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Shakespeare's Family By C. C. Stopes Characters: 9910

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

We find the name occurs in widely scattered localities from very early times. Perhaps a resembling name ought to be noted "in the hamlet of Pruslbury, Gloucestershire,[10] where there were four tenants. This was at one time an escheat of the King, who gave it to his valet, Simon Shakespeye, who afterwards gave it to Constantia de Legh, who gave it to William Solar, the defendant." If this represents a 1260 "Shakespere," as there is every reason to believe it does, this is the earliest record of the name yet found. This belief is strengthened by the discovery that a Simon Sakesper was in the service of the Crown in 1278, as herderer of the Forest of Essex,[11] in the Hundred of Wauthorn, 7 Edward I. Between these two dates Mr. J. W. Rylands[12] has found a Geoffrey Shakespeare on the jury in the Hundred of Brixton, co. Surrey, in 1268.[13]

The next[14] I have noted occurs in Kent in the thirteenth century, where a John Shakespeare appears in a judicial case, 1278-79, at Freyndon.

The fifth notice is in the north.[15] The Hospital of St. Nicholas, Carlisle, had from its foundation been endowed with a thrave of corn from every ploughland in Cumberland. These were withheld by the landowners in the reign of Edward III., for some reason, and an inquiry was instituted in 1357. The jury decided that the corn was due. It had been withheld for eight years by various persons, among whom was "Henry Shakespere, of the Parish of Kirkland," east of Penrith. This gives, therefore, really an entry of this Shakespere's existence at that place as early as 1349, and an examination of Court Records may prove an earlier settlement of the family.

There was a transfer of lands in Penrith described as "next the land of Allan Shakespeare," and amongst the witnesses was William Shakespeare,[16] April, 21 Richard II., 1398.

In the "Records of the Borough of Nottingham,"[17] we find a John Shakespere plaintiff against Richard de Cotgrave, spicer, for deceit in sale of dye-wood on November 8, 31 Edward III. (1357); Richard, the servant of Robert le Spondon, plaintiff against John Shakespere for assault. John proves himself in the right, and receives damages, October 21, 1360.

The first appearance yet found of the name in Warwickshire is in 1359, when Thomas Sheppey and Henry Dilcock, Bailiffs of Coventry, account for the property of Thomas Shakespere,[18] felon, who had left his goods and fled.

Halliwell-Phillipps[19] notes as his earliest entry of the name a Thomas Shakespere, of Youghal, 49 Edward III. (1375). A writer in Notes and Queries[20] gives a date two years later when "Thomas Shakespere and Richard Portingale" were appointed Comptrollers of the Customs in Youghal, 51 Edward III. (1377). This would imply that he was a highly trustworthy man. Yet, by some turn of fortune's wheel, he may have been the same man as the felon.

In Controlment Rolls, 2 Richard II. (June, 1377, to June, 1379), there is an entry of "Walter Shakespere, formerly in gaol in Colchester Castle."[21] John Shakespeare was imprisoned in Colchester gaol as a perturbator of the King's peace, March 3rd, 4 Richard II., 1381.[22] At Pontefract, Robert Schaksper, Couper, and Emma his wife are mentioned as paying poll-tax, 2 Rich. II.[23]

The Rev. Mr. Norris,[24] working from original documents, notes that on November 24 (13 Richard II.), 1389, Adam Shakespere, who is described as son and heir of Adam of Oldediche, held lands within the manor of Baddesley Clinton by military service, and probably had only just then obtained them. Oldediche, or Woldich, now commonly called Old Ditch Lane, lies within the parish of Temple Balsall, not far from the manor of Baddesley.

This closes the notices of the family that I have collected during the fourteenth century. The above-noted Adam Shakespere, the younger, died in 1414, leaving a widow, Alice, and a son and heir, John, then under age, who held lands until 20 Henry VI., 1441. It is not clear who succeeded him, but probably two brothers, Ralph and Richard, who held lands in Baddesley, called Great Chedwyns, adjoining Wroxall. Mr. Norris says that no further mention of the name appears in Baddesley, but one notice of the property is given later. Ralph and Joanna, his wife, had two daughters-Elizabeth, married to Robert Huddespit, and Isolda, married to Robert Kakley. Elizabeth Huddespit, a widow, in 1506 held the lands which Adam Shakespeare held in 1389.

The family of Shakespeare appears in the "Register of the Guild of Knowle,"[1] a semi-religious society to which the best in the county belonged:

1457. Pro anima Ricardi Shakespere et Alicia uxor

ejus de Woldiche.[25]

1464. Johanna Shakespere.

Radulphus Shakespere et Isabella uxor ejus et

pro anima Johann? uxoris prim?.

Ricardus Schakespeire de Wroxhale et Margeria

uxor ejus.

1476. Thomas Chacsper et Christian cons. sue de


Johannis Shakespeyre de Rowington et Ali


uxor ejus.

1486. 1 Hen. VII. Thom? Schakspere, p aiaei.

Thomas Shakspere et Alicia uxor ejus de


Mr. Yeatman has studied the Court Rolls of this period. It is to be wished he had published his book in two volumes, one of facts and one of opinions. He says that the earliest record of the Court Rolls of Wroxall[26] is one dated 5 Henry V. (1418). It is a grant by one Elizabeth Shakspere to John Lone and William Prins of a messuage with three crofts. (The same Rolls tell us that in 22 Henry VIII. Alice Love surrendered to William Shakespeare and Agnes his wife a property apparently the same.)

In 1485 John Hill, John Shakespeare and others, were enfeoffed in land called "Harveys" in Rowington, and John appears as witness in 1492 and 1496.[27]

There were Shakesperes at Coventry and Meriden in the fifteenth century. John Dwale, merchant of Coventry, left legacies by will to Annes Lane and to Richard Shakespere, March 15, 1499.[28]

Among the "foreign fines" of the borough of Nottingham,[29] Robert Shakespeyr paid eightpence for license to buy and sell in the borough in 1414-15. The same Robert complains of John Fawkenor for non-payment of the price of wood for making arrows. And French[30] tells us there was a Thomas Shakespere, a man at arms, going to Ireland on August 27, 18 Edward IV., 1479, with Lord Grey against the king's enemies.

John Shakespere, a chapman in Doncaster,[31] paid on each order 12d. Among the York wills, John Shakespere of Doncaster mentions his wife, Joan, 1458. In the same year Sir Thomas Chaworth leaves Margery Shakesper six marks for her marriage.[32]

In 1448, William Shakspere, labourer, and Agnes, his wife, were legatees under the will of Alice Langham, of Snailswell, Suffolk.[33]

A family also belonged to London. Mr. Gollancz told me of a certain "William Schakesper" who was "to be buried within the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, in England," in 1413.[34] On reference to the original, I found there was no allusion to profession, locality or family. He left to an unnamed father and mother twenty shillings each, and six shillings and eightpence to the hospital. The residue to William Byrdsale and John Barbor, to dispose of for the good of his soul; proved August 3, 1413. There was also a Peter Shakespeare who witnessed the deed of transfer of the "Hospicium Vocatum le Greyhounde, Shoe Alley, Bankside, Southwark, February 16, 1483."[35]


[10] Coram Rege Roll, St. Barthol., 45 Henry III., Memb. 13, No. 117. Notes and Queries, 5th Series, ii. 146.

[11] Fisher's "Forest of Essex," p. 374. Notes and Queries, 9th Series, ii. 167.

[12] Records of Rowington.

[13] Coram Rege Roll, 139, M. 1, 52-53 Hen. III.

[14] Roll of 7 Edward I.: "Placita Corone coram Johanne de Reygate et sociis suis, justiciariis itinerantibus in Oct. St. Hil. 7 Edward I., apud Cantuar." See also Notes and Queries, 1st Series, vol. xi., p. 122. Mr. William Henry Hart, F.S.A., contributes a note on the subject and gives the entry.

[15] Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, vol. x., p. 122.

[16] Notes and Queries, 6th Series, iv. 126.

[17] "Records of the Borough of Nottingham," by Mr. W. Stevenson.

[18] See Dr. Joseph Hunter's MSS., Addit. MSS., Brit. Mus. 24,484, art. 246.

[19] In Shakespeare's "Life," prefixed to the folio edition.

[20] Notes and Queries, J. F. F., 2nd Series, x. 122; see "Rot. Pat. Claus. Cancellari? Hiberni? Calendarium," vol. i., part i., p. 996.

[21] Notes and Queries, 5th Series, i. 25.

[22] Close Rolls, 4 Richard II.; Notes and Queries, 7th Series, ii. 318.

[23] Yorksh. Arch?ological Journal, vol. vi., p. 3. Lay-Subsidies, 206/49, Osgodcrosse, West Riding.

[24] Notes and Queries, 8th Series, vol. viii., December 28, 1895; "Shakespeare's Ancestry," by the Rev. Henry Norris, F.S.A.

[25] Mr. W. B. Bickley's "The Register of the Guild of St. Anne at Knowle," 1894. Mr. Bickley, in the Stratford-on-Avon Herald, November 9, 1895, shows that "Woldiche," "Oldyche" and "Oldwich" are the same, being a farm in the hamlet of Balsall, in the parish of Hampton in Arden, and about three miles from Knowle.

[26] Mr. Yeatman's "Gentle Shakespeare," p. 135.

[27] Mr. J. W. Ryland's "Records of Rowington."

[28] Proved May 26, 1500, Somerset House; Moone, f. 2.

[29] Stevenson's "Transcript of Records of the Borough of Nottingham."

[30] French's "Shakespeareana Genealogica," p. 350, and 39/48 "Ancient Miscellanea Exchequer," Treasury of Receipt, Muster Roll of Men at Arms going with Lord Grey. At Conway, 18 Edward IV., August 24.

[31] Records of the House of Grayfriars. Yorksh. Arch?ological Journal, vol. xii., p. 482.

[32] Notes and Queries,6th Series, iv. 158.

[33] "Camden Soc. Publ.," 1851, Notes and Queries, 6th Series, vi. 368.

[34] Commissary Court of London Wills, Reg. II., 1413, f. 12.

[35] The deed is preserved at Cordwainers' Hall.

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