Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's CottageThey say with blogging that each piece of content you write should provide a unique perspective, something original that’s not been said before. Well, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is a Stratford upon Avon institution, as it was the former home of William Shakespeare’s wife. This means that there are some three million results for it should you punch it into Google. So the question is, what can I offer, that the other three million results can’t?

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Well, I went to school next to do my A Levels at Stratford upon Avon’s Grammar School for Girls which is also in the village of Shottery and is practically next door. And I’m going to offer some local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway’s cottage. 

Anne Hathaway’s connection with Shottery Manor

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Within the girls’ school’s grounds includes Shottery Manor, which was when I was there, the sixth form block. Younger years couldn’t be trusted to look after it?

The manor as we see it now was built in the 15th century and was once part of a farm that belonged to the Evesham Abbey. In 1402 it was taken over by the Harewell family (from 1402 – circa 1746) and converted into a manor house. The house was altered and partly demolished in the mid to late 18th century and In 1958 it was bought by Warwickshire County Council and Girls school was founded within the grounds of the manor house.  

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

It’s a place that Anne would have been very familiar with and tradition has it that in one of the rooms, which was once the manor’s chapel, was the setting for the betrothal of William Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway.

The Cottage 

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage started life a farmhouse, built in 1463 of cruck construction which means it uses two curved timber supports to support the roof. It originally had just three rooms, including the kitchen and parlour which remain the same to this day since their medieval construction. It was Anne’s grandfather, John, who first moved to the property as a tenant sheep farmer and in 1556, Anne was born.

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

As a farm, it was known as Hewlands, and the garden we see now would have originally housed livestock and maybe a practical herb garden. Anne’s father died in 1581, a year before she married Shakespeare, and Anne’s brother Bartholomew inherited the tenancy of the 90-acre farm, and later he bought it outright.  

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Shakespeare was 18 when he married Anne, then 25 and three months pregnant. They had three children together, Susannah and then twins, Hamnet and Judith; sadly Hamnet died at 11 during a plague epidemic. Notoriously, Shakespeare left his wife his ‘second-best bed’ in his will, but many suspect that this was actually their marital bed and not intended as an insult.

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Under Bartholomew’s ownership, the cottage saw several improvements including an extension, the insertion of the first floor and chimneys added. Bartholomew died in 1624.

The Hathaway family continued to live at the cottage right into the 1800s. The cottage itself was sold in 1838 as the family’s fortunes dwindled but they continued to live there as tenants. Mary Baker was one of the last tenants of Anne Hathaway’s cottage and in 1892 the cottage was sold to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Mary was employed as a guide to show people around and share stories with visitors.

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway's Cottage

The Trust has furnished the house in the style of the Elizabethan period, using original furniture and objects where possible.  In an upstairs bedroom is a wooden bedstead said to be the very bed upon which Anne Hathaway was born. Another piece of furniture believed to be original is the settle beside the main fireplace, upon which William Shakespeare is believed to have courted Anne.

Local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

  • Stratford upon Avon is dead popular all year round, especially in the summer, and that applies to the village of Shottery on the town’s outskirts. That means traffic can be a nightmare and Shottery has a terrible traffic problem, the main route in can often get clogged.
  • I think that the best time to visit is right now, in March.  March tends to be a tad quieter especially for visiting, especially if you go on a weekday. There is dedicated parking for the cottage, just follow the signs.
  • On our recent visit, we also went Sunday morning and arrived around 10am. There was barely anybody else their at this point but by lunch, the coach parties had started to arrive.
  • There’s also still plenty to see at this time of year. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is set with nine acres of gardens, woodland and orchards which all begin the spring into life – cherry blossom opens and the daffodils begin to show their faces.  There is also the sculpture trail which shows a number of works inspired by Shakespeare and his plays.

  • On our last visit, we had a scone at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage Cafe which is over the road from the main house. It’s a quaint place with a good view of the house and stream which runs through Stratford, however, there’s probably not a great deal of choice.
  • If you’re looking for hot food, chips, etc. then you’re probably better off heading to the Bell Pub, where I spent many a Friday lunchtime as a student.
  • You probably need about two hours to do the whole place justice and there’s a choice of tickets on offer. You can get one ticket for all five Shakespeare houses (Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Mary Arden’s Farm, New Place and Hall’s Croft) known as ‘The Full Story Ticket’ which includes 12 months unlimited visits to all five properties – £22.50.  You can also buy single entry which is £12.50, just to Anne Hathaway’s.
  • Let me know if you have any more good local tips for visiting Anne Hathaway’s cottage in the comments below ⬇️

Sonnet 45

So I will end this post, with this sonnet, one which I studied during my English Lit A Level and which is said to be attributed to Anne. The words ‘hate away’ may be a pun (in Elizabethan pronunciation) on ‘Hathaway’ and it has also been suggested that the next words, “And saved my life”, would have been indistinguishable in pronunciation from “Anne saved my life”.

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make

Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’

To me that languish’d for her sake;

But when she saw my woeful state

Straight in her heart did mercy come,

Chiding that tongue that ever sweet

Was used in giving gentle doom,

And taught it thus anew to greet:

‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end,

That follow’d it as gentle day

Doth follow night, who like a fiend

From heaven to hell is flown away;

‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,

And saved my life, saying ‘not you.’

 

 

Here Amy takes in Annie at the New Theatre, Oxford…

I’m a musical theatre fan. I think I’ve already seen four shows this year; considering March has only just begun some might say that’s a bit excessive. But I’ve never seen Annie and, quite frankly, never planned to.

I have a really vivid memory of watching Annie on Channel 5 one rainy Sunday afternoon when I was very little and being scared. Scared of what exactly I’m not sure – Miss Hannigan, her brother, the shrill tones of a chorus of 1930s New York orphans? I don’t think I watched the film to the end, and since then have never picked up the movie or listened to the soundtrack again.

However, seeing Annie at The New Theatre Oxford has totally changed my opinion of this beloved musical.

It’s hard to resist the joy of a stunning take on ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’, all orphan attitude and sharp choreography. Anita Dobson’s (EastEnders, Strictly Come Dancing) Miss Hannigan is performed with razor-sharp humour and physical comedy.

The whole cast is superb. Richard Meek (Rocky Horror, Thoroughly Modern Millie) cuts a dastardly Rooster and Gary Davis creates a wonderful caricature of President Roosevelt – but perhaps all performances are shaded by Carolyn Maitland (Ghost, Miss Saigon) making the most of the straightest role of the show, Daddy Warbuck’s assistant and love interest, Grace Farrell.

My personal highlight of the performance was the choreography. It’s been a while since I’ve seen traditional Broadway jazz and tap performed so well in a touring production, so a special shout out goes to the ensemble cast.

You, of course, have to take the show with a pinch of salt. The idea that an Irish orphan somehow inspired President Roosevelt to create The New Deal with a group rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ is just a tad abstract – but this doesn’t take away from the fun of the show.

As well as the traditional jazz dancing, and performances of Anita Dobson, Carolyn Maitland, and the wonderful Taziva-Faye Katsande as Annie, what I also loved about the production was the audience. It was filled with mums, dads, grandmas, and grandpas bringing their young children to their first show.

The small girl sat directly in front of me audibly gasped when the young actors started performing Hard Knock Life, she was enthralled and I couldn’t help but think maybe another avid musical fan like myself had just been born…

Annie is at the New Theatre Oxford until Saturday 9th March and you can find other tour dates here: https://www.anniethemusicaltour.uk/tour-dates

My answer to the question, ‘did you know that Chipping Norton had its own country market?’ three weeks ago, would have been ‘No’. Chipping Norton has its very own craft market, which runs every Saturday between 9am – 11am, and is part of the wider ‘Country Markets’ movement. I was told about it by one of the stall holders, Sally and I felt that it was fitting that my first ‘real’ blog post for 2019, shone a bit of light on it.

What to expect when you visit Chipping Norton's craft country market?

Each week, except the third Saturday of every month when the Farmers’ Market pitches up, several local producers and craftspeople set up in the Lower Town Hall selling wares from freshly baked cakes, homegrown vegetables and fruits, plants, meats, plus arts and crafts.

How did I not know about this?

What to expect when you visit Chipping Norton's craft country market?

For over 100 years a network of 250 Country Markets across England and Wales has been selling homemade and local goods. It’s a Co-operative Social Enterprise and each local group is organised in co-operative societies registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. It’s all very official.

Membership is open to anyone over 16 and the cost of joining is 5p. Yep, 5p. The cost of an old school shilling. Everything is sold cooperatively, producers receive payment at the end of every month for their sales, minus a small commission to cover running costs and insurance. In Chippy, that’s 13 per cent. 

 

So when you rock up, you’ll be presented with a piece of paper and as you fill your basket, each stall holder will mark up what you’ve had and you pay on your way out. You can even use a card.

What to expect when you visit Chipping Norton's craft country market?

What can you expect at Chippy’s market

Chippy’s market features meats and sausages butchered at Long Compton abattoir; handmade cards, soaps and gift bags; a plant stall; local honey; fruit and veg; Sally’s hand-printed tea-towels, totes, aprons and storage boxes (I can vouch for the aprons, super they are!) and a chap that even makes walking sticks.  You can even have a slice of cake and cuppa for a mere donation!

 

Tom and I came away with a packet of sausages, soap and an upcycled keyring made from a bit of skateboard, for about £8.50. This was absurd when you compare the fact I bought a £25 ticket for the Christmas Fair at Daylesford last November and paid £4.50 for one hand printed card alone. Suffice to say, that this Mother’s Day, I will not be heading to Daylesford for my gift inspo.

What to expect when you visit Chipping Norton's craft country market?

It’s clear that there are several visitors to the market who come to do a spot of shopping every week. For these regulars, it’s an important part of their social life, but the market to thrive needs both more producers and visitors.  But a word to the wise, the regulars know that to get the best stuff, you need to be prompt when doors open at 9am.

What to expect when you visit Chipping Norton's craft country market?

I’ve seriously started to think about upscaling my fledgeling candle-making exploits a bit further and getting myself my own stand, which will probably bring in more income than this blog ever will.   

What to expect when you visit Chipping Norton's craft country market?

 

 

 

 

By accident, I’ve had a bit of a blogging break. I’ve written quite a bit and got the photos ready, I’ve just not published anything. Well, in the meantime, we were given/gifted two tickets to see Fame the Musical at the New Theatre in Oxford, as part of its UK tour and starring TV’s Jorgie Porter; soul legend, Mica Paris; and theatre star, Keith Jack.

Based on the 1980 phenomenal pop culture film, Fame The Musical follows the lives of students at New York’s High School For The Performing Arts as they navigate their way through the highs and lows, the romances and the heartbreaks and the ultimate elation of life. This bittersweet but uplifting triumph of a show explores the issues that confront many young people today: prejudice, identity, pride, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance.

My Mum had this to say:

“The young cast is to be commended as many were multi-talented and could dance and/or sing and/or play musical instruments.  Mica Paris was outstanding as you might expect and fills the entire auditorium with her powerhouse voice. The dance numbers were very good and well choreographed and the rest of the cast singers are all very good.

“The show has obviously been updated with different characters.  Rightly or wrongly it was disappointing not to see my original favourites which I was expecting. 

“The storyline was centred on teenage angst; adolescents from different backgrounds, ending up with the usual boy meets girl against the backdrop of their road through the performing arts school.  

“Carmen (had a very strong voice) was the girl from a poor background chasing fame at any cost and not always making good choices, loved by the nice boy, Schlomo, who was from a long line of musical geniuses.

“Tyrone, from the ghetto (rapper and principle male dancer – was excellent), we discover halfway through that he is illiterate but strives to overcome his illiteracy and falls for Iris (Jorgie Porter in a non singing role, great dancer) considered the best dancer in the school and thought to be from a posh background.   

“Inevitably one of them comes to a bad end, no prizes for guessing which one! Carmen, of course, who goes of to L.A. with a ‘manager’ to realise her dreams only to end up stripping and ultimately overdosing.

“My favourites were Nick (from Any Dream will Do – excellent singer) the serious student and Serena, again another strong singer, the quirky one! A good pairing.

“A couple of points we were less keen on. Not only was the storyline poor but we didn’t recognise any songs other than the title. The costumes seemed to be far less colourful than our memories of that time and there were not enough leg warmers!”

So there you have it, catch Fame until 16th Feb 2016 at the New Theatre.

With Jess on the holiday of a lifetime, Amy went to Oxford’s New Theatre on Wednesday night to see the touring UK production of Jersey Boys.

In Jersey, there’s only three ways out: the military, the mob or by becoming a star.

That’s the introduction to Jersey Boys from the character of Tommy Devito (played by Simon Bailey) and from the moment that line is uttered, the musical reels you in for a ride of musical success, top-selling singles and a whole host of drama.

For those that aren’t familiar with the show, Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli, Tommy Devito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi, more famously known as The Four Seasons, and how they escaped their home of New Jersey to achieve international, musical stardom.

 

 

L-R: Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan), Frankie Valli (Michael Watson), Tommy Devito (Simon Bailey) and Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths)

I’m not personally the biggest fan of Jukebox Musicals, especially with what seems like a new one opening every week on the West End, but watching the touring production of Jersey Boys in Oxford, I quickly realised just why the show won both the prestigious Tony and the Olivier Awards for Best New Musical.

The music is wonderfully familiar, with hits such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, “Beggin’”, “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”; but it’s the carefully crafted story I loved. The narration, split into four, so each original member of the band can tell their side of the story, was carefully blended with dramatic scenes as the group began to fall apart due to Tommy Devito’s association with the mob and spiraling debts.

The show gets gradually more intense as it progresses, but it’s all delivered with a laugh – I was an especially big fan of Nick Massi’s (played by Lewis Griffiths) one liners! And Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan) brought a youthful energy to the show that reflects the songs about love and romance.

It’s not surprising that Frankie Valli steals the show. Michael Watson’s vocals are near perfection and really mimic Frankie’s famous voice that made the band so successful. But for me it was Simon Bailey as Tommy Devito who stood out – capturing traditional Italian-American charm as a wannabe gangster (who can also perfect some cracking choreography with a guitar!)

 

A special Christmas gift from the Jersey Boys team!

You can catch Jersey Boys in Oxford until January 6th 2019 and see other tour dates via http://www.jerseyboysuktour.com