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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

A quiet reluctance manifested itself on The Husband's face and body when I announced that I would like to spend the whole day at Stratford Upon Avon. On the way there, he asked for the 3rd time, "What will we be doing there?"

It turned out that Shakespeare did not get along with The Husband in secondary school. The grudge is raw till today. There was no way The Husband would attend any play, nor go near the Theatre... so we went to 3 of the 5 Shakespeare houses instead.

Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife. The cottage belonged to the wife's family. It dates from the Elizabethan period too but was at the other end of the social and wealth spectrum than Chavenage House. The difference in architecture was vast.

The house has 12 rooms. Originally, it had only 2 rooms. The roof is thatched with wheat, a cheaper roofing material than slate. Compared to Chavenage House, this is certainly a far more humble house.  The walls are made of wattle and daube. Wattle is simply a frame made of twigs upon which the Elizabethans slapped daube (a mixture of dung, straw etc...). 

The family grew its own vegetables.

The family made its own butter and cheese.

The staircase was really tiny. The beams are all crooked. The ceilings are very low. The lower the ceiling, the less the cost of heating. Poorer people lived in houses with lower ceilings.

Even then, there were lovely touches of simple elegance at parts.

This was the bed Shakespeare bequeathed to his wife as "the 2nd best bed". Beds were a relatively new invention at the time. They were costly and people who owned them would place them in the living room so that visitors could see that they were wealthy enough to buy a bed. The best bed would sit in the living room and given to important visitors to use. The 2nd best bed would then be used by the master of the house and his wife. Hence, it appears that Shakespeare made a romantic gesture to his wife when he bequeathed to her their marital bed.

The wood fired bread oven.

People ate on square wooden plates. They never washed these plates. Food was licked cleanly off them and the plates were then kept away. Both sides of the plate were used. The small depression was  for salt. They ate a lot of salt. The depression was used for potage (a sort of thick soup).

Cheese and hams were eaten off the other side of the plate. You would turn the plate over when you were done with the soup part of your meal.

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