Stage ‘made of sterner stuff’

AN Essex farmer involved in the creation of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London has brought the final curtain down on a suggestion that French oak was used to build it.

AN Essex farmer involved in the creation of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London has brought the final curtain down on a suggestion that French oak was used to build it.

Robert Erith, a former trustee of the Shakespeare Globe Trust, says it is untrue that French oak was shipped in due to a lack of suitable British timber.

Mr Erith, of Shrubs Farm at Lamarsh, near Bures, on the Essex/Suffolk border, became involved in the project in its early stages and arranged for his family’s builders merchants company, Erith plc, to supply all the building materials for the ambitious reconstruction project, apart from thatch and oak, at “very keen prices”.

He also offered oak from his farm at Lamarsh. “They looked at it, but didn’t take any,” he said. “They said it was 50 years old. They wanted a 100-year-old oak.”


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Mr Erith, who is president of the Dedham Vale Society, chairman of the Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Project Partnership and a committee member of the Essex Country Land and Business Association, said he became involved after spotting a hoarding from the window of his London office, where he worked as a senior partner for a stockbroking farm.

“On top of the hoarding was something that looked like Snoopy. After a while, curiosity got the better of me and I went to look,” he said.

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The hoarding surrounded a large hole in the ground, proclaimed as the “site of Shakespear’s Globe Theatre”, and ‘Snoopy’ turned out to be an image of Shakespeare in a builder’s hard hat. Robert followed a sign to Sam Wanamaker’s office.

Despite the film director’s commitment to reconstruct the Globe, just 200 yards from its original site, all work on the project had stopped.

Funds were exhausted and no more credit was available. But his enthusiasm rubbed off on Mr Erith, who in turn persuaded Swiss Bank Corporation (now UBS) to donate enough cash to get work started again.

“It was an adventure,” he said, reflecting on the ups and downs of fundraising, and becoming at various times a member of the board, a trustee, chairman of the Development Council and sitting on the management committee.

“The new Globe is, as near as can be known, a faithful replica of the original which was constructed of English oak in 1599. The structure of the present theatre is also entirely built of British oak,” he said.

By the time the new Globe was opened in June 1997, timber from more than 1,000 British oak trees had been used.

The result is “an iconic British landmark” said Mr Erith, who has retired as a trustee, but remains a member of the Globe Council.

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