Kenilworth and Stratford-on-Avon.

IMG_2878OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t care that it’s a ruin.

Well, of course I do, but it can’t be helped.

I’m just so gol’durned happy to be here.

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In King John’s time (the evil Robin Hood Prince John) acres and acres of farmland was flooded to create a mere (or moat) around the castle. All of this would’ve been water. He also erected the massive walls around it. Funny, because he never had to fight anyone off, but his son did. Rebels held the castle, so King John’s son was fighting to get IN. It wasn’t an easy task. Can you imagine how he would’ve cursed his father?

I learned this from the audio guide that you can see hanging from my neck. I lOVE the audio guides that they have over here.

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Here are the stables, built during the time that Dudley had the castle. The garden that he tried to woo Elizabeth I with will come later. But this is a seriously big stable. He must’ve liked his horseflesh.

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As you walk in there’s a massive wide path, raised up from where the mere would’ve been, where we walk across. This used to be where they’d hold jousting competitions.

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You can see there’s a bit of a mishmash of buildings. One is the original Norman Tower; one is the Great Hall built by John of Gaunt and the other is the building built by Robert Dudley to bedazzle Elizabeth I. There’s also a gatehouse, which I was ‘meh’ about until I went in and saw something that knocked my socks off. But more about that later.

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Here’s the original part of the castle, built in the 1120’s. Can you imagine?

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This next bit was the one I was interested in the most. This is what John of Gaunt built. He was a fascinating man. He never took the throne but his descendants? Wow. He’s all over it.

I really wanted to see this part of the castle due to Heyer’s ‘My Lord John’, when the ‘young lordlings’ grew up here and looked back on it as the happiest days of their lives. This is the future Black Prince, (whose tomb I saw at Canterbury), Humfrey, (who established the Bodlian Library at Oxford) and Lord John Bedford, whose grave marker and that of his wife’s was at St Pauls’s Cathedral. (Blogged, blogged and blogged.)

I can’t tell you how much I’m loving this part of the trip, where all the jigsaw pieces are coming together.

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See these curved steps? These used to lead up to the solar, where John of Gaunt (and the subsequent owners) used to hang out with their families. The boys I’m talking about were his grandsons. They would’ve been up and own here all the time, particularly as they grew older.

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I just had to leap on top of them and follow in their footsteps. These are the runners I had to buy in London after 3 days of walking 20kms a day with blisters forming all over my feet. I’m SO not a runners girl, but these are necessary when there’s a lot of walking to do, which is what happened when Scott and I get going. We don’t muck around. We have HISTORY to see and we make sure we see it. We proved it that afternoon.

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Beautiful views. All would’ve been water, back in the day.

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This is a shot of the cellars, underneath the Great Hall. This would’ve been filled with wine and beer. They were cold, even in the middle of summer. Then again, I was wearing my cowl and 3 layers of clothes, even with the sunshine.

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No wonder it was cold. Look at the thickness of the walls. With nothing but candlelight, it would’ve been very dark and chilly here, particularly in winter. The perfect Medieval fridge!

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We then had a look at the gatehouse. This is the only building that survived intact. But OMG!!!!!!!!! Look at what was in one of the front rooms. I was beside myself.

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Ok… prepare yourself. Are you ready?

Here they are:

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She would’ve warmed her hands, if not her behind, in front of this fireplace.

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I was alone in this room when I read the information sheet. I may or may not have hugged the fireplace.

This gatehouse had an exhibition. It was particularly well-handled.

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This would definitely have been a consideration. In those days, the husband was definitely seen to be the boss.

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This was sad. I know that forever after his death, she kept this letter in a jewelled casket beside her bed. She obviously loved him. Initially he was ineligible as a husband because he was not a foreign prince and because he was already married. But when his wife died of a broken neck at the foot of a staircase, the rumours of murder meant that the relationship was doomed to ever be legitimised by marriage.

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But that didn’t stop him trying. When she was going to drop in, he not only built a whole palace to seduce her with, he also built this private garden. You get to it through the Norman building.

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It was surrounded by high hedges and was totally secluded. A lot of work went into researching and making sure that this was as accurate as possible.

 

 

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The fireplace in what was Elizabeth I’s bedchamber. She was obviously like me and craved the invention of central heating.

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I took so many more photso, but this last one seems to encapsulate the sadness and poignancy of these ruins.

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This was what was once the Queen’s receiving room. Now doves occupy it. Their coos echo through this whole place.

This is a very evocative place. I can highly recommend coming here and going through with the audio tour. I had tears in my eyes quite a few times while I was walking around, because I was thinking so much about the people who had been here before me.

Then we jumped in the car after 2 hours. We had a job to fulfill.

As you know, I’m an English teacher. There’s a place we’re morally obligated to visit. I’d skirted the sides of it when I went to The Globe Theatre, but now I had to do it.

Shakespeare’s home town. 5 buildings in a little over 3 hours. Could we do it? I had my runners on. My water bottle was full. Our will was strong.

1. Shakespeare’s birthplace.

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His Dad was a glovemaker and married well, so be bought quite a large place in the centre of town.

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The bed where he was born. Or at least a copy of it. I was a bit suspicious about this place.

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They had a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ thing going in the garden below.

“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

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The original glass windows in the birth room. The Victorians thought it’d be a good idea to sign the panes. There’s some famous signatures here, but really?

This was a bit ‘meh’, but we pressed on. We had a 5 house ticket and we were goig to get this done.

1 and a bit. Harvard House.

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This was the most untouched of all the houses on this pilgrimmage, which was ironic because it has nothing to do with Shakespeare at all. This is where John Harvard, the founder of the American University, came from. The reason it remained untouched on the outside was the unusual carvings in the woodwork. The reason it remained untouched on the inside was pure luck, as it remained a famiy home until late last century.

2. The house where Shakespeare retired, after he wrote all those plays and made his money in London.

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Being restored. Couldn’t get on. Oh wel, bit of a bummer but we were on a schedule. We went around the corner, where we went to his daughter’s house. (It was nice he lived so close. You could imagine family get-togethers and such.)

3. Hall’s Croft.IMG_3051

Susannah Shakespeare married a doctor, Dr John Hall. They appeared to livuite comfortably, though the house was remodelled in the Victrian days to become a school.

3 and a bit: Shakespeare’s grave.

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Ths was by far and away the best of the Stratford stuff, because it was REAL.

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He’s in a beautiful spot. He and his family are front and centre. He was an unofficail church deacon or something when he came back to Stratford, but I’m sure there must have been money being donated for not only he and his wife Anne Hathaway to be vuried in front of the altar, but also 3 other family members.

These things were placed for peple to read. I thought you might find them interesting:

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I’m glad he cut that dirty rotten cheater out of his will.

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On the way back to the car to see that last 2 houses, I saw this on the side of a boat selling icecreams.

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Nice to see ‘Hamlet’ being held in such high regard.

4. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

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Easily the most picturesque of any of the houses.

Or indeed, any house anywhere.

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The charm owes an awful lot to the thatch and the garden. The garden was magnificent.

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*sigh*

 

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The second best bed.

Night night. Sleep tight!

 

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Look at how low this attic window is. The roof beam was eye level to me.

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It may have been picturesque but it certainly wasn’t easy, living back then.

5. Mary Arden’s house.

She’s Shakespeare’s mother.

Well, she was. She’s dead now.

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Look at how old it is.

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I love the way the front yard is planted with veggies. That’s exactly as it would have been.

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Look at this old window from the farmhouse next door. 🙂

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There was also geese. And rain.

We headed back to Leicester. Tomorrow is a trip to London to meet up with my tour group for Europe.

EUROPE!

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Kenilworth and Stratford-on-Avon.

  1. Urspo says:

    Oh I am mad-jealous I want to see Stratford it is on my bucket list.

  2. Lucinda Sans says:

    I love the audio guides too. Don’t they do a brilliant job. Informative and evocative. I think it is also because they have a tradition of audio plays that we don’t have. I used to listen to the BBC radio plays. Wish I could get them on CD.

    I just read Jane Caro’s novel about Elizabeth 1. Aimed at young adults but a good read.

    You’ve just added more places to my wish list. Stratford was always on it but Kenilworth has been added.

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