New cafes open at Shakespeare Houses
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has opened new cafes at four of the five Shakespeare Houses in Stratford-upon-Avon, serving locally-sourced, artisan food.
28 March 2012
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has opened a new café at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, offering food and drink at the world famous heritage site for the first time since the charity was founded in 1847. The Trust has also re-opened the café at Hall’s Croft in Old Town, introduced a kiosk café at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery, and extended the café at Mary Arden’s Farm, Wilmcote. The cafes are part of a programme of ongoing investment in the visitor experience at the five Shakespeare Houses and Gardens, which last year attracted more than 805,000 visits.
The new, 60-seat, fully licensed café at Shakespeare’s Birthplace overlooks the garden where the Trust’s own theatre company performs extracts from Shakespeare’s works throughout the day. Open to the public as well as visitors, it offers full table service and a menu of locally sourced, freshly made hot and cold light meals and snacks. The family-friendly food includes BabyDeli meals and juices suitable for youngsters, specially made sausages ‘Bard’s Bangers’, and cakes.
James Curran, the new catering manager at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said, “We are working closely with local suppliers to source fresh ingredients that will change with the seasons, and artisan products to give customers a distinctive flavour of Stratford and the surrounding area. Shakespeare plays a key role in Stratford’s economy, so we want to support local businesses and we hope that local people will support our cafes too.”
William Shakespeare probably never tasted tea or coffee, as both brews arrived in Britain after his death in 1616, but visitors to the cafes at the Shakespeare Houses can now enjoy exclusive blends of both drinks named after the playwright.
The Trust’s exclusive Shakespeare Blend tea has been created by the Warwick-based Golden Monkey Tea Company. Inspired by the famous lines - “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet “ (Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 2) – it combines Chinese black tea scented with rose and safflower petals with stronger and malty broken leaf Assam and Sumatran tea to make the perfect cup for afternoon tea and cakes.
The exclusive coffee blend was developed with local roasters Monsoon Estates. It combines hints of cocoa and vanilla from The Americas with delicate floral notes from Africa to give a rich, smooth coffee.
Tea and coffee will be served in specially designed cups inspired by the 19 life size glass panel engravings of Shakespeare’s characters which adorn the Stone Hall in the marbled foyer of the Shakespeare Centre. Visitors to the café at Shakespeare’s Birthplace will see the real panels in situ, the work of celebrated engraver John Hutton, who also created the Great West Window at Coventry Cathedral. The Stone Hall was originally the foyer to the Shakespeare Centre, which opened in 1964 on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Designer Sniez Torbarina of VAAL studio has created a contemporary, retro look for the cafe, in keeping with the modernist building which was Grade II listed in 2010 for its special architectural and design interest.
On the other side of Stratford, the newly opened cafe at Hall’s Croft has been completely remodelled, and now houses the main production kitchen serving all the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust cafes. James Curran said, “Traditionally, Hall’s Croft café has been a popular centre for community groups, and we would love to hear from any groups who are looking for a regular meeting place.” The café is also ideally situated for visitors following the popular ‘cradle to grave’ route from Shakespeare’s Birthplace to his grave at Holy Trinity Church via New Place, the site of the poet’s final home, and Hall’s Croft, the Jacobean manor which was home to his daughter Susannah.
The Pea Shed Café kiosk in the grounds at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife in Shottery, offers light snacks and refreshments on site for the first time.
Mary Arden’s Farm, the real working Tudor farm which offers visitors an authentic experience of rural life in Elizabethan times, opened for its 2012 season on 19 March with an extended café.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has also relocated its bookshop in Henley Street, bringing it under the same roof as the Gift Shop, which has doubled in size to offer an enhanced range of gifts and souvenirs, and the widest selection of Shakespeare-related books available anywhere.
Lincoln Clarke, Chief Operating Officer at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said, “These new cafes will generate vital new income streams. As an independent charity, we receive no public subsidy or direct government funding, so we rely heavily on income generated through visitor support to keep Shakespeare’s legacy alive for future generations.”
Notes to editors
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is the world’s leading charity in promoting the works, life and times of William Shakespeare. It offers a unique Shakespeare centred experience with outstanding archive and library collections, inspiring educational and literary event programmes and five wonderful houses all directly relating to Shakespeare.
As an independent charity we receive no public subsidy or direct government funding. We depend entirely on income generated through our supporters: our visitors, volunteers, donors and Friends.
The Shakespeare Centre was conceived as an international tribute to Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his birth in 1964, and to provide the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with a new headquarters and study centre. Gifts and donations for the building were received from many governments and individual Shakespeare enthusiasts all over the world. The cost of the new centre, for the building, its furnishings and an endowment for its ongoing running, amounted to £500,000 (coincidentally the same sum that the Trust has invested in expanding its Gift and Book Shop in 2012).
The foundation stone was laid in June 1962 by HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent. The building was officially opened on 22 April by the Hon Eugene R Black, Chairman of the American 1964 Shakespeare Committee, and visited the next day, Shakespeare’s Birthday, by HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The Centre was designed by architects T Spender Wood and Laurence Williams, partners in the firm Wood, Kendrick and Williams. The bold modern design deliberately contrasted with the adjacent C15th Birthplace house, thought its scale and massing respected its neighbour. The designs were approved by the Royal Fine Art Commission. Artistic embellishment of the new centre was considered a crucial element in its success; leading artists and craftspeople commissioned to contribute works included Gordon Russell (furniture) and Tibor Reich (fabrics). In October 2010, The Shakespeare Centre was listed Grade II as a building of both national importance and special interest, with a number of attractive embellishments and features.
Original artworks created specifically for the 1964 building can still be seen in the Stone Hall which houses the new café. These include:
Bronze sculpture of Shakespeare, by Douglas Wain-Hobson. This statue dominates the Stone Hall, standing 8.5 feet high and weighing half a ton. For the head of his bronze Wain-Hobson accepted the popular image of a balding man with a neat small beard, but he deliberately left out the eyes 'so that the individual could superimpose his own Shakespeare on what one might call a universal basic shape.' The figure, dressed in unadorned Elizabethan doublet and hose, holds a quill pen and a blank writing sheet, but the artist’s sense of humour and commitment to his commission led him to place a daisy-like flower and a fox’s mask within medal-sized circles, on the back of the broad cloak. These are a recognition of the Chairman and Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust at the time, Sir Fordham Flower, and Levi Fox.
Wain-Hobson also created the bold ‘relief sculpture’ which overlooks Henley Street from the curved wall of hand-made red brick which flanks the entrance to the new cafe. The brief was to indicate 'Shakespeare’s contribution to the world’. In working on initial ideas for a bronze sculpture he decided on 'a kind of cenotaph: it had to be simple, symbolic and aloof... following an abstract symbolism of Shakespeare’s greatness.' As Wain-Hobson explained his design: 'On the left the blocks represent Shakespeare’s works, with sonnets and poems being one slightly larger block in the middle. These are embraced by a large fan-like shape moving vigorously down, sweeping towards and encircling the world. This shape is the active power and genius of the man.' The square shape behind, made up of boards represents the theatre.
Glass engravings, by John Hutton. Hutton was invited by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to create a series of actors’ portraits in glass for the Shakespeare Centre. Hutton believed the medium was unsuited to portraiture but, intrigued by the chance to create images to be seen close to, at ground-floor level, he suggested characters from the plays instead of portraits. A list of nineteen characters having been suggested to him, Hutton set about studying the relevant plays to find his own emotional response to each.
Starting in January 1963 Hutton had only fourteen months to complete the commission: a task that he later said had brought his art to maturity. For each life-size image, representing tragedy, comedy, or history, he sought a key point which presents the most vivid insight into the character. For Lady Macbeth, the first panel that he worked on, it is the scene where, in sleep, she is tormented by the sight and smell of blood on her hands. For Macbeth it is the waking hallucination of a dagger, while for Juliet with Romeo, it is the pleading moment of postponing separation as the lark of dawn is heard.
Each design demanded different techniques that Hutton developed as he worked. He used a modified dentist's drill with a small grinding wheel and a series of larger stones. The artist was intrigued by the way light worked on glass, and how the changing background as the viewer moved would alter the impression of the character. Occasionally he needed to adjust details to be sure that, for instance, a smile did not become a smirk when seen from a different angle.
Café design, by VAAL studio. Following its work on the remodeling of the Life, Love & Legacy exhibition at the Shakespeare Centre in 2009, VAAL studio was commissioned to design the new café in the Stone Hall as part of the ongoing work to modernize the visitor facilities.