THE GOVERNMENT has promised funding for Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s project to transform Shakespeare’s final home at New Place.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne has announced cash will come from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) via English Heritage.
Although no exact figure has been given it is believed it could be as much as £1 million towards the £5.25 million project which aims to make the Bard’s former Stratford home centre stage of the worldwide marking of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death next year. It will supplement the recently revealed Heritage Lottery Funding grant of £1.8 million.
The Trust aims to re-imagine the site – the house itself having been demolished in the 18th centry – creating a place where visitors can discover the story of Shakespeare at the height of his success as a writer and prominent citizen of his home town.
SBT chief executive Dr Diana Owen said: “We are creating a major new landmark heritage attraction where people can get to the heart of the story of Shakespeare the family man and the writer at the height of his success, in the very place where lived for the last 19 years of his life.
“This is the single most significant Shakespearian project anywhere in the world to commemorate 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy in 2016. It is the biggest project our charity has ever undertaken in our long history of conserving and opening the five Shakespeare family homes to the public.
“We are delighted that the government has awarded funding to help us unlock the heritage of this internationally important place, and put Stratford at the forefront of the global celebrations of Shakespeare’s legacy in 2016 and beyond.
“This is great news for Stratford, the West Midlands and for our national and international tourist economy.”
Work on the project is set to start next month.
What will the project involve
Nash’s House will be conserved and extended to provide an exhibition centre where rare and important artefacts relating to New Place can be displayed, many of them for the first time.
There will be space for informal learning and family activities, and modern, fully accessible, facilities for visitors, staff and volunteers. The home of Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Nash has been the entrance to New Place for many years. The Grade I listed building, a fine example of Elizabethan architecture, requires essential conservation work, including structural repairs, to remain open to the public.
The sunken Knot Garden will be restored in keeping with the intention of the original design by Ernest Law, the renowned garden designer who was considered one of the finest exponents of the Jacobean knot garden revivals of the early 20th century.
Elements of the Great Garden, the largest surviving part of Shakespeare’s estate, will be conserved and restored following the opening of New Place in 2016. A garden apprenticeship scheme will be developed as part of the transformation project, and apprentices will support the ongoing development of the Grade II registered garden to a conservation management plan. Local residents have enjoyed free entry to the Great Garden for many years, and this will continue when New Place reopens.
Described in Shakespeare’s will as “The house wherein I dwell”, New Place has attracted literary pilgrims for centuries.
But Shakespeare’s family home was demolished in the 18th century, and a second house, built in its place, was also demolished in 1759 by its owner Francis Gastrell, who was reputedly annoyed by visiting Shakespeare enthusiasts, as well as a tax dispute with the local parish. With much of its heritage hidden below ground or in the extensive archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, it has been difficult for many visitors to get a real sense of the site’s significance and history.