Long-standing members of the Institute may remember The Hut – the shed that used to stand in the Paddock behind the thick hedge. Access was gained via a tunnel cut through the hedge behind the gazebo.
The Hut was built by the National Fire Service as a temporary structure in 1943. They took over use of the Paddock after Marie Corelli’s will had been declared null and void, the house contents had been auctioned and the Air Ministry had requisitioned Mason Croft for war-time use.
The University of Birmingham bought the building and grounds in 1951 and established The Shakespeare Institute. The Hut was used by external groups and eventually housed the collections of microfilms and the viewing equipment and it became a study room for students. Many an essay was written out there by students lucky enough to be assigned a desk in the Hut and not minding the chill or the spiders, or the inky blackness crossing the garden at night.
In 1992 Westmere, the Institute’s base in Birmingham, was vacated and the Institute, formerly split between the two sites, was reunited in Stratford together with its Library. Lack of space meant books were fitted into every corner of Mason Croft and the Hut. Re-shelving was a particular problem as the books had to be carried in armfuls across the garden come rain or shine.
Finally the wonderful new Library was completed in 1995 and all the books were safely housed in a new purpose-built modern building.
No longer needed and now over 50 years old the Hut was finally demolished in 1999. The passageway through the hedge has been allowed to grow over, Friday footballers run across the site and no trace of it now remains.
Kate Welch, Information Assistant