Stepping back into Tudor history at Mary Arden’s Farm in Shakespeare’s England

Stepping back into Tudor history at Mary Arden’s Farm in Shakespeare’s England

Mary Arden was William Shakespeare’s mother, and she grew up in a farmhouse in Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust now own Mary Arden’s Farm, and together with Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Hall’s Croft and Shakepeare’s New Place, it gives a lively insight into what life might have been like back in Shakespeare’s day.

Two farms in one

Mary Arden's Farm

Palmer’s Farm

Mary Arden’s Farm is actually made up of two residences. Glebe Farm was where Mary grew up, with her seven sisters. Close by is  Palmer’s Farm, which belonged to a neighbour of the Ardens. Both are now reconstructed to look like they would have done back in the 16th century. Regular guided tours take visitors around the wooden-beamed Palmer’s Farm, which was rather grand for the times. The pretty, red-brick Glebe Farm is smaller, and even though the Ardens were a distinguished local family, life must have been hard. It’s difficult to imagine being squished inside the house’s small rooms, with eight children to feed and care for. Modern-day children can dress up in clothes the Tudors would have worn, or peer into the reconstructed rooms.

Mary Arden's Farm

Glebe Farm, where Mary Arden lived with her seven sisters.

Tudor life on display

We visited Mary Arden’s Farm on the last weekend before it closed for the winter. It was the school holidays, and there was plenty to engage families. As we entered the farm courtyard, we passed a couple of alcoves where staff dressed in Tudor gear were demonstrating crafts. The basket weaver chatted to us about how long her day would have been, and the man tasked with sharpening axes explained that, in Tudor times, people still didn’t eat with knives and forks. Table cutlery only really became popular in the Stuart era, ten or twenty years later.

Mary Arden's Farm

Mary Arden's Farm

We missed out on seeing Tudor table manners in action at the farm’s lunchtime feast. But we did catch an archery display by a man who tried to hit a pumpkin with an arrow ten times in a minute. He asked my son to time him, but failed dismally at the challenge. It was pretty entertaining, even so.

Mary Arden's Farm

Seasonal Fun

We visited close to Hallowe’en, and as well as the pumpkin-themed archery display, the regular nature trail was replaced by a spooky treasure hunt, which led the children round the farm’s wooded area.

Mary Arden's Farm

Witches, gnomes, spiders and skeletons were hidden around the place. The hunt took Austin and Gwen into the undergrowth, and through the farm’s willow tunnel.

Mary Arden's Farm

Mary Arden's Farm

Animals galore

We didn’t make it to the timber-framed adventure playground at Mary Arden’s Farm, because we only had a couple of hours to spend there, and Austin and Gwen were more than happy to spend their time watching the different animals. From the fluffy chicks in an incubator in reception, to the free-roaming geese and the clear-eyed birds of prey sitting on their perches, there was an animal around every corner to gaze at, coo over, or even pet.

Mary Arden's Farm

Mary Arden's Farm

Some rare breeds dating back to Tudor times live at the farm, including English longhorn cattle and Cotswold sheep.

Mary Arden's Farm

Mary Arden's Farm

We had to leave for London before the falconry display, but we did buy some feed for the sheep and goats. Top of the list of exciting animal sightings, though, was a ferret in a cage, which was rolling around in its bedding, playing with it like a cat with a toy. All very cute and adorable (we didn’t look too closely at the ferret’s sharp little fangs).

Food and drink

Visitors could choose to eat inside the cafe area, or outside, on long wooden benches under a shelter. We did a bit of both. D and I were still full from our bumper breakfast at Chesford Grange hotel, which was a pity, as the lunchtime menu looked interesting.

Mary Arden's Farm

As well as Tudor pottage, there was herb frumenty, a Tudor style pearl barley risotto with root vegetables and Warwickshire Bard cheese; Mary Arden’s free range sausage and mash; or organic pork, with apple sauce from the farm’s orchard. Next time we visit, I’ll make sure to eat a lighter breakfast. We couldn’t even steal any mouthfuls from the children, because they opted for the standard kids’ fare that you see at most attractions: a ham or cheese sandwich, together with a few snacks, in a cardboard lunchbox. After lunch we had a quick look in the gift shop, which had an interesting selection of Shakespeare-themed books, toys and games, as well as plenty of books and household ornaments with a Tudor flavour.

Mary Arden's Farm

Getting there

Mary Arden’s Farm is a 15-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford-upon-Avon is a short drive from junction 15 of the M40, close to the M42 and M6 motorway networks. The town can be reached by road from London in under 2 hours. Direct rail services run from London Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon train station, which is a comfortable ten minute walk from the town centre. It’s also only a short journey from Leamington Spa, Solihull and Birmingham stations.

Tickets

Mary Arden’s Farm closes for winter, from the end of October through till mid-March. An online ticket to the farm is £13.50 per adult, £9 per child or £12.60 for concessions, but if you have a couple of days to spend in the area, a ‘Full Story’ Ticket is much better value. This lets you into all five of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s properties, and is £20.25 per adult, £13.05 per child, and £18.90 for concessions. For more information see the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website. You can find out more about the area on the Shakespeare’s England website.

We were invited to visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust properties as part of a press trip with Shakespeare’s England. All views are my own.

Read our other posts on what to do and where to stay in the area:
Taking children to Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Is it a good idea?
A family afternoon at Warwick Castle
QHotels Chesford Grange, a family friendly hotel in the heart of Shakespeare’s England

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Mary Arden's Farm

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44 Comments

  1. February 27, 2018 / 11:27 am

    What a perfect family outing! The farm houses look so quaint and love the sound of the spooky trail.

    • Nell
      Author
      February 27, 2018 / 8:31 pm

      We could have spent a lot longer there. We’ll have to go back, I reckon!

  2. February 28, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    As a lover of all things Shakespeare, this looks great fun. It’s also a great way to introduce the kids to the Tudor way of life.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:23 pm

      Yes, the children definitely came away having learned something new.

  3. February 28, 2018 / 9:48 pm

    This looks like great fun. My inlaws are close to Stratford so I’ll have to give this a try next time we’re in the area.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:22 pm

      It would make for a good pop-in, as we found.

  4. March 1, 2018 / 10:44 am

    What a lovely looking day out! We go to a lot of farms as the youngest is animal mad, but I love the historical twist this one has!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:17 pm

      Yes, it really did give added value.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:17 pm

      I feel the same! There’s so much to do there, isn’t there x

  5. March 2, 2018 / 7:25 am

    I love Stratford but never heard of this place! I need to take my little one on our next visit #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:16 pm

      I think you’d like it there, Leona x

  6. March 2, 2018 / 8:17 am

    We love these open-air museums. So great for kids to be able to run around and see how things actually worked. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:16 pm

      It’s the best way to learn!

  7. March 2, 2018 / 8:31 am

    This was the one Shakespeare Birthplace Trust property that we didn’t see, now I regret that. I didn’t realise that Mary Arden was his mother. A bowl of frumenty would be good on a day like this. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:15 pm

      Ooh yes, you’re right! It was an enjoyable jaunt, and good to learn more about the matriarch who influenced Shakespeare.

  8. March 2, 2018 / 9:03 am

    I love this! I am
    Looking to go back to Stratford upon Avon there is so much to do there and this looks fab x

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:14 pm

      We’re keen to go back, too. We didn’t see half of what’s on offer there.

  9. March 2, 2018 / 10:55 am

    I love anything to do with Shakespeare! It looks like a lovely day trip with kids, showing them the ways of life in bak in Tudor times #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:13 pm

      Yes, it was a bit of an eye-opener for them 🙂

  10. March 2, 2018 / 7:12 pm

    Looks like my ideal day out with the kids. Make it a sunny day and the mix of hands on activities, history and dressing up is spot on. #Culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:10 pm

      Yep – dressing up’s always a winner!

  11. March 2, 2018 / 7:40 pm

    I love the historical element as well as all the things to do for families. A shame you couldn’t see the falconry show. Somewhere we would definitely love to visit!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:10 pm

      Yes, we would have stayed longer but we needed to beat the London rush hour traffic!

  12. March 3, 2018 / 5:27 pm

    Oh this looks great! Really close for us too and not somewhere I’d heard of – I had no idea there was so much to do there for children. Definitely somewhere we’ll be visiting this year I think.
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:09 pm

      I think you’d like it there, Nat!

  13. March 3, 2018 / 9:58 pm

    I hope you don’t mind me being slightly critical, but the market for “engaging family-friendly historical attractions” is beginning to look pretty saturated. It looks beautiful and I’m sure the kids would find something interesting to see / do there, but after having visited many other similar places, the rather tenuous link to Shakespeare probably wouldn’t be enough for me to part with my money and choose this place over another activity.

    Nicely written, as always, and I must admit that the menu does sound very interesting! #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 5, 2018 / 2:08 pm

      Oh, but it was Shakespeare’s mum! I think we should do all we can to celebrate the unsung women/matriarchs in our literary establishment. Plus, Shakespeare himself would have spent time there are a boy. I agree that there are a lot of farms around – but the focus on Tudor history really elevated this place above most of them. I’m sure you’ve been to farms aplenty, but despite your reservations I still think you should give it a look if you’re ever in the area 🙂

  14. March 8, 2018 / 5:17 pm

    This looks and sounds like great fun. I love it when they dress up and bring it more to life for the kids (and me!) – My son has recently studied the Tudors so he would love this. #culturekids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 9, 2018 / 11:28 am

      It really did bring history to life.

  15. March 9, 2018 / 12:08 pm

    What a great day out. Like the mix of hands on activities, dressing up and history #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:36 pm

      Yes, there was plenty to keep us occupied.

  16. March 9, 2018 / 5:42 pm

    This looks like so much fun! There used to be a place just outside of Sydney called “Old Sydney Town” where you get to experience Colonial Australia and I loved going there as a kid. I think Mary Arden’s Farm would be a similar experience for me. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:37 pm

      It does sound similar. Good fun for kids!

  17. March 11, 2018 / 7:33 pm

    We’re debating whether to visit Mary Arden’s Farm or Warwick Castle with our boys (6 and 4) and their grandparents in May. Which do you think is more fun for their age group? I quite like the less commercial aspect of this place although I’m sure my boys would love the activities in the castle. No doubt we’ll end up visiting both eventually… #Culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:52 pm

      They’re both great, but very different. Are you going in school holidays? We found Warwick very busy at Hallowe’en – but it was brilliant. There were a lot of bits that younger children wouldn’t enjoy or be allowed in to, so if you wanted something lower key, I’d say Mary Arden’s farm might be better. Warwick’s possibly more exciting, though? If I had to pick just one for my two, it would probably be Warwick Castle, but they’re that little bit older.

  18. March 14, 2018 / 9:24 am

    Thanks. I might opt for the Farm and go to the castle in a year or so. It’s easy to get carried away catering to the exciting interests of an older child.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 29, 2018 / 8:30 pm

      Warwick Castle will be there for many years to come, I’m sure! 🙂

  19. March 16, 2018 / 9:59 am

    This really looks like a fantastic place to visit, I love that the kids get to learn so much from it. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 29, 2018 / 8:43 pm

      It was packed full of little activities to help them learn – in a fun way!

  20. March 21, 2018 / 5:05 pm

    What a lovely post! I’ve been to a couple of Shakespeare Trust’s properties years ago when I used to study in Oxford. Looking forward to having my boys a bit more grown up to go back and explore together. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 29, 2018 / 8:55 pm

      It’s good to start them off young, I’d say!

  21. March 29, 2018 / 6:49 am

    What an amazing place to visit – and very picturesque too. Looks like a good visit for adults and children alike. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      March 29, 2018 / 9:26 pm

      We’d happily go back there. Lots of fun for all.

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