The lion’s share of Shakespeare’s working life took place not in Warwickshire or Southwark, but north of the Thames in Shoreditch and the City.
He is known to lived in Holywell Lane, Shoreditch; St Helen’s, Bishopsgate; Silver Street, Cripplegate; and in a gatehouse he purchased in Blackfriars as late as 1613.
He spent years cutting his teeth in the Inn-Yards of Bishopsgate and Ludgate as well as the Theatre and the Curtain. The last great stage in his development as a playwright was not at the Globe but the indoor Blackfriars Theatre, where the Kings Men introduced seats, candle light, acts and scenes, musical interludes. Alongside those innovations, thus began the gentrification of the theatre.
Poet Niall McDevitt leads a psychogeographical tour of the little-known Shakespeare sites north of the river, far from the madding crowds of Bankside and Stratford-upon-Avon. The Middlesex Shaxberd is finally available to us in all his glory, revealing far more about the real man than the other places with their more famous associations. We learn enough from walking through the City and Shoreditch to never doubt again that he wrote his own plays and poems. Why wouldn’t he have when everyone else was at it?
‘Shaxberd’ is immortalised in the annals of Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, whose office at St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, was a regular port of call for the ‘upstart’ and his colleagues. (See bottom right hand of document):
The ghostly closed-down atmosphere of The City at weekends allows you to time-travel 400 years back in the company not only of the Immortal Bard, but of fellow poets such as Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, and fellow actors such as Richard Burbage, Dick Tarlton and Gabriel Spencer (all of whom are buried in the legendary ‘actors’ graveyard’ in St. Leonard’s Church.) London Wall looms again and its seven gates swing open…
Niall McDevitt’s Shakespeare walk was glowingly reviewed by writer Nigel Richardson in the Daily Telegraph on Sat 5 Feb 2011.
Sat 20 Feb. Meeting at Blackfriars Station at the north bank entrance on Queen Victoria Street. 2pm. £10
“… But now behold
In the quick forge and working-house of thought
How London doth pour out her citizens…”