About the site of New Place
There have been numerous historical developments on the site of New Place which have shaped its story. Artefacts show us that the site was once within an Iron Age farmstead, its location chosen because of the proximity to the River Avon and the its fertile soils. Numerous pits, used to store grain during fallow periods were identified. The settlement, probably consisting of a small farmstead made up of wooden roundhouses and agricultural buildings, was probably located somewhere in the immediate vicinity.
Following this, there is no archaeological evidence of occupation on the site for over a thousand years, indicating the area resorted back to agricultural use.
The present town centre of Stratford-upon-Avon developed following its establishment by the Bishop of Worcester in 1196. 13th century objects recovered from the site reveal the construction of the first timber-framed building on the newly laid out housing plot. Various surviving pits, building foundations and high status artefacts confirm a substantial structure was located on the site during this period.
New Place was constructed by the influential and wealthy merchant Hugh Clopton around 1483 (Clopton’s achievements include becoming a member of parliament, Sheriff of London and one-time Lord mayor). Confirmation of the existence of New Place has been preserved in the surviving written and material record. Artefacts recovered during archaeological excavation have allowed the physical structure of the house, along with the elements of the daily life of its owners and residents to be reconstructed.
Hugh Clopton’s ‘Grete House’ (Will of Hugh Clopton, 14th September 1496) originated as a late-medieval, brick and timber-framed, open-hall house, constructed around a central courtyard. It was the largest private house within the borough. The house contained separate domestic rooms including a great hall, buttery, pantry, kitchen and masters and servants chambers. Its separate gatehouse, domestic range and hall building reflected the sentiment of the gentry at this late medieval period. Evidence also suggests that the frontage range was used as merchants’ shops.
New Place, Shakespeare’s Final Home:
What was New Place?
New Place was William Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon, purchased in 1597 at a cost of £60, as a place for him and his family to call home. It was the largest independently owned residential property in Stratford-upon-Avon and was original and unusual in its layout.
Shakespeare bought the medieval residence to provide a comfortable base in his home-town. Upon Shakespeare’s possession on New Place, he proceeded to renovate and modernize. The house frontage was specifically targeted for redevelopment, but much of the house would have remained as it was constructed in the 15th century.
What is its significance?
For Shakespeare, New Place was more than just a building, it was place of work, of leisure, of social status and of ambition. It was a statement of his prosperity and social achievement and at the same time, provided his home life a focus and a stable future. At the time of his purchase, Shakespeare was an established playwright and New Place became a place for him to retreat to and write when away from London. It was at the social centre of the town at the period, being close to the Guild Chapel, the markets, school, his parent’s home and the main thoroughfare leading out into the country. Find out more about New Place here: https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-new-place/about-shakespeares-new-place/
New Place, after Shakespeare:
Following the residency of Shakespeare, his family, and his descendants, New Place was lost to history when it was demolished around 1702 by Sir john Clopton and an entirely new and radically different house was built in its Place. This only survived for a few decades, as in 1759 the then owner, Reverend Francis Gastrel, removed all trace of the property above ground. The written, visual and archaeological record confirm these events. It would not be another hundred years until the importance of the site was recognised. The artefacts and physical traces of earlier investigations of the site undertaken by an antiquarian scholar in the 1860’s provide us with an insight into early archaeological excavation techniques.
The objects in this online exhibition, along with the objects now in the museum collection, give direct insights into the lives of the residents of New Place throughout its history and the activities undertaken by them, including their household work and their hobbies.
These artefacts show us that the ground upon which New Place was constructed had already seen human occupation and activity dating back several thousand years to the prehistoric period.
They have been selected from the extensive assemblage to provide examples of the building materials used to construct New Place, display the numerous periods represented in the archaeology and to present a picture of the lives of the inhabitants of New Place.
Through comparative analysis (relative dating) techniques, we have been able to use the artefacts, recently recovered through the archaeological excavations undertaken at the site, to securely date the associated features and buildings