This City of London pub – a sizeable establishment to say the least, takes its name from a building that no longer exists. 

Located at 9 Gracechurch Street, The Crosse Keys is located in a former purpose-built bank – that of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. Designed by W Campbell Jones, the Grade II-listed building opened in 1913 and featured the largest banking floor in the City at the time.

The bank moved out in the latter part of the 20th century and JD Wetherspoon moved in, opening it as The Crosse Keys and keeping much of the original opulent interior, including marble pillars and fireplaces and a magnificent glass dome above the stairwell.

Oh, and the name? That comes from The Crosskeys Inn, a famous coaching inn which once stood on the site and took its name from the keys of heaven, held by St Peter (the crossed keys form part of the Holy See’s coat of arms).

The origins of the inn go back to before the Great Fire of London in 1666 (the inn’s yard also served as a playhouse during the Elizabethan era – the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, of which Shakespeare himself was a member, were said to be among those who performed here).

It was destroyed in the Great Fire, rebuilt and burnt down again in 1734. Rebuilt again, by the late 1800s, it had become a well known coaching inn, said to cater for some 40 or more coaches a day.

There’s a City of London blue plaque marking the site and inside, plenty of historical facts and figures in a series of prints on the walls.

For more, see www.jdwetherspoon.com/pubs/all-pubs/england/london/the-crosse-keys-city-of-london.

PICTURE: The rather grand facade of The Crosse Keys (Ewan Munro; licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Today we’re taking a look at a couple of still extant London buildings which have strong associations with playwright William Shakespeare…

George-InnThe George Inn, Southwark. Located at 75-77 Borough High Street, the George Inn is London’s last remaining galleried inn. The current building has its origins in the late 17th century after the original inn, which can be traced back to at least the mid-1500s – was destroyed in a fire in 1676. Now owned by the National Trust, it is leased out and remains open as a public house – part of the Greene King chain. While its known for its connections with 19th century writer Charles Dickens – he was a patron of this establishment and mentions it in Little Dorrit (a fact we mentioned in our series on Dickens back in 2012), the inn (or at least the previous version of it) also has Shakespearean connections with its prime Southwark location meaning it’s quite possible Shakespeare himself may have visited. Whether that’s the case or not, it is known that the premises served at time as a theatre of sorts in his day with acting troops performing in the courtyard while audience members could stand in the courtyard and watch or pay extra for a seat in the gallery. For more on the inn, see www.gkpubs.co.uk/pubs-in-london/the-george-inn-pub/.

Middle-Temple-HallMiddle Temple Hall. Built between 1562 and 1573 by Edmund Plowden (memorialised with monuments in both the hall and nearby Temple Church), this magnificent Tudor hall has survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz and continues to serve the legal profession today. It too was used as a theatre/concert hall in Elizabethan times and later as a site for Inigo Jones’ masques but in terms of the Shakespearean connection, it is known for being where the first recorded performance of Twelfth Night took place – on the night of Candlemas (2nd February) 1602. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed the play and it is thought that Shakespeare himself was among the players. For more on the hall, which is only rarely opened to the public, you can visit our earlier posts here and (on ‘Drake’s Cupboard) here or the official website at www.middletemple.org.uk/home/.

For more on the George Inn, check out Pete Brown’s social history Shakespeare’s Local: Six Centuries of History Seen Through One Extraordinary Pub.

 

Last week we had a look at two former theatres in Shoreditch which had strong associations to William Shakespeare and in previous weeks we’ve talked about both The Globe and Blackfriars Playhouse. So this week we thought we’d wrap up our look at Elizabethan theatres with a brief glance at a couple of other theatrical establishments which may have had some association with The Bard…

The Rose. Built by Philip Henslowe in 1587, the theatre is located close to where The Globe later stood in Bankside. Many companies performed here – including Lord Strange’s Men in 1592 when, according to some, Shakespeare may have been the actors in the company. The theatre’s remains are open to the public. For more on The Rose, you can see our earlier Lost London entry.

The Swan. Built by Francis Langley in the mid 1590s in the Paris Gardens area in the west of Bankside, The Swan was the most impressive of London’s theatres when first constructed due to both its size – it’s believed to have held an audience as big as 3,000 people – and the manner of its construction. It’s a matter of debate whether the Lord Chamberlain’s Men – the acting troupe Shakespeare was a part of – ever performed here while waiting for the Globe to be built. By the early 1630s, the theatre had apparently fallen into disrepair.

Newington Butts. In use from 1580, this theatre was located in Surrey (the name is now preserved in that of the street still known as Newington Butts just to the south of the Elephant & Castle roundabout). Little is known about the theatre but it’s believed the Lord Chamberlain’s Men played here in the mid 1590s and apparently gave their earliest known performances of a number of Shakespeare’s plays including Titus Andronicus and The Taming of the Shrew took place. Butts were typically used in the national sport of archery but that may not apparently be the explanation behind the name here which may instead refer to an odd-shaped area of land.

For more on Elizabethan theatre, check out Elizabethan-Jacobean Drama: The Theatre in its Time.

While the association between the Bard and Bankside’s Globe Theatre is well known (see our earlier post here for more), the Bard and his plays were also performed in various other theatres around London. Here we take a quick look at a couple in Shoreditch, then a more rural suburb of London known for its associations with the (somewhat seedy) entertainment industry…

The-Theatre The Theatre, Shoreditch. Built in 1576 by James Burbage on property that had once been part of Holywell Priory, the Theatre was the home of a number of acting companies including The Lord Chamberlain’s Men of which Shakespeare was a member. The polygon-shaped theatre served as the home of the company between 1594 and 1598 when a dispute with a landlord over the lease led them to leave, temporarily settling at The Curtain Theatre, before rebuilding their theatre, now renamed The Globe, in Southwark. Between 2008 and 2010, archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) carried out an investigation beneath a disused warehouse in New Inn Broadway, near the intersection of Curtain Road and Great Eastern Street, and found the remains of a 14 sided theatre about 22 metres across. Plans have been mooted to build a new theatre on the site. To find out more about The Theatre and see a terrific animated recreation by Cloak & Dagger Studios and MOLA (pictured), head to www.explorethetheatre.co.uk. PICTURE: Courtesy of MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and Cloak and Dagger Studios.

The Curtain Theatre, Shoreditch. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men only performed here temporarily, between 1598-1599, before relocating to Southwark. Henry V (the reference to “this wooden O” in the prologue of the play is taken to refer to this theatre) and Romeo and Juliet are believed to be among Shakespeare’s plays which premiered here. Located just a couple of hundred yards south of The Theatre and built the year after it, it also hosted Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour, a play in which Shakespeare is known to have performed. The polygonal theatre’s name comes from the road on which it stood – Curtain Road, which, it has been suggested, was named after the Holywell Priory’s ‘curtain wall’. It continued as a theatre until the 1620s and was later converted into tenements. The remains of what is believed to have been the Curtain Theatre were found by MOLA archaeologists in 2012 and further excavations are expected with the hope that one day the site will be open to the public with plays performed here. There is a plaque commemorating the site at 18 Hewett Street which is only a short distance from where the excavations were carried out. For more on the Curtain Theatre, check out www.shakespearesshoreditch.com.

For more on Elizabethan theatres, see Julian Bowsher’s Shakespeare’s London Theatreland: Archaeology, History and Drama.

The-GlobeMention William Shakespeare and London in the same breath and everyone immediately thinks of one building – the reconstructed Globe on Bankside. So we thought that to kick off our new series – being run in honour of the 450th anniversary of the playwright’s birth – we’d take a look at history of the iconic structure.

The-Globe2The original Globe Theatre, located a few hundred metres to the south, opened in 1599 as a home for the actors’ company known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later renamed the King’s Men on the accession of King James I in 1603), of which Shakespeare was a member. Founded by James Burbage, this merry band was originally was housed at London’s first purpose-built playhouse Shoreditch before lease disputes led them to establish a new theatre in Southwark, close to the then existing theatre, The Rose.

Up and running by 1599 (Shakespeare was among four actors who bought a share in the property to help fund the new building which used timbers from the former Shoreditch theatre), the new theatre was used for 14 years until, during a performance of Henry VIII in 1613, wadding from a stage cannon ignited and the theatre burned to the ground. Rebuilt with a tiled roof, it remained the home of the company until it was closed down by the Puritan government in 1642 and demolished two years later.

You can see the original site of The Globe just in nearby Park Street. The shape of the structure is marked by a dark line embedded in the pavement (pictured).

The reconstructed building which stands proudly by the water today was the vision of the late American actor, director and producer, Sam Wanamaker. He founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust which, with the on-site assistance of Queen Elizabeth II, opened the theatre at its current site in 1997 (sadly, Wanamaker had died three-and-a-half-years previously).

The building’s design was drawn from sifting through what little historical evidence could be found including the findings of an archaeological dig at the original site, descriptions contained in Shakespeare’s plays (including the line from Henry V – “Or may we cram within this wooden ‘O’), and printed panoramas from the time, although it should be noted that much – particularly the design of the stage – is speculative.

Meanwhile the techniques used in the construction of the theatre were the subject of years of research and were in accord with those of the early 17th century  and included using oak laths and staves to support lime plaster and then covering the walls in white lime wash while the roof was made of water reed thatch.

One of the best ways to see the theatre and make the most of the atmosphere is to see a play from a standing position in the pit!

WHERE: Globe Theatre Exhibition & Tour, Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk (nearest Tube stations are Southwark and London Bridge); WHEN: Exhibition is open 9am to 5.30pm daily – tours run at various times, see website for details; COST: Exhibition and tour cost is £13.50 adults/£12 seniors/£11 students/£8 children (5-15 with children under five free)/£36 family of four; WEBSITE: www.shakespearesglobe.com.