Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 11:44 UK

The Bard's 'first theatre' found

Woman working at the excavation site
The Theatre was one of London's first dedicated playhouses

An archaeological dig has recovered what is thought to be the remains of the theatre where Shakespeare's plays were first performed.

The Theatre was found in excavations by the Museum of London at a site in Shoreditch, east London, being prepared for the building of a new theatre.

It was one of London's first dedicated playhouses when it opened in 1576.

It was dismantled and its timbers taken to the South Bank, where they were used to construct The Globe in 1599.

A spokesman for the Museum of London said it had long been known that an open air playhouse, called The Theatre, stood in this area, but traces of its exact location had proved elusive.

'Enduring secrets'

He said the open-air theatre was one of London's first dedicated playhouses and it was here that a young William Shakespeare performed as part of The Lord Chamberlain's Men company of players, and had his first plays performed.

The archaeological team found the footings of what appears to be part of a polygonal structure during their evaluation of the site at New Inn Broadway.

It is thought that they form the north-eastern corner of the building, which followed a design described in Henry V as "this wooden O".

Jo Lyon, senior archaeologist at Museum of London Archaeology, said: "It's extremely exciting to be so close to the known location of The Theatre and then find remains that look to be associated with it.

"As well as allowing us to walk in the footsteps of Shakespeare himself, the remains help us to start uncovering one of London's enduring secrets."

The site will be eventually be home to the Tower Theatre Company.

Its chairman, Jeff Kelly, said: "The discovery that we shall be building a 21st Century playhouse where Shakespeare and Burbage played and where some of Shakespeare's plays must first have been performed is a huge inspiration."

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