Day Out: Mary Arden’s Farm

7 Nov

One of the properties in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Mary Arden’s Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon includes the preserved birthplace of Shakespeare’s mother, as well as a contemporary neighboring property called Palmer’s Farm. The farm hosts special events throughout the year, and the purchase of a Shakespeare Trust pass allows one entry to all of the Shakespeare homes for 12 months. Volunteers and staff in period dress (and speech) go about their day-to-day tasks at the farm and welcome questions from visitors.

We visited the farm the day before Halloween, to see their Winter Wake.  Having been warned not to expect to much from the Halloween holiday in England, we were excited to see posters for this event, complete with carved pumpkins and the promise of plague history, spooky stories, and corpses. The farm did not disappoint.

There were corpses everywhere.

Youngest child was extremely eager to leave the corpses, but every room seemed to have bodies in it.

And I kept getting distracted by the gorgeous old windows.

Sorry, dear, the corpse is freaking you out?  But look at that pretty window!  No?  Next room.

Oh, right, more corpses.

But isn’t that lovely.

My favorite part of the day was watching the feast preparations. Palmer’s House is kept in a working condition, and the entire ground level was taken over with preparations for the feast.

Notice what she is plating — slices of citrus decorated with flowers.  I am on fire with waiting for my household goods to arrive, as I have several medieval and renaissance cookbooks I’m inspired to work from for our Thanksgiving celebration.

Wouldn’t this make a gorgeous Thanksgiving table?

Having just recovered from the corpses, we were spooked by the priest.

(I think the horse is a Papist.)

Also, owls flew out of the sky to nibble our fingers.

Don’t you want to take him home?   The farm puts on an impressive and close-up birds of prey exhibition.  We learned more than we expected about various birds of prey and the history and art of falconry.  It was amazing, and my children seem to have remembered every detail.  Now they want to become falconers and keep Kestrels and European Owls in the back yard.  Thanks, History.

The animals at the farm are heirloom species and authentic to the era and the locale as much as possible. The farm blog offers a wealth of information about animal husbandry, as well as opportunities to support the animals on the farm.  I have lots of photos of cute pigs and sheep, but Picnik despises me today, so I’ll keep them to myself.

The apothecary (this in Mary Arden’s house) presides over a beautifully fragrant room. We made our own pomanders – to keep away the scent of dead bodies, we were told. (This was youngest’s cue to once again flee the area.)

We left as the bell was being rung for the feast.

The Farm is now closed for the season, but I’ve marked my calendar for the opening of next season – March 19.  For anyone looking for practical information, check out the website above, and note that the farm does have a winding nature trail and small adventure playground, as well as a tea room and gift shop — this is a great day out for kids with lots of space for experiencing Tudor-era living history and for getting out the wiggles.

And corpses.


12 Responses to “Day Out: Mary Arden’s Farm”

  1. Andrea November 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Awesome! Must check out that Shakespeare Trust! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Melissa November 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    But why? Why the dead bodies? Disturbing. But I want to go.

    • Monique November 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      The farm is ‘put to rest’ at the end of the season with the symbolic “Winter Wake” — a feast and then burying (burning?) the corpses. I don’t expect any corpses when they reopen in the spring, though!

  3. colleen November 8, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    love the photos– I agree about the thanksgiving table (I especially love the wooden bowls at each place). and the windows are lovely too. I found your blog through Eat Thru the Pain and NaBloPoMo and I am enjoying it– thanks!

    • Monique November 8, 2011 at 9:58 am #

      Thanks for coming by & saying hello, Colleen! I’m finding England to be very photogenic. 😉

  4. Zazzy May 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Wow. Just before I met you and what an interesting/disturbing tour it must have been! Gives a whole new contemplation of the day of the dead.

    • Monique May 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      We had been in England barely month – seems so long ago. I love the living history (dying history??) at the Shakespeare trust houses.


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