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28 October 2014

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A virtual tour of Shakespeare's mum's home

Mary Arden's House
Click on the picture to launch a 360° view of rural life in the countryside museum
It's stood for 500 years, and is a remarkable insight into the life and times of Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden. There's also a good twist in the tale.

Shakespeare's Birthplace 360° tour
Virtual tour of Nash's House, New Place and Hall's Croft
Anne Hathaway's Cottage virtual tour
Shakespeare Index
Mary Arden's House falconry

Until 1999 Palmer's Farm was shown as Mary Arden's family home. Her real family home was just yards away, and no one had known for 200 years.

The wood used to build her family home is known to have been cut from trees in the spring of 1514 - technology is that accurate.

The Shakespeare Country Museum are raising animals that would have been part of medieval life 500 years ago.

Birds of prey are kept at the museum, as they would have been used a lot in Shakespeare's times. He loved falconry.

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Situated a few miles from the town of Stratford in the small village of Wilmcote stands Mary Arden’s House, the childhood home of William Shakespeare’s mother.

The house is now part of the Shakespeare Countryside Museum and includes Heart of England Falconry. It generally makes for a fabulous family day out with lots to see and do, including a growing organic farm with rare breeds of animals, field walks, falconry displays and courses, picnic areas and children's playground.

A wonderful story surrounds the houses on the complex, that made headlines a few years ago.

Click on the images around the page to launch 360° views of Mary Arden's house and the Shakespeare Countryside.

For 200 years - the wrong house!
 The back of Mary Arden's House
Click on the image for a 360° view of Mary Arden's house
For many, many years the authorities showed tourists and school children around the large and beautiful house facing the road in leafy Wilmcote, telling people all about the time when Mary Arden lived there in the 16th century.

The image of the lovely house was on chocolate box lids, tea towels and postcards. Tourists bought mementoes of Mary Arden's House to take home with them.

Then a few years ago during routine timber treatment, it was discovered that the wood used to build the house was dated too late to be linked to Mary Arden's early life. No one had ever checked before.

The large house was found to have belonged to the Palmer family, and was re-named Palmer's Farm. 

With despair, it was thought that Mary Arden's family home was lost in history. 

Photo gallery of Mary Arden House

Click on the images button to view pictures of the Mary Arden house and various parts of the museum attractions.

images button
 Inside of Mary Arden's House
Click on the image for a 360° view of the inside of Mary Arden's house

Another small house on the estate, close to Palmer's Farm, was also wood tested.

Clever technology was able to pin point the time the wood in this house was cut. Spring of the year 1514. The dates tallied with Mary Arden.

The house had belonged to the estates of the Dukes of Abergavenny.

Records existed and were checked, and it was discovered that Shakespeare's grandfather, Robert Arden, had bought the land in Wilmcote in 1514, and built the house that had sat next to Palmer's Farm for hundreds of years, largely ignored. An incredible turn of events.

Mary Arden's house had been there in Wilmcote all the time, smaller and more modest than anyone had thought.    

She didn't know her home's history
 The last family to live in Mary Arden's House
Click on the image to see a 360° view of the stables area
Even more incredible, the house had been lived in by tennants until 1979.

It had been the home of a lady called Mrs Holmes, who'd been born in the house and had stayed until she was in her nineties and too frail to cope with the stairs.

She never knew she'd lived all her life in Shakespeare's mother's house....

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust had already bought the smaller house and had been using it as a Victorian home exhibit.

It remains as a Victorian exhibit today, but of course the tour guides are now able to tell people that this was Mary Arden's childhood home.

Life in Shakepeare's England
 Field walk
Beautiful field walks can be taken around the museum grounds
The houses are on a farm complex, as they were 500 years ago, and this now incorporates other exhibits relating to Shakespeare's day.

There's an organic farm with rare breeds of animals that were around in medieval England, including Longhorn Cattle and Old English fighting cocks.

You can take relaxing field walks and enjoy the wild flowers Mary Arden would have enjoyed in the 16th century.

Shakespeare loved falconry
 Staff at Mary Arden House and museum
L-R, Joe Moore (farm manager), Jean Mason (tour guide), Dave Lawley (gardener)
The museum is also the base for Heart of England Falconry. Shakespeare loved falconry and used it a lot in his plays.

And birds of prey were kept by medieval families as a means of getting fresh meat - they were trained to catch rabbits and grouse amongst other things. You can see falconry displays at the museum complex. You can learn more about falconry at the museum here.

Palmer's Farm remains a busy attraction. It is a fine example of life in 16th century Warwickshire and well worth a visit with one of the expert tour guides.

In this small corner of a quiet Warwickshire village, it's incredible to think that English life 500 years ago can be viewed with such detail and accuracy, and through the eyes of the mother of the world's greatest playwright.  


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