10th Dec, 2016

Important discovery unearthed at Shakespeare's final Stratford home

Stratford Editorial 27th Nov, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

SHAKESPEARE’S kitchen has been unearthed by archaeologists working at the playwright’s final home in Stratford.

The discovery, including the playwright’s ‘oven’ and ‘fridge’, at New Place has prompted much excitement among Shakespearean scholars.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT), which cares for the Chapel Street property, has been able to commission new evidence-based drawings of New Place showing how it would have looked when it was the Shakespeare family home for nearly two decades.

The dig has also helped establish the size of the property bought by the bard for the then considerable sum of £120 in 1597.

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.

Copies of the cookware will be available for visitors to handle, and will be on display in the neighbouring Nash’s House, which is currently undergoing a major refurbishment as part of the project.

Alongside the findings from Shakespeare’s time, the dig also revealed early medieval foundations and Iron Age archaeology.

Dr Paul Edmondson, SBT’s head of research, 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 was equally excited by the new finds.

She said: “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 summer 2016.”

The latest dig was undertaken earlier this year ahead of the on-going £5.25million New Place project to tell the story of Shakespeare’s family home and the real man behind the works – husband, father and son of Stratford.

The project has been supported by the the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England, and through public donations raised through a host of initiatives spearheaded by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

It is scheduled to open next July as party of the 400th anniversary of the dramatist’s death.