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Rose Revealed: project bid for Heritage Lottery Grant

Two HeadedPlans for the future of the famous archaeological site of the Rose Theatre on London’s Bankside and the bid for a Heritage Lottery grant have been unveiled by the Trustees.

The plans include the excavation of the final third of the site, which will enable visitor access, and conserve the remains of this national monument currently at risk. Also opening a public exhibition above the site in order to develop its potential as a learning centre and performance space.

Commenting on the project, Harvey Sheldon, Chair of the Trustees, said: “Plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson and Kyd were staged here between 1587 and 1603. The Rose Theatre in Southwark is of international importance because of its association with these ground-breaking playwrights and their contributions to language and drama. The excavated archaeological remains are now at risk of irreparable deterioration. It is thought that the final, unexcavated, third of the site may reveal further information about the design of the theatre and important artefacts relating to its architectural features. We welcome the recent discovery of parts of the Curtain Theatre, the shape and size of which we now know was the same as the initial version of the Rose. However, the only complete site of an Elizabethan theatre to be available for study is that of the Rose. Our application for a Heritage Lottery grant is the first step in securing the future of the Rose for further generations to enjoy.

He continued: “We believe that the Rose Revealed project should be an important legacy of the World Shakespeare Festival and a focus of the forthcoming national celebrations planned to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth (2014), and the 400th anniversary of his death (2016).

The Elizabethan Rose Theatre

The Rose was the third of the 10 open-air playhouses built in London between 1567 and 1614 to accommodate a new kind of drama. It was one of London’s earliest theatres and, in 1587, the first to be built on the south bank of the Thames on Bankside, an area already rich in other leisure attractions, such as gaming dens and bull and bear-baiting arenas. In 1594 it became one of the only two playhouses licensed by the Privy Council to stage plays in London, when the Lord Mayor banned plays in the City’s inns. The Rose is the only playhouse from this period for which the complete foundations are known to survive. It is equally unique in being the only one for which extensive written records exist, including lists of almost every play staged there between 1592 and 1602, details of box office receipts and costumes, and of changes made to the theatre in 1592. The Rose Theatre provides direct access to one of the most exciting and important periods in the development of world drama. It links the 400-year old playhouses and places of entertainment of Bankside with the modern theatres and visitor attractions on London’s South Bank, being both complementary and relevant to them. The site is already becoming well known as an increasingly popular fringe theatre.


In 1988/89 archaeologists from the Museum of London uncovered two-thirds of the theatre’s ground plan, which indicated that the Rose, as built in 1587, was a slightly irregular, many-sided structure, based on the geometry of a fourteen-sided polygon. The chalk and stone foundations of its outer and inner walls survive, together with some sections of brickwork. The mortar floor of the yard of the theatre, where some of the audience stood, foundations of the stage and a large timber drain that carried water away to its north also survive. The archaeological work found evidence of alterations to the stage and northern part of the theatre. More than 700 objects were found in the excavation; a few are currently displayed at the Rose, on loan from the Museum of London which holds the excavation archives, and more will be seen at the British Museum’s exhibition Shakespeare: Staging the World this summer.

The Rose Theatre Trust

This was set up following the discovery of the Elizabethan Rose Theatre, during an archaeological excavation in advance of the construction of a new office block. The discovery of the Rose was the first time that a rare Elizabethan playhouse was revealed. The Trust grew out of a powerful and spontaneous protest campaign to ‘Save the Rose’, which achieved international fame as television cameras recorded local people standing alongside famous actors. The campaign’s short-term goal was achieved when the archaeological remains of the theatre were retained in the basement of the new office block, a temporary conservation system was installed and it was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument (number 20851). The Trust’s aims are topreserve the Rose Theatre’s remains and make them accessible to the public; to advance learning about and carry out research on the history of the Rose Theatre and Elizabethan theatre, drama and actors. At present the Trustees are helped in their work, to keep the site open to the public and to present a series of plays, by a dedicated team of volunteers.

The Rose Revealed project will focus on the long-term preservation of the physical remains of the Elizabethan Rose Theatre and on providing the widest possible public and learning access to the tangible and intangible heritage of the monument.

Visit The Rose official website for information and tickets http://www.rosetheatre.org.uk

Currently showing is Two-Headed by Julie Jensen until 22nd July

There is a sold-out performance of Macbeth on Monday 23rd July

Productions in August  include two Shakespeare plays: Venus and Adonis from 2nd to 25th August and The Rape of Lucrece 7th to 12th August

News from The Rose Theatre reproduced by By Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

Saturday 14th July 2012


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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