The remains of the Curtain Theatre, opened in 1577, have been found beneath a pub in Shoreditch. Some of Shakespeare's plays were performed there (including Henry V and Romeo and Juliet), and it is hoped the theatre will be restored and opened to the public. Shakespeare's company, or the Lord Chamberlain's Men, used the Curtain in 1597 for two years until the Globe Theatre opened. According to archaeologists, this is the most important Shakespearean discovery for a number of years!
At Ford's Theatre, on April 14 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated by the actor John Wilkes Booth. Shooting him in the back of the head, Booth jumped down from the President's box, (landing badly) and fled the theatre, with a dagger in his hand. Dr Charles Leale was the first doctor on the scene, and his notes regarding Lincoln's death have been found by a British student in the National Archives.
Initially Leale believed the President had been stabbed, but then found the "large clot of blood" at the back of his head. "His breathing became more regular" once he had removed the clot, and Leale continued his desperate attempts to save Lincoln's life in a house across the street. Leale gave a detailed account of his experience, which was found among the papers of the surgeon-general. Studies will be conducted as to whether the President could have survived.
Perusing the gossip site Perez Hilton I was surprised to find this little historical gem (yes I realise celebrity websites are not the best source of historical information, but I just saw a trailer for the new film Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter so I think I can be excused...)
An auction house, Tennants Auctioneers, are selling of this AMAZING box of c19th vampire hunting tools. It contains stakes, a gun, holy water, consecrated earth, a crucifix and this psalm from the Bible:
"But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me." (Luke, 20:27).
I think this has got to be one of the best things I have ever seen.
The current obsession with vampires is no modern invention. Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered several medieval skeletons staked through the chest with iron rods, apparently to prevent them from becoming vampires...
If you were labelled as an evil person in life, you were buried with an iron rod through the heart, as people feared you would return from the dead and ransack villages, murdering the townsfolk. Altogether, over a hundred skeletons buried in this way have been found across Bulgaria. Astonishingly, in some small villages this practice was still carried out until the c20th!!
These burials led Bram Stoker to pen his famous novel, Dracula, published in 1897.
I've been spending a bit of time in Winchester Archives for a project on Hinton Ampner House, near Petersfield. Aside from the odd, boring invoice, perusing through the documents has been really interesting - I've found out some great information about the ghost story, and reading a 300 year old account of the disturbances was INCREDIBLE. The last owner of the house, Ralph Dutton (1898-1985) left hundreds of articles, speeches and diaries to the archive, so there was a lot to get through, but something draws me back...
Dutton travelled extensively throughout his life, and his travel diaries are extraordinary windows into twentieth century history. One recounts his memories of communist Berlin, and his experiences with Germans whose families are beyond the wall, fully expecting never to see each other again. Other diaries take him through Tahiti, New Zealand (he wasn't impressed with Maori dancing) and Australia. But it was his diary from the US which I (obviously...) found most interesting. He made his way through D.C., New York and New Orleans in the 1920's, an incredible journey and if there was a time machine going, one that I would sell my soul for. Ralph wasn't fussed about New York, but an entry in 1926 amused me greatly. He alludes to a day spent sight seeing, and then he was taken to a friend's house for a cocktail party (which, again he didn't enjoy and left early). A cocktail party in 1926 - the height of prohibition! And no mention of it whatsoever! I'm not surprised really - the rich had ways of not only getting alcohol but avoiding detection. But this small entry speaks volumes about American society. After all, it's all about who you know...