Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall celebrates its 600th anniversary
Published: 21st Nov 2019
2020 marks the 600th anniversary of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall in Stratford-upon-Avon; a historic milestone that will be marked with an exciting programme of public events, talks and exhibitions throughout the year. Over the centuries the building has witnessed countless fascinating chapters of history, with the most significant being that this was the place where the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, was taught and had his first experiences of professional theatre.
Lindsey Armstrong, General Manager for Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, says, “Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall is not only a significant building to Stratford-upon-Avon, it is a national and international treasure, being one of only a few remaining examples of a medieval Guildhall in the country. Its unique legacy is entwined with that of William Shakespeare and it is incredibly inspiring for all to be able to step into his shoes and know that what he achieved began in these humble surroundings. Throughout 2020, we will be marking this anniversary by exploring the different stories of the building, which has served as a court of record, armoury, school, chapel, fire station, library and guildhall. We’ll be working with historians, artists, authors and the local community to bring these stories to life.”
Work to construct the Grade I listed building began in 1418 and it was completed in 1420, using timber that is believed to have been felled in 1410. William Shakespeare arrived at the school in 1571 aged 7 and was a pupil until he was 14 years old. Thanks to his father’s position as Bailiff (Mayor) and his role in licensing the performances of the professional players touring the country, it is believed that Shakespeare would have seen troupes of the greatest actors of the time such as the Queen’s Men, the Earl of Warwick’s Men and the Earl of Leicester’s Men perform in the building.
One of the last few remaining timber framed medieval Guildhalls in the country, this is a building that has always played a central working role at the heart of life in the town. When, in 2016, it opened for the first time to the public as a visitor attraction, following a £1.8million restoration, it did so to global acclaim and with the recognition that it is “one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain.”
In its role as the town’s Guildhall, the building was at the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon’s commercial, civic, social and religious life. With both men and women paying a small fee, membership not only helped people in their business lives it also meant that if they were ill they received help for their families. Alms (charity) were also given to the poor and vulnerable; you can still see the almshouses next to the Guildhall, which were built in around 1500.
Full details on Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall 600 will be announced in the New Year.
Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall is open daily to the public from 11.00am to 5.00pm, with last admissions at 4.30pm.