Stratford-Upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s England

Five Shakespeare Birthplace Trust houses:

I love going to Stratford.  I’m involved in a documentary about Stanley Wells (greatest living Shakespeare scholar and all-round great guy) so I visit quite often.  I bought an annual pass for the Birthplace Trust houses.  If you haven’t the this charming little town; it’s well worth a visit.

1.  Shakespeare birthplace – William Shakespeare was born in this house in Henley Street.  The house was owned by his father John Shakespeare – a glover, wool merchant and high bailiff of Stratford.  When William first got married, he and his wife Anne moved into the Shakespeare family home.  The house is half-timbered with lattice windows. To gain entry into the house you first go through the birthplace centre, which is a museum housing books, manuscripts and multimedia a/v sessions which teach about his family and the historicalcontext of his time.  The house is adorned with the kind of Elizabethan furniture the Shakespeare’s would have had.

 2.    Nash’s House & New Place – New Place was the house William Shakespeare bought in 1597 as his family home.  Shakespeare spent most of his playwriting career living in London, but his family continued to live in New Place.  Nash’s House was owned by Thomas Nash, husband of Shakespeare’s granddaughter.  The original houses have been demolished.  Where New Place used to be, you can still see the foundations of the house.  A replica Nash’s House was built next to this in 1769.  The rooms inside Nash’s House are furnished in the Tudor style. Upstairs is a museum which holds manuscripts and objects dug up from the foundations of New Place.

3.     Hall’s croft – The house owned by Shakespeare’s daughter and her husband Dr. John Hall; a wealthy physician. Susanna and John Hall lived in this house until Shakespeare’s death – then they moved into New Place.  Halls’ croft is beautifully decorated, furnished with medicines and apothecary paraphernalia, as well as medical volumes, notes and medical equipment.  The furnishings are of the Elizabethan and Jacobean style, and are highly decorative.   The garden has beautifully fragrant herbs – the kind John would have used for his remedies.  All through the house are games for children, including a quiz about the medical practices of the time.  There is an exhibition room upstairs where there is always something fascinating.  On my visit there were costumes worn by Shakespearean actors including Judi Dench, Richard Wilson and David Tennant.


4.    Anne Hathaway’s cottage – Anne Hathaway, daughter of a respected farmer was brought up in this tiny hamlet in the parish of Stratford.  This is known as the most romantic of the Birthplace Trust houses.  The house is surrounded by gardens, a small maze, statues devoted to Shakespeare’s characters, trees and shrubs which had presence in his plays and a nature trail in a forested area.  There is an area full of information about Anne and William. They married in 1582, and even though Anne was eight years older than William, the money she had made her ‘quite a catch’ for William.

5.    Mary Arden’s farm – Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden was born in the tiny farm village of Wilmcote. Only open to visitors during summer months, because unlike the other Birthplace Trust houses Mary Arden’s Farm is almost entirely outdoors. (Ironically the first time I visited Stratford it was a hot November – hot enough that I had to take off my coat – but the farm was closed.  When I returned in June and went to the farm, it didn’t stop raining.  The rain soaked through my jacket which remained on at all times!) You do go in to the cottage, but most of the attraction is the farm itself.  It is a working Tudor farm with rare breed animals and a nature trail.

Parish Church where Shakspeare’s grave can be found

Shakespeare is buried in this Parish church.  The words over his grave read Good friend for Jesus sake forebare/To dig the dust encloased heare;/Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones/And curst be he yt moves my bones.

River Avon in Stratford



Is this the best bookshop in the Baltic States?

???????????????????????????????It isn’t a ‘Hannah’ holiday if I don’t return half an inch shorter with all the walking.  It isn’t a ‘Hannah’ holiday if I didn’t take over 200 photos.  It isn’t a ‘Hannah’ holiday if there are no magnificent buildings, awe inspiring churches, historic castles and a sense of rich culture and uniqueness.  And of course, it isn’t a ‘Hannah’ holiday if I didn’t get to see the libraries and bookshops.

The most impressive book shop in Vilnius has to be the university book shop “Littera” situated in the M. K. Sarbievijus courtyard in the Old campus.  Books for pleasure and study are available in Lithuanian and English, and the book shop even sells university  souvenirs.  The colorful frescoes of the shop’s ceiling caricature students and professors, and were painted by Antanas Kmieliauskas in 1978.


Photos by Hannah Meiklejohn 2013.  Want to see more photos of this bookshop?  Click here

Happy Birthday Roald Dahl

Today is Roald Dahl day – birthday of the famous storyteller!

Roald Dahl, famous author of The Witches, Twits, James and the Giant Peach, Revolting Rhymes and less known adult ghost stories, worshiped with his family at this church in Cardiff.


Roald Dahl and the Little Norwegian Church

With its attractive white painted clapboard structure and stubby spire the Norwegian Church provides a striking counterpoint to the modern buildings in the glitzy Cardiff Bay Development. The oldest surviving church in Britain founded by the Norwegian Seamens’ mission, these days it’s an arts centre and café. Its wooden decked terrace is a perfect spot for munching Norwegian-style snacks whilst you admire views across the bay.

So, what’s a Norwegian church doing in Cardiff?

Dahl Gallery inside the Norwegian Church, Cardiff BayDuring the late 19th century tens of thousands of Norwegian sailors visited the city aboard merchant ships bringing strong, straight Scandinavian timber to Wales to be used as pit props in the mines. The ships then exported the Welsh coal all around the world. Churches like this one, which dates back to 1867, were built to provide religious and social care to the Norwegian sailors who founded themselves far from home for weeks on end.

Some of them never went home.

One of the most famous members of the church’s congregation was best-selling children’s author Roald Dahl who was born to Norwegian parents in Fairwater Road in Llandaff, Cardiff. His father Harald, from Oslo, co-founded a ship-broking company in Cardiff around 1880. Roald spent his childhood and school days in Cardiff. His family worshipped at the Norwegian Church when it was in its original location in the Cardiff Docks. He and his siblings were all baptised here.

The Norwegian Church with flag flyingWhen the church fell into disrepair in the 1970s, Roald was at the forefront of a campaign to raise money to save it. Money was raised locally and from Norway to dismantle and repair the church, relocating it to its new site in 1992. Unfortunately Roald himself didn’t live to see the project completed, dying several years earlier.

The church was extensively renovated in 2011 and reopened on 17th May – Norwegian Constitution Day. A gallery upstairs at the church hosts temporary exhibitions of photography and art by local artists. Naturally it’s been named the Dahl gallery. Look out for the silver christening bowl which belonged to the family and is now on show here today.

This blog post was taken from Visit Wales website.

The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter


In the time of swords and periwigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets—when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta—there lived a tailor in Gloucester…


…”One-and-twenty button-holes of cherry-coloured silk! To be finished by noon of Saturday… Alack, I am undone, for I have no more twist!”

…the poor old tailor was very ill with a fever, tossing and turning in his four-post bed; and still in his dreams he mumbled—”No more twist! no more twist!”

…From the tailor’s shop in Westgate came a glow of light… There was a snippeting of scissors, and snappeting of thread; and little mouse voices sang loudly and gaily…


…”Alack,” said the tailor, “I have my twist; but no more strength—nor time—than will serve to make me one single button-hole; for this is Christmas Day in the Morning! The Mayor of Gloucester shall be married by noon—and where is his cherry-coloured coat?”


…But upon the table—oh joy! the tailor gave a shout—there, where he had left plain cuttings of silk—there lay the most beautifullest coat and embroidered satin waistcoat that ever were worn by a Mayor of Gloucester…

…The stitches of those button-holes were so small—so small—they looked as if they had been made by little mice!


Excerpt from The Tailor of Gloucester By Beatrix Potter 1901.  Full story here.

Photos by taken in Gloucester 2013, Hannah Meiklejohn.