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A #bardread visit to Stratford-upon-Avon

April 22, 2016

This month’s theme is #bardread. How about visiting the house in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon where William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 to see where the story began? We joined visitors from all over the world that had come to see the birthplace of the world’s greatest dramatist. Our knowledgeable guide, wearing period costume, told us what life would have been like in Shakespeare’s time. We followed him through the timbered rooms, ducking to avoid the low lintels over the doors.

We then walked along a footpath, for just over a mile, to reach Anne Hathaway’s family home in the hamlet of Shottery. It is a lovely half-timbered thatched cottage surrounded by beautiful gardens. It was a sunny day so we took time to admire the colourful flowers in the borders and walk through the willow arbour to see the giant willow sculptures.

Our next stop was the site of New Place where we saw the stunning knot garden. Shakespeare bought New Place in 1597 and lived there with his wife Anne Hathaway for nineteen years until his death in 1616. At the moment New Place is undergoing restoration and is scheduled to re-open in July 2016 and will be at the centre of the worldwide celebration of his legacy.

We thought we had stepped back in time when we visited Mary Arden’s House, the farmhouse where Shakespeare’s mother grew up. We were greeted by the delicious smells of cooking as a guide dressed in period costume prepared food over the fire in the kitchen. We learnt that the family would have eaten food from wooden plates called trenchers. We then had the opportunity to try the skills and crafts from that time.

A visit to Stratford-upon-Avon would not be complete without seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The grade II listed theatre contains several of the original art deco features of the 1932 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. It is located on Waterside next to the River Avon and can seat 1,040 people.

Why not share your thoughts about Shakespeare during our live Twitter chat on Tuesday 26 April using the tags #bardread and #rwpchat so others can join in the conversation.

Monique (Surrey Libraries)

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