Newest Review: ... interesting bits here, but overall I found the idea of a video tour annoying. It is impersonal, as you have no real person to ask questions... more
Shakespeare's Birthplace ('As You Like It')
Shakespeare's Birthplace (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
Shakespeare's Birthplace (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Advantages: Wonderful historic building, steeped in history and knowledgeable guides
Disadvantages: limited access for disabilities
It was around lunch time on our second day when we finally got around to visiting the last of the Shakespeare's' houses. This one is possibly the most visited out of the five houses as it is right centre of Stratford upon Avon, in Henley Street which appears to be the main street full of shops, the library, café's and gift shops.
You can't miss the house as it stands proud in the street, it is also opposite a beautiful little shop that called the Christmas Shop and sells every kind of Christmas decoration you can think of, it is all sparkly and beautiful (it had to get a little mention as I adore that shop). On previous visits to Stratford we never visited the birthplace as we were put off by the queues of people outside the building; it was not until this visit when we had a closer look, that we realised that people stand in the main street, just for a photo opportunity and that the actual entrance was much further up the street.
This is unquestionably the birthplace of William Shakespeare; the house originally belonging to his father John Shakespeare and it was bequeathed to William on his fathers' death in 1601. The house itself like the others was one of the early prefabricated buildings, which means the timber frames were cut to measure and then numbered and put together like a jigsaw. The wood used being mainly oak form the Forest of Arden; in between the beams the spaces were filled with wattle and daub which consists of small sections of interwoven sticks of hazel and then covered in a mixture of clay and straw which was coated in a lime plaster. The lime has preserved the building over the centuries, there is an area in the building where they have exposed some of this so you can see the raw material.
This one along with Ann Hathaway's' cottage was the first of the properties to be bought as a national memorial and the start of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847.
We walked up past the actual house and into a rather modern looking building that was to be the entrance to Shakespeare's' Birthplace. After showing our ticket we were directed to a curtain and told to enter there and watch a short video and once the video has finished the door would open to allow us access to the next part of the tour. This was due to a new exhibition called Life, Love and Legacy and it gives you an introduction to Shakespeare and his life, loves and plays. In this first part you see his ring on display which was found buried.
Once the door has opened after approx 5 minutes (pls note I did not time it so I could be out of the time), we went into another area where the film continued and at different sections of the film a part of the room was illuminated, on several occasions a scale model of Stratford was used to correspond with the facts being delivered.
From here you were led through another opening for the final part of the film and the walk through the hall of fame where you got to see photographs of famous actors and actresses who have appeared in one of his plays. You came out of this exhibition and in the gardens of this wonderful house, my camera was taken out for a quick photo opportunity as once again you are not allowed to take any inside the building. You enter the birthplace through a small room that was once part of a separate house which used to be lived in by his sister Joan Hart and her family.
As you enter the parlour you are greeted by a member of staff in costume who goes on to tell you about the building and the room we are in. She even pauses and gives a condensed quick version for the late arrivals. There is a four poster bed which John Shakespeare bought and kept in the parlour, so that people would see that he was a wealthy man. During the discussion of the bed, we learnt that beds were made really short as people actually slept sitting up, mainly because of the smoke from the open fire, but also because of the scares from the plague etc; they thought if you were left on your back then the 'devil' would think you were dead and run off with your soul.
You also get to see some original wall hangings in this room, which I suppose you could say it was early wallpaper. It is quite thick in texture and your tour guide will show you a small sample; the cloth on the walls here were of a design copied from a mural painting in Oxford and dates back to around 1570. As you move through the house you go through the hall where the family would have cooked and dined. The scene has been set ready for a family meal in the way it would have looked around the 16th century. There are some lovely wall hangings in hers also that will catch your eye as much as the gothic furniture and pewter dinner service would.
At the end of the room you came across John Shakespeare's workshop where he prepared animal skins to make gloves and purses. An actor is there dressed as John Shakespeare and he was happily demonstrating his craftsmanship, he was quite happy to tell you about his trade and answer any questions asked, you could even purchase some of his wares.
Upstairs in the house were two rooms, one of these rooms was where Shakespeare was born; the bed is decorated in red and green woollen bed curtains, and there was an infants bed tucked underneath it called a 'truckle bed'. Showing the riches of the family there is a lovely floral wall hanging in the room.
You move through the back wing of the house which was added after John's death and when William Shakespeare owned it, on to the kitchen area which dates from around the 17th century. Again this is all laid out and they even had a goose lying across the table waiting to be prepared for cooking. We left the house and went through to the back and into the gardens where you got to see two actors playing a scene out of one of Shakespeare's plays, it was really enjoyable to watch and I could have quite easily sat on a bench and stayed for a while. You were able to have a lovely stroll around the gardens of which some were formal and parts had a cottage feel to them with what appeared to be herbs etc being grown.
There didn't appear to be a café inside the birthplace, there was just the gift shop; but where it is located in the main street there were plenty of places to sit and grab a snack and a cuppa. We went to the café opposite which has large red parasols outside for a cream tea, it was the best cream tea I had eaten for a long time, the scone was freshly made, lovely and big still warm and decorated with a strawberry on top, yummy!
There is limited disabled access within the houses, but there is full disabled access to the Exhibition and the Virtual Reality Tour. They do provide wheelchair accessible toilets for your use as well and some of the gardens are accessible.
~~How to get there~~
It is in the centre of Stratford so all you need to do is head for Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire and head for the town, once there you just walk up the main high street and Shakespeares Birthplace is there and you can't miss it there are usually many tourists standing outside taking pictures.
The address for your sat nav is
Stratford upon Avon
Contact no - 01789 204016
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Web address - www.shakespeare.org.uk
It appears from my research that it is open during the summer months from 0900 until 1700hrs and is open for one hour longer until 1800hrs during August.
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
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.
This was in my top two of Shakespeare's houses along with Mary Arden's Farm; even though photos were not allowed I found the whole experience enlightening and educational. I believe that the way it was presented and the fact that they re-enact scenes from his plays as well as have people in costume as guides, really does bring the house to life making it more enjoyable for both young and old. Even my husband who was suffering from history overload by this stage enjoyed the experience of visiting this house, and it was a nice way to introduce Shakespeare to your children; most definitely recommended.
Thank you so much for reading
Summary: Wonderful historic building, steeped in history and knowledgeable guides with limit mobility access