Time of year
Peter S wrote a review Jun 2020
Rome, Italy2,893 contributions236 helpful votes
Glimpses 15th century working farm that belonged to Family Arden – William Shakespeare’s Grandparents.
Review covers Mary Arden’s farm at Wilmcote, 10 km North-West of Stratford-upon-Avon. William Shakespeare – English poet, actor and playwright and generally considered the best-known/revered writer in the English Language. And the farm? This is where the bard’s grandparents lived and where his mother Mary Arden was raised; it’s where you can catch a glimpse of what rural life was like in Tudor England >400 years ago. And William Shakespeare? Well, as-far-as Mary Arden’s farm (his mother’s place) is concerned he’s not yet in the picture as-it-were – not even a walk-on part - he’s waiting there in the future a generation away. You visit the farm, explore the buildings, examine the heritage pictures and talk with the many volunteers responsible for guiding you through what you’re looking at – acting their parts, demonstrating the house and farm activities of those times, dressed in period costumes and providing you with an introduction to livestock/crops production typical of a rural community in the 15th century Midlands - how people used to live. Sanitized, of course. It’s all part of the Shakespeare Heritage Industries centred upon Stratford-upon-Avon. That, however, is not the point … life in Tudor times was hard for ordinary folk. Mary Arden is background information, and her farmhouse represents ‘Mother’ for those crucial life, food production, culinary, medical, economic and social skills required when raising a large family – no family planning in those days – and large families covered the loss of children to all manner of diseases unimaginable to those of us living in the rich countries today. No security in old age either. We were in Stratford to catch a glimpse of Shakespeare’s early life – before he became a famous playwright - starting with his Mother’s farm/Arden Cottage. There are two residential houses on the site. 1 Arden Family home – smaller of the two, red brick and towards the rear of the property; and 2. Palmer’s farm-house – larger, timber framed, typical of the period. It was only 20 years ago that the former was conclusively identified as the Arden Family home. Wander the houses and explore the rooms, furnishings and the modus vivendi of the many people who once lived there. Then the grounds - dovecote, cider mill (apples to pulp to juice), small livestock/out-buildings & paddocks, photographs and more. And about livestock, the farm is stocked with a dozen breeds typical of the period – cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and more – rare breeds that can no longer match the productivity of modern breeds. We caught the staff/actors around a large table eating their lunch – typical of the fayre found in a Tudor farmhouse of the day – bread, salad, pie of some kind – from a fine selection of china wear; white blouses, caps, hair and beards – take you pick - from this picturesque collection of farmworkers. Unbelievably clean and presentable. Novel. Interesting and friendly people talking easily with those of leaning over their shoulders - sharing their knowledge of everyday life back then. Outside wandering the ground and the buildings we figured that we had missed the geese herding. However, we did catch the demonstration of falconry with a large brown bird flying off the heavily gloved left forearm of the falconer. Like everyone else that day he was in smart period costume – flat cap, leather waistcoat, white shirt, green knee-length breeches with long brown socks/stockings/hose below. Oh, and fine-looking facial hair – beard and moustache - matching his brilliant shirt. Worth highlighting here – the large number of illustrated/information posters around the place describing all kinds of rural activities typical of the period, including falconry. This one describes William Shakespeare and his familiarity with this sport (with quotations from ‘The Taming of the Shrew’). Others described ‘blacksmithing’, ‘Cider making’, ‘Horse Doctor’, ‘English Housewife’, ‘Farm carts’, ‘Arden Family Tree’ and many more. Mary had clearly come from a relatively well-to-do local family – the youngest daughter in a family of eight belonging to Robert Arden – well respected/middle income man of the shires – and his first wife Mary Webb. Social position would have ensured that Mary would have been a literate girl/woman – she would have enjoyed a level of education gained from her responsibilities – education that would have benefited her sone William. And, that Shakespeare name? It came from Mary’s marriage to John Shakespeare What you see is what you get – this sanitized glimpse of a family home from the 15th century firmly, if briefly, linked to the life and times of William Shakespeare. Many interesting cameos/stories then that helped make the world’s most famous English writer … but, we had a train to catch that afternoon, and one with a gorgeous English steam locomotive. We expected to be in London that evening after a delightful four-course champagne dinner. Shakespeare’s annual journeys >400 years ago over much the same route would typically have taken him six days or more walking tracks and footpaths. As he became richer – perhaps travelling by horse. No choice – steam wins hands down. Peter Steele 12 June 2020…
Date of experience: July 2019
sealeg wrote a review May 2020
Perth, Australia103 contributions137 helpful votes
Visited here during a very wet day in September 2019 when it was almost deserted of guests and yet the docents here never wavered on being fun, happy, interactive, knowledgeable and friendly, their passion in their job was refreshing and delightful to see. They were happy to answer questions, make a joke and make us feel warmly welcomed. We never felt as if our experience was cheapened or forgotten because of the lack of other visitors. In fact, we felt that our visit was better on this very wet day than maybe we might have had otherwise. This living museum included, living quarters, kitchen, quills and writing, birds of prey, and the farm animals and beautiful gardens etc. So much more than we expected. Would highly recommend for everyone particularly for young families.…
Date of experience: September 2019
2 Helpful votes
Carol G wrote a review Apr 2020
Atlantic City, New Jersey149 contributions67 helpful votes
This and all of the Shakespeare properties are fantastically maintained and managed. The docents at each property are world class.
Date of experience: May 2019
1 Helpful vote
Cara I wrote a review Jan 2020
3 contributions1 helpful vote
This is a must for young families who want to introduce their children to the wonderful world of Shakespeare. There is always something going on and on hot days it is just perfect. The only problem would be is it is slightly overpriced. Other than that, GET IT ON YOUR LIST!
Date of experience: June 2019
Barbara R wrote a review Dec 2019
Rockingham, Australia53 contributions18 helpful votes
Very interesting seeing Shakespeares birthplace and learning about his childhood and his family. The buildings are original and gave an insight to how they lived in his time. Make sure you buy a combined ticket to include other places like Shakespeare museum anne hathaways house and many others.…
Date of experience: September 2019