Reviving Stratford's Shakespearean Garden    Beacon Herald

Lord and Lady Tweedmuir open the gardens May 28, 1936

Anne Hathaway Cottage

Officially opened on May 28, 1936, the Shakespearean Garden has been a jewel in Stratford’s park system.

 Officiating at the opening were Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir. R. T. Orr mentioned to Lord Tweedsmuir that perhaps further gifts to the garden might be made. The result was a gift from King George VI of two royal rose bushes, and royal oak acorns and saplings. The rosebushes represented the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster. Also presented to the parks board were seeds, coming directly from the garden in Stratford, England, and rosemary and thyme bushes from Shakespeare’s birthplace. Also planted were flowers, bushes and shrubs that were mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, along with species peculiar to Canada. In 1959, the Stratford Girl Guides provided 800 golden yellow tulip bulbs, providing a “river of gold” to mark the golden anniversary of guiding in Canada in 1960. 

In addition to the beautiful plantings, it was hoped for a time that a replica of Anne Hathaway Cottage might have graced the garden. Shortly after its opening, the parks board contacted a firm in England that offered to provide a replica of the structure, complete with furniture, for $15,000. The board tried to raise the money, but to no avail. This idea was revived again in the late 1960s, with T. J. Dolan spearheading the push to see it through. However, trying to find a company that could build the replica proved daunting. 

At first, Mr. Dolan ( see Dolan Drive) requested the help of then MP J. Waldo Monteith. Mr. Monteith ( see Monteith Ave. ) suggested the town clerk for Stratford-upon-Avon, who referred them to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. 

Shakespeareland, for many years an attraction in our city on Romeo Street by the As You Like It Motel, described Anne Hathaway’s Cottage as such: “Situated at Shottery just over a mile from the centre of town, the picturesque thatched farmhouse, now popularly referred to as “The Cottage,” was the early home of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, and of the Hathaway family of yeoman farmers. 

The property remained in the ownership of the Hathaway family until 1892, when it was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trustees for preservation as a memorial to the poet.” The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust had to discuss providing plans for the cottage, so that estimates of building the replica could be found, with their governing board. 

Although the collection of letters in T.J. Dolan’s records at the Stratford-Perth Archives does not say whether plans were ever received, there are letters of enquiry to several companies as to whether or not they could build the cottage, and the estimated cost. One company implied the investment would be considerable and that Thatchers (for the roof), were difficult to find and very expensive, as thatching was a dying art. 

The company that built Shakespeareland, ( see Romeo Street) in partnership with Harold Mallon, a previous owner of the As You Like It Motel, was one of the companies consulted. They had built miniature versions of 52 buildings from Stratford-Upon-Avon in England for Shakespeareland. However, the project never saw fruition, perhaps due to the expense and, also, the difficulty in finding a company to undertake the building of the replica. Some local residents were against the $100,000-plus price tag and the fate of Stratford becoming a “commercialized imitation of its British namesake.”

The Friends of the Shakespearean Gardens, headed by Reg White, a former member of the parks board, and Colleen Devine, are working on restoring the Shakespearean Gardens to its former glory. They have reached out to Harry Jongerdan, the one-time head gardener at the Stratford Festival and now garden director at the Toronto Botanical Garden. 

They have also reached out to the Canadian Council of Gardens and a philanthropic organization, Green Cities Foundation, which have both expressed interest in the project. The mayor, parks board, and a city councillor have also been apprised of their plans should funding be obtained.