THE BID to open Shakespeare’s schoolroom to visitors has received a major boost.
The £1 million project aims to repair and restore Stratford’s ancient Guildhall and open the building to the public by April 2016.
And the Trustees of King Edward VI School have this week been given £245,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help with work ahead of applying for a full grant.
As a state school, KES receive no government funding to support the upkeep of the historic building, and the last major restoration took place in 1891, and it is now in urgent need of repair and conservation.
Built between 1418-20, the Guildhall has been described by historian and broadcaster Michael Wood as “one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain”.
It served until the Reformation as the headquarters of the Guild of the Holy Cross, the Order responsible for building the nearby Guild Chapel. Post-Reformation it was used by as the meeting place for the newly-formed Borough Council, and was the building in which Shakespeare’s father, John, served as the town’s bailiff.
Teaching has continued in the schoolroom over the centuries since the 1560s, and will continue each morning in the restored building. It is likely Shakespeare saw professional actors performing in the building when the great theatre companies of the time came to present their work to the bailiff, as required by law, in order to obtain permission to perform elsewhere in the town.
Recent research by conservationist Richard Lithgow has explained and stabilised the nationally important medieval wall paintings in the lower Guildhall. If secured, part of the full HLF grant would be used to restore the paintings to their former glory.
Information boards, mock-up environments and virtual reality devices would also all be used to ‘interpret’ the building and
its history for visitors.