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Philip Watson

About Shakespeare's New Place

The grand family home purchased by Shakespeare at the age of 33.

By 1592, William Shakespeare was an established player and playwright in London and author of at least seven plays. In 1594 he helped to found the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and held shares in the company. Five years later he had amassed sufficient wealth to afford a new family home back in Stratford-upon-Avon, known as New Place, bought from William Underhill for about £120 in 1597.

‘New Place’, or ‘the Great House’ was a medieval house built in the 1480s by Hugh Clopton in Chapel Street (opposite the Guild Chapel) and described by John Leland (librarian to Henry VIII) as being ‘a pretty house of brick and timber’.

There is one 18th-century drawing of New Place by the famous engraver George Vertue. It shows a five-gabled, three-bayed, half-timbered frontage that opened on to Chapel Street. An archaeological dig on the site of New Place (from 2010 to 2015), led by Staffordshire University for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, helped us to find out more. It seems that Shakespeare himself re-built the frontage and added a long gallery, a place to display objects of art and to entertain.

New Place was the largest house in the borough, and the only one with a courtyard – a significant purchase for the 33-year-old Shakespeare in 1597. There were ten hearths, which means it had between 20 and 30 rooms, plenty of space for the whole of Shakespeare’s family. Towards the back of the courtyard stood a large, late-medieval Hall, the main gathering point of the Shakespeares’ family life.

Following Shakespeare’s death in April 1616, New Place and Shakespeare’s other properties passed to ownership of his eldest daughter Susanna and her husband John Hall. The couple moved into the family home, and Shakespeare’s widow Anne would continue to live with them until her death in 1623.

New Place was then inherited by Shakespeare's only grandchild, Elizabeth and her second husband John Barnard, although the couple chose to live at Abington Manor in Northamptonshire. Elizabeth died childless in 1670, and Shakespeare’s direct line of descent ended. When the Clopton family again became owners of New Place in the second half of the 17th century, they entirely removed Shakespeare’s house and built a new one.

That house was finally demolished in 1759 by the Reverend Francis Gastrell. In 1876, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust assumed responsibility for the site of New Place and neighbouring Nash's House.

You can learn more about the Trust's excavation of New Place by watching this video.

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