PICS STRAT PG4 LAST WEEK
RAILINGS at the front of Shakespeare’s Birthplace could be moved to protect the building from souvenir hunting visitors.
A planning application has been put forward by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) to re-position railings outside the 16th century property in Stratford’s Henley Street to protect it from ‘over-enthusiastic visitors’ who try to remove parts of the building as a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
The proposals include moving railings further out into the street by about a metre and installing external lighting. Where possible railings – which date back to around 1860 – will be retained and reused with ‘like for like’ copies added where necessary.
Repairs will be made to some bent sections where tourists have pushed against them over the years.
A report by SBT to to Stratford District Council (SDC) explains: “The reason to move the railings is to protect the frontage of the building from visitors who currently attempt to lean over the railings and touch and in some cases even remove parts of the building as souvenirs. An example of this has been the removal of roof tiles from the porch and bay area of the bay frontage.
“The moving of the railings aims to further protect the building from damage by passersby and over-enthusiastic visitors.”
If approved, the work will coincide with on-going improvement works on Henley Street – being carried out by the SBT, SDC, and Warwickshire County Council – to be completed in time for this April’s Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations.
SBT head of estates Mark Ratcliffe said: “The realignment of the railings outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace is part of the ongoing Henley Street improvement project that aims to create a world-class setting at the gateway to one of the world’s great cultural destinations. Moving the railings forward by around one metre will enclose the new external lighting being installed as part of the project. This is preferable for operational and safety reasons, as well as improving the general security of the Birthplace itself at street level.”
A decision is expected in March.
Grabbing a Shakespeare souvenir is not however a new phenomenon.
A mulberry tree which grew at the playwright’s last Stratford home of New Place became the first focal point for Bard pilgrims until the later owner the Reverend Francis Gastrell reportedly became so irritated with the number visiting he cut the tree down sometime in the 1750s.
To this day there are so many objects supposedly made from the wood of Shakespeare’s mulberry tree that there would need to have been an entire wood. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust alone has 63 objects in its collection.
And click on online auction site eBay pretty much any time and chances are there will be bits of the Bard’s bed for sale. The tiny fragments of wood – sold in a limited edition presentation complete with Shakespeare portrait – were purportedly sliced off by a visitor to the birthplace in the 19th century. They even come with a certificate of authenticity.