Rose Theatre on Bankside to apply for Lottery-funded redevelopment

Natalie Woolman

Trustees of the Elizabethan Rose Theatre are in the process of submitting a Lottery bid which could see the final section of the site excavated if successful.

The Rose was one of London’s earliest theatres and it is the only playhouse from that period on Bankside for which the complete foundations are thought to survive. The Rose Revealed project would see the excavation of the final third of the site and the conservation of the remains. There are also plans for a public exhibition to be opened above the site to develop it as a performance and education space.

Harvey Sheldon, chair of the Rose’s 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.”

Part of the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is for the creation of a new visitor and education centre which would display the remains of the theatre and provide more than 530 square metres for activities and events. Helm Architecture has developed an outline proposal for this centre.

Speaking at the launch of the bid, Janet Suzman, patron of the Rose, commented: “To me, there is no substitute for the real thing [. . . ] This is the real thing, this is the only real thing we have, the only touch we have with the greatest Olympian that there is. I think it is significant that [Shakespeare] has been chosen as the centrepiece of our Olympic games and I think we just go on hurdling.”

The theatre was initially discovered in 1988 and, following a campaign to save the venue, the Rose Theatre Trust was formally established. Rose Revealed is part of the trust’s long-term project to preserve the remains and to give the public the widest possible access to the heritage site.

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