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How Hall's Croft Has Changed

A description of how Hall's Croft has been structurally altered over the years.

A Brief History of Hall's Croft

Hall’s Croft is a Jacobean house in Old Stratford, standing on the corner between Church Street and Old Town. The oldest part of the existing structure was built in 1613. Since then, the structure and shape of the building has evolved and changed dramatically.

The original elm parts of the structure are what Susanna and John Hall would have seen when they moved in to the newly built property. Sometime after the Halls left for New Place, an oak ‘extension’ structure was added on to the rear of the building.

The back of Hall's Croft showing the patio and the three dormer gables forming two sides of the patio. The house is timber and brick, and has clearly just been restored. There is a gate from the patio to the garden, shrubs and a tree branch of which are at the left of the picture.
The original elm structure is on the right, while the oak extension is on the left

The Ongoing Changes of Hall's Croft

The oak parts of the house were built when the Smiths took up residence. They extended and altered Hall’s Croft significantly. In the 1630s a new kitchen was added, as was a stable block. During the seventeenth century, the Smiths made more changes, including remodelling the detached service blocks and connecting them to the main house. At the end of the century, two further extensions were added to the house, as were new staircases (including a grand staircase) and corridors to integrate the rooms.

In comparison to the extensive changes of the seventeenth century, the alterations made in the eighteenth century were relatively subdued. There were improvements to the ceiling in the master chamber, a new porch, and most noticeably, the addition of two-storey bay windows on the front of the property. 

[...] Would you create me new? Transform me then, and to your power I'll yield'

— The Comedy of Errors, Act 3, Scene 2
The front of the house has three dormer gables; thee front appears to have been plastered, with very few beams in evidence. Most of the ground floor wall is obscured by shrubbery. The bay windows under the outer gables are for both floors as part of a single structure; the central first-floor bay is supported by pillars, forming a porch over the front door.
Watercolor by Mrs. Male in 1874 of Hall's Croft with Bay Windows

A New Touch and New Purpose

During the nineteenth century, lawyer Thomas Umbers brought a Gothic touch to Hall’s Croft, with the addition of barge boards and finials. He also had the outside of the building rendered, or coated in plaster. It is most likely that the Reverends John George Rablah Stephenson and Henry Valentine Scriven added the schoolroom, the ante room, and the playground around the mid-point of the nineteenth century when Hall's Croft became a school. In 1872, a fire broke out near the cellars; fortunately it did not do significant damage to the structure of the building.

In the twentieth century, many of the nineteenth-century renovations, such as the render, were removed by Josephine MacLeod and her sister, Betty. The porch and two of the bay windows were also removed with the intention of restoring the house to its seventeenth-century appearance. In the 1950s, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust spent a considerable amount of time and money conserving and restoring the building. Another extension at the back of the property was built for modern services and the school room was converted into a cafe.

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