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Apple juice and wool produced from historic Shakespeare family homes

New limited edition products help to re-establish Shakespeare family links with the wool trade.

AHC apple juice
The 33cl and 750ml bottles of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage apple juice that are on sale exclusively from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust shops and cafes.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has produced its own apple juice and organic wool for the first time.

Apples grown in the orchard of Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Shottery, Stratford-upon-Avon, the childhood home of William Shakespeare’s wife, have been used to produce limited edition 33cl and 750ml bottles of juice.

Some 600kgs of varieties including Worcester, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Bramley were picked from the heavily-laden trees last summer by a volunteer team of staff at the Trust, before being pressed and bottled at the award-winning fruit and drink unit at Pershore College, which has been producing local ciders and juices for 26 years. It is on sale now exclusively from the Trust’s shops and cafes.

A batch of organic wool, which will also be limited edition, is being spun from fleece that was hand sheared from the rare Portland breed of sheep that are kept at Mary Arden’s Farm, a Tudor working farm in the village of Wilmcote near Stratford-upon-Avon, on the site of the family home of William Shakespeare’s mother.

The Portland wool will be natural in colour and is being produced in 50gm balls by the Natural Fibre Company, a wool mill in Launceston, Cornwall. It is described as 'hardy and bouncy', making it suitable to be knitted into socks, sweaters, waistcoats, hats and blankets, among other everyday garments.

The farm already provides meat to the Trust’s cafes, which hold the Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here Gold award, but this is the first time wool has been produced. It will go on sale in the farm’s shop at the end of March.

Portland sheep
The rare breed Portland sheep kept at Mary Arden's Farm.

William Shakespeare himself had links to the wool trade through his father, John, who was known to have operated as a ‘wool brogger’ — an unlicensed, and therefore illegal, wool dealer — after the occupation had been restricted to state-approved merchants only, following an Act of Parliament from 1553.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is an independent charity which cares for five Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon — Shakespeare's Birthplace, Shakespeare's New Place, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Mary Arden's Farm and Hall's Croft — and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of his works, life and times.

Louisa Stott, head of retail, said, “The Trust operates under the unique remit of an Act of Parliament to share the world’s greatest Shakespeare assets with the world, and we’re very excited that our exclusive range of apple juice from Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and organic wool from Mary Arden’s Farm means our visitors will be able to take a little piece of us home with them!”

Sue Blacker, managing director of the Natural Fibre Company, said, “We’re really pleased to be working with Mary Arden’s Farm, and their rare and historic breeds such as Portland sheep, to help visitors to experience the full journey of the sheep, from woolly fleeces to finished yarn.”

Richard Toft, cider and juice manager at Pershore College, said: “It has been very rewarding to help support the traditional orchards in our locale by adding value to a fruit crop at such an important and historic site.”

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is open daily throughout the year and Mary Arden’s Farm reopens for the 2019 season on Saturday 16 March. Check for the up-to-date opening times for all of Shakespeare’s Family Homes.