Visitors impressed by New Place transformation

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John Griffin with Diana Owen, chief executive of the Birthplace Trust

Excited Shakespeare fans were given their first look at New Place last Saturday as the site re-opened following a £6million project to re-imagine the site.

The contemporary garden has been designed as the perfect place for visitors to consider what Shakespeare means to them and features references to all the Bard’s works.

Transforming New Place has been a painstaking process with bad weather and the need to preserve the site’s underground archaeology causing delays and added expense.

The setbacks scuppered plans to open New Place in time for Stratford’s Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations in April, though from the reception so far, the wait has been worth it.

An extensive archaeological dig unearthed a trove of treasures at New Place last year, though the best method of preserving such finds has been to rebury many of these.

However in an effort to show people what lies beneath, the paved area of the new garden replicates the footprint of the original New Place building, meaning visitors can get an idea which part of Shakespeare’s house they would have been standing in centuries ago.

The first person through the gates of New Place was Stratfordian John Griffin, 74 of Trinity Close, who was very impressed with what has been achieved.

John said: “I thought it was pretty spectacular, I had seen a scale model of the garden at the Birthplace Trust and it was much better than that.

“It looked fantastic and I think it will only get better as the plants and flowers continue to grow. I went to New Place before and it didn’t look a mess, but it was very much making do with what they had and the money they had available, it seemed to lack character. You can see how great it looks now it has had money spent on it, and there’s plenty of character now.

“The most colourful part is the knot garden and I thought the cast hawthorn tree was particularly spectacular.

“I think Shakespeare would have liked it, being with the Kings Men he would have been used to theatrical spectacles. I think it has been money well spent at New Place.

“It was quite unexpected being the first one into New Place, I’m not the kind of person who looks for any publicity.”