“ Includes Shakespeare's Exhibition. „
My partner and I spent last week on holiday in Stratford-upon-Avon, as we fancied a break away and wanted somewhere which was pretty, relaxing but had plenty to do and see. On the Tuesday, we went into town and visited our first of the Shakespearean attractions - Shakespeare's Birthplace.
Shakespeare's Birthplace is situated in Henley Street, which is in the centre of Stratford, CV37 6QW. It is open every day except Christmas Day. Under fives are free and there are currently extended summer opening hours (until 6pm), which is between June and August. On Fridays (until 26th August), there are twice daily Cradle to Grave guided walks available too.
We paid £19.50 each for an adult five house pass to all the Shakespeare's Houses and Gardens (Shakespeare's Birthplace, Nash's House and New Place, Hall's Croft, Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Arden's Farm). These tickets are valid for twelve months, so you can return and visit them again for free. Children are £12 each, with Concessions £17.50.
You can also purchase a Shakespeare's Birthplace Ticket for entrance to the three attractions within central Stratford (Shakespeare's Birthplace, Hall's Croft, Nash's House and New Place), which costs £12.50 for adults, £8 for children and £11.50 for concessions.
The first impression you get of the exterior is how pretty the old house is and as you would expect, it is a great photo opportunity. While we were there, there was a large Japanese party posing for photographs outside.
The house is to the right as you look at it, with the entrance to the exhibition on the left in a much more modern building. It has a sign on it in large letters saying The Shakespeare Centre and Shakespeare's Birthplace Entrance. This is where you need to go first to buy your ticket and enter the exhibition.
First, you follow the video tour, which is called "Life, Love and Legacy - An introduction to William Shakespeare". There are some 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, you just have information presented to you on video. It is tightly timed as well, so you have to move around to the next bit when you're told to by the video, rather than linger at interesting bits and move past dull parts at a faster pace! Lights come on and off to illustrate various artefacts and if you're not near enough to them at the time, you miss out, as you can't see them when it's dark. So, not a format I was incredibly keen on!
There are some good parts of it though, including a nice model of the Globe Theatre and a video montage of how Shakespeare permeates our culture even today - including a clip from the Doctor Who story The Shakespeare Code starring David Tennant. There are also many stills and clips from various Shakespearean plays which have been made into films and television dramas, so you can spot famous people like Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench and Leonardo Di Caprio in them.
After this, you walk through a Hall of Fame with pictures of famous actors who have played major Shakespearean roles, then you leave this part and walk through the gardens and into the old house itself. The gardens aren't as impressive as at the other Shakespearean places, but they are pretty enough. You can see performances here sometimes, in the house and gardens - something called Shakespeare Aloud! - though none took place while we were there. The Birthplace garden dates from the mid-19th Century and features many plants mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. There is also a bust of Rabindranath Tagore, a famous Indian poet and philosopher, but I did not find it a particularly inspiring garden, when compared to the ones of the other Shakespearean properties.
As for the house, it was William's parents - John and Mary Shakespeare - who lived here and owned it. William had two younger brothers and two younger sisters in 1574, which is when the look of the house is based. William also spent five years living here with his wife Anne, just after they were married and they probably stayed in the two-roomed cottage, which was later added on. (William was just 18 years old, Anne was 26 and three months' pregnant with Susanna when they were married.) Susanna Hall inherited the house in 1616, after William died.
The birthplace was owned by Shakespeare's descendants until the late 18th Century. It was put up for sale and in 1847, the Shakespeare Birthday Committee bought it so it could be kept for the country. It was restored in the 1860s. It boasts that it has retained "many of the original internal structures" including the hearths and rear window positions. There are also "rare items of middle-class 16th Century furniture" in the house as well as replica textiles and items. It is a shame there is not more authentic items that exist though, as quite a few things looked rather exciting, but then reading the information notes, you would discover it was "possibly" or "probably" connected to Shakespeare or his family. Even the ring on display in the exhibition has disputed authenticity - it has a W.S. engraved on it and was found in the grounds of a nearby church, but they have no real proof it belonged to Shakespeare. This is an important point to note and I did feel slightly disappointed not to be able to see more authentic items, but it was a LONG time ago and at least the houses give visitors a good impression of what life was like at the time and how the houses would have looked during Shakespeare's lifetime.
There were a few people around to answer questions and give little talks explaining the history of the place. I liked these and would have welcomed more really, as it's much more interesting listening to the guides than just reading bits of information on the walls. They were dressed in costumes of the time and varied in their interest and enthusiasm for the topic, with the young man in the glover's shop seeming quite shy and quiet, while the older man in the birthroom was much better!
I liked the decor of this house the best, especially the walls covered by brightly coloured drapes, which looked very pretty. The female tour guide explained there was a bed situated in the living room because beds were very expensive then (She said the local Head Teacher of the school earned £20 a year and a bed cost £10.) so it would be a status symbol and there for everyone to see, as well as being available for guests to stay in.
My favourite room was Shakespeare's birthroom containing a large bed, a baby's crib and a little bed which pulled out from underneath the big one. The tour guide in here explained the smaller bed was made with strings pulled across then a straw mat or similar on top and this is how the saying about sleep being "a little ropey" came about. Similarly, the hope that someone will "sleep tight" is because the ropes of the bed had to be kept taut for it to be comfortable.
The house was also where John (William's father) conducted his business from. He was a glover, making leather gloves. He had a barn and workshops at the back and a room he used as his shop. This is set out as the glove shop now and there was a young man there explaining about it and you could try on various gloves if you wished.
On the way out of the house, there is a gift shop, which had a good variety of souvenirs from cheap to quite expensive. You could buy cuddly bears, souvenir mugs, tea towels, T-shirts, bookmarks, Shakespearean figures, books of his works, postcards, history books, as well as souvenir chocolate, fudge and preserves.
Overall, it is worth visiting at least once and if you buy the five-house ticket, it works out good value to see all of the attractions for less than £20 each. The exhibition has many faults, but the house is lovely and you can also take photos, which we did, though you are not allowed to use a flash inside the old house.
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
More than 3000 people visit my birthplace every day, and it's been open to visitors since 1836. Being far older and a bit more famous than I am (so far), Shakespeare's birthplace has been open for a good 250 years but still attracts fewer people on a daily basis. The fact that I was born in a busy general hospital whereas Shakespeare was born in his family home is really beside the point.
The Shakespeare Birthplace is understandably one of the most visited attractions in Stratford, and often first on people's lists. I'd never been to the town before, so this was a must-do, and we wandered along soon after arriving. Located on Henley Street in the town centre, the Birthplace is a complex of buildings with surrounding gardens. You can spot it a mile off as lots of tourists pose for photos outside it, but the entrance it another 30m or so up the street, through a different building that is less impressive from the outside.
First stop after the ticket booths is a sort of holding pen where they keep you until it's time for your group to move through - a bit like in Legoland or Cadbury World, or most indoor attractions in the UK. While it's a pain if you arrive just as the doors are closing in front of you, on the whole I approve of the set up as it means they filter people through at a steady rate so the place is never too swamped. For about 10 minutes you move through the rooms en masse, stopping for video and audio presentations. Numerous clips show various productions of his works, from old BBC and stage productions to the Baz Lurman one. This part is interesting, not least because it's brief (chairs to sit on in the different rooms are quite sparse, so there's a bit of standing around), and after this you are free to wander off at your own pace to explore the rest of the site, or just sit a while and soak up the atmosphere.
Our first stop was a temporary exhibition on Shakespeare's Women, with paintings and memorabilia from various productions when they finally let females play the female roles, and stopped indulging the cross-dressing whims of the male actors. This is quite a small part of the site, but well worth a nosy round since it's included in the price, and the volunteer curator who chatted to us was especially charming.
From here we passed through the stunning gardens (reminiscent of Toronto's Casa Loma) to enter the birthplace itself, albeit via a new door that didn't previously exist, and has been installed to allow access from the side rather than the main street. Here we had another volunteer guide give us a short, informative introduction before we headed in through the maze of rooms on two floors. There isn't much in the way of explanatory information in these, but it's quite obvious what you're seeing (a fireplace by any other name is still a fireplace), and when you get upstairs to the room where Shakespeare was born there is another guide on hand to point out the key features. Like the red and green drapes on the bed (red to ward off disease etc) and the miniscule speck of green paint still remaining on the fireplace, indicating that the whole thing used to be a rather lovely lime colour.
The rooms are pretty generic, and quite similar to those in Anne Hathaway's cottage, for example, but it's the unique history of the building and its residents that up the interest factor.
Back downstairs we came across a small courtyard with rows of benches facing each other, and two actors dressed the part but not really in character (since they were loudly discussing a Channel 4 show from the previous night). Sensing something was about to happen, we sat for a while and dot on the hour, the two began to perform a short extract from a Midsummer Night's Dream (they didn't tell the audience this, but calling each other Pyramus and Thisbe kinda gave it away). Performances were put on regularly throughout the day, and I'm guessing they did bits from other plays too since there was also a skull lying around looking very Yorick-esque. The show was amusing, but rather curtailed, and I would have liked them to continue through beyond the planning stage of the play within a play, especially as we'd sat for 10 minutes waiting for a show that then lasted only half of that .
Main bit of culture over, we headed to the 3rd building, home to the gift shop (through which you have to walk to exit the site, even if the gingerbread Shakespeare busts or frilly quill pens don't catch your eye).
It costs £12.50 just to visit this site, which seems a bit steep, but it's covered by the 3 Town Houses ticket, or the 5 Houses ticket, both of which offer better value for money. That said, if you only had the time or money to see one, this is probably the place most people would want to visit.
The house itself was interesting enough, but in my opinion it was the staff and volunteers we came across who really enhanced the experience. They were helpful and knowledgeable, and clearly enjoyed their jobs, unlike a number of retail and dining staff we encountered in the town. Highly recommended.
During a visit to Stratford Upon Avon we sort of felt obliged to visit the birth place of William Shapespeare the famour playwright who made the town famous, in fact the whole town is geared up to make money fro the tourists who come to the town to get an insight into his life, the actual home where he was born is located in the centre of town a few doors down from an Argos however once you pass that modern home of consumerism the recent of the buildings are more in line with what you would expect, souvenire shops and tea houses along a pedestrianised street.
The cost of entry was £8 however you can buy tickets which allow entry to all of the Shakespeare linked properties as well which make a saving on the individual entry prices. The only other building I planned to visit was the theatre but that is being renovated so we could not combine our visit with a show unless we had gone to one of the smaller theatres in the town.
The actual property is very small and supposedly renovated to look like it would have done in his era, it is interesting and there are lots of cases containing documents to prove it is authentic, you start the tour in a modern building which has video and audio clips of different actors talking about his influence and life and then a short walkto the main property.
I found the kitchen area and the birthing room to be quite interesting but overall there is not a great deal to see, it feels more like one of those things you just have to tick off while visiting the place, the guides were quite informative if not a little overly theatrical but they seemed to know their stuff.
The gardens are quite nice and provide some nice photo opportunities of the property as you cannot take pictures inside. Overall it is not a bad way to spend an hour in the town however it is a little pricey for what you get.
Shakespeare's Birthplace is a house on Henley Street, just off the main high street in Stratford-upon-Avon. Admission is free if you have the Shakespeare Five House ticket (£17) or the Town House ticket (£11.50), alternatively you can purchase them individually. I had a Five House Ticket, but believe the individual ticket was around the £8 mark, so more expensive than the other properties. This was the third place we visited and the only one where we had to queue. Admission also includes the Life, Love and Legacy Exhibition which is a short hi-tech exhibition where you listen and watch various esteemed actors of today in clips of films and theatrical productions that were made of his plays. They limit how many people can go in at a time to try and manage group bookings, but I think our group had no more than 10 people in it. The exhibition takes about 15 minutes and then you leave this modern building and walk over to the actual house. If you are lucky you will have a guide taking you round to the different rooms and meet other guides (all in period costumes) who assume the roles of Elizabethan people. If this is not your thing, just hang back and peruse at your leisure. I do think you will get more out of going with a guide. We stayed in our small group from the exhibition, and the guides are all happy to answer questions for you.
The house was bought by Shakespeare's father John in the mid-sixteenth century, possibly in two parts; he was certainly a tenant here from about 1552 onwards. All of his children were born and brought up here. William would have spent the first five years of his married life in this house also. As his father was a glove maker and wool dealer, part of the house was given over to his business and you will see a display of how a typical workshop would have looked in the room believed to have been Shakespeare senior's actual workshop. At the time of his father's death, Shakespeare inherited the property but was already successful and owned the large New Place, so rented the property out. Part of it was converted to a pub and the other part remained residential and was lived in by his widowed sister Joan Hart. After Shakespeare's death the property was owned by his daughter and then his grand-daughter before passing to Mrs Hart's descendants (no longer living in the area), who then sold it on as one combined property again. The property was later purchased for the nation in 1846 and managed by trustees appointed by an Act of Parliament and has had many esteemed visitors such as Charles Dickens, John Keats, Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy. The trustees used old drawings and architectural evidence to ensure that the house we see today is as close to that of Shakespeare's time as it can be.
Whilst the exhibition is suitable for visitors with limited mobility, sadly not all the house is. Narrow doorways and awkward stairways mean that wheelchair bound will not be able to see the entire house. I am sure the helpful staff will assist and inform where they can. As well as seeing Shakespeare senior's workshop, you will see the birthing room where Shakespeare was likely to have been born, as well as an Elizabethan style crib and bed. The house is furnished as authentically as possible, but not with actual furniture owned by the family. It is made clear how each room would have been used by the guides, not just in Shakespeare's time but by subsequent owners.
No photographs can be taken in the house (there is a guidebook available) but you can photograph the outside and the modest but attractive gardens, which display plants and herbs known during these times. There is also a fair sized gift shop on site, and plenty of places to eat or drink on the nearby streets. Toilets are also available.
For me, this site is what Stratford-Upon-Avon is all about and they have done a lot to make the story and works of Shakespeare available to the general public and accessible (the house itself obviously needs to preserve its period features) for as many people as possible.
I have wanted to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, in particular Shakespeare's Birthplace, for many years but I didn't get the chance until last weekend. We arrived at about 10am and spent the whole day looking around the Birthplace as well as the other Shakespeare houses.
* * * *Location* * * *
Shakespeare's Birthplace is located on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon (Postcode: CV37 6QW) This is right in the centre of Stratford surrounded by cafes and shops. We found it quite easy to park. We paid £5 for a full days parking about 10 minutes walk from the centre.
* * * *Tickets and Prices* * * *
There are several different tickets available.
The Shakespeare Five Houses Ticket includes entrance to:
Mary Arden's Farm
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Nash's House and New Place
The Shakespeare Four Houses Ticket includes:
Nash's House and New Place
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
The Shakespeare Town Houses Ticket includes:
Nash's House and New Place
All of these tickets are valid for one year so you can go back as many times as you like within the year. We opted for the Four Houses ticket. In one day we had just enough time to see each of the houses. However, it was very quiet and we did not have to queue for anything or make our way through crowds. I can imagine that in the busier summer months it may take more than a day to get around all four. Shakespeare's birthplace, Nash's House and Hall's Croft are all within 10 minutes walking distance of each other. However, Anne Hathaway's Cottage about one mile from the centre. We walked this distance but in hindsight it may have been better to drive, especially as it was freezing!
* * * *Shakespeare's Birthplace* * * *
Before entering the Birthplace itself you make your way though a small exhibition centre. In here you are taken on a video guided tour detailing some aspects of Shakespeare's life and his work. There are about 3 different videos to watch and several artefacts to look at. As each video finished some automatic doors open and you are guided through to the next room.
After watching the videos you are then led out of the exhibition centre and into the gardens. The gardens although small were very well kept. I assume that they will be nicer to look at in the summer months, the January weekend when we visited the gardens were quite bare.
From the gardens you can then enter the house itself. In the entrance hall a guide gives an introduction to the house and explains a little of the background of the house. I found all of the guides to be very interesting. They were keen to answer any questions and offer insight into the artefacts and the property. The house itself is quite small and only took around 30 minutes to look around. There were guides throughout the house who gave a short introduction to each room and were on hand to answer any questions. A particular highlight of the house for me was a glass window upon which visitors had scratched their names, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens are amongst some of the more famous names.
One you have made your way through the house you are guided into the gift shop where you can buy any souvenirs. Visiting the birthplace alone would only take an hour or so at the most but the other houses make it a more full and enjoyable day out.
* * * *Conclusion* * * *
Overall, I had a very enjoyable day. I felt that I learnt a lot without being over-faced with tonnes of boring information. I would recommend buying the 4 house or 5 house ticket as Anne Hathaway's Cottage was worth a look at too. Although it may be a nice place to visit during the summer by heading there on a freezing cold day we did seem to beat the crowds.
We felt that whilst having a holiday in the Bard's town we simply had to visit his Birthplace. It is a 16th century timber framed traditional style tudot property. It would have been quite a large property for the era. It houses Shakespeare's father's glove workshop. It is made from local oak from the forest of Arden.
Looking into it before we arrived it worked out cheaper to buy the 5 house pass. you get a discount if you buy online. It was roughyl £15 which works out at £3 per propety. if buying individual tickets each house was more like £6-£7 to enter. Plus the 5 house pass lasts for 1 year so we can go back as many times in the next year as we want to.
We arrived at 9am shortly after opening and it wasn't very busy but it can get quite busy at peak times with over 3000 people in a day at times.
The birthplace house is located on Henley Street in Stratford centre. There is a lot of parking around the town, the parking can be a little pricey we paid £4 for 4 hours but there is park and ride which icks up and drops off on main high street and that cost £1.50 return per adult. We did this one day and the buses were very frequent and the journey not very long.
To enter the birthplace you first go through some interactive exhibits with sound clips and some items on show. You then move through to the house. In the house itself there are some guides who tell you about the history as you move through the rooms. it is only a small house so we found we only spent 30-40mins in the house itself.
There are some nice gardens and the obligtory gift shop on exit. As it was quite a short visit (about 1.5hours in total) we were able to see the other properties on the same day. The two other town properties are within walking distance. You can buy a guidebook for less than £5 which details all 5 properties in one book.
Having heard many good things about Stratford-Upon-Avon but never having been there myself, I took two days out a few weeks ago to check it out myself. I only stayed for the one night, and so didn't get as much time to look around as I would have liked because I spent the second day in Warwick. The one thing I was advised to do, if nothing else, was to see at least some of the Shakespeare tour. Because of the price, and the somewhat limited time I had, I decided to go for the 3 town houses ticket.
... Shakespeare's Birthplace : What & Where? ...
Shakespeare's birthday is located in Henley Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon. For over 250 years it has been a successful visitor attraction, and so some restoration work has been done to the property (including the other attractions within the Shakespeare tour) to keep it safe and clean for visitors. That said, it retails original features and is like stepping back in time when you go inside.
It is close to toilets, the booking centre, shops and cafes, and gift shops full of touristy delights. Unfortunately, there's limited disabled access around Shakespeare's Birthplace itself, though some aspects of the Shakespeare's attraction do have better accessibility so it's a good idea to call and check prior to going if this is an issue for you.
The birthplace is where William Shakespeare started his married life with his wife, Anne Hathaway. Before you enter Shakespeare's birthplace, you get informed of this and a few facts to set the scene in the visitors building after you've purchased your tickets. The visitors building acts as an introduction to the Shakespeare buildings and attractions, helping you to generate interest in what you're about to see. You're taken through a few different stages, separated by automatic doors, where video clips on a large screen are shown whilst you are surrounded by a set to replicate that particular scene. There's plenty of sound, music, factual information, images and props, which act to whet you appetite. For example, there's a glass case housing a ring that was found nearby and is thought to have belonged to Shakespeare. Unfortunately, this didn't do anything for me, but I could see other visitors who were going through the exhibition were quite interested as they talked about how much it would be worth!
Once you leave the introductory exhibition, just a few steps down the road you will find Shakespeare's House. It's quite easy to get confused with the different tickets and which buildings are which, but his Birthplace is the most popular attraction and is located in the centre of Stratford and so is the easiest to get to from the admissions office.
... The Attraction ...
Upon entering, you'll probably find there are already a fair few people browsing around because it is quite a popular attraction. There was a guide just inside the entrance when I went who wishes us a pleasant visit and said a few words to introduce the house. Details on the build of the house and the design are quite interesting, especially when you consider how different buildings today are.
A couple of other guides were placed around the house, one of which I remember was doing a talk in the area on the ground floor used by Shakespeare's father, John, when he worked as a glove maker. The display helped to bring the scene to life, and some of the talk was interesting, but it seemed to go on for far too long about intricate detail of glove making, which I can't say I found particularly interesting.
You get to peruse the house at your leisure, so you can go as quickly or as slowly as you wish. You don't have to stand and listen to the guides if they're doing a talk on something, though it's worthwhile to have a listen because some of it was fairly interesting, and afterall, you've paid for it so you should make the most of it. There's quite a few rooms to look around on the ground and upper floor, and then there's the wonderful gardens outside to look around.
The house itself is wonderful to look around, regardless to the links to Shakespeare, because of its architecture and design. The beams, floors and layout, despite ageing, remain solid and timeless. It's a breath of fresh air compared to the modern square boxes that are built today! I personally like both old and new styles, and this is a wonderful building to look around to help you appreciate the architecture and the way of life back then.
The most interesting item within the house for me was probably a window pane on which other famous individuals had scratched their name after visiting the house. These include Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. Unfortunately there's no window-scratching for us, but there is a book you can sign on the way out to leave your mark.
The garden is beautifully sculptured, and there are benches outside so you can take in some fresh air and have a quick rest. Luckily, on the day I went, the weather was warm and not too overcast, but a bit of rain shouldn't ruin the experience as the garden isn't too large to look around. I took lots of photographs of the gardens at the Birthplace and the other houses because they were lovely, and that's coming from someone who's not usually that bothered by grass, plants and trees. In fact, I think it may have formed a new appreciation within me towards gardens and nature.
... The Price ...
There are different tickets available if you wish to visit Shakespeare's birthplace. The 'Town House' ticket gets you entry into the Birthplace, Nash's house & New Place, and Hall's Croft. The prices for this ticket are as follows:
Adults £ 12
The attractions are open Monday to Sunday 9am-5pm during Summer months and 10am-4pm during winter months.
Alternatively, there's a ticket to get you into all 5 attractions, and all details are available on shakespeare.org.uk. This all inclusive ticket is more expensive:
Family tickets are also available, though I wouldn't necessarily have thought that small children will find the attractions all too interesting.
You purchase tickets online, for example from the Stratford website which will save you a few pennies, the official Shakespeare's Houses website, the tourist information centre, the attraction centre or you can use clubcard vouchers.
Overall, I think this is one of those places to go just to say you've been as it's seen as a 'must visit' if you're in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I think it's quite expensive, and I'm glad I only bought the 3 town houses ticket because these are all closest to the centre and I was able to do these during the day without rushing. I'm glad I went as it was lovely to look around at my own pace, and decide when I wanted to go into each house. The talks were relatively interesting, though I can't say I was particularly thrilled.
The building of Shakespeare's birthplace itself was great to look at, but there wasn't anything to really grab my attention too greatly and so I was in and out of there quite quickly. It's worth doing if you're in Stratford to say you've been, as a one-off special visit.
I visited Shakespeare's Birthplace a few years ago during a schooltrip.
As Shakespeare is one of my favourite authors, and I love history, I was excited about visiting the place where he had lived all those centuries ago, and gaining an insight into what life in Tudor times was like.
Shakespeare's house is in Henley Street, in Stratford Upon-Avon, Warwickshire.
This is the house where William Shakespeare and his siblings were born and brought up.
The house belonged to John Shakespeare (William's father) who seems to have purchased it in two stages, in 1556 and 1575. There is also some evidence that indicates that, before buying, John may have been living there since 1552, as a tenant.
After John Shakespeare's death, the house was passed on to William Shakespeare, who in turn bequeathed it to his daughter Susanna.
The building remained with the Shakespeares' descendents until 1806, when it was sold to a butcher called Thomas Court, and it was finally acquired for the nation in 1846, by a body of trustees that eventually became the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
The house is built in wattle and daub, oak from the forest of Arden and blue-grey stone from Wilmcote.
Originally, it had a rectangular design, and both the ground floor and first floor were divided into 3 chambers.
On the first floor were the bedrooms, and on the ground floor there was a parlour with a fireplace, a hall with open hearth, and an unheated room thought to have been used as a workshop by John Shakespeare, who was a wool trader and glove maker.
Subsequently, a kitchen (with a room over it) was added to the back of the house, and a separate house (where Shakespeare's sister Joan Hart later lived) was built on the northwest side of the house.
The building still retains many of its original features, and has been restored and furnished by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to resemble as closely as possible how it might have been in the 1570s, when William (born in 1564) was a child.
To enter the house the visitors pass through the Shakespeare Centre, which holds an exhibition concerning Shakespeare's life, and has several interesting artefacts of the time on display, including a First Folio of Shakespeare's plays, the parish's official record of his baptism and a facsimile of his will.
From the Centre we are led to the house itself through a rather beautiful garden, which is planted with the trees, flowers and herbs that are referenced by Shakespeare in his plays.
Downstairs there is a glover's workshop, the living room, and a dinner table that was my personal highlight of the decor. It is thought that the stone-flagged floor is original.
Upstairs are the bedrooms, and directly above the living room is the most famous part of the house: the "birthroom", where Mary Arden is thought to have given birth to William Shakespeare. It has a low ceiling and a fireplace and is decorated with the adults' bed and a little Tudor cradle.
On the first floor we also see that the house has been carved (!!!) by many of its former visitors, including Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle, who left their names on the window panes (don't try to do this now).
I loved visiting Shakespeare's House.
The only downside was that it was a group visit, so I was not able to take my time and see it at my own pace, as we had a schedule to adhere to, so I am planning to return there one of these days to see it again more leisurely.
* * * Shakespeare's Birthplace * * *
Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon
Telephone: +44 (0) 01789 204 016
There are also group discounts available.
SUMMER (February Half-Term, then April - October): 9am - 5pm
WINTER (November - March): 10am - 4pm
After Shakespeare's house, you can take the opportunity to visit the other 4 houses directly linked to Shakespeare:
- Anne Hathaway's Cottage
- Nash's House and New Place
- Mary Arden's Farm
- Hall's Croft
All of them are near Shakespeare's House and are managed by the Birthplace Trust.
I recommend it to those interested in William Shakespeare, the man, Tudor history, or simply literature and history in general.
Shakespeare's Birthplace has been called "Possibly the most famous and most visited literary landmark in Britain" by www.stratford.co.uk. I'm not sure if this rather bold claim is completely true, but it is probably not too far off. If you are planning a visit to Stratford, the Birthplace is an essential place to visit, not necessarily because it's particularly exciting in itself, but more because it is an important part of English history and heritage.
The house stands in Henley Street, near the centre of Stratford, a quick and easy walk from the market, public carparks and shops. You do not enter directly into the house itself, you actually enter into the visitor's centre, where there is a well-presented and quite interesting exhibition about Shakespeare, his family, and life in Stratford during Elizabethan times. To be honest, the exhibition focuses somewhat more on the latter two; for a much more extensive exhibition on Shakespeare himself and his works, you would be better heading to Hall's Croft, where Shakespeare's daughter lived (again, within walking distance).
After you exit the visitor's centre, you may take a look around the gardens of the Birthplace. They are smallish but very pretty and contain flowers and herbs popular in Elizabethan times. Certainly worth a quick look, but I wouldn't expect many people to be entertained for longer than 5-10 minutes.
After looking at the gardens, you can start queuing up to enter the actual house. I imagine on some days the queuing is not necessary, but when we went on a warm Saturday in September, we were queuing for about half an hour to get in, which was a bit of a pain. It did mean though, that once we got inside it wasn't too crowded and you could see everything easily without having anyone try to elbow you out of the way!
The house itself is lovely. You get a few words of introduction from the guide in the (very cramped) entrance hall and then you are free to explore. It is not huge but it does have a lounge/kitchen, dining room and various bedrooms. It has been very well preserved and the oak beams and old fireplaces are just gorgeous. The fact that it is all kitted out with original or replica Elizabethan furniture makes you feel as though you've stepped back in time. You also get a chance to look in the reconstruction of Shakespeare's father's glovemaking workshop at the back of the house, where a guide will tell you a bit about...glovemaking.
After you've had a look around the house, you have to go through the gift shop to leave. Of course at this point you may have to gently guide your kids away from the vast array of pencils/chocolates/notebooks/rubbers etc all with Shakespeare's face imposed upon them. You will also have to walk past some disturbing Shakespeare cuddly toys and puppets!
All of this can easily be done in an hour or so unless you really like to linger, so the price (£9 for adults, £8 for concessions, £4.50 for children or £24 for a family ticket) might seem a little steep. However, the house no doubt costs a lot to maintain, and the tickets also usefully give you entrance to Hall's Croft, Nash's House, Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Harvard House as well as the Birthplace. You can also go back as many times as you like throughout the year if you have your ticket with you, so it's not too bad value.
I wouldn't say this is the most exciting place to visit, but it is interesting, and if you're in Stratford anyway, or have an interest in Shakespeare, it's a must-see.