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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust owns and operates the five Shakespeare Houses in and around Stratford. Three of these, Shakespeare's Birthplace, Hall's Croft and Nash's House & New Place, are in Stratford itself. The other two, Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Arden's House, are set in the outlying villages of Shottery and Wilmcote respectively. Each of these beautifully preserved Shakespeare Houses gives you the chance to fully imagine the world inhabited by the most famous playwright and poet in history.
As 200-year-old feats of engineering and unique combinations of industrial heritage and wildlife havens, canals provide us with some fascinating walks. The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal is no exception. From its basin in the Bancroft Gardens, the canal extends for 26 miles before it meets the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. The canal boasts many features of architectural interest, including over 40 listed structures and buildings ranging from aqueducts and locks—of which there are 56 in all—to the British Waterways' office and workshop at Lapworth. And, yes, even here Shakespeare is remembered. A bust of the Bard can be seen on the portal of the Brandwood Tunnel—even though this tunnel is actually much closer to Birmingham than to Stratford-upon-Avon!
The Gower Memorial was presented to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1888 by Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower. Cast in bronze from Gower's own designs and models, the principal bronze mounted on a stone plinth depicts Shakespeare seated. The other statues, at ground level, depict four of the Bard's best known characters—namely, Hamlet, Prince Hal, Falstaff and Lady Macbeth—representing philosophy, history, comedy and tragedy respectively. Situated in Bancroft Gardens near to the road known as Bridgefoot, the memorial is a truly inspiring sight.
In the early 1990s, a lifelong resident of Stratford-upon-Avon commissioned this work from James Butler R.A. In 1994 this glorious gift to the town, a fascinating and lifelike reproduction of a court jester sculpted in bronze, took up its place at the intersection of Windsor Street and Henley Street. The sculpture is mounted on a plinth engraved with very appropriate quotations from Shakespeare. Take a look—it should make you smile!
Firs Gardens, a triangular-shaped garden, bound by Evesham Place and Grove Road, is named after Grove House that stood nearby. Despite the hum of passing traffic, Firs Gardens retains an air of peace and tranquility. What is more, as they are a little way away from the town center, they are rarely crowded. If you find yourself meandering here, look out for the rose bed which is dedicated to the memory of the "Red Beret" airborne divisions.