“What’s in the name after all?” quipped Shakespeare.
But the name Stratford-upon-Avon holds a very important place in History of England & for the World of Theatre; for this is the place where the famous Actor, Poet, Playwright, of English Literature and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist was born. Stratford-Upon-Avon has ever since been regarded as a must visit place in England. Situated on the banks of River Avon is the market town named Stratford in the County of Warwickshire; thence popularly known as Stratford-Upon-Avon. Located approximately 165 Kms North West of London and 40Kms South East of Birmingham (the Second Largest City of England after London).
One can get to Stratford-Upon-Avon from London with up to 7 trains from Marylebone Station up to Stratford-Upon-Avon Parkway Station directly. Regular train services operate from Birmingham’s Snow Hill & Moor Street Stations. By Car, one can take the M40 from Junction 15 from Birmingham to reach this place. One can get around this beautiful town by the Hop-on, Hop-off bus service offering various options for City Tours based on one’s liking. This bus service has the option for the entry ticket to 5 of Shakespeare’s properties in this city. One can make use of this service to avoid the queues. These buses operate every 30 minutes on normal days and after every 15 minutes on summer days. One can also buy a combined ticket for boating in the River Avon.
Shakespeare’s Birth Place:
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is situated on Henley Street in the town center of Stratford-upon-Avon. This is probably one of the most visited places in the town where visitors flock every year making it one of the popular destination in England. For all Shakespeare enthusiasts, this place is no less than a shrine. In this very house, William Shakespeare was born, grew up, plated and dreamt in the very rooms of this house. Shakespeare spent the first five years of married life in this house with his new wife, Anne Hathaway. His father John Shakespeare was a glove maker and did his trade form this very house. Shakespeare’s Birthplace is a fascinating house that offers a glimpse into Shakespeare’s early world. It’s a special place that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.
The house still showcases many of the original items used by the family on a daily basis. The beds used by the family members along with kitchen equipment are displayed as they might have been arranged in those days. You will also find many Historic Books & Manuscripts in the house which are preserved with special care. If you wish to take photos of the interiors of this house; then the best time would be any other time but the summer holidays. If you visit this place in Summer like I did; you would be disappointed as the number of people visiting this house makes it utterly impossible to take photographs of the interiors.
The tour of the house ends through the back side of the house overlooking the garden which is also known as Celebration Garden. In summertime, small performance from Shakespeare’s Plays is performed in this garden free of cost. This marks an emotional end to the tour of Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
Henley Street is not only famous for this house but it is also a major shopping area along with a variety of different eateries, cafes, and pubs. As the sun sets in the west the pubs start to get busy with the connoisseurs of alcohol, beers & ales start to flock in.
Anne Hathaway Cottage:
History states that this Thatched Cottage has been occupied by the Hathaway for more than 600 years. This beautiful house is the next in line attraction after Shakespeare’s Birthplace. This is the house where Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway was born. The Cottage is situated in the village Shottery which is roughly 1 mile from Stratford-upon-Avon.
This cottage has almost 90 acres of land attached to it which houses many rooms and still contains many rare family items of furniture that date back to Anne’s time; including the finely carved, oak Hathaway bed. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful gardens attached to the Cottage with stunning grounds, which overflow with fragrant blooms and traditional shrubs. Why this 12 roomed house with several bedrooms is called a Cottage still remains a mystery; maybe its the Classic British Humour that plays an important part in such naming.
It is said that in this very cottage that the Young Shakespeare must have courted the beautiful Anne Hathaway who was actually 8 years elder to him; some accounts of history mention that this must have been the most romantic tale in England during those days.
Mary Arden’s Farm:
The 3rd most popular house place of visit for the tourists is the Farm House of Mary Arden. This is the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother; a living history experience transporting visitor’s back to the Tudor Era of sometime during 1570’s.
There is a funny story attached to this farmhouse. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought the neighbor Adam Palmer’s farmhouse thinking it to be Mary Arden’s Farm and refurbished it. Later when the confusion was cleared they bought the original Mary Arden’s farm and refurbished the lost timber work of this property. This farm represents a Real Working Tudor Farm.
This farmhouse of Mary Arden is located roughly 3.5 Miles outside Stratford in a village known as Wilmcote. In this timbered Tudor farmhouse Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden grew up before marrying John Shakespeare and moving to Henley Street.
This farmhouse has housed many rare breeds of animals including Mangalitza and Tamworth pigs, Cotswold sheep, Long Horn cattle, Baggot and Golden Guernsey goats along with many geese.
Stratford-Upon-Avon is a place which has history amalgamated in the modern day architecture everywhere. The best way to see this town is by walking along its cobbled streets dotted by numerous cafe and pubs. There are Walking Tours available; details of which can be obtained from the Visitors Centre.
The other places of tourist attractions include the following:
Holy Trinity Church where William Shakespeare & Anne Hathaway are laid to rest.
New Place or Nash House where Shakespeare lived for the last 19 years of his life.
Hall’s Croft where Shakespeare’s eldest daughter Susanna lived with her husband.
King Edward VI Grammar School where; it is believed; Shakespeare studied.
So in totality Stratford-Upon-Avon is all about William Shakespeare. The place where he was born, studied, married, had children, rose to fame. The town where he lived his final years and breathed his last and was put to rest beside his Wife Anne Hathaway. History would be forever indebted to this quaint little town located by the banks of River Avon who gave a literary genius like William Shakespeare. Be it any language; his plays have been recreated by the aspiring & famous actors all across the globe.
Make sure you put this town on your Bucket List; I am sure you will come back with memories of a Drive Down the History.
Ameya Tarde, Travel Blogger.