Stratford-upon-Avon is a lovely town whose name is a nuisance to write and where the lovely, poetic, imaginative, world famous playwright William Shakespeare was born. It started of as a village built by the Saxons in the 7th century but with the addition of a market in the 12th century, was given the rank of a town. It must have always had educationists living in it since it had a (small) school even in the 13th century wow. Since I live only a few miles away from it in Birmingham, it was of course essential that of to Stratford I go before my time in the Shire, I mean England, runs out and I must say that Stratford (I’m dropping the upon Avon bit) does not disappoint. It is small and quaint and it seems as if time really does slow down in that rural-ish pocket of England.
Getting of the train, one is greeted by a pretty little sign announcing Stratford-upon-Avon.
Couple of turns and up turns a blue cow :/, creature of fiction indeed. However this particular blue cow is not there to jump over the moon but only an advertisement for the blue cross charity, which gives a home to abandoned, ill or injured animals.
Across the street, right in the middle of the marketplace sits the house where Shakespeare was born ( WOW proclaim Shakespeare fans). It is extremely well preserved Tudor house and there is a very good reason behind this very good preservation which follows the photo:
Many many (some 250) years ago this very place was derelict and falling into ruins and nobody cared :’( . An enterprising American man who owned a circus saw it and had a brilliant idea. He would buy it, tear it down (gasp of horror!!!), take the parts to America and travel with them all over America while displaying them in his circus (second gasp of horror). However the people of England were indignant. Shakespeare’s house, Shakespeare’s house, a kingdom for Shakespeare’s house, they proclaimed and formed a society for its protection and as a result it is now possible to visit the place where Shakespeare was born, grew up, played, fell in love, and spent the early years of his married life. People flock in great numbers to this town, and important visitors include (drumroll)
1) Charles Dickens!!
2) Thomas Hardy!!
3) Sir Walter Scott!!
4) Mee!!! (Surprise)
In the late 16th century, Shakespeare was rich enough to purchase the second largest house in the area, confusingly called New Place, which seems to me a bizarre name for a house. Imagine asking someone where they live and being told new place :/ . New Place had 10 fireplaces which is no mean number of fireplaces even now and certainly not in the 16th century and it had massive grounds and it cost him the grand sum of 60 pounds. Sadly New Place is not a house anymore, it is an archaeological dig because(prepare yourself) a crazy man and his wife who bought the house in the 18th century were irritated by what they called ‘the cult of Shakespeare’ and had it torn down…(insert expletive of choice here very loudly)
Oh well, all the other houses connected are still standing and the prettiest of them all (from outside) is Anne Hathaway’s cottage.
Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare’s wife and a farmers daughter. Her cottage is a 30-40 minute walk from his home. When they married he was 18 and she was 26 (and supposedly pregnant) and by all accounts it was a happy marriage (how cute), which is great as it would be sadly disappointing if the author of Romeo and Juliet could not get along with his wife.
2 things I remember from Stratford are
1) In the 16th century and earlier people mostly slept on big sacks full of anything soft as bed were hideously expensive. If anyone could afford a bed they would put it in the main room so all visitors could see that the house had a bed. People would not lie down completely but would be a bit propped up on the bed, for if they lay down, it was feared that the devil would take steal their soul, thinking they were dead :O . Also the sacks were tied with a rope which was tightened every night, which led to the phrase ‘sleep tight’.
2) Men were legally allowed to beat their wives with a stick (no thicker than their thumb), if the wife let the fire on the hearth be blown out. Following are some Shakespearean ways to insult such a charming husband
Happily that law no longer exists. Hurray! And Stratford-upon-Avon is definitely a place to visit. Apart from its Shakespearean connections, the main street has the most interesting shops ever. There is a Christmas shops which runs year round and a shop with massive teddy bears and a peter rabbit one as well! Hence proved that Stratford-upon-Avon is a delight for literary adults as well as carefree kids.