William Shakespeare’s connections with Preston revealed

Posted on - 20th April, 2012 - 3:05pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, History, What's On in Preston
Preston from Hoghton

Preston and the Fylde Coast as viewed from Hoghton.

A Preston-based university lecturer will seek to answer a question that has baffled literary scholars for years – did William Shakespeare spend some of his ‘lost years’ at Hoghton Tower on the outskirts of the city?


On Monday 23rd April, Shakespeare’s 448th birthday, Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Drama Catharine Francis will seek to separate the facts from the fiction, and she is inviting the public to come along and find out for themselves. Part of UCLan’s public lecture series, the talk will build on research undertaken by Theatre History students who were intrigued by the idea that history’s greatest poet might have spent a significant part of his adolescence residing some six or seven miles from the university campus.

The connection between Shakespeare and Preston, or Hoghton Tower specifically, is thought to stem from the will of Alexander Hoghton in 1581, which is held at the Lancashire Records’ Office in Preston. Theorists claim that a dedication to one “William Shakeshafte” in this will is proof that the Bard not only stayed at Hoghton Tower, but that he acquired his moniker in order to avoid attracting the attention of anti-Papist authorities in Elizabethan England, who would no doubt be suspicious about his attendance at these secret gatherings of the rising Catholic reformation.

On the UCLan website, Catharine said: “Some scholars believe the will of Alexander Hoghton from 1581 is evidence that Shakespeare may have spent time in the Hoghton household as a young man.”

“Our Theatre History students have the opportunity to examine this and other primary historical documents relating to theatre in Lancashire as part of their course. This public lecture comes from our students’ enthusiastic response to the idea that Shakespeare may have lived in Lancashire at Hoghton Tower and their research journey through the circumstantial evidence and its various contemporary interpretations.”

In anticipation of the event, I did a bit of digging myself, and I was surprised to find that Hoghton Tower boasts of the Shakespeare connection on their website, even though scholars have yet to find circumstantial evidence that the connection even exists.

Take the long drive to the 16th century and follow in the footsteps of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and King James I…

If the rumours are true, perhaps his famous lines should read “What’s in a name? That which we call a red rose”, or “Parting Preston is such sweet sorrow”. What do you think?

The talk will take place on Monday 23rd April between 5pm and 7pm at the Harris Library in Preston. Tickets are free on the door.

Image credit: Bernie Blackburn

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