Mary Arden’s Farm was the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother until her marriage to John Shakespeare, after which she would have relocated to the property on Henley Street now known as Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
Until 2000, a neighbouring farm, now known as Palmer’s Farm, was identified as Mary’s family home due to a mistake by a local antiquarian, John Jordan, in the 1790s. Jordan’s incorrect attribution was soon taken to be fact and it wasn’t until many years later that the mistake was corrected. Key to the identification and understanding of the complicated history of Mary Arden’s Farm are documents in our collection which chart how it has been occupied, used and modified over the five centuries since it was built by Mary’s father Robert Arden.
Prior to the 20th century, the site of Mary Arden’s home had not seen the same level of long standing popularity like some of the other properties. Diaries and letters in our collection talk of tenant farmers being quite annoyed by tourists and denying them entry. Our collection reflects the search for its location and its eventual reattribution, the growing interest in the property as a site of literary tourism through local records, artistic responses, photographs and personal letters and documents.
For some time Mary Arden’s Farms was presented as a Countryside Museum, and we have a collection of tools, farming equipment and related items that were formerly displayed there in our collection. Today the site is presented as a working Tudor farm, and the displays interpret items from our collection that tell the story of what life would have been like for Mary Arden growing up there and reflect the status of Mary’s father Robert as a yeoman farmer.