This isn’t the Anne Hathway of modern Hollywood fame, but the alleged wife (‘alleged wife’ because as I understand historians can’t conclusively tell us who Shakespeare actually was) of infamous Elizabethan playwright Shakespeare. Anne and her family grew up in this cottage, in the small village of Shottery about a mile out of Stratford-upon-Avon.
On a gorgeous day full of sunshine and blue skies, we walked from Alveston Manor Hotel and Spa in the centre of town, to the gloriously dinky lanes of Shottery. A few years ago I’d read Amanda @ Rhyme and Ribbons’ post about the cottage, and it had been on my bucket list ever since!
They curve around fields full of hedgerows and wildflowers, stop near thatched cottages that are straight from chocolate box lids, and eventually twist around to the compact and beautiful building of dreams. Buying tickets in the suitably cute ticket hall/gift shop (you can upgrade to more than one Shakespeare related property or make your ticket valid for multiple visits for a year) we began our meandering.
Anne and Shakespeare were married in 1582 – he was 18 and she was 26 years old (and she was pregnant – as crafty as a modern-day silverscreen diva.) Anne’s family home was over time extended from a medieval cottage with a few rooms, to the current 12-room farmhouse where generations of her family have lived, worked and relaxed, initially in the middle of a farm – now beautifully cultivated gardens and an orchard.
The thought that we stepped on the exact kitchen hearthstones that Shakespeare may have paced when he was wooing Anne was utterly intriguing.
Soon after their marriage Shakespeare went to work as an actor in London while she remained in the Henley street house with her in-laws. Shakespeare visited frequently but his wife Anne Hathaway never went to London, as far as anyone knows. Anne’s in-laws were fairly prosperous, although that prosperity was on the decline, but their standard of living improved as her husband became, at first, well-off as a successful playwright and theatrical operator and then famous as the writer and presenter of the most successful plays of his time, even performing, occasionally, for the King and his royal court. Anne lived the life of what would be the equivalent, in our times, of a millionaire’s wife and enjoyed the prestige that came with having a successful and very wealthy husband.
Each of the rooms are dressed as a different time period that the home was lived in – and is a fascinating time capsule of everyday family life.
And outside? Well, outside it was simply charming.
Once we had taken the tour via the volunteers (they run super frequently, and help to give a really good idea of history, personal connections and stories) we wandered through the peaceful orchard and followed the sculpture trail through the trees.
At one point, as we had the entire dappled orchard to ourselves, we simply sat on the bench and soaked in the birdsong for a good 15 minutes, before real life intruded once more.
Which is your favourite Shakespeare play?
< Pin for future travels >