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Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
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Rose Theatre, Bankside
Elizabethan theatre by the Thames
(Photos/words © urban75, 20th/22nd Sept, 2007)

Lurking beneath a modern office block by Southwark Bridge is the remains of one of the great playhouses of the Elizabethan England, the Rose Theatre.

Built in 1587 by Philip Henslow, the Rose hit the height of its commercial success in the 1590s, putting on plays by William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd.

The Rose's success encouraged other entrepreneurs to open up theatres nearby, with the Swan following in 1595 and the Globe in 1599.

The new rivals swiftly outshone the Rose, and all shows closed in 1603 with the building being abandoned as a theatre by 1606.

Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
Model of the Rose Theatre.

New building development in the 1989 unearthed the remains of the theatre which were remarkably well preserved, with the chalk and stone foundations of its outer and inner walls remaining intact, together with some sections of brickwork.

Further excavations are in progress, with plans to eventually open this historic site to the public.

Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
Opened to the public for a rare weekend as part of the Open House Initiative, you'll need a fair bit of imagination to picture this as a thriving theatre playing to packed houses.

The red string lights mark the outline of the building and the stage area (centre).

Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
Kind of amazing to think that Shakespeare once stood onstage right in front of me!


Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
We were given an interesting and witty talk by the guide.

Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
There was very little light, so these exposures were taken by putting the camera on a railing and using the self timer.

Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
Information boards.

Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
A last look. Part of the site is covered in water and this helped the preservation of the remains over the centuries.

Rose Theatre, Bankside, Southwark, London
Lurking in the lower right hand side of this 1600 illustration from Norden's Civitas Londini can be seen the round thatched roof of the Rose.

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