the illustrated shakespeare
the illustrated shakespeare

This half-timbered building in Henley Street is the suggested birthplace of William Shakespeare. The interior is well preserved, with furniture dating from Elizabethan times. With extensive ground to the rear, it was bought by Shakespeare's father, John, probably in two stages (in 1556 and 1575), though there is good evidence, that he was a tenant of one part, if not both, from at least 1552.

Shakespeare's birthplace is Stratford's most popular historic structure. Being the most frequently visited of all the tourist places. Descendants of the dramatist lived there until the nineteenth century, and it has been a place of pilgrimage for over 250 years.

As originally built, its plan was a simple rectangle, divided into, from north-west to south-east, a parlour with fireplace, an adjoining hall with a massive open hearth, and, beyond a cross passage, an unheated chamber which probably served as John Shakespeare's workshop (working as a glove maker and wool dealer). This arrangement was matched on the first floor by three chambers reached by a staircase from the hall, probably where the present stairs are sited. By tradition, the chamber over the parlour is the birth room. Later, a separate single-bay house, now known as Joan Hart's Cottage, was built onto the north-west end of the house, and the present kitchen, with chamber over, added at the rear.

On John Shakespeare's death, the ownership of the premises passed to his son, William. By that date, Shakespeare was also the owner of New Place, and had little need for the Henley Street premises. As a result, the main house was leased out to a Mr. Lewis Hiccox, who converted it to an inn, known as originally as the 'Maidenhead', later the 'Swan and Maidenhead'. The small, one-bay house to the north-west was put to residential use. By the time of Shakespeare's death, it was occupied by his recently-widowed sister, Joan Hart. Under the terms of Shakespeare's will, the ownership of the whole property (the inn and Joan Hart's cottage) passed to his elder daughter, Susanna; and then on her death in 1649, to her only child, Elizabeth, the wife of Sir John Barnard. Elizabeth died in 1670, bequeathing it to Thomas Hart, the descendant of Shakespeare's sister, Joan, whose family had continued as tenants of the smaller house after Joan's death in 1646. The Harts remained owners of the whole property until 1806, when it was sold to a butcher, Thomas Court.

By then the property had been again divided into two roughly equal parts. Court took over the running of the Swan and Maidenhead Inn, whilst the north-western part remained in the tenancy of Thomas Hornby, a butcher, to whom the Harts had let when they moved away from Stratford in the 1790s. On the death of Court's widow in 1846, the whole premises were put up for sale and purchased for the nation the following year by a body of trustees, whose successors, incorporated by private Act of Parliament, manage the property today.

Photographs taken at this time show the property in a dilapidated state, forming part of a terrace. Over the next fifteen years or so, the trustees, when funds permitted, restored the property, using the earliest known drawing of the Birthplace as a model, but also taking into account surviving architectural evidence. The later houses, which had stood on either side, creating a terrace, were demolished.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust completed the re-presentation of the Birthplace in April 2000. Rooms are furnished as accurately as possible to recreate the interiors as they might have been in the 1570s and include a Glover's workshop.

the illustrated shakespeare

Mary Arden's House was the name given, until recently, to a timber-framed farmhouse in Wilmcote, a hamlet in the parish of Aston Cantlow. Situated three and a half miles outside Stratford, it is also home to the Shakespeare countryside museum, two historic farms, displays of farm implements, daily demonstrations by the Heart of England falconry, a blacksmith's forge and a duck pond.

It was so called on the strength of a tradition (though there are no records before the 1790s to back the claim) that it was owned by Robert Arden, and may therefore have been the home of his daughter, Mary, until her marriage to John Shakespeare in 1891. When the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was placed on a legal footing by private Act of Parliament, it was charged with the duty of purchasing 'as and when the opportunity shall arise … the house at Wilmcote known as the house of Mary Arden his [Shakespeare's] mother'. Finally purchased in 1930, when the property next came up for sale, and, after extensive restoration (including the removal of the early-nineteenth century stucco) was opened to the public. Recently, however, the true location of the Arden homestead has been identified as the neighbouring Glebe Farm, where Mary Arden, grew up in before marrying John Shakespeare and moving to Henley Street, the name Mary Arden's House transferred to it. The former Mary Arden's House, has been re-named Palmer's, after Adam Palmer, now identified as its owner in the 1570s and '80s.

Robert Arden, who died in 1556, supported eight daughters. In 1550, when he was making arrangements for the future division of his estates, four were still unmarried. Mary was one of these, as she was six years later when Robert died. By that time, her father had married again, taking as his second wife a widow, Agnes Hill, who had four young children of her own.

Palmer's with the exception of the lean-to structure at the rear dates from the sixteenth century. The south face, with extensive use of decorative timber, must originally, it is considered, have been the 'front'. The biggest difference between the building today and the sixteenth-century farmhouse is at the eastern end. This bay, with herring-bone decoration in its gable, has recently been dendrochronologically dated to 1569. It was originally a cross wing at least two bays deep, built onto a hall of earlier date. Then, in 1580, the owner, Adam Palmer had the old hall demolished and the central section of the present house built in its place. This comprised a new two-bay hall, originally open to the roof. A further bay to the west, with cross passage and kitchen, was added the following year. By the eighteenth century, however, the bay (or bays) at the rear of the cross wing had been demolished, and the present lean-to added.

At the rear of the property is a complex of farm buildings, including, in one range, a dovecote, an open-fronted cowshed and small barn with cider press, together with a stable and large barn now housing a display of farming equipment. These form part of the Shakespeare Countryside Museum which is continued in another complex of farm buildings to the west. It is these buildings that had formally been known as Glebe Farm, now identified as the Arden's' family residence, a copyhold property, held of the lord of the manor, which Robert Arden bequeathed to his wife, Agnes (Mary's step-mother) and which was recorded as late in her tenure in a 1587 survey. The main part of the farmhouse itself, originally built with an open hall in its central bay, has been dendochronogically dated to 1514. A wing was added to the west end soon afterwards, and this was extended northwards early in the eighteenth century.

The Arden's' copyhold title passed from Agnes Arden to her son-in-law, John Fullwood, and then descended in his family until 1662, it was then sold off by the lord of the manor and in 1738 later owners disposed of it to augment the living of the neighbouring parish of Billesley, hence its traditional name, Glebe Farm. A few years later, more lands and buildings were added to this glebe which recent research has further established represent the freehold premises in Wilmcote which had come to John Shakespeare on his marriage to Mary Arden. These John had then mortgaged to his brother-in-law, Edmund Lambert, whose son John kept them in his possession despite legal cases brought against him by the Shakespeare's.

The buildings of Glebe Farm were bought by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1968, but it was not until 1978, on the death of the sitting tenant that occupancy was obtained.

Palmer's was bequeathed, in 1584, by Adam Palmer to his son Edmund, and has a well documented history thereafter. Its mistaken attribution as the home of the Arden family can be traced back no earlier than 1794, when it featured in correspondence between Samuel Ireland and John Jordan. Jordan also executed the earliest known drawings of the house, though none were published during his lifetime. It was another eighty years or so before uncritical attributions of the property as Mary Arden's House became a regular feature of tourist guides.

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.

the illustrated shakespeare
The home of a Dr John Hall, and his wife, (Shakespeare's eldest daughter) Susanna, is situated in Stratford-upon-Avon, near to Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried. Hall's Croft is a fine timber-framed house, in Old Town, the street which leads from the town-centre streets to the parish church.

Named after John Hall the occupant who is known both as a result of his marriage, in 1607, to Susanna, and because of the publication of his medical case notes, some twenty-two years after his death. These notes, collectively entitled, 'Select Observations on English Bodiee' ,written between the years 1611 to 1635, and covering information of around 155 patients from all walks of life, provide an invaluable insight into the practice of medicine during the seventeenth century.
Dr. Hall and Susanna had one child, Elizabeth. On Shakespeare's death in 1616, the small family moved into New Place, which Susanna had inherited from her father, John died in 1635, Susanna in 1649, Elizabeth, their daughter, married, first, Thomas Nash who died 1647, and later John Barnard.

The oldest part of the present structure, the Hall and Parlour to the north, with a range of small rooms behind, dates from the early seventeenth century, and is now furnished as it may have been in Hall's day. It includes a consulting room or dispensary together with the essential requirements of a physician of that time.
These rooms were an extension to an older building to the south (on the site of the present shop), which was later reconstructed, probably towards the end of the seventeenth century.

On Shakespeare's death in 1616, Hall and his wife took up residence at New Place and the ownership of Hall's Croft passed to a family of town gentry by the name of Smith. Around 1630 a free-standing kitchen was built, with hayloft and stable, probably replacing an earlier building on the site. Then, around the middle of the century, the two separate structures were linked together by an impressive new staircase hall.

For many the building remained as the residence of town gentry. Then, from the late eighteenth century until around 1850, it was occupied by professional men, mainly solicitors and doctors, before being converted into a private school, first for boys and then girls. From the 1880s, however, it was the home of Widow Catherine Croker, until her death in 1913. For a few months in 1899 she let it to the best-selling novelist, Marie Corelli. It was then sold to an American, Josephine Macleod, who took up residence there with her sister, Betty Leggett, the widow of the millionaire founder of a New York grocery business. Betty died in 1931 and in 1943 Josephine made the house over to her niece, the Countess of Sandwich. Her daughter sold the house to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1949. Following substantial restoration, it was opened to the public in 1951.