November 27, 2015
Historic finds unveiled during dig at Shakespeare’s family home New Place, in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has today announced that significant new findings have been unearthed during an archaeological dig, led by Staffordshire University’s Centre of Archaeology, at its ambitious New Place project. New Place was Shakespeare’s family home at the height of his career for almost two decades. The dig has enhanced and extended knowledge and understanding about what for too long has felt like a missing-piece in Shakespeare’s story. The latest discoveries include the site of Shakespeare’s ‘kitchen’ including the great dramatist’s ‘oven’ and ‘fridge’.
In addition to identifying Shakespeare’s ‘kitchen’, the dig has also helped establish the size of New Place. This has enabled the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to commission new evidence-based drawings of New Place, which depict an accurate version of how the house would have looked during Shakespeare’s ownership.
Shakespeare’s New Place was the largest single residence in the borough of Stratford-upon-Avon, and was purchased for the considerable sum of £120 in 1597 (a Stratford school teacher at this time would have earned about £20 per annum). It had an impressive frontage, a Great Chamber and Gallery, over 20 rooms and 10 fireplaces.
The ‘kitchen’ not only had the ‘oven’ (or fire hearth) and ‘fridge’ (or cold storage pit), but the team also found evidence of the brew house where small beer was made (drunk instead of unsafe water) and where pickling and salting took place. Fragments of plates, cups and other cookware were also found. Facsimiles of the cookware will be available for visitors to handle, and will be on display at New Place in the neighbouring Grade 1 listed Nash’s House (Tudor in origin), which is currently undergoing a major refurbishment as part of the project.
Alongside the findings contemporary to Shakespeare, the dig also revealed early medieval foundations and Iron Age archaeology. In order to preserve these finds for future generations, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has been meticulous in following best practice, and has redesigned key features of the construction and landscaping to work in harmony with the archaeology, whilst ensuring that all parts of the new heritage landmark will be fully accessible for the first time.
The latest dig was undertaken earlier this year in preparation for the re-presentation of Shakespeare’s New Place as an exciting, and modern, retelling of Shakespeare’s family home and the living, breathing man behind the great works – husband, father and son of Stratford. Shakespeare’s New Place is scheduled to open in July 2016.
The £5.25 million project – the most ambitious and permanent initiative to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death being celebrated throughout 2016 – is being funded with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England and through public donations raised through a host of initiatives spearheaded by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Dr Paul Edmondson, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Head of Research and Knowledge, said,“Finding Shakespeare’s ‘kitchen’ proved to be a vital piece of evidence in our understanding of New Place. Once we had uncovered the family’s oven we were able to understand how the rest of the house fitted around it. The discovery of the cooking areas, brew house, pantry and cold storage pit, combined with the scale of the house, all point to New Place as a working home as well as a house of high social status.
“A much richer picture of Shakespeare has emerged through the course of our excavations. At New Place we can catch glimpses of Shakespeare the playwright and country-town gentleman. His main task was to write and a house as impressive as New Place would have played an important part in the rhythm of his working life.”
Julie Crawshaw, Project Manager of Shakespeare’s New Place said, “The Trust knows just how powerful this site is, not just because of what will be seen above the ground, but also because of the history which lies underneath; layers of earth and foundations which have been untouched for hundreds of years.
“We have unearthed some significant archaeology which is all part of the story of New Place and its history. This will be shared in our exciting re-telling of New Place, where visitors will be able to discover Shakespeare on the very ground where his family home stood, imagined through specially commissioned, extraordinary art works, creative landscaping, and newly curated exhibitions, all shedding new light on the story of Shakespeare in Stratford .
“Meticulous work however, is not fast work, and we have had to reconfigure our original plans to accommodate the rich findings in previously unexplored ground. This has resulted in an unavoidable delay in starting groundworks, which will have a knock-on effect on our original schedule, particularly as we will now be building through the winter weather. It is thanks to the passion and skill of our team of designers, architects, engineers and conservation specialists that we are on track to open in summer2016.”
Contractors involved in the transformation of Shakespeare’s New Place, led by the Shakespeare Birthplace Project team include:
Archaeologists:Staffordshire University’s Centre for Archaeology, led by Kevin Colls and Will Mitchell.
Artistic Direction: Timothy O’Brien, RDI and Chris Wise, RDI (Expedition Engineering)
Structural Engineers (New Place): Expedition Engineering Ltd, Eva MacNamara, William Valla
Conservation Structural Engineers (Nash’s House): Ramboll UK Ltd, Roger Shaw
Architects: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Lee Holcombe
Construction: Splitlath Building Conservation, led by Shaun Gay and John Dimbylow
Landscape Architects: Gillespies LLP, Phillip Smith, Ana Neto
Quantity Surveyors: Greenwood Projects Ltd, Matt Mctaggart, Jeremy Stone
Exhibition Design: Real Studios Ltd, Yvonne Golds, Alexandra Prescott, Alistair McCaw
Mechanical & Electrical Engineering: Qoda Consulting (Oxford) Ltd, Neil Whithead, Martin Merritt
Lighting Design: Speirs & Major, Mark Major, Kere Asfuroglu
Disability Access Advisor: Elizabeth Dixon
For further information, access to high res images, or interviews please contact Flagship Consulting firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sophy Norris – 01392 248 934 or 07930 385 849, Belinda Hallworth – 020 7680 7114 or 07969 751 467, Adrian King – 020 7680 7112