Bedroom at Shakespeare's birthplace
A closer look at the Bard's Birthplace
Take a closer look at Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, one of the country's most important historic buildings, with our brilliant panoramic photos.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is one of Stratford’s most famous landmarks and is thronged by visitors from around the world throughout the year.
Whether it was actually the place where the Bard spent his formative years is open to question – some would dispute it but others believe it without question – but it provides a superb insight into Elizabethan life.
Evidence lies in squalor
Oddly it is a piece of Elizabethan history that allowed historians to learn that John Shakespeare owned property on Henley Street, where the birthplace and the Shakespeare Visitor Centre stand.
In those days, the pretty and fragrant Stratford of today would have instead been a seamy, smelly hotbed of squalor, with waste and filth lining the streets.
John Shakespeare added to the problem by leaving a muck pile outside his Henley Street home and records show he was fined for this offence, proving he did indeed own a house there!
The fine dates back to 1529 and the house stayed in the family until it was handed down for the final time to William Shakespeare’s daughter and, given that he was born in 1564, it’s a safe bet that he was born and brought up there.
Bleak period for house
Once the family line had gone, the house went through quite a bleak period. The popularity of the Bard’s works began to dwindle away and the house was left to fall into quite a state of disrepair until the 18th century, when interest began to pick up again.
The Great Hall
The stars of the time, including Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott, visited the birthplace and autographed the walls and windows as a mark of the building’s importance. Though the signed walls have long-since been painted over, many of the signatures still remain on the windowpanes around the house.
As more years past, no one was really that interested in the property until the famous American showman PT Barnum stepped in with a plan to buy the historic home and ship it, brick-by-brick, back to the US.
This finally stirred Stratfordians into action and the Shakespeare Birthday Committee, the forerunner of the Birthplace Trust was established and, with the help of notables like Dickens, the future of the house was secured when the committee raised the £3,000 they needed to buy it.
Once the building was in safe hands, work could begin on restoring it to its former glory and work began to preserve it forever. The restoration, which was largely completed in the 1850’s, was completed when the house was filled with Elizabethan furniture.
The house today
The house today offers an unrivalled glimpse at every-day life in days gone by, showing not just how a house would look but how householders survived from day-to-day.
From discovering how people ate in days gone by to looking at how the tannery, where leather was prepared before it was used to make gloves, the trade of John Shakespeare, there is an awful lot to learn about days gone by.
As well as the magnificent interior, the walled garden at the back of the house is well worth a visit in the more clement months. The garden has been specially planted with flora named in Shakespeare’s titles and looks truly spectacular – particularly when the sun is shining!
last updated: 27/03/2008 at 14:15