King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon is set to become one of the country’s prime destinations for Shakespeare lovers when it opens its doors to the public on 23 April 2016.
King Edward VI School, which has been a seat of learning in Stratford for 450 years will, for the first time, be welcoming people into the schoolroom where William Shakespeare was educated and the Guildhall where he had his formative experiences of live theatre, providing a rarely seen glimpse into his early life and inspirations.
The emergence of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall into an internationally significant visitor attraction has been made possible thanks to a £1.8million restoration of the Grade 1 listed 15th century building. This transformation was the vision of the Trustees of King Edward VI School, who campaigned tirelessly for over 10 years to make it a reality, securing a £1.4million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Their efforts have ensured that the building’s rich history will be shared with Stratford townspeople as well as with national and international visitors, while continuing to be used for teaching.
When opened, visitors will be invited to immerse themselves in the world of the young Shakespeare, sitting in the very room he sat in as a pupil, taking part in a live Tudor lesson with a ‘Master’, and watching a film showing current pupils at the school experiencing typical Tudor school lessons.
What makes Shakespeare’s Guildhall & Schoolroom even more special is the fact that this isn’t a building that has stood empty, but a building that has been continually used as a school since before the days of Shakespeare. Following its opening to the public, the 587 year old half-timbered Schoolroom will continue to be used for teaching each morning by King Edward VI School, maintaining its role as a place of learning and inspiration.
Located in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon, a five minute walk from Shakespeare’s place of birth, Stratford’s Guildhall was completed in 1420, with the School moving to the upper floor of the building in the mid-1560s. It was attended by Shakespeare during the following decade and is where, as the town’s only theatre space at that time, he would have encountered his first theatrical performances.
King Edward VI School today is a state funded Grammar School for boys with a co-educational Sixth Form. Bennet Carr is the 48th Headmaster to lead the School since its refoundation in 1553.
The school has always celebrated its historic connections to Shakespeare and it was in 1893 that the Headmaster Robert de Courcy Laffan began the tradition of a parade on Shakespeare’s birthday that continues today in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The annual parade is followed by a Quill Pageant, where the head boy of King Edward VI School carries a quill from Shakespeare’s Birthplace to his grave at Holy Trinity Church, symbolising Shakespeare’s journey from the cradle to the grave.
Bennet Carr, Headmaster of King Edward VI School, comments, “By opening Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall we are at last able to share this hugely influential part Shakespeare’s early life with the public and to complete the missing chapter in Shakespeare’s story in Stratford. We’re looking forward to welcoming people to this magical place to learn not only about Shakespeare’s school days but to gain a fascinating insight into centuries of schooling in this country in one single shared space.”
Head Boy of King Edward VI School, George Hodson, says, “Students of K.E.S. have walked the same path for centuries, and to follow this path as current students, knowing that we trace the footsteps of the greatest playwright ever to have lived, is truly humbling.”
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The awards recognise the finest visitor attractions, leisure and hospitality businesses across Birmingham, Coventry, Shropshire and Stratford-upon-Avon, and are organised by the West Midlands Growth Company.