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Collections at Hall's Croft

Hall's Croft has more collection pieces on display than any other Shakespeare Birthplace Trust property.

Bringing Hall's Croft to Life

Hall’s Croft is laid out to resemble the family home of an early seventeenth century professional. Because none of the original Jacobean furniture from Hall’s Croft has survived, both original seventeenth-century furniture and replica pieces are used to give visitors a sense of what the interior of the house might have looked like when John and Susanna Hall lived there.

In the 1950s, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was deciding on the best way to exhibit Hall’s Croft, a selection of furniture was acquired from antique dealers to create an impression of the Halls’ home. Wherever possible, authentic Jacobean furniture was sourced, such as the oak dining table in the kitchen or the turned child’s high chair on display in the parlour. Although these are not the items of furniture that the Halls actually owned, John and Susanna might have used similar items while in residence.

'[...] fit it with such furniture as suits/ The greatness of his person'

— King Henry VIII, Act 2, Scene 1
The legs are decorated with patterns of grooves cut round them. There is a platform below the seat for the child's feet, Between the platform and the seat, and at the back of the chair, there is more ornate wood-turning, as there is on the rails at the side running diagonally from the continuation of the front legs to the back.
17th century child's high chair

More Than Just Furniture ...

Hall’s Croft also displays a number of medical objects, even though John would very rarely have had patients come to his house for a consultation. The medical objects in the dispensary give visitors an impression of what a seventeenth-century patient could expect physicians to use in their treatment. The sixteenth-century drug jars, for example, are more often associated with apothecaries than physicians like John. However, it is likely that John would have recognised jars like these as a means for apothecaries and apprentices to store and dispense his herbal remedies to patients.

On an integral stand, this looks a bit like a teapot, with a handle and a spout; the top, however, is vase-shaped and open. It  is decorated with plant designs.
Wet drug jar used for storing herbal remedies

Other objects on display are part of Hall’s Croft’s later history. These include the spit roasting equipment in the kitchen, which dates from around the eighteenth century. The spit was already fixed when the Trust obtained the property and has been left on site. These later additions help to acknowledge the changes made to Hall’s Croft after Susanna and John moved on.

In the foreground is a long wooden table, at the back the large fireplace with a smaller grate set within it. There is a wooden dresser on the right, with an open shelf above cupboards and the top supported at the front by pillars.
Photo by F. Daniels of the kitchen

Artwork at Hall's Croft

The artwork on display at Hall’s Croft would have been too grand for a professional family like the Halls. Nevertheless, the Trust has selected a variety of works to display that have some relevance to the house and its occupants. As there are no known portraits of John and Susanna, Hall’s Croft instead displays pictures of figures who had a personal or professional connection to the Halls. These include a painting of Susanna’s father, William Shakespeare, and a portrait of one of John’s most famous patients, poet Michael Drayton.

A portrait of Michael Drayton : dark hair, cut with a peak over a high forehead, a serious face with a strong, straight nose, a firm mouth with compressed lips, and a slight shadow of beard, He wears a dark top with a deep lace collar.
Portrait of Michael Drayton by Charles Fullwood

The other paintings at Hall’s Croft give visitors an impression of what the Halls’ family and professional lives may have been like. A Family Saying Grace Before a Meal (Anthonius Claeissens, 1585) for example, offers a look into the daily lives of a family who would have been near contemporaries to the Halls, and the two paintings in the dispensary relate to John Hall’s work as a physician and Jacobean medical practices more generally. Richard Brakenburgh’s Interior of an Apothecary with a Pharmacist Mixing a Remedy (c.1674) and Osias Dyck’s A Doctor Casting Water (1660) show the distinction between the commercial minded apothecary and the university educated physician. Interior of an Apothecary depicts the apothecary’s shop as a commercial place, where the hunched pharmacist mixes cures for a waiting woman who sits clutching the rest of her shopping. In contrast, Casting the Water portrays a physician, surrounded by what can be assumed to be medical books, scientifically examining the urine of a patient.

The paintings at Hall’s Croft are some of the oldest and most precious in the Trust’s collection. The objects, furniture, and art work together form a unique collection that tells the story of Hall’s Croft and allows visitors a brief glimpse into the daily lives of its historic residents.

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