london panoramic cityscape
LondonWalking in
Shakespeare's Footsteps
TfL Fare Zone 1
 
 
 
There is very little of Shakespeare’s London left in the City of London as most of it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The fire started in Pudding Lane and is marked by The Monument.
 
St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate
In 1593 William Shakespeare was living in Bishopsgate, EC2 and St Helen's Church was his parish church. This church was one of very few not destroyed by the Great Fire of London or bombing during the Second World War. St Helen's Church is opposite the tall tower block in the City of London known as ‘The Gherkin’.
 
You will truly be treading in Shakespeare’s footsteps if you visit this church because parts of it have changed little since the 1500s. There is a memorial window to William Shakespeare.
 
Remains of Curtain Theatre
Nearby in Shoreditch is the newly discovered remains of a previously unknown theatre in which it is believed Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet" was performed – it is possible that this theatre may have hosted that play’s premiere. It is thought that Shakespeare’s theatre company, the Chamberlain’s Men and even Shakespeare himself performed here.
 
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This theatre in Curtain Road was built in 1577 and was only a few hundred yards from another theatre further along the road constructed in 1576 by a James Burbage named 'The Theatre'.
 
The playhouse would have been a rather primitive structure, believed to have been polygonal in shape. Part of the original curved wall together with the sloping gravel surface where the audience stood has been found.
 
In 1604 Shakespeare lodged in a house on the northeast corner of Monkwell & Silver Streets in Cripplegate, not far from St Paul's Cathedral. Also neareby was the Mermaid Tavern, 29-30 Bread Street EC4M.
 
 
Mermaid Tavern
The Mermaid Tavern was home to a literary club known as the Friday Street Club, started by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1603. The Club met on the first Friday of the month and was a meeting place for playwrights, actors, authors and poets. Shakespeare was a member among such luminaries as John Donne, Ben Johnson, Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.
 
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Unfortunately the Tavern was burned down in the Great Fire of London but it stood on the west side of Bread Street. The site of the Great Fire of London is marked by The Monument.
 
Blackfriars Theatre & Ireland Yard
In 1608 Shakespeare was performing in the Blackfriars Theatre in Playhouse Yard, EC4.
 
By 1613 he was rich enough to purchase his own property in Blackfriars, a very popular and fashionable residential area.
 
The house was in Ireland Yard overlooking the Blackfriars Theatre, in Playhouse Yard. It cost £140 and the Deed of Conveyance is in the Guildhall Library. Shakespeare never lived in the house (possibly because he retired to Stratford) and he apparently leased his newly acquired property to a John Robinson. Shakespeare left the property to his daughter Susanna Hall.
 
Ireland Yard can be reached by entering the alley called Church Entry which leads into Carter Lane and Playhouse Lane which leads to Ireland Court.
 
Southwark & Southbank
We now move from the City of London across the River Thames to Southwark and the Southbank, known in Shakespeare’s time as Bankside. Take an Underground train to London Bridge station and exit onto the Borough High Street. In Shakespeare’s time Bankside was outside the City of London and free from all the City regulations.
 
This was then the entertainment hub of London, a seething mass of inns, gambling houses, bear and bull-baiting pits, theatres, prostitutes, gaols and amongst it all the London home of the Bishop of Winchester. In 1599 Shakespeare not only worked here but he lived here for approximately 5 years so knew the area well.
 
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The George & Dragon Inn
Borough High Street was the main route into London from the south and was lined with inns and taverns. The George Inn is the only remaining late 17th century inn in London and it was well known to Shakespeare as The George and Dragon.
 
This beautiful old inn is well worth visiting. It is protected by the National Trust but still functions as a pub and is tucked away in a cobbled yard just off the Borough High Street. The entrance to the yard is beside a bank. The pub’s official address is 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, SE1 1NH.
 
The Borough Markets
After enjoying the pub come back out on to Borough High Street and follow the signs to The Borough Markets. There has been a market on this site since medieval times and Shakespeare would certainly have shopped here for food. The Market occupies four halls nestled under the railway viaduct.
 
Well known as a favourite haunt of the famous chefs such as Jamie Oliver and his like. The wholesale market is open every day but only open to tourists on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
 
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At the back of the Market is a laneway to Southwark Cathedral.
 
Cross Bones Graveyard
A short five minute walk from Borough Markets takes the visitor to an unexpected brick-walled open space within the commercial area of Borough. This vacant lot has an unhappy past – it houses the Cross Bones Graveyard - an unconsecrated graveyard in which prostitutes (known as the Bishops of Winchester’s Geese) were buried.
 
 
St Saviour's Church
William Shakespeare worshipped at St Saviour’s church, now known as Southwark Cathedral. There is a fine memorial and window to the great man in the South Aisle.
 
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A special Shakespeare Service is held on 23 April each year. Also buried somewhere in the cathedral is Shakespeare’s youngest brother Edmund. He had come to London to be an actor just like his elder brother but died in 1607, aged 27. We don’t know what he died of but it may have been the plague as it was again raging in London at that time.
 
Sir Francis Drake’s ‘Golden Hinde’
Close by Southwark Cathedral is St Mary Overie’s dock. This ancient dock now houses a full sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Elizabethan galleon the ‘Golden Hinde’. In Shakespeare’s time the ancient wharf was a busy place with ships bringing hides for tanning, malt and barley for brewing and many other goods.
 
There were some 300 inns and taverns on Bankside so you can imagine the crowds, the noise, and the smells that crammed the little alleyways and cobbled courts that once stood here. No wonder the tavern scenes in Shakespeare’s plays are so riotous. He lived it every day.
 
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Winchester Palace & Clink Gaol
Continue walking upstream along Clink Street. On the left are the remains of the Bishop of Winchester's Palace consisting of a few walls and a beautiful unglazed Rose Window. Shakespeare would have passed this way on his way to The Globe Theatre .
 
At the end of Clink Street is The Clink Prison Museum built on the site of the Clink Gaol.
 
Anchor Inn & Samuel Pepys
Pass through the arch and in front of you is the Anchor Inn. Although The Anchor has been remodelled since Shakespeare’s time you can still see the oak beams and a couple of the Elizabethan rooms. It is said that both Shakespeare and Samuel Pepys drank here. Pepys certainly wrote in his diary that he watched the Great Fire of London from a house close to this site.
 

 

 
The Globe Theatre
Continue along beside the river. This is where the bull and bear-baiting pits and the Swan Theatre, The Globe Theatre and Rose Theatre were. The new Globe Theatre is an exact replica of the original and built on almost the same site. It is well worth going inside and taking a guided tour even if you can’t spare the time to attend a performance.
 
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The building has been built in exactly the same way as the original, the only modern concession being the fire sprinklers in the thatched roof to prevent it burning down just like the original did. Apparently, cannon on the roof would be fired to announce the commencement of a play and some burning gunpowder set fire to the thatched roof.
 
Shakespeare did rebuild the Globe after the first fire and the theatres remained until the Puritans closed down all centres of entertainment after the Civil War.
 
Getting There
To plan your journey use the TfL 'Journey Planner' above.
 
Some London Underground stations which will assist in this walk are:
 
St Paul’s Station Central Line for St Paul's Cathedral
Bank and Monument
Stations (interlinked)
Central Line, Waterloo & City Line, Northern Line, Circle and District Lines
   
Docklands Light Railway  
Blackfriar’s Station Circle and District Lines
London Bridge Station Northern Line, Jubilee Line
 
Google Map - Start at St Helen's Church