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Is there a Doctor in the House
Hall's Croft (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
Hall's Croft (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Advantages: A wonderful historic building and well preserved .
Disadvantages: Only to those that are not interested in history and buildings
This house was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1949 and was opened to the public a couple of years later after some repair work and refurbishment was completed. It is believed that the house was built for the physician John Hall and his wife Susanna (who happened to be Shakespeare's' daughter). They lived here for a few years before William's death in 1616 when they took over the residence in New Place.
Our tour bus dropped us off virtually outside the house, which is very wide and although it doesn't have the quaint cottage appeal of Ann Hathaway's Cottage it is quite attractive in its own way. What was possibly once a white wall with black beans is now weather worn and dirty beige colour, with greyish black beams; but in saying this it did have a certain appeal to it.
After locating the entrance we entered the building, but this time I am wise and I keep my camera in my pocket. As nothing has been mentioned to my hubby about the taking of photos, and I did see another lady snapping away, I took my camera back out in the first room, but I did take the flash off to protect the furniture. Happy as Larry now as I have space to move around and I have my camera with me, I start to enjoy the experience clicking away giving me lovely pictures to go along with my memories of the visit. I do feel a little guilty through as if I am being a naughty girl, maybe that's because of the previous properties we had visited having a no photo policy.
According to the guide book the first rooms we visited were the entrance hall and parlour; I do remember a couple of things that really stood out for me in this room, one was a very decorative high chair, made of ash dating from the early 17th century; just behind the high chair was a large oil painting of a family sitting saying grace before their meal, this was painted by Anthonius Claeissins around 1585. There was also a very large brick fireplace in this room which really stood out for me.
Moving from here we went through a small passageway that led to the consulting room display where you could see some of the items used to store and make the medicines used around Hall's time as a doctor. As you move through to the kitchen you saw a wonderful large table which looked very thick and sturdy and dates back to the 17th century; they had a couple of platters displayed on it which they filled with very modern potpourri, this along with the flowers and herbs which you could see hanging from the ceiling were used not only for their normal uses in cooking but also for their fragrance as remember people didn't wash much in these days. Along the lovely fireplace was a pulley system which was used to help moving pots and cooking over the open fire.
As you reach the stairway there was a large portrait of a Mother and Child at the bottom dating from 1627 it is believed to have been painted by the Dutch artist Nicholoes Eliasz Pickenoy. I found the banister fairly chunky and plain, I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't' more ornate to go with some of the other items displayed.
Upstairs you got to see the principal bedroom, which has been dressed a little like a museum piece; there was a laminated diagram of the room, with all 23 items which were displayed listed with a description of each item. There were a couple of items that stood out for us, one was a 'close stool' which was English and dated back to around the 17th century; it is a small chest with a lid and a removable stool pan (a very early toilet); we both thought how it looked like a record player the way it was displayed. The carved cradle looked very pretty, but this was a 17th century reproduction.
The 'tester bed' were very common place during this period of history and this one dates back to the 16th century and is English, a tester bed is a four poster bed with a ceiling (or tester). Also on this floor was an exhibition of Dr Hall's work where you saw items of torture, oops sorry I meant medical implements used during this time.
I do also like the way they put red glowing lights under the fires to make them look like they were working and this only went to build on the atmosphere. There was one section of the upstairs that was under renovation so we could not enter to take a look in there. After we finished looking around the upstairs we went back down the stairs with the intention of looking at the gardens, but we took the wrong turn and ended up going through the gift shop which was well stocked with Shakespearean memorabilia. As you leave the shop you enter the café and then out to the front of the building. We didn't use the café, as we realised that we had take a wrong turn and could not get back into the shop from there, so we had to walk back around to the main entrance again to get the gardens. This was ok as we still had our tickets which entitles you to visit the house and gardens as many times as you like over the next 12 months.
Going back in we found the correct door and went outside to look at the beautiful garden. It was very large with lovely mowed lawns, modern art sculptures and beautiful flowers and hedges; there was also a large Mulberry Tree which seems to be very popular in the homes connected with William Shakespeare. As you can expect as this was a doctors house, there were many herbs planted as they would have been used to create his medicines and potions.
There was seating around the garden and a large patio area around the rear of the house. At the time of our visit a lot of the patio area was taken up with scaffolding for the renovation work that was underway.
If you look closely at the beams around the house you will see the carpenters numbers written on them, this shows that it was an early pre-fabricated building and the beams would have been numbered and put together like a jigsaw or an MFI piece of furniture.
Disabilities - during our visit we only noticed that wheelchair access was available on the lower level and there did not appear to be any access to top floor.
Hall's Croft is one of the three town houses which can be visited and is to be found in the centre of Stratford on Old Town. You can use any of the main car parks and then walk through to it or you can go on the tour bus at a small cost.
Looking at the map the nearest Disabled parking is at Sheep Street
Address for Sat Nav is
Throughout June and August it is open between 0930hrs and 1700hrs, except for Sundays when it opens at 1000hrs.
During April to May and Sept to October it is open between 1100hrs to 1700hrs and finally between November and March it opens 1100hrs to 1600hrs daily.
You can buy tickets just for this house, but your best value is when you buy the 5 house tickets or the complete bus tour along with the houses.
Hall's Croft only ticket prices
Adult - £3.75
Child - £1.75 (ages between 5 and 16yrs)
Concession prices are £3.00
Family Tickets - £10.00 (which is for 2 adults and up to 3 children)
Shakespeares Birthplace Trust tickets for the 5 houses
Adult - £19.00
Child - £12.00
Concession - £17.00
Family Ticket- £49.00
Although I am glad that I have seen this house, it is not one of my favourites, I much prefer Mary Arden's Farm and Shakespeare's Birthplace for things to see and do. I wouldn't go out of my way to see this again, but as we bought the bus tour tickets with the houses included it was worth a visit and like I said I am glad we did, as I do love old houses and I love to look out for bits of architecture and the little things like the beams being numbered etc, it tells you so much of our wonderful history. If you do go to visit here then I recommend that you do it as part of the 5 houses ticket and not just the one on its own.
Many thanks for reading
Summary: A wonderful historic building and well preserved .