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Shakespeare's family in nine objects

Painting of Shakespeare's Birthplace

Family focus

Joan Shakespeare (Hart) – Shakespeare’s sister

About the Item

This is the oldest picture of Shakespeare’s Birthplace in our archive collection.  It was supposedly drawn during the Garrick Shakespeare Jubilee festival which lasted for three days in 1769 and brought many visitors to the town and is said to be the start of Stratford as a tourist destination.

Joan Shakespeare would have grown up with her brothers and sister in the house which was also the place from which her father ran his glove-making business.

About Joan Shakespeare (Hart)

Joan Hart was William Shakespeare’s sister and five years younger than him. When she was 10, her younger sister died, leaving Joan the only girl in the family. As such, she probably helped her mother around the house learning domestic tasks that would help when she was a wife and mother herself.  These would have included needlework and knitting, cooking, cleaning, caring for her siblings including when they were sick. She may have learnt basic reading and possibly writing when she was four or five years-old. However, it was not compulsory, and she may not have gone to school at all. 

She married a hatter called William Hart and they had four children. The family lived in the small cottage next door to the Birthplace, known today as Joan Hart’s Cottage. This included one ground floor room, one upstairs room and a basement for the six of them. 

Joan outlived her husband and her brother William. In his will William Shakespeare left her the cottage at a very low rent of 12 pence per year. This meant she did not need to remarry for financial reasons and instead could live independently.

Joan lived to the age of 77 survived by her only remaining son, Thomas.

Read about Joan Shakespeare (Hart)

Find out more about Joan Shakespeare (Hart) in this fact file about members of Shakespeare's family.

Watch this!

Walk in William's footsteps as you take a virtual tour of Shakespeare’s Birthplace led by local school children.

Make this!

Create a pop-up Shakespeare’s Birthplace with this resource.


CC-BY-NC-ND Image Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust