Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shakespeare and Stratford - Act One

My daughter and I recently spent a few days in the Cotswolds and this has enabled me to fulfil a long held ambition to visit Anne Hathaway's Cottage and some of the other places associated with William Shakespeare. On the way down we went to Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Ardern's Farm and on the way back we stopped in Stratford itself and visited the Shakespeare Birthplace, Hall's Croft and Holy Trinity Church.

Anne Hathaway was the daughter of Richard Hathaway a well to do yeoman farmer who lived in the village of Shottery just outside Stratford.The right hand part is the original farmhouse built around 1460. In the early 17th century Anne's brother Bartholomew Hathaway added the taller lefthand section. The Hathaways were close friends of the Shakespeare family which included their son William. In August 1582 there was a particularly good harvest and it would seem that 26 year old Anne and 18 year old William joined in the harvest celebrations a little too enthusiastically. On November 27th 1582 there was a rather hurried wedding at Holy Trinity Church closely followed by the baptism of their daughter Susanna on May 26th 1583!

I love the beautiful stone flagged floor and the drop leaf table in this photo. The vast hearth includes a bread oven with a wooden peel for getting the loaves into and out of the oven.

Shakespeare's Courting Chair is traditionally thought to have belonged to William Shakespeare and is said to have been given to the Hathaway family by his granddaughter Lady Elizabeth Barnard. It's an early 16th century chair so is certainly of the correct period but there does seem to be a degree of doubt about whether it really belonged to Shakespeare.

My favourite rooms in old houses are almost always the kitchens and pantries. I would give a good deal to own those wonderful pancheons and the lovely wooden butter churn.

Our next stop was Mary Arden's farm at Wilmcote, the home of William Shakespeare's mother. Wilmcote is the area traditionally known as the Forest of Arden famous as the setting for the play 'As You Like It' although even in Shakespeare's time the forest was long gone. Here we have the shepherd on the right and the falconer on the left passing the time of day. Both were charming and interesting to talk to, the sheep is a Cotswold which an old breed of sheep that would have been farmed in this area in Shakespeare's time.

My daughter isn't a fan of looking round historic houses but she does like animals so was much more enthusiastic about Mary Arden's farm. Here we have an English Longhorn and her calf.

My daughter's new friend:) He's a Mangalitsa, a rare breed long haired pig originally from Austria/Hungary and similar to the wild boar that would have been around in the Tudor era.

As we walked back towards the farmhouse we saw the falconer at work so we stopped to watch. He's flying a beautiful Lanner falcon. In Tudor times falconry was a very popular sport with both royalty and the aristocracy.

Having flown in a very spectacular manner and having - eventually! - returned the falcon has gained his reward and is guarding it with wings spread. I love this photograph. Later we discovered that the falconer also had ferrets and we were allowed to hold them. They are incredibly wriggly and you need to keep a firm grip on them without hurting them or they'd be gone. I've always liked ferrets.

This is the farmhouse which was Mary Arden's childhood home although this has only been discovered fairly recently. Previously the house now known as Palmer's Farm was thought to be Mary Arden's house. Fortunately the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust owned both properties and this farmhouse is now used more as a museum. There's a lovely garden outside filled with borage, St John's wort, lemon balm and other herbs and cottage garden flowers which Shakespeare would have known well. He mentions flowers often in his plays -

"Here's flowers for you;
Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram."

from The Winter's Tale. Not that I'm an expert on Shakespeare's plays ! I have a lovely and very useful book called Shakespeare's Flowers which is full of quotes.

Palmer's Farm is very close to the Arden's farm and belonged to Adam Palmer who was a close friend of William's parents and grandparents. This house is furnished and is used as a living history setting. It's a wonderful building with walls that bend and bow out but in spite of this it has stood here since the 16th century.

This is the best room in the house which was not only a place to eat and relax but was also the master bedroom - much warmer down here where there would be a fire to warm the room.

Rather less luxurious upstairs where the children slept!

The small dairy - cheese was being made here and the smell was really strong.

As with many very old houses there is a passage that runs right through from front to back. The kitchens etc are to the left and the family's living quarters are to the right. I suspect that originally the arrangement would have been animals living on the left and people on the right! This was usually the case with medieval longhouses but I don't know whether Palmer's Farm really did start out this way.

This is the back of Palmer's Farm showing the woodstack and the farmyard. I should finish here really but I can't resist adding.....

the Tamworth pigs.....

the goats - there were three of them but this one was definitely in charge!.....

and last but not least Ellie the horse:)


Lynda (Granny K) said...

Super pictures and a very interesting post. I had to google to discover what a pancheon was! I was given one and I think it is most attractive but rather on the large side for everyday use. I'm afraid it has to live in the shed. I must brave the spiders and check it is ok.

Mac n' Janet said...

Mary Arden's Farm and Palmer's Farm are 2 of our very favorite places and we've visited a number of times. I took a day course in falconry there a few years ago and actually got to fly a falcon, a never to be forgotten memory.
Loved your photos.

Rosie said...

How wonderful! It has been years since I visited any of the Shakespeare houses and had thought I'd like to see them all again - your post has inspired me to do that soon:)

Roy Norris said...

Yes I think you were in your element there D.
Lots of interesting images, but I really like the first Cottage shot especially.

Barb @ Bella Vista said...

Your pictures are always so charming and the post so informative.

My, they did live a much more simple life, didn't they? Everything looks so peaceful and endearing.

Hope your day is blessed.


The History Anorak said...

What a great day out! I'm reluctant to visit Stratford because I always assume it'll be too commercialised these days. Apparently it isn't. You've changed my mind.

Mary said...

Such a wonderful post Rowan - I haven't visited Anne Hathaway's cottage since back in Grammar School in the '50's! I recall it well, and we also went to see Albert Finney perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford - he was just starting out in his acting career.

Great animal pix, I could just cuddle that Cotswold sheep - t looks so clean and docile. Like you, I always enjoy looking around historic kitchens and trying to fathom just how they cooked anything with those awkward looking utensils. I always love the tables!

Happy week dear - Mary

Ruthie Redden said...

Thank you for this lovely post, it brought back memories from my teens, from the days I lived in the Midlands and would visit these places. Back then I especially loved Anne Hathaway's cottage.

Bovey Belle said...

Many MANY a long year since I was last in Stratford - it would be about . . . 1983 I think. Some lovely photos, especially of Palmers Farm, and like you, my favourite rooms are always the kitchens and pantries!