The New Place Project has been in development for a few years now and it has been a vigorous process to get the project to the building phase. The project is being led up by our Project Manager Julie Crawshaw, and she has been vital in getting the planning permission and momentum to enable this project to reach the final stages. Julie has previously worked on many notable projects in and around the Stratford area and we found some time to ask her a few questions about the project and how she views its importance for Stratford-upon-Avon.
How did you get involved in the New Place Project?
“After working in road, bridge and public realm construction in the area for years, I was looking for a new challenge. I’ve always enjoyed involving the public in my projects and knew a good many stakeholders in Stratford. Heritage Lottery Funded projects are all about working alongside the locals to get the best scheme possible and the combination of heritage, new build and project management was very appealing.”
Why do you like working on the project?
“There are so many parts of the scheme that I really enjoy. The sheer breadth of activity, the wide range of specialisms and expertise of the design team – many of whom are Royal Designers, and the fact that we feel the eyes of the world on the project make it all the more exciting. One week we will be carrying out archaeological excavations and the next I’ll be meeting artists to discuss new commissions. Having the site office in Chapel Street is great. We actively encourage passers-by to get involved. I also like finally being back on site after all the planning; much lower sartorial standards expected which gets me out of the house quicker!”
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
“Time has been tight from the outset, with wanting to complete in time for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death next year. It’s been a very fast moving project, with the design, funding and planning permission secured in a single twelve month period.”
What conservation techniques have been applied to the house and gardens and why are these important?
“A major part of the scheme is the conservation of Nash’s House, a Grade 1 listed building that was in need of attention. We have taken every care to ensure we are using traditional methods and materials to repair the building. It’s relatively easy to choose to use modern materials that might superficially look correct, but the building wouldn’t breathe and flex as it needs to. Historic England have helped us to ensure what we do now is going to last many years into the future.
Similarly in the Knot garden, we have spent many hours re-pointing the walls. We’ve replaced the oak balustrade like for like, and we have also taken the opportunity to widen the paths a little to make it easier to access. The timber arbour is being replaced, but we have managed to keep the fruit trees that have grown around the original arbour during the past 100 years. We are also introducing sensitive and beautiful lighting and a ramp to assist people to move around the site more easily.”
What importance do you think this project has for Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust?
“The finished New Place will be the first fully accessible property in the portfolio to offer a modern presentation of the Shakespeare story, combined with the existing heritage. It cleverly mixes historic architecture, new art pieces, archaeological finds, learning zones, apprenticeships, volunteering opportunities and gardens to tell the story of Shakespeare who didn’t just go to London coming back as an old man, but had a full family and business life here in Stratford. The project is so much more than just a building scheme, and I really think it will be a highly valued addition to the town.”
Keep checking back here for more interviews and a behind-the-scenes look into the project, and find out how you can play your part at Shakespeare's New Place.