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Representing the Past: A New Direction for Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Read the first in this series that gives us an insight into the history of the cottage and the Hathaway family through the years. Learn how this history changes the way we view the cottage today.

Amy Davies
Anne Hathaway's Cottage

The story of the Hathaway family’s time at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage spans almost 400 years, and so to make it easier for visitors to understand this complex history, we are changing the way the cottage is experienced by re-interpreting the space and changing the visitor route. We understand that people come to the cottage to learn about Anne Hathaway and her relationship with William Shakespeare, but it is impossible for us to focus entirely on their lives because the cottage is much changed from their time. We also want to tell the stories of other members of the family that lived in the cottage throughout the ages.

Built in 1463, the original single-storey cottage consisted of only three rooms, two of which still survive today. It is not known who built the cottage or who was living there at the time. The earliest record of the Hathaways living at Hewlands Farm (as it was then known) goes back to 1543 when Anne’s grandfather, John Hathaway, first became a tenant there. Anne was born in the cottage in 1556 and lived there until she married William Shakespeare in 1582. Eventually, it was Anne’s older brother Bartholomew who inherited the tenancy of the farm.

In 1610 Bartholomew bought the freehold of the farm and began modernising the building. He added an extension onto the end of the cottage and also converted the original medieval structure to include an upper floor. The cottage grew in size to ten rooms.

Further development of the building occurred in the late 1600s by Bartholomew’s grandson, John Hathaway. At this time, another extension consisting of two rooms was added at the other end of the building, so today the cottage consists of 12 rooms in total. The Hathaway family continued to reside in the cottage until 1911.

The furniture and artefacts within the cottage, some of which are original, reflect 400 years of the Hathaways’ lives there. Some pieces date back to the mid-1500s, but others are as recent as the late 1800s.

We hope that by presenting the cottage as a timeline of not just the architectural changes but of the family’s history as well, visitors will be able to appreciate the development of the building over time, and connect with the stories of the people that lived there over the course of four centuries. This series of blogs aims to introduce the public to these stories as we explore the Hathaways’ family history; from Anne’s brother’s day right up to the late 1800s, and the acquirement of the property by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

In the next post we will concentrate on a major part of the cottage’s history: the modernisation of the building by Anne’s brother Bartholomew. Keep an eye out for it in two weeks time!