"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 19 January 2015

Anne Hathaway's Cottage - in search of Shakespeare and Snowdrops

D and I went to Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday to visit Anne Hathaway's cottage in Shottery - this is the farmhouse where William Shakespeare courted Anne Hathaway. The Hathaway family who were Yeoman farmers had lived in the cottage since the 1540's and Anne, born in 1556, was the third generation of the family to live in the farmhouse. William Shakespeare and Anne probably knew each other from when they were children as their fathers did business together. Anne was 8 years older than William and they were married in 1582 when William was 18 and Anne 26. Due to his age William was considered a minor and would have needed to get his father's consent to get married. It appears to have been a rather hasty wedding and Anne was already pregnant before the marriage. They had 3 children - Susannah was born in 1583 and twins, Judith and Hamnet, followed in 1585. After their marriage William and Anne probably lived initially with William's parents at the house in Stratford now known as Shakespeare's Birthplace.

It was a beautiful sunny day although really cold with the temperature only a few degrees above freezing.

The car park was very quiet and the cottage itself had few visitors - a pleasant surprise as if you visit any of the Shakespeare properties in the warmer months of the year they are heaving with visitors.

Anne Hathaway's cottage. The farmhouse when Anne was a girl was half the size of the current building. The lowest part of the cottage on the right of the photo existed when William used to visit Anne but the higher portion on the left was added by Bartholomew, Anne's brother, when he extended the house towards the orchards in the seventeenth century.

Shottery Brook flows opposite the cottage - you can follow a path from here to Stratford town centre about a mile away. Something to consider when the weather is warmer.

The gardens, orchards and woodlands surrounding the cottage extend over nine acres.

Its the first occasion this year that I have had the chance to look for snowdrops so I was thrilled to see my first this year.

Several of the trees in the orchard were covered in mistletoe.

It was too cold to linger long outside so we went into the cottage fairly quickly. Many thanks to the very knowledgeable guides who had some very interesting stories to tell about the history of the cottage and people who lived there.

The Parlour - this is an original room from Anne's time. The bench to the right of the fire became known as the "courting bench" as members of the Hathaway family would tell visitors that this was where William sat with Anne during their courtship. Chunks of wood were even removed from the bench and sold as souvenirs. Sadly, the settle has been dated to a much later date than the sixteenth century!

The Dairy and Store Room were the beginning of the extension added by Anne's brother.

The house contains four bedchambers. Beds were very expensive in Shakespeare's time and only used by adults. If a family could afford more than one bed the best one would be used only by important guests. Married couples made do with the second-best bed. When William left Anne the second-best bed in his will this was probably meant as a romantic gesture as it would have been their marital bed.

The kitchen is another original room from when Anne lived here. The floor is the eldest in the house and would have been the same floor that William and Anne walked across.

Leaving the cottage we visited a "Say it with flowers" exhibition which was really interesting containing information on the Victorian language of flowers and explaining flower symbolism during the Elizabethan period and ways in which Shakespeare used flowers in his writing.

Sorry - poor cropping of the photos (one of these days I'll familiarise with Photoshop which I am sure has much better cropping tools!) but it will give you an idea.

The actress photographed here played Ophelia in the production of Hamlet (with the delectable David Tennant!!) we saw at the RSC some years ago.

The Visitor Centre contained an excellent shop - I could have spent a fortune!

We had a late lunch at the newly opened Cottage Garden cafe across the road from the cottage. The wensleydale, apple, cranberry and rocket tudor knot rolls were delicious.

A few photos D took with the Canon bridge camera showing the usefulness of the zoom lens!

Has anyone got any idea what this is on the tree please?

The blackbird was pulling huge tufts of moss out of a roof - I assume it was looking for hibernating insects in the same way they turn over leaves in the flowerbeds in our garden.

A closer view of the mistletoe - still covered in berries.

I had hoped to visit some of the Shakespeare properties last year but never got round to it. Much as I like Stratford it does tend to get very busy but instead of just paying entrance to the one property yesterday we bought a Five House Pass (very good value for money) which means you can visit any of the Shakespeare houses as many times as you like over the course of the year. So we'll go back to Anne Hathaway's cottage as in the summer the beautiful cottage garden will be in flower and conservation beds have been planted to attract butterflies. There is also a woodland walk and sculpture trail which we didn't see yesterday. Hopefully, we'll also visit, Mary Arden's Farm, Shakespeare's Birthplace, New Place and Nash's House and Hall's Croft and Holy Trinity Church where William and Anne are buried.


John Wooldridge said...

Bloody hell Robin, I planted some snowdrops last Autumn and not a sign of the little buggers yet, let alone a flower :(

Ragged Robin said...

John Wooldridge - Ooh not good :( Hope they appear soon. Although have to say here at home I've planted snowdrops, cyclamen and winter aconites in the past and they never re-appear :( Not sure whether its the type of soil or slugs finding them!

Margaret Adamson said...

A very interesting post. Loved seeing around this beautiful cottage and grounds, Glad you saw the snowdrops. I have them growing in a few tubs in the garden and they are so lovely to see from my window. It is good that you will be going back and seeing even more

Ian said...

On our trip we spent a wonderful day touring all the Shakespeare sites so very pleased to see the cottage at a different time of year.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks so much Margaret - glad you enjoyed the post. Its lovely that you have snowdrops in tubs - I might try that idea :)

Ian - Thanks so much Ian - when I wrote the blog post I did wonder if you had been to Stratford when you came over here.

Countryside Tales said...

What a super post. By coincidence we're staying in Stratford for a few days in August so this post was perfectly timed for me! I love the inside (and the outside too) of the houses.
I think I've seen those growths on trees used to make bowls before, I have a feeling if it's the same thing it's a response the tree puts out. The belief is that bronze age people used to cut them off and turn them into pots.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks so much. You'll have a wonderful time in Stratford - lots to see and do and its in a beautiful part of Warwickshire - lots of quaint villages and lovely countryside :) Are you going to a play at the RSC? - wonderful theatre and a great stage and atmosphere. I've never seen a poor play there!

Thanks so much for the information re: the bowls/pots. That is really interesting and I'll see if I can find out more. I am sure I have seen them on trees before - it just stood out so much with the lack of leaves.

Countryside Tales said...

No play this time sadly, we will have L with us and he's not of an age to enjoy the theatre yet (or rather, he'd not be chuffed at the thought although might once he got there, but it would be a bit of a gamble). He has been studying Shakespeare at school though and is interested in that, so we're going to do some Bard-related things while we're there! x

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - I am sure you will have a great time wherever you visit and seeing Shakespeare related things will be a great help to his studies and help bring so much of the time to life :) Look forward to seeing some photos of your trip please :)

ps Laid out blanket squares on single bed this afternoon and have knitted at least half. Will post photo perhaps on next blog post. So progressing more than I thought :)

amanda peters said...

Lovely post, had a look at the park to day and there is one little spot were the Snowdrops are now out, under the trees on the edge of the wood that follows the beck, they will be missed by most of the people out for a walk..but I know they are there to enjoy.
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda. I am so pleased you have found some snowdrops in a "secret" spot in the park. They are such a lovely sight at this time of year :)

Chris Rohrer said...

Snowdrops.....beautiful flowers. What a fantastic time of year. I always love when the tubers start growing from the ground.

I love your blackbird on the roof. My favorite photo:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris - will tell my son how much you liked the blackbird photo :)

Yes, its great when signs of Spring start appearing :)