The theatre was only about 14-years-old when on 29th June, 1613 – the 400th anniversary of which passed last year – a “special effects” cannon was fired during a performance of King Henry VIII (also known as All is True) – specifically as the king made his entrance on the stage. While cannons had apparently been used for years with no ill effect – that was not to be the case this time.
It is said sparks from the cannon landed on either directly on the theatre’s thatched roofing or a roof beam near the thatch and caught fire – there are also suggestions the fire was in fact caused when one of the stoppers used to block up the cannon came into contact with the thatch.
Theatre patrons apparently initially thought the smoke was simply from the cannon blast but can’t have been confused for long – the fire was said to have moved very quickly; in fact one contemporary letter writer – author, diplomat and politician Sir Henry Wotton – says the entire theatre was burnt to the ground in less than an hour.
The audience – the theatre is thought to have housed some 1,000 people seated and a further 2,000 standing – is thought to have escaped unharmed. There are no reports, at least, of any deaths as a result of the fire.
The theatre was quickly rebuilt – apparently more opulently – and reopened the following year. Traces of the burnt theatre was found during an excavation of the Globe site in 1989.
For more on The Globe, see our earlier post here.
PICTURE: Ashley Nummerdor/www.freeimages.com