Over the past few months we've been working with a group of ladies from NADFAS (National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies) to design and create new bed hangings for our tester and four poster beds at Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Whilst work on the ‘Hathaway Bed’ hangings will conclude after conservation work on the bed in April takes place, the hangings for our tester bed are now in place.
This bed is perhaps even more special than the ‘Hathaway Bed’ (well in my opinion anyway). It dates from the late 1500s and is very rare as it remains unaltered from this period. It was handed down several generations of Hathaways until Mary Baker, a direct descendant of Bartholomew (Anne’s brother), sold it to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892. Due to its age and family connection it is likely to be the very bed that Bartholomew slept in and a bed Anne herself may have known.
The bed hangings on the bed had certainly seen better days. Stained, threadbare and incomplete they did not do the bed justice and failed to interpret how the bed would have been dressed. The new hangings are red, a colour commonly used to ward off evil spirits in Tudor times. They are made from a 100% synthetic material, which looks like wool to the human eye but won't fool the local moths, who will decide to have a midnight snack somewhere else.
The drapes have made a huge difference to the bed and the room itself. To create the 'lived in' feel that our visitors tell us they like to see, we have added items of clothing and a 1600s 'dressing table' complete with a game of 9 Men's Morris, clothing and herbs to scent 1600s clothing. Soon to come are 1600s tooth brushes (or tooth sticks and soot).
I would like to say a huge thank you to the volunteers from NADFAS, who have been a wonder in helping us to achieve these fantastic results. Come and see them for yourself on your next visit to Anne Hathaway's Cottage!