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Mary Arden's House & Shakespeare Countryside Museum (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
Mary Arden's House & Shakespeare Countryside Museum (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Date: 07/10/10, updated on 28/10/10 (175 review reads)
Advantages: A brilliant family day out something for all ages and very enjoyable
Disadvantages: Due to the age of the building some parts on inaccessible to wheelchair users
This was the second of the Shakespeare's houses that we visited on our first day in Stratford. We went straight here from Anne Hathaway's cottage on the tour bus. We had no idea what to expect and I was a little apprehensive after my disappointment with the visit to the cottage we had only just left. I wondered if we would be allowed to take photos and wondered how crowded it would be, would we be herded round or would we be able to enjoy the house at our leisure.
Who is Mary Arden? I hear you ask, she was William Shakespeare's mother and this is where she grew up before she married William's father John. The two 16th century farmhouses, the outbuildings and Palmers farm all once belonged to her father Robert Arden who was a farmer by trade. The house can be found located on the outskirts of the Forest of Arden in a small village called Wilmcote which is approximately three miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon.
We stepped of the bus and made our way to the entrance and show our tickets to the man at reception (which is also the gift shop); he pointed out to us that there was a falconry display starting in 20mins if we wished to go and see it. They do have a variety of birds of prey including owls, we did not get to see these on our visit as we chose to enjoy the farm and houses instead as it was getting rather late in the day.
I started to get excited as I could use our camera here and there was so much to see and do, (I am a big kid really); our tour started by us walking through a stone archway into a square where you could see small barns showing displays of old farming equipment. One of the items here that really stood out for me was an old fire cart, which was vital for the farmers to carry water to any fire that had. The nice thing about the displays was that they put a large easy to read information board with pictures and descriptions of the equipment on show to help you understand how they worked and were used.
There was a fairly modern looking building in the corner which holds the café and toilets are available in that part as well. There is no rush and you can walk about at your leisure and take the time to enjoy what you are looking at, you even have the time to read all about them as well. As you walk around Palmers farm you will see a cider mill and a dove cote which contains an amazing amount of nesting holes, 650 to be precise. You will see free range chickens, geese, pigs, goats and we did see a young calf which opened it eyes for a photo to be taken. I was like a child in a sweet factory looking at everything and making sure that I did not miss anything.
As we walked to Palmers Farm House we saw a lady in period costume tending to the chickens and feeding them; I think it adds something to the visit when you see these re-enactments. They do these to show how the farm would have been run during the 1570's Elizabethan era; you may be lucky enough to see them washing, gardening, shoe making, woodwork, housework or gardening, whatever activity they are doing at the time of your visit. We saw 2 men working on the gardens and a lady working with the chickens.
The farm house was lovely with its black and white timber framed frontage; inside was simply dressed for the time period and you will see the uneven walls and ceilings. The doorways are very low especially upstairs where even I had to duck and I am only 5ft 4in. There was no work going on inside the house today when we visited, we could see the embers in the fire so it looked like we had just missed out on the cooking demonstration. There was a table set out with leather and a pair of shoes, where someone had taken a break from the shoe making; if you time it right you can also watch someone making butter and cheese. When you look around the room take a close look at the carvings on the wooden features as you will be pleasantly surprised on how detailed they are.
Upstairs is staged as bedrooms (obviously) the beds are fairly small as they mainly slept sitting up for both superstitious reasons and for health ones; they felt that if you lay flat the 'devil' would think you were dead and steal your soul. The health side of it was, these houses had little ventilation and often smoke would move around the house from the open fires which made breathing difficult. Children stayed in their parents' room until they reached around 5 yrs old, they had a smaller bed which would fit under the parents' bed and be pulled out at right angles to the bed for the child to sleep.
At the far end of the upstairs was a dorm bedroom with six beds on the floor, it looked like just small mattresses on the wooden floors; there was an extremely low beam going across the room, it must have been a nightmare using this room with the beam being that low, it was only around 3ft off floor level.
After leaving the house we moved across the gardens and saw the 'men in costume' tending the vegetable patch, we also went past where the owls were kept, but they were obviously out with the other birds of pray for the display which was being shown in the next field. We looked into more barns displaying more items and I had my picture taken with a large ornament cow, you can imagine the caption my hubby gave it, lol and then onto Mary Arden's house.
It was only recently discovered that this house is the original Mary Arden house; previously it was always believed that the house, which was re-named Palmers Farm after the neighbouring farmer and friend of the family Adam Palmer in the year 2000. The true Mary Arden house has been in the hands of the trust for preservation since 1968. The house is dressed a lot more 'richer' style than the Palmers Farm House, I can only say this one was dressed as if the family were well off and the other one was more like a working family house. It was presented really well with some lovely period furniture and even had hares and partridges hanging up in the larder.
There was a guide (in modern clothing) here to tell us all about the house and answer any of our questions and he did not object to me taking loads of photos either. We were limited on time for our visit as it was coming to the end of the day so we did not get to cover all of the attractions they had to offer. We missed out on the adventure playground, but we may have looked a little odd being that we are both old and didn't have the grandkids with us. There were nature trails too which you could take a walk around and get to enjoy the beautiful farm and countryside.
Gift Shop - sells various memorabilia of your visit and of Shakespeare giving you a lovely selection of books, postcards, tea towels etc, ranging from a couple of pound to loads of money.
~~ How to get here ~~
Address for your sat nav
phone number 01789 293 455
You could stay in Stratford itself and catch the citybustour bus to see this, which is what we did.
~~ Opening Times ~~
It is open from March through to October, Monday - Sunday from 1000hrs - 1700hrs. It is closed the other months of the year.
~~ Prices ~~
For the Town houses tickets (these allow you entry to the 3 houses inside the town, Shakespeare's birthplace, Nash House and New place and Halls Croft.
Adult - £12.50
Children (ages 5-16yrs) - £8.00
Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) - £33.50
A multi ticket for all five houses is
Adult - £19.00
Children - £12.00
Family - £49.00
Concession - £17.00
Prices just for Mary Arden's cottage and farm
Adults - £9.50
Children - £5.50
Concession/OAP - £7.50
Family - £24.50
All these prices include the new 'Dig for Shakespeare' which has been bought out for 2010 it is where they are doing archaeological digs at the 3 of the historic locations, Hall's Croft, Shakepeare's Birthplace and New Place.
It is good to remember that you can gift aid your admission costs as well and if you book on line you save 10% on the ticket prices.
This is really worthwhile but you may wish to consider the bus tour as the ticket will only cost you around £5.50 more on the adult price and you will get driven to all of the houses, so no hassle trying to park etc.
You can buy the guide book at any of the houses in one of four languages, English, French, German or Japanese all are prices at £3.95, you can even buy these on line prior to your visit and you can get your tickets as well
~~ Opinion ~~
This was one of my favourite of the Shakespeare houses, there was so much to see and enjoy. The way that they presented the houses and the farm can only be praised, they were brilliant and with the re-enactments as well it was really bought to life, like stepping back in time. History is fascinating, but actually seeing people living it helps you understand it a lot more and you realise how much we have today compared to what they had then. Could you imagine having to make your own shoes, make your own cheese or butter and sleep on a hard bed sitting up? These two houses didn't have bathrooms inside, so no luxurious hot baths or showers to start your day. No wardrobes as they only changed their clothes at the end of each season.
I am really please we took the time to visit here, part of me wishes we had allowed a bit longer, as you could quite easy spend a morning or afternoon visiting with the children if you take the time to explore and watch people at work. My hubby enjoyed this one nearly as much as me, which was pretty good going as this was near the end of two weeks looking at historic buildings.
We both highly recommend here for a visit for all of the family as there is something that will suit people of all ages and interests.
Thank you so much for reading
Summary: A brilliant family day out something for all ages and very enjoyable