They 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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ⬇️
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.’