historians expoected.

“Every day new things are coming to light,” senior archaeologist Heather Knight said.

“Among the artefacts we have uncovered so far, the bird whistle is my favourite as it may have once been used as a sound effect replicating bird song in plays.

“Theatre producers at that time were always trying to find new ways to animate their productions.”

Surviving rectangular remains of Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre Surviving rectangular remains of Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre

The ceramic whistle was a common children’s toy, but in this context may have been used for sound effects in theatrical performances.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which was staged at The Curtain in the late 1500s, has references to bird song such as, “That birds would sing and think it were not night”.

The dig by a team from Museum of London Archaeology broke ground only last month—but has already unearthed a wealth of information about the theatre and everyday artefacts from the 16th and 17th centuries.

“Archaeologists and theatre historians have long pondered what the theatre looked like,” Heather added. “This excavation is starting to give up the secrets of this historic site.”

Archaeologist Sarah Trehy Archaeologist Sarah Trehy

The experts believe the Elizabethan builders reused the walls from earlier buildings in places, with the back section of the playhouse being a new addition.

Walls survive up to five feet high in places with archaeologists able to trace the courtyard where theatregoers once stood—and the inner walls which held the galleries where wealthier Elizabethan gentry would have sat.

The archaeologists also uncovered personal items such as a comb made from animal bone. Combs would have been an essential item for actors backstage, like today. They also found a theatre token that had laid buried for four centuries.

The theatre remains are being preserved on the site as part of the new £750m Stage housing and commercial complex, with the artefacts on display as part of a cultural and visitor centre.

Archaeologist uncovers pot in tact Archaeologist uncovers pot in tact

A series of public events is also being organised around the excavation to tie in with the Shakespeare 400 celebrations.

The dig continues for another month. The public can book tours on Fridays from today, up to June 24—they’re free, but spaces are limited and need to be booked online.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney Stories

10 minutes ago

John Simpson says Middlesex just have to move on from their 53-run defeat against Somerset in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

To listen to LCD Soundsystem through their intricately produced studio recordings, it’s easy to miss the musicianship James Murphy and his crew of unwilling rock stars command.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A display in Hackney town hall’s newly refurbished vaults will shed light on the building’s 1930s origins, and the amazing relics unearthed during its £16m revamp. Emma Bartholomew speaks to curator Jacoba Mijnssen about democracy, regalia, and the mysterious cleaning unit uncovered by workers

Saturday, May 26, 2018

So you’ve been training got the big day, it’s been, you had a great time writes Dalston PT Matt Smith, Fitness First.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Middlesex coach Richard Scott hailed his side after a third successive win in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Paul Stirling defied a thigh injury which forced him to bat with a runner to score his second century in less than a week as Middlesex beat Sussex by 74 runs at Hove in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Block Universe - an international performance art festival taking place in London - is celebrating the artform with an international lineup.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The O’s will play a lot of local teams plus travel to Portugal for a seven-day training camp and it appears a good schedule for Justin Edinburgh’s side

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now


Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists