Welcome to this free, self guided walk around the places that William Shakespeare lived and worked in London.

By It may be by a painter called John Taylor who was an important member of the Painter-Stainers' Company.[1] (Official gallery link) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons “…a turn or two I’ll walk, To still my beating mind.” (Tempest act 4, sc. 1) 

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 complete walk will take a full day. However, you could  split it into two parts, each taking about two and a half hours, and do each part on a different day to make it less strenuous.  

  • Part one is from Holywell Lane to the Crosse Keys (1-6).  
  • Part two is from St Pauls to Bankside (7-19).

This site allows you to plan a self guided walk.  However, If you are interested in a personally led walk or an illustrated talk about the places covered, please email me for details. russellkenny51@gmail.com

You can view the walk online, and I have included lots of hyperlinks to further information. The links appear highlighted in orange.

Below is an interactive map that shows an overview of the walk. There is also some information that gives an historical context to the route, and to the development of playhouses in London, below that. 

However, if you want to skip these and start looking at the walk instructions right away, you can do so online by using the "Stages of the Walk" list or by clicking here. 

 PDF of walk details
There is also a downloadable PDF version of the route that can be printed out and taken with you on the walk. Click here to download it 

I hope that you enjoy the walk. Let me know what you think of it, or if you have suggestions about how it could be improved. There is a form at the bottom of this page to do this. 

If you are interested in William Shakespeare's life, have a look at my other site 'Shakespeare Timeline' which is an interactive chronology of important events in his life.

The Agas Map

By Mike Calder, image of Civitas Londinium, Agas' Map of London, c. 1570-1605 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Agas map of London - Civitas Londinum - Click image to launch a higher definition version of this picture
(For very high definition versions use the links below)
I would recommend, before you do the walk, having a look at the Agas map “Civitas Londinum” at http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/agas.htm or there is another version at http://mapco.net/agas/agas.htm. This shows London as it was in approximately 1560.  This is about four years before Shakespeare was born, and before there were any “Playhouses” in London (that is buildings specifically constructed to put on plays). If you look at the south bank of the Thames on the Agas map, you can see two structures that look a little like the Globe theatre, but in fact are “baiting” rings, where bears or bulls would be made to fight with dogs.

The route of this walk can be plotted on the Agas map, as the general layout and a lot of the street names in the City of London have remained the same.

Background to the development of Playhouses in London
There are some historical events that had an influence on how, when and where Playhouses developed in London. A couple of these were the dissolution of the monasteries and the rise of puritanism.
  • Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of monasteries between 1536 and 1541. Some church property was sold off. This meant that there was ex-church property in and around London, some of it out of the direct control of the City of London in Liberties.
  • With the development of a Protestant church in England, church intellectuals started to think and argue about how this Reformed church should work and how different from Catholicism it should be. This continued through the reign of Henry’s son Edward VI (crowned at nine, died at 16) and Lady Jane Gray (on the throne for nine days). 
  • Influenced by the writing of Calvin and Martin Luther, there was a rising interest in Puritanism.
  • In 1553 Mary I became queen, England became Catholic again and  Protestants were repressed.
  • In 1558, Mary died and Elizabeth I became queen.  The following year she established a religious settlement where Catholics and the various new strands of Puritanism were allowed to practice alongside the official state religion, the Church of England. Puritans gained influence in the City of London. 
  • Puritans disliked and wanted to ban the theatre, not only because they thought it attracted gambling, pick-pockets, beggars, prostitutes and drunkards, but also because plays very often had “ungodly” subjects like murder, love affairs, etc.  They also thought, as did others (and quite reasonably) that lots of people gathered together in a small space would spread the plague. 
  • Around the edge of the City of London itself there were areas that were out of the city jurisdiction. The Liberty of Norton Folgate (north of Bishopsgate), and The Liberty of the Clink (on Bankside) were areas which were less tightly controlled than the City and so activities such as plays and theatre could more easily be staged. In Blackfriars, Because it was on former monastic land, St Anne's Blackfriars was a liberty within the City of London and its inhabitants could claim exemption from the rules of the London Guilds.  All these were areas that theatres developed in and which Shakespeare was connected with.

Use the "Stages of the Walk" list or click here to continue to the next page