"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

Friday, 24 July 2015

Stratford - Shakespeare's Birthplace, Harvard House, New Place and Hall's Croft

When D and I visited Anne Hathaway's Cottage last Winter we bought two of the 5 House Passes which means you can visit any of the Houses connected with Shakespeare and looked after by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as many times as you like within a year. D was also on holiday the week before we went to the Isle of Wight so we decided it was time to visit some of the other properties located in Stratford town centre.

I love Stratford - it really is a lovely town - but it is always very busy there.

You can see the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre (the building with the tower) in the next two photos.

D went into Thorntons to stock up on toffee and came out with 2 icecreams :)

William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, a glove maker, and his wife Mary Arden. His actual birthdate is not known but parish records reveal he was baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, on 26th April, 1564. It was the custom in those days to baptise babies 3 days after birth so Shakespeare's birthday is celebrated these days on the 23rd April.

At the age of 18 in 1582, William married the 26 year old Anne Hathaway. She was already pregnant with their first child Susanna who was born in 1583. Hamnet and Judith who were twins were born in 1585. Sadly, Hamnet died at the age of 11. William, his wife and children lived initially with his parents in the house called today Shakespeare's Birthplace.

To seek his fortune he left his family in Stratford and travelled to London and by 1592 he was part of the theatre community in that City. He was so successful that in 1597 he purchased one of the largest houses in the centre of Stratford called New Place.

Shakespeare's Birthplace

The Birthplace was very very busy. You begin by looking round a very interesting exhibition - not too many photos the light was poor.

Then out into a very pretty garden. The present garden layout dates from the mid 19th century and contains many plants mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. In Shakespeare's time it would have included outbuildings used for his father's glove making business, a stable for a horse and the family would have kept pigs and hens and grown fruit and vegetables.

The entrance to the house where Shakespeare was born, spent his childhood and the lived for a time with his wife Anne and their children.

Various people who have visited the house over the years have signed the windows.

There's a signature of a famous actor in this pane but for the life of me I can't remember his name.

The gift shop sold a wide range of items in connection with Shakespeare and his plays.

D disappeared into this shop for ages.

Time for lunch - warm cheese and onion croissant :)

Normally you can visit New Place (or its foundations and gardens) together with Nash's house but they are closed until April 2016 as they are undergoing essential conservation work. Included in the pass, therefore, is entrance to Harvard House which was built in 1596 by Thomas Rogers, a local businessman and butcher. The family and house would have been known to Shakespeare as it was very close to New Place. Harvard House was much quieter than the Birthplace had been.

Sorry about the van and people in the first picture which shows Harvard House.

These beautiful stained glass windows which date back to between 1400 and 1500 were probably the main highlight of the day for me. Stained glass windows at that time were only used in wealthy households as a sign of status. This one was only discovered in the early 1900's during restoration work. Images on the glass include primroses, columbine, oak or holly leaves and daffodils.

We had a quick look at the outside of where New Place once stood and Nash's house. Following Shakespeare's death in 1616 his eldest daughter Susanna and her husband John inherited and moved into the house. Unfortunately, the house was eventually demolished in 1759 by the Reverend Francis Gastrell. When Shakespeare bought the house it had 2 gardens and 2 orchards, and when it is open, you can visit the garden and see the foundations of New Place. Nash's house in William's time adjoined his own house and was owned by a Thomas Nash who went on to marry Shakespeare's grand-daughter Elizabeth Hall.

A quick visit to another very good secondhand book shop - luckily D finds bookshops as irresistible as I do!!

Finally, we visited Hall's Croft which was a lovely house and garden and by far the quietest of the houses we visited. It was the home of Shakespeare's eldest daughter Susanna and her husband, the physician Dr John Hall.

We didn't have time to visit Holy Trinity Church where gravestones for William Shakespeare, his wife Anne, daughter Susanna and her husband John Hall, and his grand-daughter's first husband, Thomas Nash, are located in the chancel.

We will return though as I would like to revisit Hall's Croft again and we still have Mary Arden's Farm to explore.

This is the Courtyard Theatre which the RSC used for several years whilst the main theatre was being completely renovated. I have so many happy memories of all the plays D and I saw here over the years including the delectable David Tenant in Hamlet and Love's Labour Lost. I still laugh out loud when I remember the version of Midsummer Night's Dream I saw here. The theatre had a very special atmosphere and it was lovely sitting in the courtyard sipping wine on a glorious summer evening.

We walked back along the River - no more photos though (probably just as well as yet again I've posted loads) as both the batteries in both cameras had gone flat!


Countryside Tales said...

Perfect post- we're coming to Stratford this summer for a few days and I was planning to look out the Shakespeare properties so thank you! I really enjoyed reading about them x

Margaret Adamson said...

WOW! What a wonderful visit and so much to see and wonderful architecture to take in. Also the gardens are beautiful. I could spend all days exploring and photographing.

David Turner said...

It has been a long time since I visited Stratford, indeed it must be almost twenty years, but it was lovely to see all the famous Shakespearean sites again in this enjoyable post. However my parent's go there quite often to see various RSC productions and maybe one day I'll tag along too :-)

Hall's Croft looked particularly interesting, especially the beautiful gardens, and the lack of visitors, at least compared to other locations, is doubly appealing :-)

Hope you are well and kindest regards to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thank you very much. You will enjoy Stratford - although it can be very busy. Anne Hathaway's Cottage is worth a visit too - about a mile's walk from the town centre. Mary Arden's farm is a bit further away. I look forward to seeing your photos.

Margaret Adamson - Thanks so much. Plenty to photograph in Stratford although cars and people getting in the way can be a problem!! :(

David Turner - Thanks very much David. Well worth going to the RSC - even in the main theatre the stage is all quite intimate and you feel part of the action. Its a wonderful experience. We were so lucky that D got free theatre tickets for years and we were able to see so many plays. Once went to the Globe in London - well worth a visit too :) I do hope you decide to go along.

To be honest I think all of the Shakespeare locations are busy especially at this time of year but Anne Hathaway's cottage was quite quiet although we did go on a very cold and frosty day!!

With very best wishes Caroline - all well here thanks and hope you and your family are too.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Wonder if it compares with Tintagel for having utter tat everywhere. Papier mache Merlins outside the fish and chip shops!

amanda peters said...

Wonderful place to visit, many things to see. Love the willow figure in the garden and I would have lost my husband in the Time Warp shop and me in the book shop. I would have enjoyed seeing the window with all the names scratched in too...
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Its not too bad for that in Stratford unless you count the icecream cone model and the suggestion of a Shakespeare selfie picture! :)

Amanda Peters - Thanks Amanda. It is lovely there apart from the masses of people! There is a butterfly place there too which I keep telling myself I will revisit (we once went when D and E were little).

Ian Doyle said...

Great post, super photos.

Ragged Robin said...

Ian Doyle - Thanks so much - glad you enjoyed :)

Deb said...

Really interesting post and great photos. I love the stained glass window and the sculpture. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks so much. I too loved the stained glass - so old and all the engraved flowers :)

Millymollymandy said...

I'd have been in the butterfly place! I do love all the old buildings and history but Shakespeare leaves me cold. I blame being force fed it at school, never understanding a word. You've had me looking at all those signatures on the pane, looking for someone famous! Lovely post. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks so much. From memory the butterfly place was superb - the kids loved it when they were little (at the time D wanted to be an entomologist!).

I quite like Shakespeare especially the Sonnets and some of the Comedies and Tragedies. Not over keen on the history play. We did Coriolanus for "A" level and I loathed it. Luckily we also studied Hamlet which I loved. The plays at Stratford do bring his work to life though when I first went it took me a while to get used to the modern dress!!

If remember the actor on the one pane will let you know! I shouldn't have waited weeks before doing the post - yet another CRAFT moment!!!!!

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Meant to add - hope the moth trapping is going well :)