My husband and I went to Stratford upon Avon in our holiday. We’ve been there before, just to see the city, in an evening. So, this time, we went after lunch time, to make sure we have time to see Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New place, his grave and Hall’s Croft.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is one of the 5 attractions in Stratford upon Avon that are part of Shakespeare’s past. For our visit, we’ve started with Shakespeare’s Birthplace. As it’s obvious from its name, this is the house where William Shakespeare was born. He grew up in this house with his parents and siblings. After he got married in 1582, the first 5 years he lived here with his wife Anne Hathaway. In 1583 William had his first child, Susanna and after 2 years they had twins.
His father worked in this house for 50 years. He married Mary Arden in 1557 and they had 8 children. William was the third, born in 1564. In 1568 John, William’s father, became the Mayor and William was in a privileged position, being able to go to the local grammar school for his education. The school was established by King Edward VI. His futher died in 1601 and William inherited the house as the eldest surviving child.
William leased part of the property and it became an inn called the Maidenhead, later being The Swan and Maidenhead. The inn was open until 1847. The house passed to Susanna, William’s daughter and after that to Elizabeth, his granddaughter. As Elizabeth had no children, after her death, the house was inherited by a descendant of one of William’s sisters. They had the house until 1847, when the house went up for sale and was bought by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. I think it’s amazing that the house was in Shakespeare’s family until bought by the trust.
Before seeing the house, we passed by a museum with artifacts, a history of the house and clips. One of the artifacts on display is this First Folio. Its full title is Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies and it was the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s work, published in 1623. Without it, a lot of Shakespeare’s plays would have been lost.
There were between 750 and 1000 copies hand-printed. The price for it in 1623 would have been £1 if bound and 15 shillings unbound. A school teacher at that time earned £20 a year. Only 230 First Folios have survived.
We went through a beautiful garden towards the house. The house is a stunning Tudor house with black beams and lots of character.
The parlour, both a place where the family would gather and where guests were entertained. The bed was a guest bed or just used to show off their wealth.
The Hall. The family would have their main meal here around 11am. William would go to school from 6am and travelled home for lunch.
In Tudor times, the laws dictated what to wear and what to eat. Middle class, like the Shakespeares, could have two courses of several shared dishes. Their diet would include bread, pies, pottage, fish and meat, but not in the fasting days: Friday, Saturday and Wednesday.
The Glover’s Workshop. Here, William’s father would make and sell gloves. John Shakespeare was also a whittawer, making the leather from skin.
The Boys’ Room, at the first floor. From the age of five, William shared this bedroom with his younger brothers. The sisters would have their own room.
These were the windows of the house, where visitors would sign their names on the glass. From 1860s, visitors were encouraged to sign in a guest book.
The most important room in the house: the parent’s bedroom and where William Shakespeare was born.
William inherited the house aged 37. As he already owned New Place, he made this part of the house into an inn. It had 13 rooms. Underneath this room is the drinking parlour. The inn had an array of ale, wines, hot and cold food; sounds like what we can have in a pub these days.
I enjoyed my visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace a lot. I’ve read Shakespeare as a teenager and I liked it. It was a treat to be able to see the house he was born in. It was packed with visitors from all over the world, it’s quite special.
Have you been to the Shakespeare’s Birthplace?