the illustrated shakespeare


Within the parish of Stratford, but just over an English mile east of the town centre, in the hamlet of Shottery, stands the cottage of Anne Hathaway.
The second most popular of the Shakespearian properties, The Hathaway's have lived in this house since 1470, and was Anne's home until she married William Shakespeare in 1582, indeed, parts of the building standing today date from this period.

The daughter of yeoman farmer, Richard Hathaway, who when he died in September 1581, bequeathed Ann £6 13s 4d 'atte the day of her maryage'. Marrying, as she did in November the following year. Richard's widow, Joan, lived in the cottage until 1599. She seems to have been Richards second wife, requiring Richard to provide for around eight siblings, three (including Anne) by his first wife and at least five by the second.

Though referred to as a cottage, it is a full twelve roomed farmhouse, dating back to the 16th and 17th century, full of original features, and furniture of the type commonplace during Shakespeare's time, oak floor boards, brick ovens, tables, chairs and kitchen utensils, and the famous 'Hathaway' four-poster, which has been on the site for 400 years. The cottage appears to have been built in two stages, the lower part, adjoining the road, has been conclusively dated to the early 1460s and consisted of a cross passage, with a hall to the left and kitchen to the right. The hall, when originally built, would probably have been open to the roof.

On the first floor, above the cross passage is a space of matching size where the early construction of this part of the house is clearly visible. The evidence for this is a cruck, a pair of large and matching curved timbers reaching from the ground to the apex of the roof, a characteristic of medieval timber-framed buildings. On either side are bedchambers, the one to the west created when a floor was inserted into the open hall. The chimney stack, which runs up through this part of the house, probably dates from the time of this alteration. Outside, this stack bears a plaque, with the date 1697 and the initials I.H. (for John Hathaway): this would seem rather late for the alterations to the hall and may just record repairs or rebuilding of the exterior stonework.

The garden, oft overlooked contains an abundance of wildflowers, herbs, clipped hedges, climbing roses, even an orchard. During the early years of the seventeenth century, whilst the premises were owned by Bartholomew Hathaway, Anne's brother, a taller section was added to the house at the orchard end. This is now divided into three small rooms on the ground floor, with two bedchambers above.

The house has remained in the Hathaway family for several generations. The male lineage ending in 1746, with the death of John Hathaway, the property then passed, through his sister Susanna, to his nephew, John Hathaway Taylor, whose son, William Taylor, lived there until his death in 1846. Financial problems had forced him to sell the house six years earlier, but he had remained in occupation as a tenant, as did his daughter, Mary, the wife of George Baker. She was still living there until her death in 1899, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust purchased the property. With it came various items of family furniture, including the Hathaway Bed. A short distance from the cottage, the Shottery Brook forms a large pond, in a very beautiful setting. It is surrounded by reeds and overhung by willows. Native lilies, a Renaissance symbol of death and rebirth, float in the centre. It is claimed that the floating lilies here were the origin of the image of the drowning Ophelia in Hamlet.