Birthplace bosses want to axe tree to find out more

By Steve Hayes 17/04 Updated: 17/04 10:40

Buy photos » Bosses have applied to remove the mulberry at the centre of the garden. (s)

BOSSES at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have applied for permission to fell a historic tree because they believe crucial evidence about the Bard's life lies underneath it.

The mulberry tree stands at the heart of the Dig for Shakespeare archaeological dig currently taking place at New Place.

And trust chiefs believe the area underneath it could yield important new evidence about the layout and structure of the house where Shakespeare died in 1616.

Now in its third year, the dig has unearthed evidence which supports 17th century accounts there was an inner dwelling behind the main facade of Shakespeare’s house at New Place.

A pit adjacent to the tree has revealed a Tudor brick surface and possible hearth, which are likely to be the first identified remains of the playwright’s house.

But further examination of the new finds will only be possible if the tree in the middle of the area is removed.

Dr Paul Edmondson, of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said the trust had debated 'long and hard' over the decision.

He said: "We have explored all other possible archaeological avenues, but there really is no other way to discover what lies in this critically important area.

"This area is particularly important because it stands outside the perimeter of the original excavations undertaken by Halliwell in the 1860s. This means it has never been excavated before, and evidence from the test pit shows it may well contain deposits unseen since Shakespeare’s day.

"Those deposits could help us answer important questions about the layout and structure of New Place and how Shakespeare lived, allowing us to fulfil one of the principal aims of the dig.

"What lies beneath the mulberry tree may well inform how we wish to reinterpret the site for future generations."

It is the last opportunity to excavate the spot as the dig is scheduled to finish in November.

But because the tree, which originates from around 1800, is in a conservation area the trust must apply to the council for permission to remove it.

An independent report commissioned by the trust revealed it is unlikely to remain in an acceptable condition for more than ten years.

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