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Council Book A 1555-1594
November 19,
1578

BRU1/2, page 189 verso

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BRU1/2, page 189 verso
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Title: Stratford-upon-Avon Borough: Minute books: Council Book A, 1555-1594
Date: November 19, 1578
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU2/1, p. 189v

Item Title
Council Book A 1555-1594
Item Date
November 19, 1578
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Call Number
BRU2/1, p. 189v

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Title: Stratford-upon-Avon Borough: Minute books: Council Book A, 1555-1594
Date: November 19, 1578
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU2/1, p. 189v

From the late 1550s until the mid-1570s, John Shakespeare’s service as a member of the Stratford Corporation, first as a capital burgess and then as an alderman, had been exemplary. He had served as chamberlain for four years (submitting accounts in 1563, 1564 and 1566), as bailiff for the year 1568–9, and as chief alderman for the year 1571–2.  However, from 1577 onward, there is clear evidence of his withdrawal from public service, most obviously a protracted absence from Corporation meetings. He may have appeared at a meeting on December 5, 1576 (Minutes and Accounts, ii, p. 111), but there is no record of his attendance thereafter, and he was eventually relieved of his membership of the Corporation in September 1586. We don't know exactly what caused this absenteeism, but misfortune of some sort is the most likely explanation, since his fellow aldermen and burgesses imposed no fines or penalties for his non-appearance.

Instead, on November 19, 1578, as shown here, John Shakespeare and Robert Bratt were exempted from the obligation to pay a weekly sum for the relief of the poor. This obligation was imposed on every other alderman and capital burgess, either four pence for the aldermen (although Lewis ap Williams and Humphrey Plumley managed to negotiate the lower sum of three pence) or two pence for the burgesses. Bratt, a long-serving member of the Corporation, may well have been ill. There is no further mention of him in Corporation records and he probably died soon afterwards, although his burial has not been traced. John Shakespeare may have been ill too, though financial difficulties are more likely, based on other records from this time. The following March, there is a record of his failure to pay towards the levy for the musters (the assembling of local troops), first assessed in January that year (Minutes and Accounts, iii, pp. 1, 31). After this, records show that he sold his land at Snitterfield and mortgaged his wife’s inherited property in Wilmcote. 

The routine raising of money for the relief of the poor was the responsibility of the parish officers, in particular the overseers of the poor. The fact that in 1577–78 the Corporation was required to donate money for the same purpose implies that the parish authorities had not raised sufficient funds that year to meet demand, and further that some emergency had arisen. In fact, in October, 1578, four plague deaths were recorded in the burial register. Although this may have been a misdiagnosis (plague was not a winter illness), there was a significant increase in the number of burials over the winter (26 from November 1578 to January 1579, compared to 12 in 1577–8 and 11 in 1579–80). 

The second order of the day recorded here concerned fines for non-attendance at the meeting. Those liable would have been the eleven Corporation members, including John Shakespeare, against whose names no mark had been made to record their attendance. In theory the fine was 6s 8d, but there were almost always absentees at Corporation meetings, and there is little evidence that these fines were routinely imposed or paid.

[In the hand of Henry Rogers, the steward or town clerk] 

Semi-diplomatic transcription

Burgus Stratford warr
Ad aulam ibidem tentam xixo die Novembris Anno Regni Domine elizabthe
Regine nostre &c. xxio

Nomina aldermannorum

• Thomas barber                      Robertus bratt
• Ricardus hill                         Willelmus smyth
• Georgius whateley             • Iohannes Tayler
• Radulphus Cawdrie            • Thomas Dyxson
• Adrianus queney                • Willelmus brace
  Rogerus sadler                    • Petrus smart
• lodouicus vpwilliams            Thomas brogden
  Humfry plumley                 • Willelmus wylson
  Iohannes wheler                 • Thomas Godwin
  William Tyler                     • Phillipus grene
  Iohannes shaxpeare             Iohannes smythe
  Robertus salisburie                Ricardus Court
• Johannes sadler
  Nicholaus barnehurst

Item yt ys ordened that euery alderman shall paye weekely
towardes the relief of the poore iiijd savinge mr John shaxpeare
and mr Robert bratt who shall not be taxed to paye any thinge.
mr lewes and mr plumley are taxed to paye weekely eyther of
them iijd a pece and euery burgeses are taxed weekely
at ijd a pece 

Item ys ordened at this hall that euery alderman and burgeses
that hathe made default not Comminge to this Hall accordinge
to the order shall paye their amerciament

Almes people Richard morden
                       margerie younge
These persons must be expell out of
the almes howses ij younge maydeins
before the feast of thannunciacion of our
lady next or els to lose their
places in the Almes howses

Written by Robert Bearman