Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall in Stratford-upon Avon will be opening to the public in April 2016 thanks to National Lottery players. The Schoolroom will give visitors the opportunity for the first time to step into the shoes of where William Shakespeare, the world’s greatest playwright, was educated and had his first introduction to theatre.
Referred to by historian Michael Wood as “one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain”, poignantly the Schoolroom will open when the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death is commemorated.
Located not far from Shakespeare’s place of birth, the Schoolroom was built in the 1420s and is still part of the thriving King Edward VI School. It was attended by Shakespeare in the 1570s and is where, as the town’s only theatre space at that time, he would have encountered his first theatrical performances.
The programme of restoration has been made possible by a grant of £1.4million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Work began on the Grade I listed building in July 2015 with the focus upon vital repairs to the timber structure, upgrades to the interior and the conservation of important historical elements, including a group of rare mediaeval paintings depicting the seal of the Guild of the Holy Cross. Another priority for attention is the roof, which will have its modern tiles replaced with reclaimed handmade clay tiles, akin to those originally used.
Following its restoration, the Schoolroom will continue for part of the day to be used to teach students from King Edward VI School as it has done for centuries, maintaining its legacy as a place of learning and inspiration.
As a visitor heritage attraction it will be a place of international significance, offering an experience that includes interactive displays, films and a Tudor classroom filled with drama and excitement worthy of Shakespeare’s legacy. Visitors will also be able to explore the building’s role as a medieval provincial Guildhall, where it sat at the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon’s civic governance and life for over 400 years.
Part of the wider project will encompass arts activities, creative writing sessions and a ‘Willingly to School’ programme, enabling children to discover the routine of Shakespeare’s day and compare it with their own.
A new family heritage trail will be introduced to Stratford-upon-Avon in 2016, commencing at the Schoolroom. Writers and artists will be working with the local community on an exhibition inspired by the building and there are also plans for a programme of evening talks.
Vanessa Harbar, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, says, “We are thrilled that, thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to support this wonderful project to be part of the 400th anniversary commemorations next year. It is wonderful that people and local students will have the chance to explore where Shakespeare spent his formative years, and get under the skin of the world’s greatest playwright”.
Opening hours: 10.00am to 5.00pm weekends, Bank Holiday Mondays and school holidays; 11.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday during term time.
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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.