The archaeological dig will take place at New Place, the house that Shakespeare owned for 19 years and occupied at the time of his death in 1616. The ‘Dig for Shakespeare’ will see a team of archaeologists from Birmingham Archaeology, along with a hardy crew of volunteers, excavate three locations within the grounds of New Place in a dig where visitors will be able to interact with the archaeological team. A special scaffolding walkway and viewing platform is being installed so that visitors can have a close view of the trenches and will be invited to talk to the archaeologists as they work.
Shakespeare’s house at New Place was built on three sides of an open courtyard on the corner of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane. The largest trench to be dug will stretch from the servants’ quarters in the Chapel Street wing – where the foundations of the later 1702 building will be uncovered – across the courtyard to the rear wing, which is where Shakespeare and his family would have worked and lived.
A further trench will explore the area thought to have been his pantry and brewery, and one quarter of the 19th Century knot garden will be dug – into what would have been Shakespeare’s backyards. This is where archaeologists believe they might find defunct wells, filled in with refuse and waste when they ceased to be used.
Archaeologists often find that old wells hold all kinds of secrets, with the anaerobic (waterlogged) conditions preserving organic waste and detritus. It is hoped that these will give the Trust a real insight into the lives of the property’s occupants