Shakespeare’s will returns to his hometown for the first time in 400 years

Exhibiting at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

16 July – 4 August 2016

One of the most important original documents relating to William Shakespeare is set to return to his hometown for the very first time since it was written 400 years ago.

William Shakespeare’s last will and testament will be making its way back to Stratford-upon-Avon this summer for the very first time since it was written in March 1616.  Cared for by The National Archives, the original will of the world’s greatest playwright will be loaned to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust from 16 July – 4 August as part of a major exhibition celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy. This is the first time Shakespeare’s will is returning to Stratford-upon-Avon since Dr. John Hall, Shakespeare’s son-in-law took the will to London in June 1616 to get a grant of probate.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the charity which promotes Shakespeare’s work, life and times and cares for the world’s largest Shakespeare-related museum and archives, will temporarily display Shakespeare’s last will and testament in its Treasures exhibition, which gives a fascinating insight into Shakespeare’s social circle.

Dr Delia Garratt, Director of Cultural Engagement at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, says, “We’re incredibly excited to be able to present this once in a lifetime opportunity for people to see Shakespeare’s original will back in his hometown where it was drafted by local solicitor Francis Collins 400 years ago. Displaying this historic document alongside other treasures from our collections will complete the story of Shakespeare’s social circle and his relationships with family, friends and business associates.”

Dr Katy Mair, Early Modern Records Specialist at The National Archives, said: “We are delighted to be working with The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to bring Shakespeare’s will back to his hometown. Thanks to work carried out by The National Archives’ conservation team, the will’s appearance is now closer to its original state allowing us to carry out new scientific and archival research into this iconic document. This summer offers a great opportunity to see the will, which includes three of Shakespeare’s six known signatures, before it has to rest for a recommended 20 years.”

William Shakespeare’s Will and Testament will be on display in the Treasures exhibition at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon from 16 July – 4 August.

For more information and to plan your visit, see


Notes to Editors: 

Will and Testament of William Shakespeare, 25 March 1616

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. His will, signed by him in three places, is indicative of his familial and social relations. Shakespeare died a wealthy man. He left the bulk of his estate to his elder daughter, Susannah Hall. He left £300 to his younger daughter, Judith. He gave his wife, Anne Hathaway, his second-best bed. Beds and other pieces of household furniture were often the sole bequest to a wife. It was common practice for the best things to go to the children and the second best to the wife. Shakespeare died a month after his will was written, having caught a fever at a 'merry party' thrown by fellow writer, Ben Jonson. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare’s original will is cared for by The National Archives in London. For more information, visit

For media enquiries, please contact Alisan Cole, PR & Public Affairs Executive at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on  01789 207132 / 07824 137638 or email

About The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon, and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works, life and times all over the world. Established by Act of Parliament in 1847, the charity runs formal and informal educational programmes for people of all ages. It holds the world’s largest Shakespeare-related museum and archives open free to the public, a collection which is designated as being of international importance. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust receives no public subsidy or direct revenue funding; it depends on income generated through the support of visitors, donors, volunteers and Friends. . Follow us on social media - @ShakespeareBT  and