SHAKESPEARE’S Birthplace is on the market.
The Henley Street childhood home of the playwright is to go under the hammer once again, 170 years since it was saved for the nation at public auction.
The world-famous grade 1 listed house is being marketed by estate agents Sheldon Bosley Knight ahead of a ‘special’ public auction on September 16.
But before potential buyers get too excited at the prospect of moving into an historic slice of prime town centre real estate, they need to know that no amount of money will be enough to purchase the property.
To mark the anniversary of the saving of the birthplace, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is staging a new exhibition at the property. Saving Shakespeare’s Birthplace can be seen from September 16 to December 29.
And on the September 16 – the actual anniversary of the original auction – there will be a free theatrical re-enactment of the auction outside the birthplace at noon and 2pm.
Rescued in 1847 for a princely sum of £3,000, the purchase of the tumbledown terraced house prompted the foundation of the UK’s oldest conservation charity, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Sheldon Bosley Knight say it is almost impossible to value the Tudor house which has been a magnet for 32million visitors since its restoration.
Now detached, the house occupies a prime location in Shakespeare’s home town and boasts magnificent original features including six inglenook fireplace es and flagstone floors. Interested parties may inspect the property at their convenience, subject to usual entry fees.
In the year Queen Victoria came to throne, the house was threatened with dissolution and decay when the resident butcher’s wife died and her heirs put it up for auction. It was up to the people to save it. In what may have been a Victorian version of fake news, rumours were reported in the press that American showman PT Barnum, founder of Barnum and Bailey Circus, intended to dismantle the property brick by brick and transport it across the Atlantic.
The race was on and several committees were immediately formed to raise subscriptions, featuring notable names including Charles Dickens, Sir Robert Peel and ‘A-list’ actor of the day William Macready. They set about mobilising the population to purchase the house for the nation. Prince Albert was patron of the Stratford Committee.
Fundraising efforts were varied and included plays, performances and souvenirs- such as Quick’s New Puzzle of Shakespeare’s House which enabled purchasers to assemble their own mantelpiece version of the property.
Long-held hopes for the government to take over the running of the birthplace as a national memorial were never realised, and so the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was formed as the independent charity responsible for the care and preservation of the building, an arrangement formalised by Act of Parliament in 1891.
Presenting the birthplace of a writer was unusual, and the saving of Shakespeare’s house inspired a trend of other writers’ homes to be preserved including John Milton’s house in Charlefont St Giles in 1887 and the Bronte Parsonage in 1928.
Today, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust continues to be self-funded with an obligation to care for Shakespeare’s family homes and safeguard his legacy. Its responsibilities have expanded to include the care of the UK’s largest Shakespeare museum and archive collection and delivery of educational programmes, to promote the understanding and enjoyment of Shakespeare’s works, life and times.