Shakespeare's "Kitchen" Discovered During Archaeological Dig | Mother Distracted

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Shakespeare's "Kitchen" Discovered During Archaeological Dig

As an English graduate, I am passionate about preserving the works of our great writers and the teaching of these and the corresponding history of the time in our schools.

2016 will be the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, so I was interested to read that an historic find has been unveiled during a dig at Shakespeare’s family home, New Place, in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has today announced that significant new findings have been unearthed during an archaeological dig, led by Staffordshire University’s Centre of Archaeology, at its ambitious New Place project.

Drawing of New Place - motherdistracted.co.uk
What New Place might have looked like

New Place was Shakespeare’s family home at the height of his career for almost two decades and the latest discoveries include the site of Shakespeare’s ‘kitchen’ including the great dramatist’s ‘oven’ and ‘fridge’.

Shakespeare's 'oven and fridge' - motherdistracted.co.uk
Hearth & Cold Store
In addition to identifying Shakespeare’s ‘kitchen’, the dig has also helped establish the size of New Place. This has enabled the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to commission new evidence-based drawings of New Place, which depict an accurate version of how the house would have looked during Shakespeare’s ownership.

Shakespeare’s New Place was the largest single residence in the borough of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and was purchased for the considerable sum of £120 in 1597 (a Stratford school teacher at this time would have earned about £20 per annum). It had an impressive frontage, a Great Chamber and Gallery, over 20 rooms and 10 fireplaces.

The ‘kitchen’ not only had the ‘oven’ (or fire hearth) and ‘fridge’ (or cold storage pit), but the team also found evidence of the brew house where small beer was made (drunk instead of unsafe water) and where pickling and salting took place.

Fragments of plates, cups and other cookware were also found. Facsimiles of the cookware will be available for visitors to handle, and will be on display at New Place in the neighbouring Grade 1 listed Nash’s House (Tudor in origin), which is currently undergoing a major refurbishment as part of the project.

The latest dig was undertaken earlier this year in preparation for the re-presentation of Shakespeare’s New Place as an exciting, and modern, retelling of Shakespeare’s family home and the living, breathing man behind the great works – husband, father and son of Stratford. Shakespeare’s New Place is scheduled to open in July 2016.

The £5.25 million project – the most ambitious and permanent initiative to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death being celebrated throughout 2016 – is being funded with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England and through public donations raised through a host of initiatives spearheaded by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

New Place was William Shakespeare’s family home from 1597 until his death in 1616. It was the largest single residence in the borough of Stratford-upon-Avon. Built in the 1480s by Hugh Clopton in Chapel Street opposite the Guild Chapel, New Place was described by John Leland – librarian to Henry VIII – as being ‘a pretty house of brick and timber’.

Following Shakespeare’s death, New Place passed to the ownership of his eldest daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall. Their daughter, Elizabeth, inherited New Place from her parents but the house left the ownership of Shakespeare’s surviving family in the 1670s, and was substantially remodelled.

New Place was demolished in 1759 by its then owner, the Reverend Francis Gastrell, mainly to avoid paying taxes (it was his second home). But tradition tells us that he had also become exasperated by the constant stream of enthusiasts and pilgrims wanting to visit Shakespeare’s house and see the mulberry tree he had planted (which Gastrell felled a couple of years earlier). Public disapproval following the demolition – Gastrell was virtually hounded out of town – served to preserve the site, which passed into the care of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1876.

The £5.25 million project is being funded with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England and through public donations raised through a host of initiatives spearheaded by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

More information on donations can be found at http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/about-us/new-place-the-next-chapter/ways-of-giving-new-place.html).

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