The Wisdom Path at Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island is at the end of a short walking track that connects the monastery to the main Lantau Island hiking trail. The Wisdom Path is an arrangement of 38 tall wooden columns inscribed with calligraphy by a famous contemporary calligrapher. The text is from the Heart Sutra.
Only mentioned in passing on the self-guided “Shakespeare’s London” walk, is the actual former site of the Fortune Theatre. It is on Fortune Street which is hidden away in the Golden Lane Estate, north of the Barbican. We stumbled across it by accident while looking for Bunhill Fields Cemetery (which will be the subject of future blogs). When we passed the Shakespeare Pub on the corner of Goswell Road and Fann Street, we knew we must be near something Shakespearean.
The stained-glass window mentioned in the previous blog is a memorial to Edward Alleyn, who was an actor and theatre owner and contemporary of William Shakespeare. The window remembers his role as a generous benefactor to the poor. He had almshouses built in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate, which were unfortunately destroyed in World War II. He also founded Dulwich College.
Alleyn’s second wife, who he married in 1623, was Constance Donne, daughter of the poet John Donne, who at that time was Dean of St Paul’s.
The Fortune Theatre, which was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s Globe, was established near St Giles without Cripplegate in 1600. The Fortune which was, like the Globe, an outdoor theatre was built by Philip Henslowe and his son-in-law Edward Alleyn. The two theatres were apparently quite similar, being built by the same carpenter with the same half-timbered construction, although the Fortune had a square shape.
The Fortune Theatre is depicted in a detail of a stained-glass window in St Giles without Cripplegate.
St Giles without Cripplegate is one of the few buildings from William Shakespeare’s time still standing in the City of London. The church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, which damaged more than 30 other City churches which were never rebuilt, and also the Blitz which left the surrounding neighbourhood razed to the ground.
The church’s long and colourful history includes some connections to Shakespeare’s family. His brother Edmund, who was also an actor, lived in the parish and his two sons were baptised at St Giles. Tradition has it that William Shakespeare was chief witness at the baptisms of his nephews.
Another stop on the self-guided “Shakespeare’s London” walk, which can be downloaded from the City of London website, is a little known memorial to Shakespeare and his colleagues Condell and Heminge. The memorial is on the site of St Mary Aldermanbury, a church which was destroyed in the Blitz. Henry Condell and John Heminge, who edited and published the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays, lived in the parish of St Mary Aldermanbury and were buried in its churchyard.
About 50m away from the Cockpit pub (see previous post) there is an old stone wall that is all that remains visible of the Blackfriars Priory that was established here in the 13th century. In 1538, at the Dissolution of the monasteries, the priory was closed.
In 1608, Shakespeare with colleagues, purchased a theatre that had been established in one of the former priory buildings. The theatre was almost directly opposite the Globe Theatre on the other bank of the Thames. The Blackfriars Theatre though, had a roof and could be used for performances in winter.
Shakespeare’s London is a great self-guided walk brochure that we picked up at the tourist information office opposite St Paul’s. It is part of Shakespeare 400 which is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the dramatists’ death with events and exhibitions all over the UK.
The walk covers some well known and not so well known places in Central London connected with William Shakespeare. Hidden away in St Andrews Hill, a tiny lane south of St Paul’s, the Cockpit pub is the first location on the walk. The pub stands on land once owned by Shakespeare when it was known as the old priory gatehouse. Apparently he never lived here even though it was conveniently located near the Globe and the Blackfriars Playhouse.
The most well-known of the poets featured in Poetry Park (see previous post) is John Kinsella. Even though he now works in Europe, John Kinsella’s poetry still often evokes the landscape of Perth and the West Australian wheatbelt where he grew up. The poem featured on the panel in the park is titled “Como Beach Jetty” and describes a local landmark.
Recently we have been spending some time in the Perth suburb of Como, and tucked away in a hidden corner of that suburb we came across the Poetry Park.
Actually called Neil McDougall Park after a dairy farmer who kept dairy cows on the site until the late 1940s, the park now has a picturesque lake inhabited by some interesting water birds. On the grassed area surrounding the lake, panels display the poems of 12 highly acclaimed Western Australian poets.