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Real Mary Arden's House Discovered

Historians have discovered that Mary Arden’s house was not the home of Shakespeare’s mother, but that she grew up near the popular tourist trap.

The farmhouse in Wilmcote near Stratford has been a magnet for tourists for years, who believed they were visiting the home of Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother.

The building has been known as that since the 18th century, but Warwickshire historian Nat Alcock has uncovered evidence that she instead grew up on nearby Glebe Farm.

Mary Arden’s house was bought for preservation by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the 1930s. Glebe Farm is also owned by the trust, having been bought in the 1960s to save it from demolition.

Dr Alcock looked at papers about Wilmcote kept in London and Lewes in Sussex. Rent records from 1587 showed that the building now known as Glebe Farm was once held by Agnes Arden, second wife of Robert Arden, and Mary’s step-mother.

The house previously thought to have been the Arden house was owned by Adam Palmer, a close friend of the family.

Glebe Farm will now take on the Arden name, and the current Mary’s Arden’s house will be renamed Palmer’s Farm.

The revelation has cleared up an area of uncertainty surrounding the bard's childhood, but has rendered numerous guidebooks and souvenirs inaccurate.

Roger Pringle, director of the trust, said:

“I think my excitement at having this proof of the exact location of the Arden home will be shared by many people.

“In the past, as we have explained to visitors, the evidence that clearly supports the identities of other Shakespeare-related buildings in our care, notably Shakespeare’s birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, has been lacking for Mary Arden’s House, whose claims rested on tradition.

“Now we can point with certainty to Glebe Farm as being the house where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.

“I believe Dr Alcock’s discovery justifies the trust’s commitment to research and to making people fully aware of the evidence for our historic houses.

“The find also vindicates our commitment over a long period to conservation work, since it was the trust in the 1960s which rescued the house we now realise was the Arden home.”
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CWN / Heritage / Shakespeare Birthplace Trust / 30 Nov 00
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