Through its association with William Shakespeare and the development of early English theatre, the 15th century Guildhall in Stratford upon Avon is an internationally significant historic building, occupying an important place in the nation’s literary and cultural history.
In 2014, Heritage Lottery Funding of £1.4 million was allocated for a project to open it to the public as a visitor attraction in time for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016.
The Guild of the Holy Cross originally built the Guildhall between 1418 and 1420 as its headquarters. Over the next century, more buildings were added, including a schoolhouse, chapel and almshouses. The King's New School (later known as King Edward VI School) moved into the Guildhall around 1568. In 1571, seven-year-old William Shakespeare commenced his education there.
The project for Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall explores the story of the nascent playwright’s time in Stratford, offering a glimpse into Shakespeare’s formative years and illuminating his life as a schoolboy. It is speculated that the opportunity to see the best actors of their time performing in the Guildhall helped catalyse his ambition to become a playwright.
Major restoration and meticulous conservation work to the Guildhall, home to a series of rare medieval wall paintings, brings to life an extraordinary building and its place in over 400 years of Stratford’s civic history. Wright & Wright also installed a contemporary display alongside Grade I listed 17th century furniture and building fabric, all within a challenging, low-lit environment. Historian and broadcaster Michael Wood has described it as ‘one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain.’
Wright & Wright are the best architects I’ve ever worked with.
Tony Bird OBE
Eco-town developer and Chair of Trustees, King Edward VI School
The Georgian desks in the classroom hold a myriad of marks of schoolboys through the ages, even up to the present day where the classroom is still used.
Now embedded in the school grounds, the Guildhall gates have been a point of entry for playwrights and players dating back to the 1560s.
A Community Destination
This is a space were craft and colours carry the vibrancy of history. For hundreds of years, generations of local people have used the Guildhall, cared for it and adapted it.