Archaeologists make a shocking discovery which they claim is the oldest theatre in Whitechapel East London, and is the Elizabethan playhouse called ‘The Red Lion’. By Tanvi Jain
— UCL Archaeology South-East (@ArchSouthEast) June 10, 2020
A mid-16th-century theatre – oldest purpose-built theatre of London – claimed to be Elizabethan playhouse by experts, and also called ‘The Red Lion’, was recently discovered by the archeologists of UCL’s Archaeology South-East, and is believed to be built somewhere around 1567 in East London Whitechapel.
“One of the most exciting and significant finds from #WhitechapelCentral was the possible remains of the #RedLionPlayhouse, the UK’s earliest (AD1567)! This site, with its prototype stage and seating, could represent the dawn of Elizabethan theatre!” UCL Archaeology South-East tweeted.
#ThrowbackThursday to when this late 17th century tavern mug with a Royalist medallion of Charles II was found at our Whitechapel excavations! It's looking a little cleaner these days! #WhitechapelCentral #RedLionPlayhouse #glowup pic.twitter.com/dOiY0DZsfK
— UCL Archaeology South-East (@ArchSouthEast) June 11, 2020
“This is one of the most extraordinary sites I’ve worked on. After nearly 500 years, the remains of The Red Lion playhouse, which marked the dawn of Elizabethan theatre, may have finally been found. The strength of the combined evidence – archaeological remains of buildings, in the right location, of the right period, seem to match up with characteristics of the playhouse recorded in early documents. It is a privilege to be able to add to our understanding of this exciting period of history,” Stephen White, director for excavation, was quoted as saying in a press release on the official website of UCL Archaeology South-East.
The Red Lion, which is said to be built during the Tudor period, plays a crucial role in filling the gap between the Tudor and Shakespearean time. While in the former era the plays were primarily based on Biblical subjects, the later ones were more on secular subjects.
The Story of Samson was the first drama, to be performed at this theatre. It was a tale of a Biblical superman’s sacrifice of life to fight paganism. However, just like this one, many other plays of the Tudor times are lost now, because they were never allowed to publish.
We had some really great discussions about the #RedLionPlayhouse on twitter yesterday, thanks to all who were interested! If you have any further questions about the site please email us (email@example.com) so we can keep track, and so Stephen gets a break!
— UCL Archaeology South-East (@ArchSouthEast) June 12, 2020
Although the excavation was conducted in 2019, it was only after a year-long analysis that the archaeologists were able to confirm that it’s London’s oldest theatre. Media reports further suggest that along with this discovery, buildings constructed in the 15th and the 16th century over the next 100 years were also discovered in the northeast corner of the site.