Birthplace goes under hammer at mock auction


HAVE you ever imagined what it would be like owning one of the world’s most iconic and historic buildings, and opening the curtains in the morning to look onto one of the most photographed streets in the country?

After 170 years since it was saved for the nation at a public auction, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, on Henley Street, in Stratford town centre, will once again go under the hammer.

The world-famous Grade I listed house is being marketed by estate agents Sheldon Bosley Knight, with a special public auction, today, Saturday 16th September.

Sheldon Bosley Knight have said it has been almost impossible to value the beautifully preserved Tudor house, which has attracted 32 million visitors since its restoration. Now detached, the house occupies a prime location in Shakespeare’s home town and boasts magnificent original features, including six inglenook fireplaces and flagstone floors.

But there’s only one catch – even if you are lucky enough to cast the winning bid, you won’t in fact be the new owner – as the auction is actually just a theatrical re-enactment.

Mock auctions tale place outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace, will take place at 12pm and 2pm.

David Kehoe, sales manager for Sheldon Bosley Knight, will be auctioning Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Saturday, 16th September. Photo: Mark Williamson (S85/9/17/04A)

Rescued in 1847, for £3,000, the purchase of the tumble-down terraced house prompted the foundation of the UK’s oldest conservation charity, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The sale of Shakespeare’s childhood home was announced, 170 years ago, and the will of the previous owner stipulated that the house should go to public auction. The race was on to save the house from dissolution and decay.

The press leapt upon the story and fears were raised regarding the fate of the property. The American showman P T Barnum, founder of Barnum and Bailey Circus, provided a focal point for concerns.

Newspapers repeatedly talked of the Birthplace being purchased by a ‘showman’, who intended to dismantle the property brick by brick and transport it over the Atlantic.

In his memoirs, Barnum seemed to give credence to such ideas but the reality remains uncertain. What is certain is that committees in both Stratford and London, formed and set about mobilising the population, raising subscriptions to purchase the house for the nation as a whole.

Membership of the London Committee and the Stratford Committee included some of the most notable literary and public figures of the day, such as Charles Dickens and Sir Robert Peel, also receiving the patronage of Prince Albert.

But the London and Stratford Committees were not alone in their efforts.

The People’s Central Committee of the Shakespeare Memorial Fund was formed by American actor George Jones, with the intention to purchase the house for the nation.

The auction was held on 16th September 1847, at the Auction Mart, in London.

The sale began and a number of bids were entered, for £1,500, £2,000 and £2,100. But then a letter was handed to auctioneer Mr Edmund Robins, offering £3,000 for the purchase of the property, on behalf of the London and Stratford Committees.


James Walton, director at Sheldon Bosley Knight, said: “We all delighted to be able to play our part in the ‘special’ auction of Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

“It’s a great way of promoting the heritage of this historic building, I was amazed to learn that the building had been purchased at auction for £3,000 170 years ago, a great deal of money then.

“Following the announcement of the ‘​auction’ we expect to be fielding a fair number of queries from curious members of the public over the next couple of weeks.”

A new exhibition, Saving Shakespeare’s Birthplace, runs from 16th September until 29th December, at the Birthplace.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Mark Williamson.
  • Lou Cifer

    sold there soul to the devil, old billy boy even in his headless state would be turning in his mock grave. i kid you not when the chinese buy this place wait for the noodle bars and spittoons everywhere.
    Shame on SBT