Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon was the former family home of William Shakespeare. The last house on the site was demolished 250 years ago following a dispute over a tree, but in 2016 New Place got a new identity – as a remarkable rethinking of the spot where the house once stood, with sculptures, gardens and an exhibit that recreates what life might have been like for William, Anne and their two surviving children.
So what can you expect when you visit New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon?
Shakespeare’s New Place
Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6EP
What’s at Shakespeare’s New Place?
Enter on Chapel Street through a bronze and oak gateway where the original threshold to the house once stood. Pick up a map, a family activity booklet if you have kids (or not, anyone can play along), and either join an upcoming tour or make your own way around.
The last house to stand on the site of New Place, after Shakespeare’s family home was rebuilt in the early 18th century, was demolished in 1759 by Reverend Francis Gastrell. The story goes that the riled reverend angered locals by ripping out a mulberry tree planted by Shakespeare, possibly because it was attracting tourists. Then, in an argument about tax with the authorities, he simply tore down the house. Unsurprisingly, he left town, leaving few friends in his wake.
New Place was the site of an archaeological dig just a few years ago, with Tony Robinson and the Time-Team gang turning up with their trowels.
Then, as part of a multi-million pound project, New Place got the love it deserved, transformed into a fitting tribute to William: the husband, the father, the writer.
On the stone paths are engraved bronze markers showing the footprint of Shakespeare’s former family home, which was once the largest in the area. There’s a sculpture depicting the £120 he paid for New Place in 1597; a globe showing Shakespeare’s world; the original well; and a mighty bronze tree whose branches stretch over a huge sphere – an immoveable symbol of Shakespeare’s reach.
Moving through the sunken Tudor Knot Garden, where the air is thick with herby aromas, you’ll discover the sprawling lawn of the Victorian Great Garden, which is surrounded by sculptures, benches and wild banks of flowers. Take a minute here to savour the peace. This is Stratford-upon-Avon: buzzing with tourists, energised by shoppers, workers, school pupils, and theatregoers. Yet here, in Shakespeare’s own garden, is a stillness and a hush that can take you to another place, if you let it.
There’s a huge mulberry tree too, by the way, thought to be grown from a cutting of Shakespeare’s original.
Double back through the gardens to the indoor exhibit inside Nash’s House. It’s a Grade-I-listed Tudor house formerly owned by Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Nash. The most striking piece is a newly made-over illuminated model of New Place, where children can discover Shakespeare their way by watching the animated version of the house through the eyeholes and pulling open the drawers beneath the model.
Young visitors to New Place can also use an interactive book of nursery rhymes, play dress-up, read books, build New Place using wooden blocks and create a puppet show.
Other exhibits include the original deeds to the property and a number of artefacts said to be made from Shakespeare’s mulberry tree.
Don’t miss at Shakespeare’s New Place
The first-floor viewing deck, through the door at the top of the stairs.
From up here, among the rooftops, you can see the tower of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre as well as views Shakespeare himself would have seen, including the Guild Chapel and the site of his former school.
Location of New Place
Just steps away from the hubbub of High Street, New Place is on the corner of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane. Near neighbours include the Guild Chapel; Shakespeare’s School, also known as King Edward VI School or KES and still teaching local youngsters; and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, part of the KES site and open as an attraction for visitors.
Shakespeare’s New Place opening times
10am-5pm late March to September 2; 10am-4.30pm September 3 to November 4; 10am-3.30pm winter
Shakespeare’s New Place price
Adult entry costs £11.25 and £7.20 for children (under 3s free). It’s worth getting the Full Story ticket (£20.25 for adults and £13.05 for children). It’s a 12-month pass for unlimited visits to all five Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties (the others are Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Mary Arden’s Farm and Hall’s Croft). Read Stratfordblog’s top 5 reasons to buy an annual pass.
Local residents with a CV37 postcode qualify for a free two-year pass to New Place. Pop to the Shakespeare Centre on Henley Street with proof of address.
Value for money? Buy the Full Story ticket and come back more than once to get great value. There’s 10 per cent off online bookings too.
The Stratfordblog verdict
New Place is different things to different people: a sculpture garden, a way to get children interested in Shakespeare, a place to reflect (the leaves of the Greenwood Tree sculpture bear tributes to loved ones).
For me, New Place is my place to really feel connected, not to Shakespeare the writer, but to Shakespeare the person. You’ll often find me just sitting in the gardens, enjoying this peaceful slice of Stratford-upon-Avon.
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Information correct at date of publication