Visit the Ancient Tudor Buildings of Stratford-Upon-Avon and Follow in the Footsteps of Shakespeare

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a bustling
modern town, but what strikes you as you walk along its streets are the many beamed Tudor houses intermingled with
the familiar high-street shops. But why w…

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a bustling
modern town, but what strikes you as you walk along its streets are the many beamed Tudor houses intermingled with
the familiar high-street shops. But why were Tudor houses built in this form and what gives them their distinctive black-and-white appearance?

The Tudor period spanned the 16th
and 17th centuries when, for the first time, buildings
that were not specifically designed for the upper classes could be
said to have a distinctive architectural style, ranging from farm
buildings to labourer’s cottages. A typical Tudor house was
half-timbered (also called timber-framed) – this means
that the weight of the house was carried on a wooden frame. The space
between the wooden beams was filled in with either brick or plaster.
Brick only started to become a common building material during this
period, and was still relatively costly. Where brick was too
expensive, plaster was used as the infill between the beams in
smaller houses. The plaster was whitewashed, giving houses a
distinctive black-and-white appearance. The upper storeys were often
designed to project over the ground floor. This was done to maximise
the use of space, as the owner would be taxed according to the area
of the lower floor projecting into the street.

With the widespread adoption of coal as
the fuel of choice during the period, chimneys and enclosed
fireplaces were introduced; this became unavoidable, as the high
volume of smoke from burning coal could not escape through a hole in
the roof as had been possible with wood fires. Elaborate designs were
applied to the chimneys, which were built in twisted and curved
shapes and decorated in patterns with different coloured bricks. Oak
panelling was widely used to decorate house interiors.

Examples of Tudor buildings in
Stratford abound, with the most famous being Shakespeare’s
birthplace, which is in Henley Street. This house was bought by
Shakespeare’s father, John, in 1556. It is the house where the
writer and his brothers and sisters were brought up. Another fine
example is New Place in Chapel Street, where Shakespeare lived when
he was not in London, and in his final years until his death in 1616.
Another fine old Tudor house connected to Shakespeare is Hall’s Croft
which is in the street called Old Town between Stratford’s town
centre and the parish church. This property was owned by William
Shakespeare’s daughter, Susannah, and her husband Dr John Hall.

You will see many other Tudor
half-timbered houses while walking around the centre of Stratford,
particularly in the High Street, Henley Street, Chapel Street and Old
Town, and it is also worth exploring the numerous narrow
side-streets. Many of the houses are beautifully preserved and open
to the public, including the Shakespeare properties already
mentioned, 40 Sheep Street (home of Falstaff’s Experience), and Ann
Hathaway’s cottage in nearby Shottery.

Stratford’s ancient Tudor buildings
bring history to life. When you step inside one of these ancient
houses, you might be viewing the same stonework that Shakespeare
gazed upon while composing one of his world-famous plays.


tags