Even without its famous connection Stratford upon Avon is a lovely looking town. I found a carpark with reasonable ease and wandered over the bridge into the town where I took this shot of the River Avon from. Quite delightful. It is interesting to note that Stratford upon Avon is in the region of Stratford on Avon - the names of course are absolutely distinguishable because one contains "upon" and the other contains "on".
I do fancy a nice long quite week on a canal boat - one of these years. Until I saw these I had no idea there was a canal here. It's the Stratford upon Avon Canal and runs 25 miles from here to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. This is my chosen narrow boat picture of the day, since it is called Life, The Universe and Everything, the title of the third of Douglas Adams wonderful Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books. I'm sure that you will have noticed that it is emblazoned with the answer to Life the Universe and Everything.
I didn't have to go far into Stratford before I came to a Shakespeare connection. Near the canal basin, this is the Gower Memorial, sculpted by Lord Ronald Gower (it took him ten years) and donated to the town in 1888. At the four corners of the sculpture are different characters from the plays.
Lady Macbeth with her spot of blood.
And of course, presiding over the whole piece, Our William.
There are a lot of half timbered houses in the town, this one, The Garrick Inn, was built in 1594 (though has only been an in since 1718.)
It has a wealth of old carvings on it.
Many things in the town have a Shakespearean or actor related name. The Garrick Inn above was named after David Garrick, 18th century actor and chum of Dr Johnson. Below in an other half timbered building is Marlowe's Restaurant, named after Christopher Marlowe, 17th century playwright and contemporary of Shakespeare. I see it's right next to the Hathaway Tea Room, Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife.
Even the Old Bank (now the HSBC) is getting in on the act.
The ticket to Shakespeare's house and grave also included entrance to two other houses in town. This is the house of Thomas Nash who married Shakespeare's granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall (she was the only grandchild he lived to see).
It is filled with a selection of period furniture.
An Elizabethan knot garden in the grounds, based on illustrations from a gardening book of the day.
The grounds are quite extensive and feature a number of sculptures by Greg Wyatt. In each he tries to capture the essence of one of the plays. This one is for Midsummer Night's Dream.
This one if for A Winters Tale.
Upstairs in Nash's House is a small display of Shakespeare related items from more recent times. This false skull is on loan from the Royal Shakespeare Company. I wonder if they pop back and borrow it back every time they do Hamlet.
A 1964 Royal Copenhagen Titania and Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
This is the site of New Place, the house Shakespeare bought sometime before he was half way through his theatre career. It was one of the biggest in town and cost him the mighty sum of £120. In 1759, the then owner had the house demolished over a disagreement with the local council about tax.
The last house I visited on my Shakespeare ticket was Hall's Croft. It was the home of Dr John Hall who married Shakespeare's eldest daughter Susanna.
More period decoration.
And of course the obligatory Shakespeare statue.
A view of the house from the gardens shows it to be quite a substantial dwelling.
In the Holy Trinity Church I nearly passed this old set of carved seats.
When I spotted this Green Man carved into one of them.
This one looks a bit gruesome.
When I looked a bit closer I noticed dozens of little animals carved into it.
On an even smaller scale there are a multitude of little faces in the decoration.
Seems that the mason was in a humorous mood the day he carved these seats.
You may remember that on a visit to Durham Cathedral recently, I saw a replica sanctuary knocker. There's one on the door of Holy Trinity Church too. This one is the original and dates back to the 15th century. Any fugitive from the law could claim 37 day sanctuary from the church before a trial if he could grab the ring on the knocker.
I had to pass over the Avon again on the way back to the car.