Shakespeare's Farm

11 Nov 2013

Mary Arden was Shakespeare's gran, and this is the 17th century farm where he grew up.
I loved my last visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the land of Shakespeare, so much that I decided to return with my mother and show her my favourite bits.

Upon arriving I spotted some people sat by the river eating fish and chips and immediately dragged my mother to Barnaby's fish shop. We secured two large, greasy-looking plates stacked full of chips and a huge breaded fish and proceeded to devour it all.

We then walked around Stratford, following no trails, just wandering and playing around.

We then wandered in Hall's Croft, Shakespeare's daughter's home. Susannah Shakespeare married Dr. John Croft, a was a wealthy physician, in 1607. Together they owned this amazingly luxurious house and no doubt had several house servants.

Susannah was the eldest of Shakespeare's children. In fact, Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway, who was eight years Shakespeare's senior, was already three months pregnant when they got married. The fact that their marriage bans (their intention to marry) were only read once (instead of the accustomed three times) before they got married may indicate that they married in a rush to avoid the scandal of a bastard child.

We then wandered off to Shakespeare's birthplace. We spent most of the time enjoying the gardens, which at this time of the year were so different from my last visit in February.

Finally we got a ride to my favourite place of all Shakespeare's houses. And I've been to them all.

Mary Arden's Farm.

Mary Arden's farm is a working Tudor farm that belonged to Shakespeare's grandmother and it is thought Shakespeare himself might have been sent to the farm in order to escape the deathly plague. Being absolutely fascinated with history, I was excited to visit the farm and see how the Tudors did their stuff.

The farm is full of working people who dress and act according to Tudor times. Well, except for when I witnessed the tagging of a goat... that's very today. Wandering through the farm we saw how Tudors prepared pottage - on the menu this day there was potluck. It is called that because they put loads of bits of veggies and whatever they may have at home, and when served different people might get different bits and bobs.

People in those times didn't have access to clean water and they knew that drinking contaminated water could give them diseases or kill them. In fact, for many reasons, infant mortality was high and it was few children who survived the young years. The thing is though, they didn't know what was it with contaminated water that was bad (bacteria and their consequences were not discovered until the late 1600's). So they had a fitting solution: everyone on ale. Even babies. If they drank ale, they would be fine. Admittedly, the percentage of alcohol in this ale would be as low as 1%. Nevertheless, arguably ale saved their lives.

Amongst other things, we witnessed the people in the farm sit down for a traditional meal. Did you know that little boys and girls sat at the table were not allowed to speak? But if anyone wanted to relieve themselves it was perfectly OK to get up, walk to the fireplace and just take a leak!

The patrons of the house and the servants sat at the table together. Meal time was a good time for the patrons to learn of the goings-on at the farm.

The farm also houses an impressive collection of animals and an interesting array of activities to keep children and grown ups hooked. Admittedly, mum and I did get lost for a good half an hour wandering through the back trails of the farm...

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