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Council Book A 1555-1594
September 27,
1564

BRU2/1 page 5

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BRU2/1 page 5
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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Document-specific information
Title:  Council Book A 1555-1594
Date: September 27, 1564
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU2/1 p. 5

Item Title
Council Book A 1555-1594
Item Date
September 27, 1564
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Call Number
BRU2/1 p.5

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:  Council Book A 1555-1594
Date: September 27, 1564
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU2/1 p. 5

On September 27, 1564, John Shakespeare was one of ten capital burgesses included in a list of those witnessing an order. The order arose out of difficulties over the election of bailiff for the following twelve months, to some extent the result of an outbreak of plague earlier in the year. 

On July 7, 1564, when William Shakespeare was a little over ten weeks old, plague broke out in Stratford. It was most deadly in September, but it was not until February the following year that the worst was over. On August 30, to reduce the chances of infection, the Corporation met in the Chapel garden (Minutes and Accounts, i, p. 130). Only 14 (of the 28) members attended the next meeting held on September 6, and 15 on September 20 (Minutes and Accounts, i, pp. 131–2).

This poor attendance caused particular difficulty with the election of new officers. Elections usually took place at a major Corporation meeting in September which in 1564, fell on September 6, when only 14 members were present. Nevertheless, they elected John Wheeler, who was absent, to be bailiff for the coming year (Minutes and Accounts, i, p. 131).

However, by the time of the next poorly-attended meeting on September 20 (Minutes and Accounts, i, p. 132), news had reached the Corporation that Wheeler (still absent) was unwilling to serve. This led to another poorly-attended meeting, on September 27 (Minutes and Accounts, i, pp. 132–3) which resulted in the order shown here.

This order instructed Wheeler to attend a Corporation meeting on September 29 to discuss his election, and to take the bailiff’s oath at a further meeting on October 4. There is no record that either of these meetings took place. However, at the following meeting on October 20, Richard Hill was sworn in as bailiff instead, and Wheeler excused the fines he had incurred for his non-attendance since September 6 (Minutes and Accounts, i, pp. 134–5).

The account of the Corporation meeting held of September 27 was entered on page 371 of the Corporation’s order book in its correct chronological sequence. However, the order shown here, issued as the result of the same meeting, was separately entered on page 5 of the Corporation’s order book and has some puzzling features. The account of the meeting on page 371 records only 16 members of the Corporation as present, but 19 members signed the order on page 5. Moreover, the signed order omits one member who had been listed as present, thus creating a discrepancy of four. Whether this was the result of poor record keeping or of soliciting of support after the event is unclear.

The right-hand column of the order shown here lists the capital burgesses present when the order was signed. All the capital burgesses simply made marks, except William Brace who signed at the top. In the left-hand column five out of 10 aldermen added personal signatures, with Lewis ap Williams adding his sophisticated “church gable” mark.

Interest naturally focuses on the mark of John Shakespeare, who is the second capital burgess listed. The mark to the left of his name, resembling a letter “A,” was probably the “Sign manuell” of George Whateley, bailiff, whose name tops the left-hand column. If the mark below the “A” was Thomas Dixon’s, then the “glover’s compasses” to the right of Dixon’s name could have been added by John Shakespeare whose name occurs in the line above. 

Semi-diplomatic transcription

[BRU 2/1, p. 5]

xxvijmo Die Septembris Anno Regni Elizabethe Regine Sexto

Hit is this daye ordered by the baliff and hed Alderman with the
rest of the Aldermen and Burgeses of the sayd Boroughe
of Stretford apon Avon that fforasmuche as Iohn Wheler one of
the Aldermen of the sayd Boroughe is orderly elected and by the
Right honorable the Erle of Warwike prycked to be baliff of the said
Boroughe for one hole yere foloing after the taking of his othe according
to the charter and libertie in that behalff to the sayd borough
graunted That he the sayd Iohn shall personally appere
at the sayd Boroughe in the Comen Halle there apon
ffrydaye next ensuing being the xxixth of this present September
by ix of the cloke the same morning there to conferr and
consider with the reste of the maysters and bretheren of the said
Boroughe vpon suche matters as be mete for the seruece of the
Quenes maiestie and the Comen welthe of the sayd Boroughe
touching thoffece of the Baliff vnder the payne of xxli to
be levyed to thuse of the chamber of the sayd Boroughe
to thende the said Boroughe be not dysapointed of an Officer.
And ffurther hit is this day ordered by
Aucthoryte afforesaid that the said Iohn shall personally apere
at the same place apon Wedensday the iiijth daye of October
next comming by ix of the cloke of the same daye in the morning
for the further taking of his othe apon the holy evangelist
for the due obseruacion of the sayd Office vnder the payne
of xli to thuse of the said chamber.

the Sign manuell of

George Wheteley high Baliff  [by mark]                                   Wylliam brace
Roger Sadler hede alderman [by mark]                                  Ihon shacksper [by mark]
Wylliam smythe                                                                         Thomas dyxon [by mark]
lewes ap William [by mark]                                                       Ihon lewes [by mark]
Adryan quynee  [by mark]                                                         William tyler [by mark]
vmfrey plymley                                                                          Ihon Tayler [by mark]
Wylliam Bott                                                                              Ihon belle [by mark]
Rychard Hylle                                                                            Ihon Sadler [by mark]
Wylliam Smythe                                                                        Thomas Dyer [by mark]
Ravff cavdre [by mark]                                                                                                 

Written by Robert Bearman