This antique photo, dating from the year 1880, depicts the “cottage” (actually a farmhouse) that was owned by the Hathaway family who lived in Shottery, Warwickshire, England for hundreds of years. The portion of the house on a lower elevation was built in the 1400s, the higher section two centuries later. The reason this Tudor-era house has survived when tens of thousands of others in the English countryside have not is because one of the young Hathaway women who grew up in this house, Anne, married a fellow named William Shakespeare in November 1582. Shottery is located right next to Stratford-Upon-Avon where Shakespeare was from. He probably courted her in these gardens. She was pregnant with Shakespeare’s child when they were married, but there is some dispute over whether this situation in 16th century England carried the same social connotations as it did, for example, in the 20th century. Thus while it’s tempting to assume from this fact that William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had a “shotgun wedding,” it may not be accurate. We actually know very little about Anne Hathaway’s life or personality, and what we do know comes mostly from mentions in vital records and legal documents.
I’m interested in photos of historic sites taken from long ago; I did a post, for example, showing a 1910 photo of the Hanseatic Museum in Bergen, which still exists in the same form today. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is today a historic monument preserved by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as one of the great historic and cultural treasures of Great Britain. A photo of the same house, from much the same angle, taken in 2006, is below. I’m surprised at how similar it looks, especially the gardens which have been well-maintained since 1880. It’s much less likely that the house and gardens looked like this in 1582, but at least we have a sense of the ambiance of Shakespeare’s time, which was a fascinating transitional era in British and world history.