Walk 15 - A Walk around Shakespeare's London

Approximately 4.5 Miles / 7.25 Km - about 3 hours

For an online, zoomable version of the above map, click here


The general theme of this self guided walk is places that William Shakespeare lived and worked in London.  It is roughly chronological, starting at the first theatre in London that Shakespeare worked in (The Theatre) and ending at the theatre that he last worked in (The Globe).  The route also takes in a few other non-Shakespearean places of interest.


The walk is designed to be used directly from your phone. 
Just scroll down to start. 

There are links within the text to more information about things that are discussed in the walk. You can follow these up later if you wish. 

If you would rather use a printed version of the walk guide, you can download an printable PDF file from this link.

In the walk: 

- Directions are shown in black text.

- History notes are shown in red text.


The walk starts at St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch at the junction of Shoreditch High Street, Old Street, Kingsland Road and Hackney Road. 

To get to St Leonard’s (Shoreditch Church) from Liverpool Street station, leave from the Bishopsgate exit. You can then get either walk one kilometre north up Bishopsgate, then Shoreditch High Street, or catch the 26 or 149 bus from outside Liverpool Street station on Bishopsgate, alighting at the Shoreditch Church stop.  

Shoreditch (St Leonard's) Church is a little further up Shoreditch High Street from the bus stop, on the opposite side of the road. 


St Leonard’s Shoreditch is an ancient church, sitting at the intersection of Shoreditch High Street, originally part of Ermine Street, a Roman road from London to York, and Old Street, a road already known as “Ealdestrate” (Old Street) in 1200, and also possibly originally Roman. 

The current St Leonard's dates from around 1740. The first reference to a church on this site occurs in a 12th century document, but the original church on the site was possibly Saxon.

The church is connected to Shakespeare, because it is situated near to the sites of two places where he acted and wrote when he was first in London. These places are The Theatre, England's first purpose-built playhouse, and the Curtain Theatre in Curtain Road. You will be walking past the site of these theatres shortly on the walk.

St Leonards is the church mentioned in the line “when I grow rich said the bells of Shoreditch” from the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”.  

It is the burial place of a number of Tudor period actors, contemporaries of Shakespeare, including James Burbage, the founder of The Theatre, and his son Richard, who was the leading man in many of Shakespeare's plays. Also buried here are the actors Gabriel Spenser, who was killed by Ben Jonson in a duel, and Richard Tarlton, an Elizabethan comic actor. 

Cross to the other side of Shoreditch High Street to the church, and walk down it towards Liverpool Street Station.

After about 170 metres, turn right into Bateman’s Row. The road is not marked with its name, but if you look down it you will see a sign for Anning Street, which crosses it. Continue along, passing Anning Street, French Place and New Inn Square. Turn the next left into New Inn Street. Walk down it to where it widens out into New Inn Broadway.

On the right is the The Box Office  / Theatre Courtyard Gallery, which is on the site of ‘The Theatre’, the first successful playhouse in England. It was archeologically excavated before the current building was built. It is due to open with a permanent exhibition showing the archaeological finds recovered before this new building was erected. Next door is a mural depicting Romeo & Juliet.


At the start of the reign of Elizabeth I, there were no “Playhouses” in London (buildings built specifically to put on plays). Instead, drama was put on by groups of players in places such as the Inner Temple, in private houses, and in inn yards.

Groups of players moved around the country to centres of population big enough to get an audience together. London’s population doubled in the 16C (from 100k to 200k) giving better scope for getting a large audience for regular performances.

Using inn yards, the stage would be a cart with a curtain at the back. The galleries around the inn courtyards were for the richer audience members, the yard for the poor. Because you didn't have to pay to get in, players were reliant on what they could collect from the audience during the performance. Sometimes they would perform the first part of a play, making sure they made a lot of noise in order to get a good crowd in. Then, at a cliff hanger moment, or just before a popular character appeared, they would go round the audience to take a collection. Just like the buskers in Covent Garden today. When the playhouses were built, the audience was charged to enter, putting their coins in a sealed pot with a slot in the top (a bit like a piggy bank). These were later smashed and the coins put into a large wooden box kept in a secure room (hence the term 'Box Office'). 

It is not exactly true that The Theatre was the first London building built specially to put on plays. In fact there was an unsuccessful theatre called the Red Lion, built by John Brayne in 1567. The Red Lion sounds like a pub, but in fact, was a theatre.  It was named after the Red Lion farm who owned the land,   It was just east of where the Whitechapel hospital is now.  However, the Red Lion did not seem to last too long.  There were plays that Londoners could see in the City, without a longish walk to Whitechapel, and so perhaps it never took off.  

However, things happened in the 1570s that changed the game. In 1571 the Mayor of London and his Aldermen banned plays in the City. This was due to worries about spreading the Plague, riotous behaviour, and also pressure from Puritans who thought plays were immoral.  In 1572, Elizabeth's privy council introduced a Vagabonds Act. Justices of the Peace were called on to license beggars. Unlicensed vagabonds were to be whipped and burned through the ear. The Act stated that local surplus funds should be used to “place and settle to work the rogues and vagabonds.”  In addition, it demanded that all actors companies be licensed. Then in 1575 the Mayor of London had all players expelled from the city under pain of flogging. This now made it extremely difficult to put on plays in the City. .

Seizing the opportunity, in 1576, James Burbage, together with his brother in law John Brayne (of the Red Lion), took a 21 year lease on some ground from the owner, Gyles Allen. They then had “The Theatre” built. The land that “The Theatre” was built on was adjacent to the Liberty of Norton Folgate and was on land that used to be part of Holywell Priory (also called St John the Baptist), so was out of the jurisdiction of the City and its ban on plays. "The Theatre" was successful from the start. The first players company to use it was possibly Leicester's Men, which was the players company of Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester, and of which James Burbage was a member. Later in the 1580s the Admiral's Men, of which James Burbage's son Richard was a member, used The Theatre.  In 1594, James Burbage set up another players group called ‘The Lord Chamberlain's Men’. James’ son, Richard Burbage, became the leading actor of the group and performed at The Theatre until 1597.

To find out more about how and why commercial playhouses came to be built in London 1565-1595, see the Before Shakespeare web site.


The sculpture in 'The Box Office', the new room on the ground floor of the building now on the site of The Theatre 

Shakespeare was born in 1564, so he was only 12 and in Stratford upon Avon when “The Theatre” was built. He seems to have been a fast developer though, because he got married at age 18 to a pregnant 26 year old, Anne Hathaway . He then quickly had three children: Susanna, and then soon after twins Hamnet and Judith.   He seems to have left Stratford upon Avon soon after that, although details are not recorded about what he did.  The time up to 1592 is known as his "Lost Years", because there is no record of what he was doing.  Recently, David Fallow, who has spent years studying the Shakespeare family’s wealth, has come up with a theory that William Shakespeare was perhaps helping his father, John, in his illegal wool trading activities.

Anyway, William must have also been developing his theatrical reputation, as there is evidence that he was working as a writer in London. The plays Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3 are thought to have been written between 1589–91 as were a number of other plays.  In 1592 Shakespeare is described as an 'upstart crow' in Greene's Groats-worth of Wit, a pamphlet.  This is taken as evidence that he is in London by this time.  Robert Greene is suggesting that Shakespeare, as an actor, is an upstart for also trying to be a writer. In 1594 there is a payment record for Shakespeare’s acting work at the Queen's court, as part of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Some of his early plays were put on at The Theatre (for example Romeo and Juliet), and he also probably acted there.

The Theatre had a mostly successful twenty one years, but then the lease on the land from Gyles Allen ran out. Probably wanting this money spinner for himself, Allen wouldn't extend the lease and claimed that half of the theatre building was now his. This created a big argument and both sides went to law. Gyles Allen died, but his widow continued with the claim. James Burbage too was getting old and was sick (in fact also dying), so in 1597 James gave “The Theatre” to his sons, Richard and Cuthbert. Not wanting to lose the property given to them by their father, over the Christmas and new year holiday of 1597, they arranged for “The Theatre” to be dismantled and moved to a warehouse in Bridewell. In the spring of the next year, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage formed a company to build the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames. They used the timbers salvaged from “The Theatre” to help build “The Globe”.

The company formed to build The Globe consisted of Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, who owned 50% of it, and five others (William Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope and Will Kempe) who each owned 10% each. However, Will Kempe seems to have argued with the other shareholders, as he sold his share to them and left the company. In 1599 he embarked on his famous “9 Days Wonder” dance to Norwich from London. In 1600, he went on a European tour, but then returned to London and died penniless in 1603.

As the Globe was being built, “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men” needed a place to continue performing, and so they moved down to our next stop, “The Curtain Theatre”.

At the end of New Inn Street, turn right into New Inn Yard, then on to the junction with Curtain Road. 

On the right is a Foxtons Estate Agency. On its Curtain Road side are two plaques commemorating “The Theatre”.

Walk back down Curtain Road past New Inn Yard and then cross over Great Eastern Street, remaining on Curtain Road. After passing Hewett Street on the left, and soon after the Horse and Groom pub, is “The Stage” building development.


The Stage development is so named as this is the spot that the Curtain Theatre was built in 1577. This is about a year after The Theatre, further up the road, was built. It stayed open for forty five years, closing in 1622.

The Curtain Theatre was named after a curtain wall that surrounded a walled pasture near here. The Curtain was owned by a Henry Lanman.  When both theatres were working, James Burbage and Lanman agreed to share the profits of The Theatre and The Curtain for seven years, so it seems that they were not in direct competition at this time.

This theatre was used by The Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1598 and 1599, performing some of Shakespeare's plays, until the Globe was built. The exact position of the Curtain was only found a few years ago when a pavement consisting of lambs knuckle bones was found – see this image.

The site of the Curtain theatre is currently being developed, to include a 40-storey tower, providing 385 homes, 250,000 sq ft of office space and 50,000 sq ft of retail space. The cost is estimated as around £750,000,000.

It has been promised that the historic remains of the Curtain will be preserved in a glass enclosure which will also hold a Shakespeare museum and a performance space.

As of October 2016, the most interesting discovery is that the Curtain Theatre was rectangular, not a polygonal structure, as previously thought. The Curtain seems to have been built in the rectangular garden of a tenement (where the audience went in), with galleries for seating built down each side, and the stage across the bottom of the garden. Not a wooden 'O', as referred to in the prologue of Henry V, which was once thought to have been first performed at the Curtain Theatre, after all!

Museum of London Archaeology have had access to do the excavation. You can see on the MOLA web site some of their discoveries. 

The Curtain Theatre was outside the City of London’s jurisdiction. A quote from “Playes Confuted” by Stephen Gosson in 1582, although not mentioning the Curtain itself, gives a flavour of early play going at the time of the second Shoreditch playhouse:

'In the playhouses at London, it is the fashion of youths to go first into the yard, and to carry their eye through every gallery, then like ravens, where they spy the carrion thither they fly, and press as near to the fairest as they can... they give them apples, they dally with their garments to pass the time, they minister talk upon odd occasions, and either bring them home to their houses on small acquaintance, or slip into taverns when the plays are done.'

Poster on The Stage, showing an artists impression of the planned Curtain Theatre performance and display space.
The Stage development plans to have a performance and exhibition space in the courtyard space between the two high rise sections. This will show exhibits from the archeological exploration of The Curtain Theatre.

Continue down Curtain Road and as it curves right, then continue straight on into Appold Street.

When Appold Street sharply bends to the right, on the left is a footpath leading past a tall modern sculpture make of multi coloured blocks. Walk down the footpath into Finsbury Avenue Square. 

Walk diagonally across the square and exit on a path which becomes Finsbury Avenue. Continue to the end, and then turn right onto Eldon Street. 

Walk along Eldon Street, which turns into South Place. Cross over Moorgate and straight on into Ropemaker Street.

Pass Moorfields on the left, walk on then turn left into Moor Lane. 

Carry on down Moor Lane, pass Silk Street on the right, then walk straight ahead to the junction with Fore Street. Cross the road and walk right for a few metres to London Wall Place on the left.

Either go up the glass lift, or walk up the staircase to the rust coloured Highwalks. 


As part of post World War II reconstruction plans for London, in the 1950s the City of London set up the ‘Pedway Scheme’. Influenced by the German Bauhaus movement, Pedways were elevated walkways with the aim of separating pedestrians from street level traffic. 

A number of Pedways were built in the City, but by the 1980s the scheme was generally discontinued, although a new one was built in the Barbican development in 2017 (St Alphage Walk). The majority of London Pedways (now called Highwalks) exist in the Barbican area.

When you get up to the Highwalk, turn right, walk along, then turn right again, sign posted to the London Museum, on to the St Alphage Highwalk. Below, on the right you will pass the St Alphage Garden, containing some of the remains of the London Wall, and on the left the Tower of St Elsyng Spital.

At the end of St Alphage Highwalk, turn left into Alban Highwalk. After passing an office entrance, turn first right under the covered pathway onto the Bastion Highwalk.  From this Highwalk, you will see the remains of one of the Bastions (fortifications added in the Medieval Period).
Continue along until you come to a left turn on to a footbridge over London Wall.  Descend the lift or stairs here and on emerging on to London Wall turn right and cross Noble Street to the churchyard of St Olave Silver Street.


On the corner of London Wall and Noble Street is a small park, once the churchyard of St Olave Silver Street.  There is a blue Plaque referring to William Shakespeare on the low wall of the park facing Noble Street.

St Olave's church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and Silver Street itself now no longer exists, as it was destroyed in the Blitz. Here is a link to a photo taken before WW2 from the churchyard that shows Silver Street. 

Shakespeare lodged in Silver Street, Cripplegate with the Mountjoys, a Huguenot family who were tire (decorated headdress) makers.

This is one of the two places in London where there is a record that Shakespeare lived there. The evidence is a legal record where Shakespeare was called to give evidence in a law suit where Stephen Bellot, Christopher Mountjoy's ex-apprentice, sues for non-payment of a promised dowry after marrying Mountjoy's daughter, Mary. 

Looking north across the London Wall road, you can see remains of the Roman Fort, part of the London Wall and the Barber-Surgeons Hall. Barber-Surgeons were given permission to dissect bodies here (or rather in the previous incarnations of the hall). The bodies were buried, after dissection, in St Olave Silver Street Churchyard. 

Walk down Noble Street, past the remains of walls that were originally part of the Roman London Fort, on to which the Roman London Wall was built. 

The Roman part of the wall is now mostly below ground. What you can see above ground here consists mainly of rebuilding from the Medieval period onwards.

If you are interested in seeing more of the London Wall at another time, there is a walk on this site, "Walk 12 - A Walk Around the London Wall" that follows the complete path of the wall, and looks at all of the remaining sections.

Turn left into Oat Lane. As the road bends right, go straight ahead down into St Alban’s Court. The path curves left, then right under a tunnel beneath some office buildings. The path emerges on to Wood Street. Cross over, past the tower of St Alban Church, on to Love Lane. 

St Alban Church was rebuilt after the great fire, but the church itself was destroyed again by enemy bombing in World War II, leaving just the tower.

On the left in Love Lane is St Mary Aldermanbury Garden where there is a bust of William Shakespeare.


This monument, although it has a bust of Shakespeare on it, is in fact commemorating Henry Condell and John Heminges, who were important in the production of the First Folio of William Shakespeare's plays.  

When Shakespeare died, eighteen of his plays had already been published as Quartos. The First Folio of Shakespeare's works, was published in 1623, seven years after his death, included the previously published plays, plus another eighteen that had not been published before, making thirty six in total.  The First Folio did not include Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the two lost plays, Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won. 

Condell and Heminges had worked with Shakespeare in the Globe Theatre as actors, and doing other jobs. They lived in the St. Mary Aldermanbury parish and were buried in its churchyard, which is why the memorial is here.

Walk down Aldermanbury (in the direction that the Shakespeare bust is facing!).

At the end of Aldermanbury, turn left into Guildhall Yard through some glass sliding doors.  Walk straight across the yard. 

Just to the right of the main entrance to the Guildhall Art Gallery is a bust of William Shakespeare.

Keeping the Guildhall Art Gallery on your left, walk down Guildhall Buildings to emerge on to Basinghall Street. Cross over Basinghall Street, then turn left and walk up about 45 metres . 

Turn right, under an arch, into Masons Avenue. 

Cross Coleman Street, and enter Great Bell Alley on the other side. Emerge on to Moorgate.

Cross over Moorgate and enter Telegraph Street. After Copthall Buildings, Copthall Avenue is on the left. Walk up it to London Wall and turn right.

Pass Throgmorton Avenue on the right. Turn the next right on to Great Winchester Street. The street curves to the left, then on the right-hand side is the narrow Austin Friars Passage. Go through it, turn right at the end, and then left past the Dutch Church into Austin Friars. 


Austin Friars was Augustinian friary, covering just over 5 acres, founded in the 1260s. It had about 60 Friars. The Friary had gardens where fruit, vegetables and herbs were grown.

Like other priories, monasteries, convents and friaries, in the late 1530's / early 1540's, Austin Friars was closed by Henry VIII. The Crown sold the properties and land, disposed of their assets, and pensioned off the clergy.

Thomas Cromwell, working for Henry VIII, was a prime mover in the reformation. He obtained the Austin Friars land, and built a large house in it. The property was taken back by the crown and sold off after Cromwell fell from favour and was executed in July 1540. Cromwell's house became the Drapers' Hall, and the nave of the friary church was rebuilt as the Dutch Church which is there today.

Carry on down Austin Friars, which bends left and right before emerging, under an arch, on to Old Broad Street.  Cross the street and turn left.

Carry along Old Broad Street, then turn right on to the second footpath that you come to (by a Paul’s Cafe), and continue on until you get to Bishopsgate. Cross Bishopsgate here and walk straight on down Great St Helen’s to St Helen’s Bishopsgate Church.


St Helen’s Bishopsgate is one of the few City churches to have survived the Great Fire in 1666.

A Roman or a Saxon building is thought to have been the original building on the site. There was a parish church on the site in the 12th century, then in 1210, a priory of Benedictine nuns was established there and built alongside the existing church. In 1538, when the priory was dissolved, the screen separating the priory and the parish church was removed. The church inside, as it stands today, is one space divided by arches. From the outside, you can see from the design that it was two buildings, now joined together. 

William Shakespeare is known to have lived in the parish of St Helen's in the 1590's, so must have attended the church. The evidence is a document from 1599, now in the National Archives, which shows that Shakespeare owed a 'Lay Subsidy' (a national tax payment). The document states: 

‘William Shakespeare in the parish of St. Helen’s, 13s. 4d. of the first entire subsidy granted in the said thirty ninth year [of the reign of Queen Elizabeth] which is required upon the same there.’ 

Simplified, this means 

‘William Shakespeare, who lives in the parish of St.Helen’s, owes 13 shillings and 4 pence for the first subsidy (tax) of 1599.’. 

It seems that Shakespeare had moved from the area in 1599, as the document was sent on to the Bishop of Winchester, who had authority over the Bankside area where the Globe Theatre was being built at this time.

In 2019, Geoffrey Marsh, the Director of the Victoria and Albert museum's Department of Theatre and Performance, suggested that his research showed that the exact place in the parish that Shakespeare lived had been identified.

Marsh says that in the 1590s, Shakespeare was listed as a tenant of the Company of Leathersellers, the leather trade guild, and that the most likely place was in properties overlooking the St Helen's courtyard which were owned by the Guild.

Return to Bishopsgate the way you came, turn left and walk on.  Cross over Bishopsgate at the first pedestrian crossing, then turn right into Threadneedle Street. Continue until you get to Bank. The Bank of England is on your right, the Royal Exchange to the left, and Mansion House straight ahead. Cross the road to Mansion House, to the right of which is Walbrook, and then Queen Victoria Street.  Walk down Queen Victoria Street, and cross over to the right hand side of the street.  On the right, pass Size Lane, then next to each other, Queen Street and the much smaller Watling Street. Walk down Watling Street.

Walk to the end of Watling Street and then turn left on to New Change.

At the junction with Cannon Street, cross over it, turn right, cross Distaff Lane, and continue walking close to the buildings on your left, and with St Paul’s Cathedral on your right. Continue on in a straight line, finally crossing Godliman Street and entering the narrow section of Carter Lane.

On the wall on your left (just before you get to Deans Court on the other side of the Lane and the splendid YMCA building) is a plaque.

The plaque commemorates a letter sent by Richard Quiney, a mercer, and council official from Stratford-upon-Avon, to William Shakespeare, asking for a loan of £30.

But why a plaque for a letter? Well, this is the only surviving letter to, or from William Shakespeare.  It is now held by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford.

It is not known if WS came up with the money, and it is thought that the letter was never sent as it was found in Quiney's effects when he died.  This might have been because WS was also in London at the time and he was personally visited.  It is known that WS knew Quiney, as later on in 1616 (just before WS died) Shakespeare's younger daughter Judith married Quiney's son Thomas.

Now move further down Carter Lane until you get to Wardrobe Place on the left.  Go into Wardrobe place.

Wardrobe Place is so named because it is the site of the the Royal Wardrobe, sometimes called the Kings Wardrobe.

The Wardrobe was the place that royal clothes were made, mended and stored, not only for the royals themselves, but also for royal servants. When James I first came to London in 1604, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (the players company that WS belonged to) became the Kings Men.  As such, they became royal servants.  So, in order that they could be part of the celebrations, the important people in the Kings Men, were issued with four and a half yards of scarlet cloth each, so that they could have costumes made to appear in the celebrations.

He is listed first in the Players section of the account of the Master of the Great Wardrobe, recording the issue of red cloth to Shakespeare and his fellows for the entry of King James I into London.

See Shakespeare Documented for more details.

Come back to Carter Lane and continue walking down it to its end, where there is a blue plaque on the left, commemorating Blackfriars Priory.

Bear to the left to walk down Black Friars Lane. 

Turn left into Playhouse Yard. 


There were two Blackfriars Theatres on this site, in 1576-84 and in 1596-1642. The earlier theatre being used by boy companies of actors. The only thing that identifies this now is the name “Playhouse Yard”. 

The buildings here that were converted to theatres, were originally part of the old Blackfriars Priory, which was built here in around 1278. During the English Reformation it was taken and sold off by Henry VIII.  Because of this, and that the parish of St Ann Blackfriars here was a Liberty (a place out of the control of the City and the City guilds). The St Ann Church is no longer standing, but a few metres on the left up Church Entry, which goes off Playhouse Yard, you can still see gravestones from St Ann's churchyard.

CC Public Domain - Blackfriars Theatre: Conjectural Reconstruction” by G. Topham Forrest, 
The Times, 21 November 1921, p. 5

James Burbage bought and fitted out a hall in the Blackfriars buildings as a theatre in about 1596. The Blackfriars was an indoor theatre, so it could be used in the winter.  It was candle lit, and was very likely similar to the Sam Wanamaker theatre, which is part of the new Globe complex.  However, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (the company that Shakespeare was part of) found that there was public resistance to an adult company using this Blackfriars Theatre. In a letter to the Privy Council, a group of local residents wrote:

"To the right honorable the Lords and others of her Majesties most honorable Privy Councell Humbly shewing and beseeching your honors the inhabitants of the precinct of the Blackfryers London that whereas one Burbage hath lately bought certaine roomes in the same precinct neere adjoyning unto the dwelling houses of the right honorable the Lord Chamberlaine and the Lord of Hunsdon which romes the said Burbage is now altering and meaneth very shortly to convert and turne the same into a comon playhouse which will grow to be a very great annoyance and trouble not only to all the noblemen and gentlemen thereabout inhabiting but allso a generall inconvenience to all the inhabitants of the same precinct both by reason of the great resort and gathering togeather of all manner of vagrant and lewde persons that under cullor resorting to the playes will come thither and worke all manner of mischeefe and allso the greate pestring and filling up of the precinct yf it should please God to send any visitation of sicknesse as heretofore hath been for that the same precinct is allready very populous and besides that the same playhouse is so neere the Church that the of the drummes and trumpetts will disturbe and hinder both the ministers parishioners in tyme of devine service". 

So, Richard Burbage (James' son, James had died in 1597) rented the theatre to a Henry Evans who ran a Boy’s Company (an acting company with only boy actors). The Lord Chamberlain’s Men built and moved into the Globe instead.

The boy's company, called 'The Children of the Chapel' was controversial.  They kidnapped a number of boys to train as actors, under the pretext that the boys would be trained as choristers. Queen Elizabeth had decreed that it was acceptable for certain groups to train boys to sing whether their parents wanted them to or not.  It seems it was a legal loophole to allow taking boys who might be good as actors. Only one boy, Thomas Clifford, was freed from this enforced training due to a court case brought by his father. Read more about child actors here or on Julie Ackroyd's page here. Julie has written a book about the topic called Child Actors on the London Stage, Circa 1600: Their Education, Recruitment & Theatrical Success.

After James I took the throne and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men became the King’s Men, the restrictions eased off.  The King’s Men got the Blackfriars theatre back in August of 1608. However, the theatre needed repairs and was temporarily closed for the plague so they were not able to open it until 1610. 

The Blackfriars Theatre's target audience was a richer one than that of outdoor theatres. Tickets cost at least four times more than at the Globe. Because it was indoors, plays could be put on in the winter, which extended the season for The King's men. 

The very first time that actresses appeared on the English stage in 1629, they did it at the Blackfriars Theatre. The actors were male and female French players. In a letter addressed to the Bishop of London, a man called Thomas Brande expressed the public indignation that was stirred up. He said that the French actresses were "hissed, hooted, and pippin-pelted from the stage," and stated that he "did not think they would soon be ready to try the same again". 

If you went up Church Entry to look at the remains of St Ann Blackfriars, return to Playhouse Yard, and turn left through to Ireland Yard, a narrow passageway.  Continue on to the junction of Ireland Yard with St Andrew’s Hill. 

Walk a few metres up St Andrews Hill and look up at the wall on the left where there is a plaque about William Shakespeare buying the Blackfriars Gatehouse. 


In March 1613, William Shakespeare and three others agreed to purchase the Blackfriars Gatehouse from a Henry Walker for the sum of £140. You can see the document here.

It’s not thought that Shakespeare ever lived in the Gatehouse, but rather it was purchased as an investment. In 1613, at the Globe theatre during a performance of Henry VIII, a cannon that was being used as a sound effect set fire to the thatch, badly damaging the theatre. This may have been part of the reason that Shakespeare moved from London back to Stratford upon Avon at this time. He never returned to London, and in 1616, he died in Stratford upon Avon. His share in the gatehouse was left it to his daughter Susanna. 

The gatehouse stood approximately where the Cockpit inn now stands. 

Return down St Andrew’s Hill, just past the Cockpit pub on your right. Immediately on your left walk down a short passage to the church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe. It is so called, as it is near to the site of the Royal, or King's Wardrobe, the place where the monarch's robes were stored. During the 13th century, a previous church on the site was a part of Baynard's Castle, an ancient royal residence. 

Turn left on to a narrow path to the left of the church (which doesn't look like it leads anywhere!). Follow it around the back of the church, then turn left into Wardrobe Terrace which then turns into Knightrider Street. Walk along Knightrider Street, crossing Adele Hill and Godliman Street, then passing The Centre Page pub and getting to the junction with Peter’s Hill. Turn right and walk down it. On the right is the College of Arms, walk around to its front in Queen Victoria Street.


The connection to Shakespeare is that William's father, John Shakespeare, applied for a coat of arms when William was a small boy. John was a glove maker who had other sidelines like unlicensed dealing in wool, which earned him a fair amount of money.  He had a number of roles on Stratford upon Avon council such as constable, alderman and bailiff, and had married into the minor Stratford gentry, the Ardens, who already had a coat of arms.

John obviously felt that he should have a coat of arms too, so he could call himself a 'Gentleman' and sign himself thus.  However, his application to the College of Arms was not progressed.  It is not known why, although it could be because of the cost (it would have been about £30, approximately £3500 in todays money) or it could have been because John got into trouble for his unlicensed wool trading.

After William had made a name (and some money) for himself, in 1596 the application was renewed by the family.  This time it was successful and the arms were granted.

Tomasz Steifer, Gdansk - Own work - CC by 2.5

The motto 'Non sanz droict' is old french, and means Not Without Right.  The colours are black and mustard yellow.

There is some controversy about the motto.  In the original herald's notes the motto is written Non, sanz droict (with a comma), which could be interpreted as 'No, without right', in other words a reason for rejection.

Certainly, it looks like William Shakespeare was the butt of a joke by Ben Jonson, about his aspirations to become a gentleman.  Ben Jonson wrote a comedy called 'Every man in his humour', in which it is known that William Shakespeare appeared as an actor because he is listed in Ben Jonson's Folio as doing so. Jonson then followed this up with a play called 'Every man out of his humour' where a character called Sogliardo, wishing to be a gentlemen, gets a coat of arms. The arms show a pig without a head, and the motto is 'Not Without Mustard'.  

Cross over Queen Victoria Street at the crossing and continue on into Peter’s Hill, then walk over the Millennium Bridge.

When you get to the other side of the Thames, walk downstream along the Thames, to the new Globe Theatre on your right. 


Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre. The modern reconstruction is an approximation based on available evidence of the original buildings. It was founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker and opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V.

This site also includes the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor theatre which opened in January 2014. This is a smaller, candle-lit theatre based on the indoor playhouses of Jacobean London like The Blackfriars Theatre. 

There are toilets and a cafĂ© in Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Turn right immediately after the Globe, into New Globe Walk.

Turn left into Park Street and walk along it. Just before going under the railway bridge, on the left you will come to the site of the Rose Theatre.


In Shakespeare's day, this whole area was full of entertainments. Theatres, bull and bear baiting, cock fighting rings, and lots of brothels. Rather ironically, Park Street was called 'Maiden Lane' then.

The bawdy entertainments grew up around here as the area was a 'Liberty' (Liberty of the Clink), which meant it was outside the direct control of the City of London.

The Rose theatre was built in 1587, twelve years before the Globe, and the first theatre to be built on Bankside. The Rose Theatre was recently excavated, and it still puts on plays in a space next to the old theatre remains, under the building. 

Continue along Park Street, under the railway bridge.

On the right you will come to the site of the Original Globe Theatre.


The original Globe Theatre was opened here in 1599, partially made of the timbers salvaged from The Theatre, the site of which we passed earlier in the walk.

There were two theatres called the Globe on this site. The first was burned down in 1613 after a performance of Henry VIII.  The fire was caused by a theatrical cannon. It was re-built the following year.

Shakespeare died in 1616, but the Globe continued until 1642 when, along with all other theatres in the country, it was closed down by the Puritans at the start of the English Civil War.

It is not known why the Globe was so called. However, Drake had returned after his circumnavigation of the globe in 1581, but details were withheld as a state secret.  This was because England was trying to keep an uneasy peace with Spain over "New Albion” (roughly what is now called the USA!). An adapted (and idealised) account of the voyage was finally published in 1589*. This would have been a great source of national pride and excitement and would make “The Globe” a good name for this new theatre.

*A more realistic account was not published until 1628 after both Elizabeth's and Drake’s deaths.

Carry on down Park Street. At the junction at the end, turn left and then right under a tunnel into Clink Street, the site of the old Clink Prison.

Continue along Clink Street. Further along, on the right hand side are the remains of the Winchester Palace.


Originally built in the 12th century, Winchester Palace was the London residence of the Bishops of Winchester. 

The Bishops of Winchester traditionally served as the king's royal treasurer, giving them an important and powerful role. 

Winchester Palace was in the Liberty of the Clink. A 'Liberty' is an area with a degree of independence, this one got its name from the Clink Prison which was within it. The slang phrase "in the clink" comes from the prison's name. 

The Liberty of the Clink was free from the jurisdiction of the City of London, which is why theatres, betting on bear baiting and dog fights, bowling alleys, and brothels were common here. The Bishops of Winchester received rents from a lot of the brothels, which, as mentioned earlier, led to local prostitutes being called, "Winchester geese".

Carry on down Clink Street. At the end is a scale replica of the ship, the Mayflower

The road turns left and then right, to become Cathedral Street. 

Continue along it, passing Southwark Cathedral on your left. 


Edmund Shakespeare was the brother of William, 16 years his junior. He followed his brother to London to become an actor. 

Not much is known about Edmund, except that his name is shown on a 1607 document which refers to the burial of his illegitimate child at St Giles without Cripplegate church. St Giles is still there on Wood Street in the Barbican. The 'without Cripplegate' just means it was just outside the Cripplegate of the city wall.

Later that same year, Edmund died, aged 27. It is believed that William paid the cost of the funeral and burial in Southwark Cathedral. His memorial stone can be found in the choir of the cathedral. There are also other theatrical contemporaries of William Shakespeare buried in the cathedral including Phillip Massinger, John Fletcher, Philip Henslowe and Edward Alleyn

Turn left around the Cathedral and walk along the path just outside the fence around the churchyard. At the end of the path, walk up the steps.


Turn left towards London Bridge. There is a bus stop (M) on the left. The 35, 133 and 344 buses go to Liverpool Street Station.

Turn right, away from London Bridge and go under the railway bridge. At Borough Market, Cross Borough High Street, to the London Bridge underground station (Jubilee and Northern lines).

An interesting pub near here is The George Inn.  The George was first established in the medieval period, and is the only surviving galleried London coaching inn. It is now owned and leased by the National Trust. It is a little further down Borough High Street on the left.

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Russell & Paul