The First World War, Shakespeare and Stratford

New exhibition at Hall’s Croft, Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon, opens 12 July 2014 – July 2015

07 July 2014

Free entry for all CV37 residents Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th July 2014 Reception for guests from the Stratford community 18 July 2014

The story of Stratford-upon-Avon and its people during the First World War is the subject of a brand new exhibition created by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Awarded through the HLF’’s “First World War: then and now” programme, the project will provide a vivid insight into the experiences of soldiers, nurses and people on the home front, featuring many items that have rarely been seen before. The exhibition, ‘The First World War, Shakespeare and Stratford’, will open on 12 July 2014 at Hall’s Croft, the Jacobean manor house that was home to Shakespeare’s daughter Susannah.

‘Cry 'havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has brought together objects, documents and photographs from its Local History and Designated Shakespeare Collections to show the impact of the war on Stratford and its residents, interwoven with a wealth of information on Shakespeare’s writing on topics such as war, loss, courage and survival. Among items on display for the first time are letters, diaries and much loved scrapbooks, as well as theatre programmes from the war years, especially relating to the Tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death in 1916.

Complementary material will also be on display in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Reading Room in Henley Street, which is open free Wednesday to Friday: 10.00am – 4.30pm and Saturday: 9.30am – 12.30pm.

The exhibition will be extended online with a blog series starting on 12 July. From September a Historypin board will allow users to interact with online exhibition content, tours and maps, and to post their own contributions. Meanwhile the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections team will digitise 200 items too fragile or vulnerable for public display, so that images of handwritten documents, uniforms, newspapers, and glass negative slides can be viewed worldwide online.

Volunteers are playing an essential role in the project, working with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Collections team to research original source material and record the information so that it can be shared online. Volunteers will also help to host the exhibition at Hall’s Croft, talking to visitors about the project. There are still opportunities to get involved. To find out more email or call 01789 292179.

Helen Cook, Interpretation Officer at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said, “This intimate exhibition commemorates the experiences of Stratford people during the war years, and examines the influence and use of Shakespeare’s works at the time. We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting this initiative to open up our archives and share this heritage with our local community and with visitors from all over the world. We are particularly keen to encourage local people to delve further into their own history and heritage in our extensive archives, most of which are hidden from public view but open to all freely on request.”

Reyahn King, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands said: “The impact of the First World War touched every corner of the UK . The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £56million in projects – large and small - that are marking this global Centenary; with our small grants programme, we are enabling even more communities like those involved in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust project - to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

Key items in the exhibition include:

Harry Fox’s diary which begins the day after Britain entered the First World War; on that day the local Territorial Force battery in which Harry served as a volunteer part time soldier was mobilised for war. Fox’s entry for 7-9 December 1915: Still raining and streets in a dreadful state … the battery shelled. MO wounded in the head. One of our men in trench up to waist, had to cut greatcoat in half to get him out. Bodies buried in mud and hands and legs sticking out … Men wearing waders.

Herbert Jennings Medals . As a teenager, Herbert performed in a production of Henry V at King Edward’s School in 1913. He and his brother served and were both killed in the real war of 1914 – 1918. Their parents donated a stained glass window to the school, in their memory. The window shows Henry V praying before Agincourt.

The Works of Shakespeare. These books were presented to disabled soldiers in the hope they would provide personal solace and comfort. They were bought from a Memorial Fund set up upon the death of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener in 1916, for the relief of disabled officers and men of the First World War. Within two years the fund was reputedly worth over £500,000 and it still exists today.


Notes to editors:

Images of exhibits are available on request.


To arrange interviews and media access to the exhibition please contact:
Lynn Beddoe
PR & Public Affairs Manager
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
T: 01789 207134
M: 07887 661770

Media are welcome to attend the community reception on 18 July. Please let us know if you wish to attend.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Heritage Lottery Fund Logo

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.5bn across the UK. Follow us on twitter @heritagelottery #understandingWW1

Through its First World War: then and now programme, HLF is making at least £1million available per year for six years until 2019. It will provide grants between £3,000 and £10,000 enabling communities and groups right across the UK to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage and deepen their understanding of the impact of the conflict.

About the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites, the five Shakespeare family homes in Stratford-upon-Avon, and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works, life and times all over the world.

The charity runs formal and informal educational programmes for people of all ages. It holds the world’s largest Shakespeare-related museum and archives open free to the public, a collection which is designated as being of international importance. Its Local History Archive Collection includes Stratford’s town records since 1867 and a wealth of material about the town and South Warwickshire with records dating from the 12th century.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust receives no regular direct government funding or public subsidy; it depends on income generated through the support of visitors, donors, grant funders, volunteers and Friends.