Newest Review: ... £12, Concessions £17.50 REVIEW This is Anne Hathaway's family home. She became William Shakespeare's wife when she was 26, he was ... more
A Touch of Olde World Charm
Anne Hathaway's Cottage (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
Anne Hathaway's Cottage (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Advantages: A beautiful period cottage
Disadvantages: You have to pick visiting times as it gets busy and you feel rushed
~~Ann Hathaway's Cottage~~
We spent a wonderful couple of days in Stratford looking at the lovely old properties in Shakespeare's town of Stratford; which just happens to be the second most visited town in England, the first being London; it actually has in excess of five million visitors a year and I am now one of them. During our two days we visited all five of Shakespeare's houses and in this review I want to tell you about the house that belonged to Ann Hathaway and her family; Ann was (for those that may not know) the wife of William Shakespeare, they married in 1582.
The cottage is just a few minutes outside Stratford in a small village called Shottery; it was a working farm right up to the 19th century and has been in the Hathaway family for over 300 years. It is currently owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It took the name of Ann Hathaway's Cottage at around 1820 after receiving a few visitors to see where Shakespeare's wife had lived and William had done his courting. It has had some renowned visitors through its life like Charles Dickens and the famous poet Alfred Tennyson.
The cottage is a typical old thatched cottage, which has been excellently preserved over the years. The cottage has been altered over the years, much of the ground floor to the right of the garden dates back to the 15th century; Ann's brother Bartholomew added a section in the 17th century, also during the latter part of this century the central chimney was also rebuilt. A lot of the Hathaways furniture is still in the house on display so you do get to see this, but the range of furniture dates right across from the 16th - 19th century.
It was the first day of our break and we were on the tour bus. We decided to make Ann Hathaway's cottage the first of the five houses to visit. I was very excited as we approached the cottage, it looked really quaint and pretty with its thatched roof and black and white timber and stone walls, even its uneven shape gave it a lot of character. The front garden had a cottage feel and was very colourful on this lovely sunny day (for a change).
We stepped off the bus and walked up to the entrance which is the gift shop to show them our ticket and purchase our guide book for £3.95 (which shows all five properties belonging to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust). Ignoring all the tempting things to buy in the path they send you on; this took you through the lovely gardens and you came to what looked like a garden shed painted and covered with net, along with a net entrance to it look like you are entering a fairy grotto. A little sign tells us that this is 'The Cradle of the Fairy Queen'; as you walk inside everything is painted black and there little fairy lights on the ceiling and music playing. In the corner is the fairy queen lying at rest under a shroud of black netting. There is a little seat on the side wall and a notice asking you to sit and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere for a short while.
We stayed for a couple of minutes and then moved off through the garden and to the cottage. At the cottage you were greeted by a member of staff dressed in period costume, (at the time of our visit they were celebrating William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'). We were led with a crowd of visitors in to the hall and we were informed (very disappointedly) that we were not allowed to take any photos. Our guide stays with us here and tells us about the house, the furniture in this room and what to expect as we walk around. She told us that due to the uneven floors etc in the house that it was for our own safety that we could not take photos.
Anyway back on track the fireplace and the elm-wood bench (called a settle) were pointed out to us. She showed us how it was uneven as over the past people had cut out chunks of wood to sell as souvenirs to say that it was the seat where William and Ann sat during their courting. There was a lovely three legged dresser, this only had three legs because the back of it was supported by a shelf built into the wall design, the shelves we added to the wall at the back as well, so in effect it looked like half of a welsh dresser. The cottage is very well preserved inside with its lime washed walls.
The next rooms were the buttery and cold room where you got to see some period items that would have been used over the centuries like a butter churner and cheese-making equipment amongst a few of the items. From here you go up the stairs, to the next floor. The staircase is very narrow and uneven, when you enter the upper floor you will notice how the oak floor boards are very uneven and the wooden beams appear misshapen; again you get low ceilings and doorways, so occasionally you may need to duck. The furniture up there is beautiful, the wood carved bed and crib especially; I am only sorry that I did not get the chance to appreciate it a little more; but the space is limited and being part of a large group of visitors you were pushed along quite quickly.
In one of the rooms you find the 'Shakespeare Chair' which is made of oak and walnut and dates from the early 17th century; it was passed down through the family and at the end of the Shakespeare line, with the death of his grand-daughter it went back to the Hathaway family; who eventually got talked into parting with it and they had it sold; 200 years later the trust purchased the chair and bought it back home.
We got across to the other side of the house very quickly it seemed and I felt a little cheated as I didn't get to enjoy the rooms as much as I would have liked. At the far end was another staircase which took you back downstairs to the kitchen area and parlour onto the rear of the cottage, where you can take a look around the garden and orchard. We walked a little through the vegetable garden and the orchard, but then went back to catch the bus to go to the next house which we wanted to visit today.
There is a sculpture trail and tree garden for you to look at, which contains about 40 trees which Shakespeare mentioned in his work and various sculptures which have been created by young artists who have been inspired by the written word.
They advertise that there are some really pretty woodlands walks and I even remember our tour guide on the bus saying you could imagine William and Ann walking hand in hand through these woods.
There are problems in some areas for people who are wheelchair users, especially inside the house, but they do have a virtual tour that you can look at if you ask at reception.
There is a free coach and car park provided for your use.
There are brown signs directing you to the cottage off the A422 Alcester Road, where you would turn left to get to it, or you could go right off Evesham Place and the B439 Evesham Road.
Address for you Sat Nav is
Ann Hathaway's Cottage
Stratford upon Avon
~~Opening times for 2009~~
November to March - it is open 1000hrs to 1600hrs daily.
April to May and Sept to October it is open between 0930hrs and 1700hrs - with Sunday being 1000hrs to 1700hrs
June to August - Monday to Saturday is 0900hrs to 1700hrs and Sunday is 0930hrs to 1700hrs
Closed for a week in December between 23rd and 26th inclusive.
~~Prices for 2009~~
Adult - £6.50
Children (ages 5-16yrs) - £3.50
Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) - £16.00
A multi ticket for all five houses is
Adult - £17.00
Children - £10.00
Family - £44.50
Concession - £15.50
This is really worthwhile but you may wish to consider the bus tour as the ticket will only cost you £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.
The Shakespeare multi ticket also gives you free entry into the Shakespeare Found exhibition where you will get to see a true image of William Shakespeare which has been discovered and has been proven authentic.
Everything was done by staff and the bus tour to promote this lovely home, and it is truly lovely; I just wish I had the time to enjoy it rather than feel like I was herded along and around the cottage with the large amount of visitors at one time.
I once again have to complain that photos were not allowed, most digital cameras these days take fairly good photos in museum mode; or just with the flash turned off, and this does not harm the rooms or the furniture. Also people will still buy the guide books and would probably purchase a photo ticket to allow them to take photographs; this would also bring money into the trust to help with the upkeep of the houses. Hopefully someone will read this and take note. It is definitely worth a visit, but I would time it for when it is less crowded and you can enjoy the house at a more sedate pace giving you the chance to absorb its beauty and really see what is there.
Many thanks for reading
Summary: A part of Shakespear's history
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