Now visitors can trace the footprint of Shakespeare’s lost house, discovered during the archaeological excavation of the site, outlined in engraved bronze inlaid in the stone paving. Around a new garden, specially commissioned sculptures conjure up the world that influenced Shakespeare, and his enduring influence in our world today and a new permanent exhibition presents a fresh contemporary perspective on the story of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The £6m capital project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, and the Wolfson Foundation, and through public donations raised through a host of initiatives spearheaded by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
“Working with an outstanding community of artists, designers and craftspeople we have created together an extraordinary place of inspiration for everyone to enjoy,” said Dr Diana Owen, Chief Executive Officer of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. “The re-opening of Shakespeare’s New Place means we can now tell the complete story of Shakespeare’s life from boyhood to father, husband, businessman and playwright and of his enduring ability to inspire artists today. New Place is a stunning and innovative addition to the precious landscape of our beautiful historic town.”
Shakespeare was 32 when he bought New Place in 1597, and it remained his family home until his death there in 1616. It was the largest house in the borough, a prestigious residence with 10 fireplaces, up to 20 rooms, and extensive gardens. Sadly, the last house to occupy the plot was demolished by the infamous Reverend Francis Gastrell in 1759, and the largest surviving part of Shakespeare’s estate has been preserved as a garden ever since.
The new permanent exhibition brings to life the story of Shakespeare’s New Place and the personal life of its most famous occupant and his family – casting new light on Shakespeare as father, husband, citizen of Stratford-upon-Avon – as well as the famous playwright. The exhibition centre is housed in the meticulously restored and extended Grade I listed Tudor Nash’s House, which belonged to Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Nash.
New interpretation of this garden includes a bronze tree taking centre stage in the Heart of the Home (the Shakespeare’s family living quarters), its branches swept over a sphere which is burnished bright on one side, and in deepest shadow beyond.
His Mind’s Eye is the work of renowned sculptor Jill Berelowitz, a powerful metaphor for the irresistible force of Shakespeare’s imagination.
It is surrounded by a circle of pleached hornbeams and a 30m curved oak bench, with Shakespeare’s desk and chair at stage right, this is the perfect spot to contemplate Shakespeare’s works – and take a picture.