News in brief: Maeshowe reopens and Historic England funds project investigating Shakespeare’s hometown

Shakespeare’s hometown

A new four-year project designed to investigate how timber-framed buildings in Stratford-upon-Avon (below) were rebuilt after three great fires in 1594, 1595, and 1614 has been awarded £40,000 of research funding from Historic England.

The Historic England Archive, Hi IMAGE: © Helmut Schulenburg.

The project, proposed by historian Dr Robert Bearman and led by the Stratford Society, will focus initially on houses in High Street and Chapel Street, with the research possibly extending to Wood Street, Ely Street, and Sheep Street.

The work will include expert examination of the buildings and dendrochronological analysis, while a team of volunteers will gather documentary evidence from archives held by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Maeshowe reopens

The 5,000-year-old chambered cairn at Maeshowe in Orkney has reopened to the public following its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The site’s visitor centre was reopened last year, but access to the cairn itself was restricted until now.

Maeshowe is one of several Neolithic structures within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, which also includes the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae (all of which are open to the public).

Stephen Duncan, Director of Marketing and Engagement at HES, said: ‘We are delighted to have even more of our sites, such as Maeshowe, reopening up and down the country and across our islands for the summer season, allowing us to again provide visitors with the opportunity to enjoy much-loved heritage attractions.’

Linking Ireland and Wales

Excavations at Llanllŷr near Talsarn in the Aeron Valley – carried out by staff and students from the Lampeter campus of University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) as part of the Portalis project – have yielded small, sharp flint flakes: debris from tool-making.

The finds, which could possibly relate to hunting, fishing, or wildfowling activity, were made on two mounds on the valley floor. Flints are not local to the area, so the material was probably sourced from southern England or, possibly, Northern Ireland.

Previous work suggested that a low mound on the valley floor may have been used 6,000 years ago as a dry refuge within an otherwise marshy landscape.

Portalis ( is a new cross-border, transdisciplinary pilot set up to explore the earliest connection between Ireland and Wales, dating back to the early Mesolithic. Led by Waterford Institute of Technology and supported by UWTSD, Ceredigion County Council, and Waterford Chamber of Commerce, it is supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Programme.