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About Mary Arden's Farm

Learn more about the childhood home of Mary Arden, Shakespeare's mother

Mary Arden's Farm is located in Wilmcote, which is situated to the north-west of the River Avon and was traditionally known as 'The Forest of Arden'. By William Shakespeare’s time it had long ceased to be a forest but comprised both enclosed and open farmland, with patches of woodland and common wasteland. 

Shakespeare’s maternal grandfather Robert Arden was a wealthy husbandman (tenant farmer). He held about seventy acres of land in Wilmcote in addition to more land in Snitterfield, which he rented to Richard Shakespeare, William’s paternal grandfather. He raised horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and cultivated the heavy clay soils with a team of eight oxen to grow crops such as wheat, barley, oats and peas.  

They say he is already in the Forest of Ardenne, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England. They say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.

— As You Like It, Act I, Scene I
Two maids are washing up outside Palmer's farm, while a man wearing agrey loose dooublet is pouring water from a bucket into their large wooden tubs.

The farmstead today is essentially a Victorian/Edwardian one, but some vestiges of Robert’s original early 16th century home remain. In the apex of the roof there is evidence for a louvre (a vent to let out smoke from the open fire) and a great hall that was open to the ceiling. Arden’s inventory indicates that there were at least two further rooms, a chamber and a kitchen.

When Mary Arden was about 17, although she was the youngest of eight sisters, her father was clearly confident of her abilities because he chose her to be an executor of his will. In his will, Robert left her property in Wilmcote (called Asbyes) and other land holdings. This endowment would have been a valuable asset to bring to her forthcoming marriage to John Shakespeare in about 1557.

Mary Arden’s House was lived in with little modification until 1968. It was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the same year.

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