I won’t bore you with the train ride that began our first day in Stratford-Upon-Avon. All that matters is that we left at 10:07 and arrived at 11:15. After a little walking and a bus ride we got to our fourth YHA hostel. Unfortunately we weren’t able to check into our rooms – we had another bus to catch about 10 or 15 minutes after our arrival. It was just enough time for those who needed to change into theatre appropriate clothes. So, yeah. It was a quick turn-around.
Our first real activity in Stratford-Upon-Avon was visiting one of many places related to William Shakespeare – his birthplace. Before I dive into things about William I feel it would be appropriate to give a little background about his family. His father, John Shakespeare, was a leather workman. He fashioned gloves primarily but also did purses and belts. However, he was caught dealing wool without a license and the family lost a lot of status and were fined severely. This was part of the reason as to why Shakespeare was unable to attend a university.
Alright, enough about his father, lets get on to William Shakespeare himself. He was born in 1564 and people have been visiting his birthplace for centuries. These visitors left their mark by writing on the windows that were in the room which Shakespeare was born. The earliest recorded is from 1806.
Interestingly, for the first few years after being married to Anne Hathaway William’s father died. Afterwards when Shakespeare and Anne had moved out of his birthplace, the building was rented out and an inn added. This inn, the Swan and Maidenhead continued in operation into the 19th century.
After finishing our tour of Shakespeare’s Birthplace we made our way to another important building relating to the late playwright. It is New Place/Nash’s House. This historic building has been through multiple generations of owners but interestingly enough, the building that we visited never belonged to Shakespeare. In fact, it didn’t even exist while he was alive. William Shakespeare bought New Place in 1597. For most of his life in Stratford-Upon-Avon he lived in this house. ‘Tis a pity it’s not still standing. The reason for this is because the man who occupied it many years later eventually tore it down to rebuild on the land. The building was then added to by another occupant, so while we were able to see where he was born, we were unable to see the building in which he died.
Moving on we took a tour of Hall’s Croft. Built in 1613, Hall’s Croft belonged to William’s daughter, Susanna, and her husband, John. However they only lived there three years, for after Shakespeare’s death they inherited New Place. Incredibly, two of the original windows remain in the house – 400 years later!
Our first adventure in Stratford-Upon-Avon was great and informative. And our day was far from over.