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Shakespeare's family in nine objects

The Hathaway Bed

Family focus

Anne Shakespeare (Hathaway) – Shakespeare’s wife

About the Item

The bed is made of oak and known as a tester bed, meaning it has a wooden canopy, in this case covered in cloth. The bed is made up of various elements from different periods. Parts of the bed are beautifully carved. Can you see the rope running along the sides of the bed? This stretched across the base of the bed in a weave pattern to support the person sleeping on the bed.

About Anne Hathaway

Anne is believed to have been born around 1556. One of ten children to Richard Hathaway, who was a tenant farmer at Hewlands Farm in Shottery near Stratford-upon-Avon, Anne would have begun helping with domestic and farm work from an early age and as the eldest daughter probably helped care for her younger siblings.

There were plenty of opportunities for Anne and William Shakespeare’s families to meet at church or on market days and their fathers also knew each other.

When Anne’s father died in 1581 she was left a sum of money to be paid upon her marriage. She married William Shakespeare a year later when she was 26 and he was 18. They had three children together, Susanna and twins, Hamnet (who later died aged 11) and Judith.

It is likely that Anne and her children lived in Stratford while William travelled to London to pursue his career. She would therefore have been responsible for running her own household and possibly helping her mother-in-law, Mary.

In 1597 the family moved into New Place, the largest house in the town. When William was away, Anne would have been mistress of this large and busy household.

Upon his death in 1616 William left Anne his ‘second best bed’ in his will. In those days beds were important and expensive items of furniture.

Anne outlived her husband by seven years. As a widow she continued to live at New Place although in his will, Shakespeare had left the house and the remainder of his wealth to his daughter Susanna to manage. Anne is buried close to her husband in Holy Trinity Church.

Read about Anne Shakespeare (Hathaway)

Read more about Anne Shakespeare (Hathaway) in this fact file about some of the members of Shakespeare's family.

Watch this!

Meet Anne Hathaway – watch this video that shows what life may have been like for Anne Hathaway. Filmed at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

Try this!

Try your hand at writing a diary as though you are one of Shakespeare’s family. Read children’s author, Marcia Williams’ tips for writing a fictional diary in this resource pack. You can also read her own fictional diary of Anne Hathaway in this pack. Why not enter your diary into our competition?

Play this game!

Find out a little bit more about Anne Shakespeare’s life in Stratford in this resource which includes a maths game – Anne Shakespeare goes shopping.


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