Share this page

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Documentary Evidence

Evidence linking the Shakespeare family to the house on Henley Street known as Shakespeare's Birthplace

Shakespeare's Birthplace is a place of importance to Shakespeare lovers, scholars, and the nation as a whole. The knowledge that we have of this historic Shakespearian landmark comes from the documents that link William Shakespeare, the playwright, to the property on Henley Street.

The first documentary evidence that links the Shakespeare family to the home comes from 29 April 1552. On this date John Shakespeare, William’s father, was fined for leaving a muckheap outside of his property on Henley Street (1). This is followed up by a document from 26 January 1597, a deed acknowledging the sale of a narrow strip of property on the west side of John Shakespeare’s property to John Badger (2), his neighbour. 

John Shakespeare Henley Street
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections TR/46/1/2 – “Conveyance of Land: Shakespeare’s Birthplace”

This conveyance of land in conjunction with other records from the time (3,4) definitively locates the property owned by John Shakespeare to the site on which the Birthplace stands today.

Much like many of the details of his young life, the exact date of the birth of William Shakespeare is unknown, although it is widely accepted to be the 23 April 1564. It is known, however, that he was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on 26 April 1564 (5). 

Parish Register
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections PSHT/A/1/1 – “Composite Register of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials”

While relatively little is known about Shakespeare’s youth and his interactions with the Henley Street properties in his formative years or in his adult life, we do know that he received ownership of the property upon his father’s death. He, in turn, bequeathed the Henley Street properties to his own daughter, Susanna, in his will (6).  The final draft of William Shakespeare’s will was edited on 25 March 1616, almost exactly one month before his burial at Holy Trinity Church on 26 April 1616.

From that point, the house was passed on to family and to others, until the eventual purchase of the property in 1847 by what would later become the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.


References:

(1) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections ER56/16 – “Old Stratford Manorial Documents”

(2) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections TR/46/1/2 – “Conveyance of Land: Shakespeare’s Birthplace”

(3) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections BRU15/1/109 – “Notes of the Corporation tenants and memoranda of the rents they had paid quarterly”

(4) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections ER2/15 – “Stratford-upon-Avon”

(5) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections PSHT/A/1/1 – “Composite Register of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials”

(6) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections DR59/1 – “Copy of the Will of William Shakespeare”

Visit Shakespeare's family homes

Find out more

More like this

Shakespedia Index

Go behind the scenes

Read our blogs
This is where the story began Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a working Tudor Farm. We are now closed for winter and will re-open 16 March 2019. Relive Shakespeare’s love story Walk in Shakespeare's footsteps The home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna