The Shakespeare Connection, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Whether you’re an avid theatregoer or simply a fan of his timeless poetry and plays, access to the legacy of William Shakespeare and his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, couldn’t be easier from your elegant base at Alveston Manor.
A short walk across the bridge will take you into the vibrant market town where you can fully immerse yourself in life and times of this much-loved playwright. For those more interested in Elizabethan history than the Bard himself, Shakespeare’s timeline provides a handy portal into the period and focuses on three sites in Stratford upon Avon. These are looked after by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and you can buy tickets for the individual sites - or choose the Shakespeare’s Story ticket, which gives you good-value access to all three.
Built on Henley Street in the mid-16th century, this also where William grew up, the third of eight children born to father, John Shakespeare and mother, Mary Arden. John Shakespeare was a glove maker and part of this substantial property would have been used as his business premises. When William was 4 years old, John became Mayor of Stratford, an office of high status which allowed William entry to the local grammar school. The rest is history.
The house was purchased at auction by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847 and has been carefully renovated, now offering a wonderful insight into the lives of the family, with rooms styled and furnished as they would have been in the 16th century. Journey back in time as you tour the house, then admire the lovely gardens where flowers and aromatic herbs from the period have been planted for their beauty and authenticity. Start at the Visitors Centre and begin with the Famous Beyond Words exhibition, which puts the house, its contents and Shakespeare’s early years into context.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Originally a farmhouse, this picturesque, 500-year-old cottage was the family home of William’s future wife, Anne, who lived here during their courtship. Married in 1582, they moved into his family home on Henley Street, where their children were born. Three years later, William Shakespeare left to follow his artistic dreams in London leaving his wife behind. By 1592 he had become a well-known actor and playwright.
The cottage is particularly intriguing historically as it was inhabited continuously by the Hathaway family – sheep farmers back in the day – for 400 years until it was acquired by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1917. Built in 1463, much of the original house survives and you’ll see some original furniture too, including the Hathaway bed. Make sure you take a leisurely wander through the cottage’s superb gardens and orchards – easy to imagine as the perfect setting for romantic assignations.
When Shakespeare returned to Stratford upon Avon in 1597, he was wealthy and successful enough to buy his own large house, New Place, where he lived with his family and created some of his most famous works until his death in 1616.
New Place was demolished in 1759 and a tranquil and captivating garden has been created on the land where it once stood to commemorate the significance of the site and bring the essence of Shakespeare’s time here to life.
The scale of New Place and its relationship to the surviving buildings nearby is re-imagined and you’ll also see specially commissioned artworks designed to evoke family life. The idyllic Great Garden, located where the house would have stood, was once part of Shakespeare’s estate and is home to sculptures inspired by Shakespeare’s writing, whilst the Tudor Knot Garden is based on designs that were popular in his time.