NOTORIOUS landlords, wine merchants and medieval millers make up the rich history of the Old Slaughterhouse in Stratford.
And in a tribute to its little known past, community group Escape Arts – which has been based at the venue since 2014 – has put together a permanent exhibition to transport visitors as far back as 1466.
Early references to the Grade II-listed building, off Sheep Street, reveal it was owned by the Guild of Stratford, and one of its earliest tenants was miller Richard Friend. With bread being a diet staple, millers were described as the ‘richest of peasants’, and since the property was thought to be at the higher end of the market, Friend was no exception.
The town’s shoemaker is thought to have taken over occupancy from the miller, followed by a string of pub landlords when it became ‘The Crowne Inn’, including one with a fondness for prostitutes, and another who stole wood from Shakespeare’s father.
The inn was devastated by two fires in 1590, which saw Stratford dubbed the ‘unluckiest town in the Midlands’. It was rebuilt six years later in 1596. The site continued to change hands from bakers to joiners and wine merchants, before it became a well-known butchers for the next 150 years – one of just two allowed to continue trade in the town during the war.
In 2014, the organisation was awarded funding from Stratford Town Trust as part of its £1million ‘CommYOUnity Challenge’ to transform the abandoned building into a cultural centre.
Research has been pulled together over the past three years by volunteers and staff to create the exhibition which includes a visual recreation of the Tudor pub and a series of virtual reality videos with tours of the site by its ghostly occupants.
Visit www.oldslaughterhouse.org.uk to view a digital version of the exhibition or visit the centre from 1pm to 4pm every Thursday and 11am to 4pm every Friday and Saturday.