Stratford Upon Avon: Home of the Bard

William Shakespeare is an unforgettable part of English Literature. For generations before us and for generations after, his tragedies and comedies would continue to inspire people. It would illustrate the relevance of his characters composed in the sixteenth century compared to modern-day people. Sharp orators like Octavius, shrewd and cunning wives like Lady Macbeth, over ambitious betrayers like Macbeth would come and go but what would remain sacrosanct is the literary predictions of these personalities that Shakespeare made centuries ago. To understand his literature, it is equally important to understand the man himself and what better to know him from his birthplace Stratford-Upon-Avon.

My passion for both literature and travelling lead me to Stratford-upon-Avon on a bright sunny day. This adventure, in true sense, was my first solo trip in the UK. Upon looking at the itinerary at the International Society Website, I immediately booked a ticket for myself. Thus, we set out on a bright sunny morning from Manchester to Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was a two and half hour journey down South to reach our destination. After reaching the city, we were left on our own to explore this beautiful place for the day. Stratford is a small town pertaining mostly to the ideologies of Shakespeare but there are a few other amazing places to visit too. This post would highlight only regarding Shakespeare while the next would deal with the other amazing places to see in this city.

I had chosen four very specific places to visit: – Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft and Shakespeare’s Grave apart from having an exterior view of the Theatres while walking around the city.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace:

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The first Shakespeare property that I visited was the house where the famous bard was born. The aura and charm of the house was so sophisticated dated back to the century that he was born, that it almost felt like a portal to the past. Upon entering the gates, at the reception area, excerpts from his dramas were being played. A large display screen showed clips from movies as well. I entered the garden walkway on leaving the reception. The garden was unique in the most interesting way possible. A large board across the garden had all his dramas shortened and visually represented for the visitors to see and read.img_5031

A large pulpit was constructed at one side where actors dressed themselves up as the characters of his play and entertained the guests with monologues and scenes from Hamlet. The ushers in the main building were dressed up in Tudor costumes and narrated the rich history of the house to the onlookers.img_5035

The main highlight of the house was the room where Shakespeare was born.  In fact, the window of this room has been specially preserved. Many actors who have played any character from his dramas have actually come and signed on the window making it all the more special.img_5047

The reconstructed window now overlooks an all year Christmas Market on the opposite footpath. This market is opened 365 days a year selling Christmas curios to the tourists and locals.img_5016

Another interesting display of this house was the glove making chamber. William Shakespeare’s father was a glove maker. His chamber was filled with glove making equipments and ready gloves basking in the sun. The last stop in Shakespeare’s Birthplace was the amazing gift shop which had postcards and books with phrases and scenes printed from his comedies and tragedies.

Shakespeare’s New Place:

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Most of us knew Shakespeare as one of the greatest playwrights the world could ever be gifted; but very few know that he was a family man too. Not only did he marry Anne Hathaway and have three children, but also he was a loving husband and a doting father. He was born in his father home (Shakespeare’s Birthplace) but created his own family home a little further from his childhood home. This family home dated from 1597 to 1616 is called Shakespeare’s New Place. The entrance to this house has been reconstructed to give it the form of a modern-day gate. But I could very well feel the vibe of crossing a threshold on which stood the main gate to this house years ago. Upon entering I found myself strolling on the garden. This garden was huge and various trees were planted in it. It was also interspersed with various sculptures. His chair and desk, sitting on which the ideas of many a great tragedies and comedies came to him was also on display. I had thought the garden ended here, but to prove me wrong the path extended and lead to another garden, bigger than the former. This one called, the Great Garden was the largest surviving structure of the original house.img_5067

After exploring the gardens at leisure I walked into the house itself. The house has been converted into a museum and hosts permanent and temporary display throughout Shakespeare’s days as a writer. From rekindling his way of working to the inspirations behind the characters he created all found a place in this exquisite museum. In fact, some of the displays even contained actual objects from the house before its re-construction.

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Shakespeare’s Will 

Hall’s Croft:

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Further down the road from the New Place, I found myself standing outside the beautiful cottage of John Hall’s Croft. This was the house of Shakespeare’s son-in-law and daughter Susanna. It was active from 1614-1951 before finally being given away to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; the organisation responsible for the maintenance and tours of the Shakespeare properties throughout this city. The house mainly had day-to-day objects in display reflecting on the lives of his daughter and son-in-law. But the major highlight was the room in which Susanna gave birth to her daughter Elizabeth.  

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 Shakespeare’s Grave/ The Holy Trinity Church:

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A two minutes walk from Hall’s Croft lead me to the most coveted destination of my trip Shakespeare’s Grave inside the Holy Trinity Church. The moment I entered the church grounds, the beautiful walkway surrounded by numerous graves on both sides greeted me. The interiors of the church were strikingly beautiful. The atmosphere was filled with peacefulness and solitude. The many visitors inside the church were admiring the wall murals and frescoes.img_5114

I wondered about the church in awe for sometime before realising that I had come for the grave. But I was taken for a surprise when I saw Anne Hathaway, Susanna and Hall Croft’s graves as well lying beside that of Shakespeare. His tombstone said,

                                “Good Friend for Jesus’ sake Forbear,

                                  To Dig the Dust Enclosed Here.

                                  Blessed be the Man that spares these stones,  

                                  And cursed be he that moves my bones. “

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 Theatres:

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I must admit that it took me a while to get out of the beauty of the church. But I had to move onto my next destination. Though, I did not have the time to actually go and watch a theatre but that was no excuse for not having even walked past the Swan Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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Gower Memorial:

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The roads lead me to the Avon Canals and to my last Shakespeare related destination: The Shakespeare Memorial. This memorial was a unique columnar structure made of five sculptures. Sitting in the middle of the structure was Shakespeare himself peering over the mighty characters of Lady Macbeth, Prince Hamlet, Falstaff and Prince Hal that he created. Built in 1888, it is also known as the Gower Memorial. Each sculpture represents a theme- Lady Macbeth represents tragedy, Falstaff represents comedy and Hamlet and Prince Hal are the symbols of Philosophy and history respectively.

Other places to see: Apart from the ones mentioned above, the two other heritage sites to see are Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. In fact, you can actually purchase an all property entry ticket which would enable you to visit all five of Shakespeare’s properties in town. In case you would want to visit only the three I have visited you can settle for a different clubbed ticket too. Their prices would vary depending on the type of tickets and entries to the number of properties you are looking for.

My travels in Stratford -Upon- Avon certainly did not stop at these Shakespeare’s properties and I would be back soon with the non-Shakespeare related things to do in this lovely city.

 

48 Replies to “Stratford Upon Avon: Home of the Bard”

  1. It is so fascinating to read about the Bard’s birthplace. This is a place of pilgrimage for anyone interested in literature and drama. It must have been a great experience to stand on the same soil on which Shakespeare walked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice to read about the history of one of the great writers, whose plays, characters we are studying since our childhood days. How beautifully his house has been preserved, I could sense my presence in his birth room through your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all, many congratulations for your first solo trip in the UK! I’m sure it would be an overwhelming experience!

    Visiting the hometown of Shakespeare would be an experience in itself! I’d definitely love to visit this place someday in my life!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely envy for writing on this. I can’t imagine how happy and excited I would when I actually am there. Traveling there has always been on my priority list and this just worked as the icing on the cake 💚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am rather sad that I did not visit Stratford Upon Avon. Funny story when I was planning my move I thought Stratford in East London was the same as Stratford Upon Avon very big mistake. On my next jaunt in the UK I defo want to visit here.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As a graduate in English literature, I’ve always wanted to visit Stratford upon Avon, not only because of its connection with Shakespeare, but the village also looks lovely! Thanks for the great post and photos, I really enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I studied English Literature in high school so this is such a great and interesting post for me. I was unable to visit when I was last in the UK but I managed to see the Globe Theatre and where it previously was before burning down! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I would absolutely love to visit! I didn’t even know I could until I read this post! I’ve spent so many years studying Shakespeare that this would be a blast! I would love to see them act out the plays in person.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Stafford-upon-Avon has always been on my list of places to visit in the UK. Even if it’s such a touristic town it still maintained its charm and you were lucky to see it on a sunny day. I bet it would have been amazing to see a play at the theater. I have watched the Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe in London and it was amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Envy Envy Envy…..that is what I have right now. I could not manage a visit here during my last trip and was so regretting it. Now even more so after reading your post and seeing all the pictures of what I have missed! Thanks for sharing them…glad that at least a virtual tour was possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The stain-glass windows at Holy Trinity Church look so wonderful. Even if you’re not a Shakespeare fan, I think that would be reason enough to visit. Stratford is worlds apart from Manchester I’m guessing?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I must confess that the closest I’ve gotten to Shakespeare, is the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London.

    Although Sarah has, I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Stratford Upon Avon, so thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. History, culture and literature rolled into one! I’m ashamed to admit I was born in England but have never been here! I must say the Church looks absolutely stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the church had a very different aura about itself. I have been to a lot of churches ion England but this one was completely different. Quaint, Secluded yet buzzing with stories in every inch.

      Like

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