THE DOORS of Shakespeare’s old schoolroom will be opened to visitors following a £1.4million lottery grant.
The Guildhall at the King Edward VI School was where a young Bard began his literary journey and, as the town’s first theatre, was where he would have seen some of his first performances.
Dating from 1420 and still used for teaching each morning, it remains largely unaltered from Shakespeare’s time but is in need of conservation work to secure its future.
The project will also enable new audiences – particularly primary school children – to follow in the playwright’s footsteps.
A major part of the project will conserve a group of rare medieval paintings.
Other works will include vital repairs to the timber structure, upgrades to the interior and the heating system and the installation of an accessible toilet and a lift.
Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “The Guildhall is a vital link in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Shakespearian and medieval heritage, so we’re delighted to be able to help secure its future.
“This project will enable the wider public and tourists from around the world to sit where Shakespeare sat and gain an insight into the world which helped inspire him to become the world’s greatest playwright.”
The project will launch arts activities, creative writing sessions and a ‘Willingly To School’ programme which will see schoolchildren experience a lesson in Shakespeare’s old schoolroom.
New interactive displays, filmed performances, a Tudor lesson and an 18th century classroom will also bring Shakespeare’s story to life.
The Guildhall’s role at the centre of Stratford’s civic governance and life for over 400 years – including Shakespeare’s father’s leading role in the council – will also be explored.
Professor Ronnie Mulryne said: “As a former long term Chairman of Governors at King Edward VI School, and now a Trustee, I have come to appreciate the inspirational effect the largely-unchanged presence of Stratford’s Guildhall, and the Tudor classroom where William Shakespeare studied, can hold for the students of the school, the people of Stratford and visitors from far and near.
” When you add that visitors will be able to view the space where Shakespeare made the transition from studying plays to seeing them performed by the leading professionals of his time, it becomes evident that all the research, interpretation and planning that have gone into this project will be amply repaid, thanks to the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.”
Works are scheduled for completion next April – the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.