Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 28 - Shopping and a Revisit to Shakespeare's Birthplace

HMV Oxford Street
We did a lot of walking today.  After taking the bus from Leicester Square to Tottenham Court Road, we walked to the closest HMV.  We didn't find what we wanted, so the clerk suggested we walk to the next HMV on Oxford Street.  He said, "It's only a ten minute walk down the road."  That maybe true for the Brits, but as unfit Americans we need to triple the amount of time. So, approximately one half-hour and a mile later we arrived at the second HMV (His Master's Voice, formerly aka RCA Victor).  We found what we were looking for there, then attempted to find a bus that would take us back to Covent Garden or Leicester Square, which isn't easy since they've closed off Tottenham Court going in the opposite direction, so we walked.  Great exercise, but very fatiguing.  So, in total for the day we probably only walked two miles, but it seemed like ten.

NFL Banners on Regent Street
For dinner we had mashed potatoes and braised beef bits in an onion gravy.  Good for a pre-packaged dinner.  So, now we're settled down and watching the telly, so I'm going to take you back to Stratford-upon-Avon to share some pictures I wasn't able to share with on Sunday Night.

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare's Birthplace is a restored 16th-century half-timbered house situated in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon where it is believed that William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and spent his childhood years.

The house itself is relatively simple, but for the late 16th century it would have been considered a substantial dwelling. John Shakespeare, William's father, was a glove maker and wool dealer, and the house was originally divided in two parts to allow him to carry out his business from the same premises.

Glove Shop
The building is typical of the times, constructed in wattle and daub around a wooden frame. Local oak from the Forest of Arden and blue-grey stone from Wilmcote were used in its construction, while the large fireplaces were made from an unusual combination of early brick and stone, and the ground-floor level has some of the original stone-flagged floors.

Dining Room with stone-flagged floors and sample gloves
The plan of the building was originally a simple rectangle. From north-west to south-east, the ground-floor consisted of a parlour with fireplace, an adjoining hall with a large open hearth, a cross passage, and finally a room which probably served as John Shakespeare's workshop. This arrangement was mirrored on the first-floor by three chambers accessed by a staircase from the hall, probably where the present stairs are sited. Traditionally, the chamber over the parlour is the birthroom. A separate single-bay house, now known as Joan Hart's Cottage, was later built onto the north-west end of the house, and the present kitchen was added at the rear with a chamber above it.

The Birthroom
The ownership of the premises passed to William on John Shakespeare's death. However, by that time William already owned New Place in Stratford and had no need for the Henley Street premises as a home for himself or his family. Consequently, the main house was leased to Lewis Hiccox, who converted it into an inn known as the Maidenhead (later the Swan and Maidenhead Inn), and the small, one-bay house to the north-west was put to residential use. By the time of Shakespeare's death in 1616 it was occupied by Joan Hart, his recently widowed sister.

Plan after the house became an inn
Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 and was survived by his wife and two daughters. Susanna had married a physician, John Hall, in 1607,[60] and Judith had married Thomas Quiney, a vintner, two months before Shakespeare’s death.

The Backside Exterior
In his will, Shakespeare left the bulk of his large estate to his elder daughter Susanna. The terms instructed that she pass it down intact to "the first son of her body". The Quineys had three children, all of whom died without marrying.] The Halls had one child, Elizabeth, who married twice but died without children in 1670, ending Shakespeare’s direct line.

The Boys' Room adjoining the Birthroom
Shakespeare's will scarcely mentions his wife, Anne, who was probably entitled to one third of his estate automatically. He did make a point, however, of leaving her "my second best bed", a bequest that has led to much speculation. Some scholars see the bequest as an insult to Anne, whereas others believe that the second-best bed would have been the matrimonial bed and therefore rich in significance.

The Kitchen
Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death. The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008.

The Pantry with the goose about to be cooked
The inscription on Shakespeare's grave marker:
Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he yt moves my bones.[71]
(Modern spelling: Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, | To dig the dust enclosed here. | Blessed be the man that spares these stones, | And cursed be he that moves my bones.)

Rumor has it that a group of people want Shakespeare's bones moved to Westminster Abbey, but the family is resisting it because of Shakespeare's wishes.

Shakespeare's Grave
When you tour Shakespeare's birthplace, you may come across a few actors who will entertain you if you request a scene from one of his plays.  Of course, I requested a scene from Taming of the Shrew and they did a very good job.  Lots of fun.

Actors on the site
In addition to the actors, the docents are all in 16th century costume.  The woman below is dressed to look like Queen Elizabeth I, although I doubt her majesty ever did a drop in to Shakespeare's home.

Queen Elizabeth I
Then as you leave Shakespeare's home, you'll see at the end of his street a statue of the fool.  I don't believe it is intended as a warning or symbol, but we captured a picture all the same.

Ah, what fools we mortals be, so I'll leave you with that thought and continue with some more Cotswold pictures tomorrow.  Until then, night.


  1. Shakespeare's environs are places I've always wanted to visit. I've done a lot of research into Elizabethan customs (directing a troupe of 300 actors at a Renaissance Faire requires that you know your stuff). Fascinating stuff.

    1. There is something humbling about knowing you're walking on the same floor he trod as a boy and later as a man. I've done a little research on both the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, a fascinating time in history.