Did Shakespeare really play at Norfolk town?

PUBLISHED: 19:48 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:52 18 December 2019

A row has broken out over whether William Shakespeare visited the Guildhall in King's Lynn     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A row has broken out over whether William Shakespeare visited the Guildhall in King's Lynn Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto


A new Shakespeare history-mystery played out as plans for a theatre where it is thought he once performed were presented to councillors.

St George's Guildhall at King's Lynn. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSt George's Guildhall at King's Lynn. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Bard is believed to have appeared at the Guildhall of St George in King's Lynn in 1593 alongside the Earl of Pembroke's Men, while London theatres were closed due to the plague.

But that appearance was called into question on Tuesday evening when members of West Norfolk Council's Regeneration and Development Panel were briefed by representatives from Shakespeare's Guildhall Trust.

COuncillors were told they must agree to work alongside the National Trust and the Guildhall Trust in order for plans to go ahead.

Councillor Judith Collingham, chairing the panel, said she was concerned that the fact Shakespeare once performed was still "absolutely not proven".

A trust spokesman replied: "If we took only what we knew about Shakespeare, there would be very little to say about him. It's what academics accept, therefore it is part of the history books."

Ms Collingham added that she was also concerned that the National Trust was "quite uninterested in the building", and added that there was a possibility it could reclaim the building in 2050 after development work had been completed.

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Trust representatives said they were confident that they had convinced the National Trust that the building carried significance.

The Shakespeare's Guildhall Trust spokesman reassured councillors: "There's a lot of support from people outside of King's Lynn for something that we have in King's Lynn."

If a £4m bid for Heritage Lottery Funding is approved, the Guildhall will see brand new performance and rehearsal spaces, a restaurant, cafe and bar, retail space and a gallery.

A spokesman for the trust told members that a "clear response" from the council on a formal arrangement to work together would allow key discussions about leases and the management of the Guildhall to begin.

Councillors were told the total cost of the project would be £5.6m.

Independent group leader Jim Moriarty asked the representatives if they were able to share any of their commercial analysis.

They replied that they were "confident we can have a positive number in the corner rather than a negative one".

Once complete, the revamped Guildhall will host traditional music, art house cinema, professional, local and youth theatre groups, lectures, comedy and poetry.

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