A Shakespeare Connected exhibition in collaboration with Professor Nicola J Watson, Open University.

It seems natural nowadays to visit Stratford-upon-Avon as ‘Shakespeare’s town’ because it is the place where he was born, established a family home, died and was buried. But it was not always so. Stratford-upon-Avon only slowly came to be a must-see for literary pilgrims.

Although there is evidence of some tourist interest in the early to mid-eighteenth century in Shakespearian locations, Stratford really only took off as a tourist destination with David Garrick’s famous ‘Shakespeare Jubilee’ in 1769. Despite being partially rained off, the Jubilee established Stratford as the centre of the cult of Shakespeare as National Poet, celebrated the Birthplace as its centre-piece, and instituted the idea of a commemorative procession, still mounted every April in honour of Shakespeare’s Birthday.

This online exhibition sketches the story of early literary pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon over the century before the Birthplace was purchased for the nation. I’ve chosen twelve objects from the collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust which express in their different ways the desire to see Shakespeare as a Stratford local and which argue for this identity as fundamental to his national status.


With thanks to the Museums and Universities Partnership Initiative (an Arts Council funded project).