4th Dec, 2016

Shakespeare garden tree casket to go under the hammer

Stratford Editorial 10th Jul, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A CASKET made from the famous mulberry tree which once grew in Shakespeare’s garden is set to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London.

A collector is selling the box – which is inscribed with “Give me the key for this and instantly unlock my fortunes here” – a quote from Arragon’s speech in The Merchant of Venice.

One side of the box is also inscribed, but with the words ‘Shakespeare’s Mulberry-Wood’. It is believed to have been carved by J Marshall, who had a shop on Chapel Street between the 1850s and 1880s and worked as a decorator and ‘curiosity dealer’.

The original tree stood in the garden of New Place and is said to have been cut down at teh same time teh house was kbnocked down in the 1750s by then owner Rev Francis Gastrell.

The story goes that Gastrell was so fed up with “pilgrims” wanting to see the tree – which tradition says Shakespeare himself had planted – that he had the tree chopped down. He is then said to have sold the wood to the Thomas Sharpe who turned it into many souvenirs.

A similar box said to be made from the legendary tree was presented to the Shakespearean actor David Garrick – who had the idea for the first birthday celebration, and held a three-day Jubilee in 1769.

Sotheby’s have valued the casket at between £3,000 and £5,000, while its owner – who wishes to remain anonymous – paid just under £1,000 for it ten years ago.

The seller told the Observer: “I purchased it at an auction as I am a great theatre lover.

“It is a lovely item and there is so much history online about the mulberry tree and how it was chopped down and items made from the wood in the years following.

“I thought it would be the best year to sell it as it is the 400th anniversary and I am hoping it finds a good home.”

The casket is set to go on sale on Tuesday (July 12) at 10.30am.