Shakespeare Hirst (1841-1907)

Shakespeare Hirst was an actor, elocutionist, author, art collector and innkeeper who took over the licence of the Shakespeare on Northgate from his father.

He inherited his father's love of the Bard and became an noted expert on the life and works of William Shakespeare.


He was born on 26 February 1841 in Lockwood, the son of Henry Hirst and his wife Mary (née Shaw), and was baptised at Huddersfield Parish Church on 11 April 1841.

He married Mary Ann Smethurst on 6 January 1876 and they had five known children, all of whom were given suitably Shakespearean names:

  • Cordelia Hirst (1876-?)[1]
  • Henry Hirst (c.1878-?)
  • Ophelia Hirst (c.1881-?)[2]
  • Shakespeare Elsheimer Hirst (1882-1955)[3]
  • Miranda Hirst (c.1885-?)[4]

According to correspondent writing to the Yorkshire Post in 1951:[5]

Shakespeare Hirst [...] gave Sunday evening Shakespearean recitals which became highly popular. In the murder scene from "Othello" Mr. Hirst would grasp the beer pump handles and go through the actions of strangling. For many years the anniversary of Shakeseare's birth was celebrated there by a banquet.

Hirst also claimed to have the only genuine portrait ever made of William Shakespeare, supposedly painted by Adam Elsheimer during Shakespeare's visit to Rome in 1608.

By 1901, he had retired to "Shakespeare House" in Almondbury — in reality, 83 and 85 Town End.

He died suddenly on the evening of 20 May 1907 — reportedly he had just settled down to read the newspaper and was in the process of "adjusting his spectacles when he expired without a word."[6] He left an estate worth £3,950 5s. 1d.

A subsequent inquest recorded a verdict of "death from alcoholic excess" after his daughter Ophelia stated that he "had recently been in the habit of drinking a quart of brandy per day."[7]

An auction of Hirst's belongings was held on 3 July 1907 and included a "valuable collection of oil paintings by the best old masters", "rare books and manuscripts including 1st. fol. Shakespeare 1623" and "25 old violins, violoncellos and double basses, by Maggini, Stradivarius, and others."[8] Reportedly concerns over the authenticity of many of the items led the auction only realising around £1,000.

Notes and References

  1. Married 4 June 1902 to fruit and potato merchant George Baxter and moved to Wales.
  2. Married 29 October 1910 to widower Aquila Brant.
  3. Born 8 November 1882. Married 28 August 1907 to Martha Ann Kilner.
  4. Did not marry and lived with her married sister Cordelia in Wales.
  5. "The Tavern Shakespeare" in Yorkshire Post (09/May/1951).
  6. "A Shakespeare Expert" in Yorkshire Evening Post (22/May/1907).
  7. "Drank a Quart of Brandy a Day" in Western Gazette (31/May/1907).
  8. Advertisement in Yorkshire Post (15/Jun/1907).

Shakespeare Hirst (1841-1907)


This page was last modified on 10 June 2016 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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