Risen from the ashes

How to build a 16th century theatre with 20th century fire resilience

Few buildings could have been more of a fire risk than London’s original Globe theatre. Built from timber in 1599, it was destroyed by fire fourteen years later when a stage cannon set light to its thatched roof. The Globe took just two hours to burn to the ground. It was quickly rebuilt, this time with a tiled roof, but then demolished to make way for housing under a Puritan administration that disapproved of theatre.

Fast-forward over 300 years, and American actor, director and producer Sam Wanamaker began a campaign to re-build the original Globe. In 1994, his vision was realised with the faithful period reconstruction that graces the south bank of the river Thames today.

In rebuilding the original theatre, the builders faced a dilemma: how to make such an inherently flammable building safe for theatregoers, while respecting very strict fire regulations?

The architects selected ROCKWOOL non-combustible stone wool boards to be at the heart of their fire safety strategy. In the roof, the rigid, foil-faced Conlit 150 boards were laid across the oak rafters and laths, preventing fire penetration from within and outside the structure. No longer would the thatched roof present such a fire risk. The same product was also used to provide a fire-protective core for the Globe’s walls, where they are concealed within traditional lath and plaster construction.

This way, modern fire protection is “built in” to the Globe’s traditional fabric. The reborn theatre can keep its authentic period appearance yet at the same time ensure theatregoers can feel much safer than their 16th-century predecessors.

London, UK

Project location

21 New Globe Walk

Project Data

Year 1994
Building Type Historical theatre
Application Insulation
Product type ROCKWOOL Conlit 150