On an urban street corner, where Middlesex Street meets Whitechapel High Street in East London, lie the remains of a lost Shakespearean-era playhouse, the Boar’s Head. Its existence was already known due to references in historic records, such as the well-documented legal squabbles of its owner, Oliver Woodliffe. The Boar’s Head was also mentioned in one of London’s earliest accounts of theatre in the capital, which suggested that the playhouse had its fair share of scandals, including in 1557 when the Lord Mayor sent his officers over to the inn to prevent a planned performance of what was described as a ‘lewd’ play called ‘A Sack Full of News’.
MOLA’s discovery and subsequent excavations of the foundations of the Boar’s Head playhouse has helped us to understand so much more about its construction. Before it became a theatrical venue, the Boar’s Head was an inn with an open-air yard, where performances took place. In 1598 it ceased being an inn, when a stage – measuring about 12m x 7.5m – was built in the middle of the yard; it had become a fully-fledged playhouse.