English Stately Homes and Castles - West Midlands
The lovely family home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna
and her husband Dr John Hall
is a lovely timber frame building away from the bustle of
the town centre and near Holy
Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried.
The house was built in 1613 for Shakespeare’s favourite daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall. The hall, parlour, pantry and buttery with the bedrooms above, date from that time. After Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the family sold the house and moved into New Place. The house was bought by Henry Smith, a wealthy lawyer who promptly extended it by adding another room next to the hall with a kitchen and stable at the back.
In the C19th, part of the building became a school for young ladies teaching them English, French and German. A school room was added which is now the cafe. The Shakespeare Trust bought the building in 1949. It very much has the feeling of a wealthy, much loved Tudor home.
The entrance hall with is stone flagged floor has a massive stone fireplace which may have helped heat the whole house as all the main rooms and stairs lead off from here.
The main living area was the parlour, which was used for eating and entertaining. This is a lovely room with exposed wood beams in the ceiling and walls. It is furnished with highly polished heavily carved period furniture. On a shelf on the wall is a dole cupboard, where bread could be kept to give to the poor.
A passageway leads from the parlour to a small area which is now furnished as Dr Hall’s consulting room. John was a physician and the only doctor in Stratford. He didn’t believe in blood letting and his treatments were based on plant or animal extracts or minerals. The picture on the wall was painted around 1660 and shows a physician diagnosing illness by inspecting the patients urine, a technique which would have been used by Dr Hall. His case notes were published after his death and were a popular text book for many years.
Beyond is the back hall built after the Halls had sold the house, which leads into the kitchen.
This is a big room with a large open fireplace with spits for cooking meat. Next to the fireplace is a high backed settle and there is a large chest to store flour.
A splendid oak staircase leads up to the bedrooms on the first floor. There are two lovely stained glass roundels in the window.
The main bedroom was actually added by Henry Smith and is not the one used by the Halls, although it is now furnished as it might have been used by them.
Most of the other rooms on the first floor are now an exhibition area with information about World War 1. The final room is simply furnished as the bedroom of a higher rank servant. The window contains some of the original C16th glass.
There are attractive gardens at the back of the house growing a selection of flowers and herbs that may have been grown by the Halls.
Entry is with a joint ticket to all the town Shakespeare properties. This was by far my favourite. It was very quiet compared to the rest, probably as it has no direct link with Shakespeare. This is a shame as it is definitely worth visiting. It is only a few minutes walk from Holy Trinity Church too. The post code is CV37 6BG and the grid reference is SP 200545.
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