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Shakespeare's Family By C. C. Stopes Characters: 19035

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The Warwickshire Shakespeares overflowed into the surrounding counties. There were Shakespeares in Stafford,[266] Worcester,[267] Gloucester,[268] Northampton,[269] Leicester,[270] Berkshire[271] and Oxford.

The three latter are worth noting. In 1597 there resided at Lutterworth, only a few miles from Stratford, a Thomas Shakespeare, who was employed by William Glover, of Hillenden, in Northamptonshire, gent., as his agent to receive and give an acquittance for a considerable sum of money.[272] It is not clear whether it was this same person or a son who was the Thomas Shakespeare, gent., of Staple Inn, Middlesex, who presented a certificate to some unnamed court, October 12, 1604, accounting for his non-appearance in a case.[273] John Perkyns was the plaintiff; Thomas Shakespere, William Perkyns, William Teery and others, defendants. He had been summoned at the suit of Perkyns to appear, in the Octaves of Trinity, but he had been required to be seventy miles out of London on the Saturday of the Octaves of Trinity in a Chancery Case. He only rested on the Sabbath at home, started on the Monday, and appeared in court on Wednesday. The other defendants were allowed the explanation; that it was denied to him seemed to be of malice. I cannot find the decision. I searched the Lay Subsidies of Leicester,[3] in Lutterworth and elsewhere, for this Shakespeare in vain; but I find that in 1594 a William Perkins paid in bond for Richard Perkins in Wigston Parva.[274] A bond of Thomas Shakespeare, of Lutterworth, November 27, 1606, to James Whitelocke for 26s. 8d., is mentioned in the Historical MSS. Com.[275] A letter addressed to the Mayor of Leicester by certain leading inhabitants of Lutterworth about the plague is signed first by Thomas Shakespeare,[276] and Mr. French found in the Admission Books of Staple Inn,[277] "Thomas Shakespeare, of Lutterworth, in Com. Leic., gent., etc., 15th Feb., 5 Jac. I., 1607." Does the following entry refer to him or to Thomas Shakespere of Warwick? "John, son of Thomas Shakespeare, gent., baptized July 18th, 1619."[278]

John Shakespear (1774-1858),[279] Orientalist, was born at Lount, near Ashby, in Leicestershire, son of a small farmer there. He became Professor of Hindustani, and gave £2,500 towards preserving the birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon. He did not marry, and his property came to his nephew, Charles Bowles, who took the surname of "Shakespeare."

A William Shakespeare was convicted at Leicester Assizes of night-poaching.[280]

The Oxford Shakespeares deserve fuller attention than they have yet received. The Saunders alias Shakespeare, already mentioned,[281] was possibly a native of another county. But we find some in the shire, contemporary with the poet. Among the "Original Wills at Somerset House there is one of Thomas Shackspeare, Innkeeper," in the suburbs of Oxford. He wished to be buried in the Church of St. Giles, Oxford, bequeathed property to his four children-Robert, Ellen, Mary, and Elizabeth, £10 each when they came of age-and left his wife Elizabeth residuary legatee and sole executrix; overseers, Mr. Ralf Shillingworth and Henry Hedges. A remembrance was left to the preacher of his funeral sermon, and to his loving friend Mr. Harris, of Yarnton, and he "set his hand and seale thereto," May 27, 1642;[282] witnesses, Thomas Champe and Nathaniel Harris. It is curious that the seal used should represent a winged heart bleeding, surmounted by a ducal coronet.

Curiously enough, a notice of this one family is preserved in Notes and Queries,[283] though it is not mentioned in the index. It was transcribed from St. Mary Magdalene's, Oxford, by Dr. Macray while he was yet curate. "Thomas Shakspere, the sonne of Thomas Shaxspere, was baptised the 19th day of August, 1628;" Marie, April 15, 1630; Elizabeth, June 29, 1632; "Robert, the sone of Thomas Shaxspere, Inkeeper, was baptized September the 24th, 1634." Among the burials appear, "Thomas, the son of Thomas Shaxespere, was buried Nov. 4th, 1642; Thomas Shaxsper, Inkeper, buried Nov. 11th, 1642; Ellinor Shaxsper was buried May second, 1643." The earlier records of the Church are lost. It is a pity the other Oxford registers have not been thoroughly searched for the name, or printed.

A John Shakespeare,[284] of St. Mary's Hall, took the degree of B.A. in 1666. The Oxford Chronicle[285] of April 20, 1765, mentions a Richard Shakespeare as being committed to Coventry Gaol as a forger.

Some of these Shakespeares gravitated towards London. In the will of Leonard Wilmot, of Clanfield, co. Oxon., gent., 1608, there is a bequest to "Leonard Shackspire, my godson, servant to John Prince, of Abington, Vintner, 5li, and to John Shackspire, of Newnam, 5li."[286] This John may be father of Leonard, and may be the John referred to in the note. "John Shakespeare, of Nuneham Courtney, co. Oxford, an old feeble man, had been drinking in his house, 25th Nov., 1633."[287] A Leonard is mentioned in the register of Sunningwell, Berks, as being married to Alyce Parkes of Abingdon, September 12, 1614. This is probably the Leonard of Isleworth, Middlesex, vintner, who at an advanced age made his will,[288] March 26, 1664. He left his wife Elizabeth two tenements in Isleworth for life, then to his son John and his heirs; to his son William, 12d.; to his son Ralph, 12d.; to his daughter, Elizabeth King, £20 after his wife's death; to his son William's son William, 2s. 6d.; to his daughter Elizabeth, a feather bed; to his daughter Sara, 12d.; to his daughter Robina, 12d.; if John died without heirs, the tenements to go to his sons Ralph and William. His wife Elizabeth executrix; his friend, Mr. William Dance, and his son-in-law, Robert Parsons, overseers. Was it a stepmother's influence that made him cut off his two sons with a shilling?[289]

Working for another purpose at a later date, I found Shakespeares in the little village of South Stoke in Oxfordshire. Among the baptisms are: "John, April 8th, 1751; Mary, Oct. 22nd, 1752; Hannah, Sept. 29, 1754; Elizabeth, Aug. 24th, 1756; Ann, July 6th, 1760, all children of Robert and Mary Shakespeare." "Susanna, base-born daughter of Catharine Shakespeare, Dec. 24th, 1784." "Elizabeth, daughter of John Shakespeare, and Eleanor his wife, Nov. 12, 1786." Among the marriages are "John Birt and Mary Shakespeare, 7th December, 1773." Among the burials are "William, March 13th, 1768," and "Robert, July 20th, 1786." In the same volume are Richard and Thomas, sons of Richard Burbage, 1577 and 1579, who both died in infancy, and there are many other Shakespearean names.

In counties still further from Warwickshire the name is also found, as we may note in Hertfordshire, Derbyshire,[290] Hampshire, Surrey, Bedfordshire. There was administration granted to Lucy Shakespear, widow, of the goods of her deceased husband Thomas, of the town of Hertford, October 10, 1626; and Luke Shakespear, of Layston, co. Herts, fishmonger, made his will[291] May 7, 1707. His wife was Joyce, and he had a sister and two brothers not named.

In Layston[292] Churchyard there are the tombs of "Mr. John Shakespeare, late citizen and founder of London," 1732, and of "Henry Mond Shakespear, Citizen and Loriner of London," 1784.

In Portsmouth, 1662, William Shakespeare was contractor for the old Gun Wharf. A public-house, called Shakespeare's Head, is supposed to have been the place where he paid his men.[293] On April 25, 1747, in St. Gregory's by St. Paul's, were married "John Shakespeare of Portsea, and Mary Higginson of St. James', Westminster." Joseph Champ and Martha Ham, married at Portsmouth April 22, 1736, had John Shakespeare, of Portsmouth, as one of their bondsmen; and George Poate and Anne Loch, October 6, 1802, had Samuel Shakespeare one of their bondsmen.[294] The London Shakespeares seem to have had a residence in Hampshire also, for "Mrs. Shakespeare, widow of Alderman Shakespeare, of London, died at Bramdean, co. Hants, aged 80, in March, 1807."[295]

Aubrey speaks of the wife of John Shakespeare, of Worplesdowne, in Surrey, who made as good butter there as she ever did at Wroxall or Bitteston. She was a North Wiltshire woman.[296] At Walton-upon-Thames, Surrey, tombstones remind us of Matthew Shakespeare and George Shakespeare, who died August 8, 1775; also of John Shakespeare, of Weybridge, January 13, 1775; of William Shakespeare of this parish, 1783; and of George Shakespeare, architect, Oxford Street, London, 1797.[297]

On March 13, 1663, "William Shakespeare of Faucat was buried, and on July 23, 1668, Ann Shackspere, daughter to Will Shackspear, was buried in Toddington, co. Beds."[298]

There were Shakespeares also in Essex. Mr. Veley collects a few particulars regarding them from the unregistered wills of the Archdeaconry of Essex.[299] The oldest is that of Thomas Shakespeare, priest, August 26, 1557. He leaves legacies to "8 priests of Jesus Commons, wherein I now dwell," to sing masses, and something to the maintenance of Jesus Commons, and to poor people, to the sisters of Sion, the fathers of Sheen, the observant friars of Greenwich, the Black-Friars of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, the nuns of King's Langley, and "to the parryshe church of Seynt Mildryd in Bred Streete in London, towards the byeing of a pyxt or monstrat to carry the blyssyd Sacrament, vli. To my brother, Robert Shakespeare; my brother, Harry Wyllson; my brother, John Cooke; my sister, Grace Starke; my sister, Jone Shackspere: my sis

ter, Cicely Richardson; to John Cooke, of Jesus Commons; to Mother Agnes, of the Commons, and Goodwyfe Blower." The strange thing about this will is that it seems to have been made by the same Sir Thomas Shakespeare, clerk, whom I enter among the pre-Shakespearean London Shakespeares in August 22, 1559.[300] His will is preserved at Somerset House.[301]

The two years that intervened between the drafting of the two wills were years of great import. Mary had died, Philip had vanished, and Elizabeth was seated on the throne. Therefore it is not surprising that there are fewer priestly legacies in the later will, that it mentions also fewer relatives, and no brother Robert. But there are still sisters, Thomasine Cook, Grace Storeton, Jone Shackspere, and a relative, Anne Wilson; and the legacy to the Church of St. Mildred's, Bread Street, London.[302] Mr. Veley does not know of this later will, which is the one that was proved. He takes it for granted Thomas was an Essex man, though he lived in London. He probably was so.

Mr. Veley also mentions a Joseph Shakespeare of Havering, who made his will 1640. He had a brother Samuel, of Hornchurch, whose widow Susan made her will in 1678; a Samuel, of Romford, her son, who married Judith, had a daughter Ann, and died in 1707; a Thomas, of Hornchurch, also son of Susan, who made his will in 1702; and a William, probably a third brother, who married Susannah, was father to John of Rawreth, and made his will March 2, 1723. John of Rawreth's goods were administered by his daughter Judith, wife of Asser Vassall, 1731. Mr. Veley also finds a John and Elizabeth mentioned, but unfortunately does not print the contents of these other wills.

It may be noted that there is a considerable gap between the date of the priest and his brother Robert and these later Shakespeares. I was glad to find among the administrations at Somerset House[303] the name of "Alice Shakespeare, Widow, of Ginge Margretting, Essex, 1581." She might have been the widow of this Robert, and might also have been, at an advanced age, the sister Alice Shakespeare mentioned in the will of Francis Griffin, of Braybrook, 37 Henry VIII., who, Mr. Yeatman insists, must have been the poet's grandmother. Francis Griffin remembers another sister, Agnes Crosmore. The goods of this Alice Shakespeare were administered by her sister, Agnes Williams, of Barking. I have made a prolonged search among the Subsidy Rolls of Essex to locate this family. Nowhere have I found the spelling of the name so varied, from Shakesphere to Shakespurr, Saxper, and even Shaksby and Shucksby. Cross-references prove these to be intended for the same name.[304] In 3 Jac. I., in Foulness, Essex, a Nicholas Saxper; in Rochford,[305] 21 Jac. I., John Shuxbye, and in Stambridge Magna, 4 Car. I., both Shakesby and Shukesby. The Hearth Tax,[306] Essex, Car. II., mentions Samuel Shexpere, and the Subsidy Rolls of 14 Car. II., Samuel Shaksper, of Harold's Wood Ward. In 1666[307] there appear in the Hundred of Witham Thomas Shakesby and Edward Shakesby, a Samuel Shakespeare of the North End of Hornchurch, and a Samuel Shakespeare of Harold's Wood Ward.

In the Hundred of Chafford, William Shakespeare, gent., of Langdon Hills, appears among the collectors of the subsidies. It is possible there may have been many more of the name assessed; but some of the Rolls are lost and many are decayed in various ways. I have searched several of the outlying registers without success, but others have found the name in Romford, Barking, Hornchurch, Rawreth, and Rochester.

In the county where we find an early notice of the family the name occasionally appears. Mr. J. M. Cowper, Canterbury, tells us that "Judith filia Leonardi Shakespeare was baptized Feb. 27, 1596-7, at Warehorne, Kent."[308] The name does not occur again. In Rucking, Kent, February 24, 1599, John, son of Reginald Shakespear, was baptized, and on May 30, 1600, Reginald Shakespeare was buried.[309]

Mr. W. J. Lightfoot, the transcriber, says that he is acquainted with several other neighbouring parishes, and that the name does not occur in their registers-a statement which, curiously enough, Mr. French reproduces without the "not."

George Austin and Margaret Shakespeare, of Biddenden, Kent, widow, were married July 26, 1639.[310]

In the North, where the early Shakespeares were attached to land, they seem to have survived and spread, as may be seen from the directories of Northern towns to-day.[311] Ireland, too, owns Shakespeares, possibly descended from the Thomas of Youghal.


[266] Notes and Queries, Second Series, vi. 285; Third Series, viii. 33. "George, descendant of Humphrey," etc. Mr. Dickenson tells me there are many of the name in the parish of Bredon.

[267] By fine levied Hil. 1655, Shakespere conveyed tenements in Inckbarrow, Worcestershire, Notes and Queries, Second Series, vii. 336.

[268] There is the will of John Shakespeare, of Newington Bagpath, Cook, among the Gloucester Wills, Index Library, and in "The Shakespeares of Dursley," by John Henry Blount, we find James Shakespeare buried at Bisley, March 13, 1570; Edward, son of John and Margery Shakespeare, bapt. at Beverston, September 19, 1619. Thomas Shakespeare, weaver, was married to Joan Turner at Dursley Church, March 3, 1677-78, and of their children, Edward was bapt. July 1, 1681; Mary, 1682; Thomas, 1685; and Mary, 1691. John Shakespeare was a mason in Dursley from 1704 to 1739; and Thomas Shakespeare had a seat-place allotted him in 1739. Betty Shakespeare received poor money from 1747 till 1754. Some still exist in the adjoining parish of Newington Bagpath, and claim kindred with the poet.

[269] Edward Shakespeare of Syresham, 1626-30; Thomas Shakespeare of Litchborough, 1610-41 (Northamptonshire and Rutland Wills, Index Library).

[270] Notes and Queries, First Series, vii. 405 and 546.

[271] A John Shakespeare of Finchhampstead, Berkshire, made his will in 1644. See Berkshire Wills.

[272] Notes and Queries, First Series, vii. 405 and 546.

[273] State Papers, Domestic Series, Jac. I., ix. 72.

[274] Lay Subsidies, Leicester, Goodlaxton, 39 Elizabeth, Wigston Parva, 134/235 and 134/254.

[275] Hist. Man. Com., vol. iii., Report 1872, p. 190.

[276] Ancient Records of Leicester, Trans. Lit. and Phil. Society, 1855, and Notes and Queries, Third Series, v. 383.

[277] Admission Books, Staple Inn, vol. i., f. 58, and French, "Shakespeareana Genealogica," 542.

[278] From the Register of St. Gregory by St. Paul's, London.

[279] "Dict. Nat. Biography."

[280] Notes and Queries, Fifth Series, viii. 386.

[281] See p. 15.

[282] Proved November 4, 1643, by his relict Elizabeth.

[283] Notes and Queries, Third Series, viii. 124.

[284] "Catalogue of Oxford Graduates," Clarendon Press.

[285] Notes and Queries, Second Series, xii. 469.

[286] French, "Shakspeareana Genealogica."

[287] Notes and Queries, Seventh Series, vi. 344. See "Liber Actorum," Bodleian Library.

[288] Somerset House, 88 Bruce, proved July 1, 1664.

[289] The Hearth Tax for Isleworth, 1666, 252/32, notes "Ralph Shakespeare 2 hearths, Widow Shakespeare 1 hearth."

[290] Elizabeth Shakspere, of St. Werbergs, Derby, made her will 1558. Pegge's "Collection for the History of Derbyshire" contains a sheet of printed verses "on the death of the Rev. Mr. Shakespear" (Nichols's "Col. Top. and Gen.," iii. 244).

[291] Wills of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

[292] See Genealogical Magazine, January, 1898.

[293] Notes and Queries, Fourth Series, iv. 275.

[294] Hampshire Marriage Licences.

[295] Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lxxvii., p. 280.

[296] Aubrey's "Natural History of Wiltshire," 1680.

[297] Manning and Bray's "Surrey," vol. ii.

[298] "Misc. Gen. et Herald.," Second Series, vol. ii. Register of Toddington, co. Beds.

[299] See "The Shakespeares of Essex." by Augustus Charles Veley, Registrar of the Archdeaconry of Essex, Essex Arch?ological Society's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 70, 1865.

[300] See my article in the Athen?um, April 23, 1892, entitled "Pre-Shakespearean London Shakespeares."

[301] 40 Chayney.

[302] Auditors' Patent Books, vol. vi., 1538-1553. Thomas Shakespeare, formerly minister of Colebray, in the parish of St. Mildred's, in the ward of Bread Street, London, on September 1, 2 Ed. VI., received a patent for 100 shillings per annum. There is no absolute proof, but every probability, that this is the same Sir Thomas Schaftespeyr mentioned in the will of Joan Jons of Bristol, and other Bristol Wills. See the abstract contained in the "Great Orphan Book," and Book of Wills in Council House at Bristol, 1886, by the Rev. J. P. Wadley, Rector of Naunton Beauchamp.

[303] Admin. Vicar-General's Books, No. 268, 1574-1583.

[304] Lay Subsidies, Essex, 111/575.

[305] Lay Subsidies, Essex, Rochford, 112/602, 112/634, 112/642.

[306] Subsidy Rolls, Chelmsford, Essex, 112/707, do. 112/708.

[307] Subsidy Rolls of several Hundreds in Essex, a paper book, 246/19.

[308] Notes and Queries, Third Series, vi. 324, and French, "Shakespeareana Genealogica," p. 541.

[309] Notes and Queries, Third Series, vi. 324, and French, "Shakespeareana Genealogica," p. 541. Mr. C. G. Dickenson tells me his will is at Canterbury, v. 52, f. 36.

[310] Registers of Sutton Valence, Kent, kindly sent by a correspondent.

[311] "Misc. Gen. et Herald," New Series, i. 143.

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