Our Second day of the London trip in November turned out to be another day with almost no rain so we could truly enjoy Stratford upon Avon, Cotswolds, Oxford and a bit of London.
We arrived bit too early to our tour meeting place, right behind the London Eye. It was a lovely Sunday morning with no tourists, cars or noise… just us and the beautiful couple taking wedding pictures.
The iconic British are everywhere even though no one uses them. Apparently their phone numbers are active and so they can’t be removed. Interestingly many phone booths in the countryside are converted to little libraries in their new incarnation.
Arriving at Stratford upon Avon where Shakespeare was born and raised… this is the (now) a pedestrian street with his home, museum, shop and many more restaurants, shops, pubs, banks, inns etc.
This house has been in his family all these centuries. Earlier this century, an American wanted to buy the house and move it to the US. So, a Shakespeare promotion organization was formed that collected the funds to buy and keep up the home.
Another side of his large and what must have been a very beautiful house in town.
During William Shakespeare’s childhood and youth, his father was a successful maker of fine leather goods like gloves, bags and many more.
William’s parents’ bedroom is set up to look like the times when Shakespeare was a child. Baby William’s bassinet and later his cot are right next to the bed. To the far right is the pitcher of water, bucket, bathtub, a section of the hardwood from the original floor, cabinets etc.
In William Shakespeare’s was born in this house and as a baby, he would have spent much of the time in this room.
Even though John was a leather goods manufacturer and merchant, he didn’t make shoes. William Shakespeare’s should would have looked something like these – high quality, comfortable and durable.
In those days, adults took a bath about once a year. It was believed that bath’s are bad for health. But, babies were given baths every day in a small wooden tub like this one.
The Shakespeare’s house had some guest rooms. This is the more affordable guest room with very supplies. The more expensive guest rooms had real cots and more amenities.
Shakespeare family home is rather large for today’s times. It was huge by those days standards. People believe William’s father couldn’t have made that much money just with his leather business. He had some side businesses, for which he was prosecuted three times – once for dumping leather processing waste on the street, once for trading in sheep wool without a permit and once for lending money at higher than the customary interest rate. He probably made his fortune in these other hidden businesses but also lost his family name and respect when caught in those trades.
He is certainly the most famous play writer the world has ever seen.
Today this little town gets thousands of visitors a day from around the world. An entire economy has developed around Shakespeare tourism.
There are many original Tudor style houses all around England. By law, they can not be altered on the inside or outside. However, they are updated for maintenance as long as the design is not altered. It must be hard to live and expensive to own in one of these.
The way one can tell if it’s a real Tudor or fake is by looking at the finish… the real ones are crooked but the fake ones are perfectly nicely made. This block has a perfect example of a new (fake) Tudor style house next to an original.
The first painting of William Shakespeare was made after his death, based on descriptions from his wife, Anna Hathaway. The mosaic in the center of this bank is made based on his painting.
She was not happy by his many affairs(with other men and women), so maybe the real Shakespeare was more handsome than the one we know.
As a young theater writer, William came to London. Despite the jealousy established elite writers, he became extremely successful and extremely wealthy. He owned many theaters in London very early on and frequented the city.
But, he returned to his hometown to live. After his father’s financial and social downfall, he redeemed his family’s reputation. He built an enormous house, the largest house in Stratford upon Avon. This is the entrance to his house that stretches the entire block at the back. He entertained many guests and there are many stories of notorious late night with drinking, drugs and other things. Unfortunately, the house burnt down since then.
This is believed to be William Shakespeare’s school. It is still the only school in town.
It must have been a good school to educate him to be the best in the world even though he never went to college. It must be such an honor for the kids who have gone to this school over the last many centuries. Our guide once ventured inside and spoke with some students on how they felt going to the same school as William Shakespeare. Well, the kids were just kids. They didn’t think much about it.
This year on April 23rd the town and the theater celebrated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with massive events and plays. All well-known theater actors have performed here at some point in their careers. It’s considered quite the honor to perform here.
The Avon River, is breathtakingly beautiful, especially with the swans and the fall colors.
As it turns out, all the swan in the country is owned by her majesty the queen. Once a man killed a swan, not knowing what lay in store for him! So, never hurt a swan in England.
As William Shakespeare’s parents family tree shows, William has no legitimate descendants now. But, there are stories of descendants in London and Oxford that weren’t confirmed such as Sir Will Davenant.
Read more about Stratford-Upon-Avon in Pink Caddy’s Travelogue.