In 1597 William Shakespeare bought one of the largest properties in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. New Place was a medieval courtyard house, built in the 1480s by gentleman Hugh Clopton. Shakespeare purchased this impressive building at the age of 33, only one year after securing a coat of arms for his father. Gradually he was building his credentials as a gentleman. But his purchase of New Place is only part of this story. How did he fill, furnish and decorate this gentry house?
Sadly, New Place no longer exists. It was rebuilt in 1702 by the Clopton family and finally demolished in 1759 by Reverend Francis Gastrell. Recent archaeological investigations have helped us to understand more about the structure and layout of Shakespeare’s family home, but its interiors remain a mystery. By using evidence in the form of written records and surviving objects, we can think about how the celebrated playwright might have decorated his home to match his status.
This exhibition focuses on objects that were most likely to be found in a gentry townhouse like Shakespeare’s New Place. This selection of furniture, fixtures and fittings prompts us to imagine how Shakespeare might have decorated his home. Through different items, he could demonstrate specific parts of his gentry identity. So, what objects might you expect to find?
Alexandra Hewitt is a PhD student at the University of Birmingham and is funded by AHRC Midlands3Cities.