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A precept of John Shakspeyr, one of the justices of the peace and bailiff of Stratford, to the serjeants at mace, to take John Ball to answer to the suit of Richard Dicson in a plea of debt, 4 December, 11 Elizabeth
December 4,
1568

BRU15/1/96

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BRU15/1/96
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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
Date: December 4, 1568
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/1/96

Item Date
December 4, 1568
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/1/96

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
Date: December 4, 1568
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/1/96

Stratford-upon-Avon's 1553 charter of incorporation stipulated that the bailiff, acting as justice of the peace, would preside over a court of record held fortnightly (every two weeks), which would handle civil claims of up to £30. The Corporation also elected a “head” or “chief” alderman as a fellow justice, who sat alongside the bailiff at these court of record sessions.

After John Shakespeare was sworn in as bailiff on October 1, he presided over the court of record held on October 6, assisted by the newly-elected chief alderman, John Wheeler (Minutes and Accounts, ii, p. 15). The court register records another court session on October 20 (Minutes and Accounts, ii, pp. 16–17), but for the rest of John Shakespeare’s year as bailiff there is little to suggest that sessions continued on a fortnightly basis. The next recorded court meeting is on December 15 (Minutes and Accounts, ii, pp. 18–19). Indeed, the register records only ten more sessions during John’s tenure as bailiff, and most records of the proceedings, especially between April and June, are very sparse.

The precept shown here was issued in John Shakespeare’s name on December 4, indicating that there may have been informal hearings before the next recorded court session of December 15. This precept requires John Ball to appear at the next court to answer to a plea of debt brought against him by Richard Dixon. The court record of December 15 shows three pleas – of a debt of 20s, of appearance, and of withholding – indicating that proceedings were already well underway. 

This precept records that Dixon had named Philip Rowe as his surety so that the action could be pursued. Rowe is an otherwise unidentified figure and may be an error for “Richard Roe,” a pseudonym routinely cited in legal proceedings, often alongside “John Doe,” as fictional but necessary parties required by legal technicalities. Ball's sureties are identified as Thomas Dyer and Ralph Downes. The writ, addressed to the sergeants-at-mace (officials responsible for executing the court’s orders), was signed by the lawyer Henry Higford, who had been serving as steward since 1565. The outcome of the case was not precisely recorded, but at the next court, held on January 26, 1569, sergeant-at-mace Henry Russell was instructed to bring the three pleas to a further hearing (Minutes and Accounts, ii, p. 23). However, a marginal note indicates that the matter was settled out of court before the next hearing took place. 

 

Written by Robert Bearman

Last updated May 2, 2016