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For a while now I had wanted to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon, the hometown of William Shakespeare. I wouldn’t call myself a Shakespeare expert by any means, but being from the creative world of TV and film, I’ve always had an invested interest in his work. My favorite theater performance was The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. Stratford-Upon-Avon was a short jaunt from Stow where I had been for my friend’s wedding. I went by car as taking the three trains it would have required to get there on a Sunday would have cost time and money. After dropping my bags at the local YHA hostel, I hurried over to the Stratford Town Walk.
Stratford Town Walk
I had discovered the Stratford Town Walk online and figured it was an affordable way for me to see a lot in a short amount of time. I had only given myself one day there so time was of the essence. The meeting point for the walk was in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre by a little yellow sign. Though it be small, it was easy enough to find. At only £6, the walk is a bargain! Also a bonus, you don’t have to book in advance! When you buy your ticket, you also get a set of vouchers. They give you discounts at local shops, restaurants, pubs and attractions (I wound up using the one for Shakespeare’s Birthplace and a local eatery called The Dirty Duck).
William Shakespeare’s Birthplace
Our lovely guide began our tour with some history of Stratford. The name is a combination of the Old English strǣt, meaning “street”, and ford, indicating a site at which a road forded a river. The “street” was a smaller Roman road connecting the larger roads Fosse Way and Icknield Street. From there we went onto Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
You can see in the lower right photo what the building is made of. If I remember correctly, it’s pretty much inter woven sticks, mud, and clay. We only stayed for a quick moment here, and then moved onto some local points of interest. As I said, I only had a limited time, so it was nice to have someone who knew their way around. I would have needlessly spent some time trying to find these location had I been on my own.
Harvard House was on my list of must-sees so I was really excited that it was already on the tour! It was once known as the Ancient House and built in 1596 by Thomas Rogers, grandfather of the benefactor of Harvard University, John Harvard. If you click on the photos so they expand you can see there is a lot of intricate cravings on the house. Really a beautiful building!
Stratford-Upon-Avon, though it was chartered in 1196, has continued to grow over it’s 800 years. You can see evidence of that in the image below. There are three clearly different styles of architecture in just one corner of the city.
We then ventured onto Guild Chapel and a grammar school, both of which Shakespeare attended. A short walk away from the grammar school we came upon Hall’s Croft which was the home of Susanna Shakespeare and her husband, Dr John Hall. I didn’t have time for a look inside, but I did snap a photo of the outside. Our guide was full of interesting little facts like the word “disease” coming from dis-ease as well as “bonfire” being derived from the fact that bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned. It made for an fascinating tour of Stratford-Upon-Avon. We next headed to the Holy Trinity Church.