Tests begin on Shakespeare deathplace as archaeologists plan dig next year

By Culture24 Staff | 30 November 2009
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A photo of a garden with stone paths and pruned grass

(Above) New Place. © Steve Fareham

Tests on the Midlands mansion where William Shakespeare lived out his final years will begin tomorrow after experts revealed plans to dig up the 14th century site next year.

Experts from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Birmingham Archaeology will carry out a feasibility study on New Place, the picturesque Stratford-upon-Avon house and gardens where Shakespeare died in 1616, ahead of a major archaeological excavation in 2010.

"Our purpose would be to create a modern record of New Place, providing us with a better understanding of the site, and potentially revealing new information about the house in which Shakespeare died and the way in which the family lived there," said Dr Diana Owen, Director of the Trust.

"Plans for a dig are still at a conceptual stage, but we hope that a project of this kind would present a unique opportunity for our visitors to join in an excavation as it unfolds and ultimately advance our learning and thinking about Shakespeare."

Birmingham Archaeology's Kevin Colls said the potential project was "really exciting and unique."

"As archaeologists, we rarely have the chance to investigate remains which are directly associated with a single individual, let alone one of the most important figures in history," he reflected.

"Archaeology can build up a better picture of Shakespeare's life and times."

The tests will establish how much material lies underneath the grounds and the level of decay any surviving artefacts may have suffered in a house with a colourful history.

New Place was the second largest property in the town when it was built with brick in 1483.

Owner Reverend Gastrell overhauled the building and controversially demolished it in 1759, before a Victorian antiquarian excavated the site more than a century later.

The Trust believe modern techniques could uncover original remains buried around the Place in a project they describe as "ambitious".

It will explore the backyards and garden and could form part of a larger public project.

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