The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.146 Friday, 21 March 2014
Date: Friday, March 21, 2014
Subject: Shakespeare’s School Applying for Grant
[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in The Coventry Telegraph. Go to the web site below for a photo gallery. –Hardy]
Shakespeare’s school is applying for a grant to restore and open up his original classroom – 450 years after his birth
Pupils are still taught in Shakespeare’s historic 587-year-old half-timbered former classroom today.
But if a £1million Heritage Lottery Fund bid is successful, one of the finest surviving old schoolrooms in Britain could become open to the public for the first time.
Bennet Carr, headmaster of King Edward VI Grammar School (KES), Stratford-upon-Avon, said: “It became William Shakespeare's classroom when he was educated in the 1570s.
“John Shakespeare, William’s father, was appointed Bailiff, or Mayor in 1568, and had the right for his son to attend the school free of charge. There would have been 40-60 boys in the one class.
“It is where Shakespeare would have been taught Latin, rhetoric and Greek and was most likely to have experienced theatre for the first time, as 30 troupes came out of London.
“We would like to restore the building and open it up for the first time.
“We would continue to teach until mid-morning and open the classroom in the afternoons, weekends and holidays. It’s the first time it will ever have been opened. It’s an absolute gem.”
The simple timber-framed medieval classroom is on the second floor of The Guild Hall in Church Street and has not changed since Shakespeare’s day.
The ground floor was used as a library until last year. School archivist Richard Pearson said: “The Guild Hall has the first authorised painting of the Tudor Rose dating back from 1493.”
Mr Carr said restoration work which needs to take place includes a new roof, new timbers and stone preservation work.
He said: “The ground floor of the Guild Hall was created in 1420 and the top floor added in 1427.
“It was the civic heart of Stratford-upon-Avon pre-Reformation. The last time it was restored was in the 1890s. It’s virtually unique for a Guild Hall and needs to be preserved. It’s had hundreds of boys going in-and-out.
“For local people who have never been in it to see where Shakespeare was taught, it’s really exciting. Everyone comes to Straford once – now there would be another reason to come down. It has the wow factor.”
The Guild Hall lottery bid will be submitted later this month as Stratford-upon-Avon gets ready for Shakespeare’s 450th birthday celebrations and the school will find out if it has been successful in June.
BBC historian Michael Wood has made a film retelling the history of the Guild Hall for a future fundraising appeal.
Mr Carr said: “In 2003 Michael did a six-part documentary In Search of Shakespeare tracing his life. As part of that he came to the school and has become a really good friend of the school.
"He has very kindly produced a 10-minute film briefly recording the history of the building and launching a fundraising effort. If successful we will be seeking sponsorship to match the lottery bid for anyone who would like to be involved.”
KES was founded in 1553 by Henry VIII’s only surviving son Edward VI, who died aged 15. Previously known as the Guild School it was renamed the King’s New School.
Shakespeare was born and died on the same day – April 23 – St George’s Day.
On Saturday, April 26, KES head boy Christian Van Nieuwerburgh will lead the annual birthday procession celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.
The parade through Bridge Street is followed by The Quill Pageant – where a costume character William Shakespeare hands over a symbolic quill to the head boy of KES who will use it to signal the start of the flag unfurling ceremony.
He will then carry it to Holy Trinity Church, symbolising Shakespeare’s journey from the cradle to the grave.
Christian will be followed by 600 pupils – and for the first time 39 sixth form girls, who were admitted to the school last September.
It was former KES headmaster, Rev Robert de Courcy Laffan, that first initiated the annual birthday procession and laying of flowers on Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church in 1893.
Mr Carr said: “Robert de Courcy Laffan was a great friend of the Flower family who helped to restore the school building in the 1890s. He was a great education reformer. He, head boy Ralph Garlic and a representative from Shakespeare’s Birthplace decided they would walk from the school to Holy Trinity Church and
lay flowers on the grave. The following year was the beginning of what has become the annual procession.
“There had been a small parade by counsellors in 1810, but the school initiated the procession. It was reported in the Times of London, newspapers in Stratford, Leamington and the Birmingham Post
“The procession has been going 121 years. Until the 1960s the head boy used to carry a quill to replace the old one on the Shakespeare bust at the church. That tradition was reintroduced last year.
“We are only a small faith school with 600 pupils and even though it’s their Easter holidays most students want to be there. It’s unfortunate that it’s the holidays – but only three students are unable to attend.
“And for the first time this year we have girls parading with us – as 39 girls joined the sixth form.
“It’s quite a sight. All the pupils will carry blue and yellow flowers and the youngest boy Dominic Ellis will lay a laurel wreath on the actual grave. The flowers will go on the gravestone.
“The pupils lead the way with me and the staff following. Many Old Boys come back. It’s quite a spectacle. Where else would you see teenagers walking through a town each carrying a bunch of flowers?
“It’s a delightful English tradition. This year is particularly important being the 450th anniversary. It’s going to have added emphasis.”