Stage on which Shakespeare may once have performed is discovered under Norfolk theatre

The original stage may have been performed upon by Shakespeare.
Credit: ITV News Anglia/PA
The Bard's boards? The original stage was hidden beneath more modern additions. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A newly-discovered stage at a medieval theatre could be the sole surviving venue at which William Shakespeare performed, experts believe.

The nearly 600-year-old oak floorboards were uncovered during major renovation work at St George's Guildhall in King's Lynn in Norfolk, England's largest medieval guildhall.

Historical notes shows Shakespeare's company performed there while on tour when London's theatres were closed due to an outbreak of plague in 1592-3.

"As archaeological finds go this is extraordinarily rare especially on this scale," said archaeological building expert Dr Jonathan Clark.

"This is the largest timber 15th-century floor in the country, and that's before you add the Shakespeare connection.

"Scientific analysis and the study of the structure confirms that it is a complete 15th-century floor so this floor would have been in situ when Shakespeare performed here in 1592-3. It is a really fortuitous survival.

"The main reason it's still there is because it's totally integral to the building, it would have been really difficult to dismantle it without destroying the structure so they either had to patch it up or put another floor on top of it, which is why it's still intact,” he added.

Shakespeare may have performed on the state in 1592-93. Credit: PA

The Grade I-listed building was derelict and in danger of demolition by 1945 before it was bought by a local landowner and turned into an arts centre.

Archaeological work has been under way at the site for the last two months, which revealed the original floor, hidden underneath 1960s and 1950s floors.

The large oak boards are held together with pegs rather than nails.

It is believed the floor would have been laid by shipwrights and taken about a year to create.

The boards were unearthed during major renovation work at the theatre Credit: ITV News Anglia

“Shakespeare is known across the globe, so to be able make this claim is pretty magical," said Tim FitzHigham, creative director at the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk.

Dr Paul Edmondson, head of research for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, added: "To see the medieval stage where Shakespeare might have performed rediscovered after centuries is an exciting opportunity."It's a unique survival of theatre performances from a great period of English drama.

"This is a truly special discovery."

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