Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018
After Bibury and Bourton on the Water, we were nowhere near finished with our tour of the Cotswolds. Shottery was our next destination – the village where Anne Hathaway grew up. In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about the contemporary actress Anne Hathaway, but rather William Shakespeare’s wife. The cottage where she grew up was a cute little Tudor style cottage, built beginning in 1463 by Anne’s grandfather, John Hathaway. Anne was born in the house in 1556.
The home was occupied by the Hathaway family for thirteen generations; the home was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892, and the trust arranged for the family members to continue to take care of the cottage and tell family stories. The last member of the family, William Baker, was there until 1911. One admission fee included all the the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties, including the Hathaway Cottage, the Shakespeare Birthplace Home, the New Place (where Shakespeare lived after he married), and a couple other places we didn’t have time to see. Taryn and I opted in for the tours; the guys decided they would rather just wander the towns and hit the pubs.
It was fun to see the home, including some of the original Hathaway belongings. The garden was amazing! The Hathaways were tenant sheep farmers who eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase their property, before later experiencing a decline in fortune and having to sell the property and become tenant farmers once again. What goes around comes around. Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess – it is all fleeting.
We went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the Shakespeare sights next. Shakespeare was born there in 1564, and also returned there in approximately 1613, after making a name for himself in London. Shakespeare died in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1616, and is buried there. The bus dropped us off and set us loose upon the town.
Taryn and I stopped first at the school Shakespeare attended, The King’s New School, which was available for free for all boys in the district. Shakespeare would have attended there from the age of seven, after grammar school ended, until the age of 14, when he likely would have entered an apprenticeship program for another seven years. There is no record that Shakespeare ever attended university.
The school tour was interesting because they had an interpretative talk where the guide explained what the boys would have learned, the expected behavior and how long they would be in school each day. As it turns out they went to school from 6 am to 5 pm, 6 days a week! That’s a lot of learning! The school has the original historic headmaster’s table and several original desks, where they carved their names in to memorialize their time in school. After the interpretive talk, in the next room they had a place where you could try to write your name with a feather quill pen. It is tougher than it looks!
We had a bit of extra time so we went over to the Shakespeare New Place. It is an exhibit on the site where Shakespeare lived with Anne Hathaway after they married and came into some money. The house is gone, but the home next door was built around the same time period – 1530, and the exhibit went through there so we could see the style of home where he lived. They had manuscripts of Shakespeare’s work and other interesting artifacts.
We had to meet back up with the bus tour guide so he didn’t think we had gone AWOL, but he was ok with us not staying with the group (the pace of the group was annoyingly slow). We told him that we were off to find the next museum; Shakespeare’s birthplace home. The original home is still standing; it was built in the 1500s. William Shakespeare’s father Jon was a glove maker and wool dealer; the home was built with his business occupying part of it. In 1568 John became the Mayor of Stratford. He originally rented the home, but records show he purchased it in the 1550s. It looks modest now, but it would have been a fine home for the time!
William Shakespeare was the third of eight children to be born here, on April 23, 1564. When his father John died in 1601, William inherited the house (he was the oldest son), and lived there for the first five years of his marriage. Later he leased the house, and it became an inn, and it was an inn until 1847! According to the Trust, when Shakespeare died he left this house to his eldest daughter, who left it to her daughter, and then it was inherited by the descendants of one of Shakespeare’s sisters. It remained in the family until it was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847. Other sources dispute that and say the home passed out of the hands of Shakespeare’s family in the early 1800s. It is so incredible to know that England was thinking about historic preservation over 170 years ago!
We toured the home and saw where there were historic names etched in the glass from people who visited the home over 100 years ago – it has been a tourist attraction for a long time! We also got to stand in the room where the bard was likely born!
After our tour, we had a little bit of time to wander around Stratford Upon Avon, so Taryn and I got some ice cream to cool down on another hot day. We also poked around in a few of the shops in town. It was such a fun visit, but soon it was time for pile back on the bus.
The bus dropped us off about 7:30 and we went to the Admiralty Pub near Trafalgar Square once more. I had a mini-pie – the sweet potato and Stilton one (so good!) and some peel and eat Atlantic Prawns. We got back to the hotel about 9 pm for some cider and British game shows. They are fascinating, and so very different from American game shows. It was another great day!
Tube Stations: The bus dropped us off on Gloucester Road. Gloucester Raod to Charing Cross (The Admiralty), to Earl’s Court (hotel).
Costs: Bus tour to the Cotwolds and Stratford Upon Avon – 59 pounds, Shakespeare admissions – 22.50 pounds, snacks for lunch, dinner at the Admiralty Pub
Fitbit Steps: 9,700 steps