William Shakespeare was a renowned author, poet, play writer, and theatre entrepreneur. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England and baptized on April 26, 1564, at the Holy Trinity Church. The exact date of his birth cannot be ascertained, but it is traditionally believed to be April 23, 1564, because it was customary for children to be baptized three days after birth. Shakespeare was the first surviving child and the first son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. Their two daughters, Margaret and Joan, had died before Shakespeare was born. Stratford-upon-Avon was a market town of about 2,000 residents 100 miles northwest of London. It was famous for the marketing, distribution, and sale of goats and sheep, hide and wool trading, as well as beer brewing.
The house where Shakespeare was born and brought up as a young boy is located in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Warwickshire. It is a relatively simple house for the 21st century, but it was a substantial building back then. It is made of wattle and daub wood and blue-grey stone, typical of the structures of the 16th century. Shakespeare inherited the house after the death of his father, but by then he owned his own home and therefore leased it to Lewis Hiccox who converted the home to an inn. By the time Shakespeare died in 1616, his recently widowed sister Joan Hart had moved into the family home. It was passed over the lineage until 1790 when the local butcher Thomas Hornby leased the house. Hornby left the town in 1820, and the house fell into a state of despair until the 18th century. Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Isaac Watts, and Thomas Carlyle were among the people who ignited interest in the house by autographing the windows and the walls. Some of the signatures remain on the window panes, but those on the walls have long since been painted over. A signature book containing the signatures of William Thackeray, Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, and John Keats was recovered in the house. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust then known as the Shakespeare Birthday Committee bought the house for £3000 and began restoring the house to a habitable state.
Today, the small house serves as a museum and is open to the public on weekdays. Adjoining the museum is the Shakespeare Centre that serves as the headquarters of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The museum recreates a picture of the family home during Shakespeare's time complete with domestic furnishings and his father's glove workshop. The town of Stratford-upon-Avon has grown to a mid-sized city of about 30,000 residents. Although it continues to serve as a market town, it also attracts thousands of tourists annually most of whom visit the birthplace and gravesite of the renowned poet. Although a popular tourist destination, the Shakespeare House is thought to be one of the United Kingdom's most overrated tourist sites.
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