New Place

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A house built opposite the Guild Chapel, on the corner of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane in Stratford-upon-Avon, in the late fifteenth century by Sir Hugh Clopton. John Leland, Henry VIII's antiquary, toured England searching for records in cathedrals and monasteries from 1534 to 1542. In an account of his journey published by Thomas Hearne in 1710–12 as The Itinerary of John Leland (9 vols.) he describes New Place as ‘a pretty house of brick and timber’.

Shakespeare bought it for £60 on 4 May 1597. In documents relating to the sale, it is said to have ten fireplaces, two barns, two gardens, and two orchards. It is believed to have had a frontage of sixty feet and a depth of seventy feet. In 1598 the Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation paid Shakespeare or his father 10d. ‘for one load of stone’. This may have been left over from repairs to the house.

A late description survives. In 1767, a Richard Grimmitt, who had been born in 1683, remembered that ‘in his youth he had been a playfellow with Edward Clopton Sr., eldest son of Sir., John Clopton Kt., and had been often with him in the great house near the Chapel in Stratford, called New Place; that to the best of his remembrance there was a brick wall next the street, with a kind of porch at that end of it next the chapel; when they crossed a small kind of green court before, they entered the house, which was bearing to the left and fronted with brick, with plain windows consisting of common panes of glass set in lead, as at this time.’

This confirms the only visual evidence, a drawing made in 1737 by George Vertue, based on a description from an unknown source. The sketch reproduced here shows ‘the outward appearance towards the street’. Vertue explains that ‘there was before the House itself… a little courtyard, grass growing there–before the real dwelling house, this outside being only a long gallery etc. and for servants’.

New Place remained in Shakespeare's possession till he died. He probably settled his family there soon after buying it. By 4 February 1598 he was named as a householder in Chapel Street ward; a survey of grain and malt lists him as owning eighty bushels of malt, a normal supply for household brewing. In spite of his London commitments, Shakespeare maintained his interest in the property. In 1602 he bought a cottage on the south side of Chapal Lane. He seems to have lived increasingly in Stratford-upon-Avon from 1611. At his death, the house passed to his daughter. Susanna, and her husband, Dr. John Hall, and then to their daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Thomas Nash.

New Place was sold in 1675 to Sir Edward Walker, and passed from him to his daughter and, in 1699, into the Clopton family. It was extensively rebuilt by Sir John Clopton, who settled it on his son, Hugh, in 1702 before it was ready for reoccupation. When Sir Hugh died, it passed to his daughters, who sold it to the Reverend Francis Gastrell in 1756. He demolished it in 1759.


Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.

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