- For the dormitories of Harvard College, see Harvard House system
Harvard House stands at what is now 26 High Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. Once known as the Ancient House, It was built in 1596 by Thomas Rogers, grandfather of the benefactor of Harvard University, John Harvard. The House has been cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, on behalf of Harvard University, since 1990.
Thomas Rogers' initials and those of his second wife, Alice, are carved on the front of the house, together with the date 1596. These indicate it was a separate house, although Rogers also owned the adjoining property at what is now 27 and 28 High Street.
About 60 years old when the house was built, Rogers was a successful butcher and also a corn and cattle merchant. He served as Alderman for the Stratford Corporation alongside John Shakespeare, William’s father.
When Thomas died in 1611 he left the house to his eldest surviving son from his second marriage, also named Thomas. This Thomas was a maltster; a person who produced malt, which was used in brewing beer. He died in 1639 and the property passed to his son, Edward Rogers, a bookbinder.
In the middle of the 1600s, Edward Rogers sold the house to John Capp, a blacksmith, whose family continued to run the business until about 1725. It was then let to a series of tenants; booksellers in the early 1730s and 1760s, a plumber during the years 1734-1747, and a succession of ironmongers from 1782 until 1801. Tailors Thomas and Harvey Williams were in occupation until 1871, when the premises became an estate agent's office.
In 1909, at the suggestion and enthusiastic support of the English novelist and Stratford-upon-Avon resident Marie Corelli, the house was purchased by the American millionaire Edward Morris of Chicago. After extensive restoration, it was given to Harvard University and became known as Harvard House.
The America Connection
The link with the name Harvard begins in 1605 with the marriage in Stratford-upon-Avon of Thomas Rogers’ daughter Katherine to Robert Harvard of Southwark. Robert was a butcher, tavern owner and a warden of St. Saviour’s church, now Southwark Cathedral.
John Harvard was born in November 1607 and his father’s position allowed him to attend the St Saviour’s Grammar School. By 1625, plague reduced the family to only John, his brother Thomas, and their mother. Now a property owner, Katherine was able to send John to Emmanuel College, Cambridge and he was later ordained as a minister. Katherine died in 1635 and his brother Thomas in 1637.
In 1636 John Harvard married Ann Sadler and the following year they emigrated from England to Massachusetts, America. John worked as a preacher and teaching elder, but his time in America was short as he died of tuberculosis on 14 September 1638.
Before his death, the Massachusetts Bay Colony had founded a college in Newtowne (soon renamed Cambridge after the university which many colonists had attended). Having inherited considerable sums from his father, mother and brother, John bequeathed £750 to the fund – in excess of £3 million today – along with his library of books. In gratitude the colony named the new school Harvard College. It is the oldest institution of higher education in America.