Bard tower to rise at Shoreditch Shakespeare site

Proposed The Stage building, June 2012 drawing
Hoarding at site of the Shoreditch theatre
Top, hoarding at the theatre site. Above, The Stage tower
Fanciful drawing of Shakespearean theatre in Curtain Road Shoreditch
Early drawing of the theatre

IS THIS a skyscraper I see before me, Shakespeare might have wondered, as 30 storeys are due to rise up where his plays were first staged in London.

As Loving Dalston reported in April the precise location of the theatre, near Curtain Road in Shoreditch, was discovered by Museum of London archeologists. (National media got in a tizz about it last week.)

The high-rise will be at least 30 storeys, on an 0.8 hectare (2.1-acre) site. To be called the Stage Building (groan), the development will contain flats and, on the first 10 floors, shops.

Pringle Brandon Drew, a Shoreditch architectural firm, has been preparing plans for more than a year. English Heritage said nothing could go ahead until the site of the theatre was definitively established.

John Drew, Pringle Brandon Drew managing partner, told The Architects’ Journal: “Our proposals open up the site, attracting more people into the area from surrounding streets.

“Having uncovered an internationally important archaeological discovery, we have the unique opportunity to create a centrepiece which is accessible to the public and provides facilities to showcase the Curtain Theatre’s cultural importance.

The Stage planned building''s shops in Shoreditch
The Stage: shops galore

“We will be working closely with the Museum of London Archaeology and English Heritage throughout the process to safeguard this amazing find.”

By coincidence, the land where the bard’s theatre stood is a family named Bard.

Museum of London experts are certain the theatre stood at 4-6 New Inn Broadway, Shoreditch EC2A 3PZ.  So next month by an application for planning permission will be made to Hackney council.

What’s in a name?”, wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. “That which we call a rose.” Will this proposal smell as sweet to local people?

A community group has been asked for its view. Kristjan Byfield, a founder of Shoreditch letting agent Base Property Specialists, told Loving Dalston: “As a local business owner and estate agent, I love the plans. London needs more accommodation and there is one solution, to build upwards.

“I like the look of this scheme. The proposal for 10 floors of commercial space seems sound and I like the look of the regenerated warehouse-style building on Great Eastern Street and the raised roof gardens.

“It is one of the better schemes and it is great that a local architect has been used — it is another vital element of ongoing development to actively involve local people, businesses and professionals as much as possible. Thumbs up to this one.”

David Altheer 120612

* See also: Stage set for 40-floor Shoreditch tower 

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

This site welcomes fair comments, including the critical. Letters may be edited for grammatical, legal or taste reasons, for shortening or for substitution of Wikipedia citations by reliable sources. RSS feed link is at top right. Twitter: @lovingdalston Publicists, amateur and professional, should read Also relevant may be the note at the end of Photographs © David Altheer unless otherwise stated and apart from supplied pictures

14 thoughts on “Bard tower to rise at Shoreditch Shakespeare site

  1. Here are some observations that I’ve been making about new developments in Hackney:

    Firstly, affordable-housing promises are vague at best.

    Second, massive inequalities exist in Hackney that aren’t helped or improved by such developments.

    Third, developers’ wants outweigh local needs on every count, from the proposed Wilmer Place [Sainsbury’s N16 plans] development to the proposed Dalston [“Dalston Green ecotower”] development. The latter was rejected, but expect the applicant to come back with a Section 106 agreement [planning gain].

    Finally, it seems that the council’s strategic vision for creating wealth and improving the borough is by destroying its heritage, emptying the borough of council housing and focusing on the new in favour of doing its duty to both repair the old and build the new.

    Many other developments are in prime locations for the developers to get a high return on investment, with a pittance being offered for the economic development and sustainability of the borough.

    On housing, if the council were serious about its housing strategy, it would build council-run housing using local labourers, keep to its promise of 50% affordable housing in new-build projects and at the same time address the massive inequalities that exist in the borough by supporting the economy in a developmental way.

    I should also note that the council has yet to comment on child poverty figures in Hackney, released in January 2012, and what the council’s “big plan” is.

    The last independent count of empty homes in Hackney has shown that more than 3,000 are empty, that more than 10,000 people are on the council waiting list, around 2,000 people registered homeless and that an additional 17,000 live in homes that are unsuitable, mainly because of overcrowding. This development does not have the scope to address this.

    As you see, a lot of different issues can come to play with new developments, not mentioning the potential for this location to become a hub for cultural activity.

    However, in Hackney there are different issues to take into account, when the council’s vision is to promote sky-rise over real action that re-balances the inequalities in the borough.

    Such new developments are not the way to address these issues and though they may look good on the books, I should hope that the council will take a moment to reflect on those of us who are living just above the bread line and striving for a better life through socioeconomic mobility that has been instilled in us as a measure of my success and my happiness.

    I must crack down on letter length. Succinctness, please, people. — Ed.

    1. Mustafa Korel, it’s nice to see a Green Party politician engaging with housing issues, but I’m a little confused, Mustafa, about how you can marry your anti-developer, anti-high-rise views with your environmental and social concerns.

      Stunting housing supply in a housing crisis only forces up prices ever higher and therefore increases social division and the social cleansing of London.

      Opposing high-rise, and the density benefits they bring, merely exacerbates low-rise urban sprawl on greenbelt, which the European Environment Agency deems “the worst case scenario”.

      Alex Steffen (the environmentalist responsible for persuading Seattle, USA, to adopt its goal of carbon-neutrality) puts it quite succinctly: “If we’re talking about transportation, the best thing a city can do is densify as quickly as it can. That needs to be said every time this issue comes up, because it’s the only universal strategy that works.

      “In quite a few cities, most civic engagement is mostly a matter of fighting development, people saying ‘not in my backyard’.”

      One of the most unfortunate side effects of the urban activism of the 1960s and 1970s is the belief that development is wrong and that fighting it makes you an environmentalist… what happens in cities that don’t grow is that they gentrify and poor people are pushed out. Trying to fight change makes you less sustainable and more unfair.”
      May I ask will the Green Party be introducing any “Bright Green” urban development policies soon, or is exacerbating low-rise urban sprawl on greenbelt now its de facto policy?

      Oh dear, another long comment. So much for my authority. Incidentally, I apologise for the ugly sans-serif opening quote mark before “not in…” I can’t find a useable form of the symbol on the web… — Ed.

      1. Hi, Benjamin. Thanks for your comments. While you raise some fair points and opinions taking into account Alex Steffen’s points, I also form my opinions on a wide evidence base which weighs up what would work in England and Hackney.

        The Editor likes correspondence to be as brief as possible, so I can’t go into policy detail here. You might check out: for details about Green Party housing policy.

        There’s also not the space to clarify a few points about developments, but I will be blogging about it over the next several weeks at

        1. Mustafa, I look forward to reading your blogs, which I hope will clarify how the Green Party proposes addressing a projected shortfall in London of 325,000 homes by 2025…

          …and how you’re going to do that without sacrificing greenbelt to low-rise urban sprawl which the EEA deems “the worst-case scenario”.

  2. There is a broader picture here, which is that The Curtain, The Theatre and St Leonard’s represent a key moment in the beginning of theatre in the UK, and in the life of the greatest writer in English.

    There needs to be an overall plan here so the sites can be linked as part of a visitor attraction.

    St Leonard’s needs money to excavate the medieval church underneath the current building. This could come from a planning application.

  3. A campaign for what exactly? Commenter Marc says: “Whatever is built on top should offer good public access to the remains of the theatre, and reflect the national importance of this site.

    “With a bit of imagination The Curtain, The Theatre and St Leonard’s church could become a magnet for tourists and cultural visits. And if there is to be a new building on this site, it should be something exceptional.”

    Though everyone’s interpretation of “exceptional” will differ, I think the proposal pretty much fulfils your brief — there is good public access to the remains and there is plenty of business space around it to cater for visitor needs.

  4. “…the theatre, near Curtain Road in Shoreditch, was discovered by archeologists in 2008. (National media did not discover it until last week, when the news was press-released.),” says the story above.

    This is factually wrong. The discovery of what we believe is Shakespeare’s first theatre was widely reported in 2008.

    The Curtain is a different building. The Curtain was built about 200m south of London’s first playhouse, The Theatre.

    What all this points to is Hackney council’s indolent indifference to the cultural and international tourist potential on its doorstep.

    This was where Shakespeare first came and worked in London. The Theatre was the first dedicated playhouse in the country. St Leonard’s Church is where the Burbages [the theatrical family] are buried. All this was before The Globe [the theatre they built on the South Bank].

    Whatever is built on top should offer good public access to the remains of the theatre, and reflect the national importance of this site.

    With a bit of imagination The Curtain, The Theatre and St Leonard’s Church could become a magnet for tourists and cultural visits. And if there is to be a new building on this site, it should be something exceptional.

    You’ve clarified the two discoveries, Marc, and made an excellent point. The tourism potential is huge but more than commercialism is at stake, isn’t it? People from all over the world want to commune spiritually (hope this does not sound hippy) with the world poet, to strut where he strutted.

    My site does not have the resources to run campaigns (I’m just the reporter)… shouldn’t we try to interest OpenShoreditch, some local pressure group? — Ed.

    1. There should absolutely be a campaign on this. If you can use your contacts and this site to start this process it would be great.

  5. B Green — London has a rapidly increasing population and already a huge housing shortage. May I ask, where do you think everyone is going to live?

  6. Hmmm, I was one of the registered objectors to the eyesore proposed for Ridley Road and was pleased to see the proposal rejected at the town hall thanks to the logic and common sense of those who spoke plainly and clearly as to its inappropriateness. The planners looked genuinely shocked to see LBH [London Borough of Hackney] actually not sweeping their “vision” through unquestioned, for a change.

    The LBH planning department was not impressive. There is a quite lengthy talk at on high-rises (in Philadelphia but relevant, I think) — an interesting angle on what are the real “adjustments” needed in civic planning.

    I think your Ridley Road reference may be to the failed Dalston Green tower proposal, which I reported at — Ed.

  7. It’s flattering to realise that someone knows where I live just by my forename. Of course, we are all Hackney and some of us work and socialise in Shoreditch specifically. The only thing you’re exposing is your hyper-parochialism — and perhaps a peculiar interest in where others live.

    Uhm, I’d prefer this conversation to become less not more personal. — Ed.

  8. It’s good of Benjamin to declare that he won’t pretend he can speak for the whole community. Doubtless, given that he lives in leafy Clapton, and not Shoreditch, that will come as a great relief to those local residents who are concerned to get their own views across.

    This comment almost fails the stipulations of this site, although I would welcome a clarification because I find the comment a little obtuse (what has leafiness to do with the topic?). The person mentioned will be incited to respond. That does not signal the start of a series of too-personal exchange. — Ed.

    1. If people are interested in being part of the consultation of residents, can they please email their details to The South Shoreditch Community Association (SSCA) will be giving feedback to the project in the coming month.

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