Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Anne Hathaway's Cottage is in Shottery, a hamlet within the parish of Stratford but just over a mile from the town centre. Today much of the land between the hamlet and town has been built over, but in Shakespeare's day they were two very distinct settlements, separated by open fields. The cottage was the childhood home of Shakespeare's wife, Anne, the daughter of a yeoman farmer, Richard Hathaway. Richard died in September 1581, bequeathing Ann £6 13s 4d 'atte the day of her maryage': this marriage, to William Shakespeare, took place in November of the following year. Richard's widow, Joan, lived until 1599. She seems to have been a second wife: thus there were two sets of children in the household, three (including Anne) by his first wife and at least five by the second.
The term 'cottage' hardly does justice to the Hathaway family home, which, by the standards of the day, was a substantial residence of a well-to-do yeoman farmer. It appears to have been built in two stages. The lower part, adjoining the road, has been conclusively dated to the early 1460s and consisted of a cross passage, where the visitor enters today, with a hall to the left and kitchen to the right. The hall, when originally built, would probably have been open to the roof. On the first floor, above the cross passage is a space of matching size where the early construction of this part of the house is clearly visible. The evidence for this is a cruck, a pair of large and matching curved timbers reaching from the ground to the apex of the roof, a characteristic of medieval timber-framed buildings. On either side are bedchambers, the one to the west created when a floor was inserted into the open hall. The chimney stack, which runs up through this part of the house, probably dates from the time of this alteration. Outside, this stack bears a plaque, with the date 1697 and the initials I.H. (for John Hathaway): this would seem rather late for the alterations to the hall and may just record repairs or rebuilding of the exterior stonework.
Early in the seventeenth century, when the premises were owned by Bartholomew Hathaway, Anne's brother, a taller section was added to the house at the orchard end. This is now divided into three small rooms on the ground floor, with two bedchambers above.
The house remained in the Hathaway family for several generations. The male line became extinct in 1746 on the death of John Hathaway, but the property then passed, through his sister Susanna, to his nephew, John Hathaway Taylor, whose son, William Taylor, lived there until his death in 1846. Financial problems had forced him to sell the house six years earlier, but he had remained in occupation as a tenant, as did his daughter, Mary, the wife of George Baker. She was still living there in 1892, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust purchased the property. With it came various items of family furniture, including the Hathaway Bed, dating from Anne's time. Mary Baker was appointed first custodian. She died in 1899.
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