New Place, the home of William Shakespeare in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, has been the site of an ambitious archaeological dig led by Staffordshire University’s Centre of Archaeology since earlier this year. Now, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has announced that the excavations have produced significant findings regarding the everyday life of one of the world’s most famous authors.
New Place served as the Shakespeare family’s home for almost 20 years, at the height of his career. The new findings include the kitchen area of the house, including a refrigerator and stove – or what passed for these appliances in 1597. Additionally, the excavation has established the actual size of New Place, allowing new evidence-based drawings to be produced depicting an accurate version of what the house looked like during Shakespeare’s ownership.
The home was the largest single family residence in the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, purchased for the sum of £120 ($180.00) in 1597, a substantial figure when you consider a school teacher at the time earned around £20 ($30.00) annually. New Place had a striking appearance from the street, 10 fireplaces and over 20 rooms.
The recently unearthed kitchen was equipped with a fire hearth (the above mentioned oven) and cold storage pit (the refrigerator of the day). Researchers also found evidence of a brew house where salting and pickling would have been done, and where small beer would have been made (a beer-like drink which replaced the often unsafe water). Also found were cookware fragments including plates and cups.
According to Paul Edmonson, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Head of Research and Knowledge, a much richer picture of the writer has surfaced throughout the project, providing glimpses into Shakespeare’s life as a playwright and country gentlemen.
Finding New Place’s kitchen has been key to understanding Shakespeare’s home. The location of the cooking areas, pantry, and brew house, combined with the scale of the structure, clearly indicate that New Place was a working home in addition to being a residence of elevated social status which would have played an important role in Shakespeare’s working life.
The dig was undertaken in order to prepare New Place for the re-presentation of the house as the modern, exciting family home of the great man behind the great works – but also to reveal the man who was a father and husband, and a son of Stratford.
The ambitious £5.25 ($7.9 million) project to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is being funded with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England, and by public donations administered by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Along with the findings associated with Shakespeare, researchers have also uncovered Iron Age archaeology and early medieval foundations which are being carefully preserved for future research. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has redesigned landscaping and key construction features to work with the archaeology, while at the same time ensuring full accessibility to all of the heritage landmark site for the first time. The “new” New Place is scheduled to open in July 2016.