Thanks to support from the Friends of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, an important project to redevelop the Garden at Shakespeare’s Birthplace is underway. Scott Boyden, Gardens Manager, explains:
What did the Birthplace Garden look like when William Shakespeare lived here as a boy? By looking at the information we have and studying other gardens that date from the period, the one thing we can be fairly certain of is that it did not look as it does today.
Over the years, the garden has become increasingly informal, a country cottage style similar to Anne Hathaway’s Garden. But this was the home of one of the premier citizens of Stratford. John Shakespeare was not only a successful merchant, he was the town constable and served as alderman and High Bailiff. In Elizabethan times, it was not the fashion to be discreet about your status and wealth, but to display it as much as you could – through your clothes, your home and your garden.
This winter, we’ve started work on restoring the Birthplace Garden with a new vision that will be more in keeping with the style of the period. The redesigned garden will create a more distinctive experience for visitors, using elements of Tudor landscaping and reflecting the status and affluence of the Shakespeare family.
The planting scheme of the main beds will be formalised, with themes that flow through the border and encourage visitors to walk along it. With less profusion of plants, each will have more space to be seen at its best, as well as to grow more healthy and vigorous. Beautiful specimens will provide a reason to dwell and admire, as the Shakespeares would have wanted their visitors to do.
Beside the exit to the Birthplace, we will install parterre planting, using a knot scheme planted in varieties of Calluna vulgaris, and making use of box hedging that is being removed during the redevelopment of New Place.
With all the new plantings, we aim to develop visitor interest in Tudor landscaping themes and to provide a beautiful, appropriate and inspirational backdrop to the Birthplace building.
A haven of quiet and privacy... and safety
One challenge that the Shakespeare family did not have to contend with was the noise of traffic and the sight of vehicles rumbling along Guild Street. To help maintain the atmosphere of the garden, we will be planting pleached laurel trees at the rear of the garden, and some gloriously scented clematis and honeysuckle trained over the rear gate.
With the safety of visitors in mind, we’ll be improving damaged paths using local stone and renovating the lawn, which has become worn and uneven, to make it a glorious greensward once again.
A new automatic watering system will allow the garden to be irrigated in the early morning. This will improve the visitors’ experience and increase the efficiency of watering, reducing the level of water lost through evaporation.
Come and see the transformation!
We are immensely grateful to our Friends, without whom this project would not have been possible. Work will be continuing throughout the year, and I or any of the gardeners will be delighted to talk to our visitors about the project as work takes place, so please do stop and say hello next time you’re here!