The Bard’s Beginnings: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

Just walking the short walk to the front door gave me chills.  After all, I was at Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon!

Just walking the short walk to the front door gave me chills. After all, I was at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon!

Surely no self-respecting English teacher (myself included) would return home from a trip to England without visiting Stratford-upon-Avon.  After all, this birthplace and home of William Shakespeare appears in British lit books and “bardly” publications that we share with students and dream of seeing in person . . . someday.

Well, my someday came, and here my husband and I were staring squarely at the place of William Shakespeare’s birth in 1564, amazed that it wasn’t as humble a structure as we would have suspected.  In fact, this half-timbered house was the largest dwelling on Henley Street when John and Mary Shakespeare lived there and raised eight children, William being the third one born.

Shakespeare's home on Henley Street

Shakespeare’s home on Henley Street

Touring the home today offers you a glimpse of what life would be like for John Shakespeare, Mayor of Stratford,  and his brood. Judging from what most people would consider a rather smallish home for 10, you might wonder how so many people could live comfortably there.  But live they did.  And in style.  Leaded glass windows and aged-over-time hardwood floors have endured a steady stream of visitors, eager to peek into rooms and imagine life in the 16th century.  And a table set as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time brings dinnertime to life.  Overall, Shakespeare’s Birthplace is an impressive home, even by today’s standards.

Boys' bedroom, Shakespeare's Birthplace

Boys’ bedroom, Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Table set for dinner as it would have been in the 16th century

Table set for dinner as it would have been in the 16th century

Moving through the house and imagining what life was like “back in the day” was one thing, but what enhanced the experience were the performers dressed in period attire.  Like this affable soul who serenaded us inside the front door with lute accompaniment.

Entertaining visitors with his lute in Shakespeare's Birthplace

Entertaining visitors with his lute in Shakespeare’s Birthplace

And this patient, happy lady who led a hands-on demo for children in the art of making a pouch.

Demonstrating needle arts at Shakespeare's Birthplace

Demonstrating needle arts at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Although December is not the best time for touring the gardens, there’s evidence of what active members of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and area volunteers have done to restore and maintain the grounds as well as the home.

Climbing vines at the side door entrance to Shakespeare's Birthplace

Climbing vines at the side door entrance to Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Bottom line on the whole experience?  It’s a tour worth taking — and not just for English teachers.  It’s history, architecture, lifestyle, joy, all rolled into one.  Headed to Stratford-upon-Avon?  Then, don’t miss Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

Even the back of this half-timbered house is impressive.

Even the back of this half-timbered house, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, is impressive.

For more information:

The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.


14 thoughts on “The Bard’s Beginnings: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      No embarrassed feelings allowed! We all have places we want to see but haven’t been to. And we didn’t get started traveling ’til late in life. There’s not much way to catch up, but we’re trying!!

  1. wonderwall360blog

    So you would recommend even if limited interest in Shakespeare? I’m having a Shakespeare blog party on April 23rd do you mind if I reblog this as part of that; giving you the credit of course. Feel free to join that.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      If you’re going to be in Stratford-upon-Avon anyway, I’d go to Shakespeare’s Birthplace. I’d also go to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, but we arrived too late. (Yes, we should have checked schedule.) Would I return to Stratford? Probably not. It’s a touristy town, and just OK. But I’m a former English teacher, so I was paying homage to a great writer, or at least I thought so.
      It’s an interesting house — not huge, not endowed with rich treasures. But it’s authentic. And I like seeing a writer’s beginnings no matter how humble. (These weren’t so humble in Shakespeare’s time.) And the Trust has done a great job of adding guides and little touches to make the place seem quite vibrant.
      Feel free to reblog as you wish. I’m delighted that you’re interested!

      1. wonderwall360blog

        Thank you. No plans to visit Stratford but wondered if I should be taking more time to learn about Shakespeare. See where writers have written is interesting.

  2. Curt Mekemson

    I would certainly enjoy a trip there. Thanks for taking me along, Rusha. Not to sure I would want the boar’s head on my dinner table, though. 🙂 –Curt

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