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Notes from

Shakespeare's Haunts near Stratford

by E I Fripp

  • George Hathaway,....alias Gardner, copyholder under lord of manor with one Hobbins, of a farm in Shottery - in tenure of Hobbins in 1556......may have been a brother of Richard Hathaway the father of Shakespeare's wife.
  • By this time the Hathaway-Hobbins farm had passed (before 1590) to John Earle.


  • Thomas Shakespeare, shoemaker of Warwick, had land in Balsall, and may have been grandson of Thomas of Balsall, admitted to the Gild of Knowle in 1486 and dead in 1511. We find him with the poet's father on the jury of inquisition of Master Badger at Warwick in 1572.
  • He made his will on 20 May 1573, leaving his business to his eldest son, William Shakespeare - who was drowned bathing in the Avon on 6 July 1579 (when his namesake at Stratford was in his sixteenth year). His second son, Thomas, prospered as a butcher in Warwick. The third son, John, succeeded his brother as a shoemaker, removed after his wife's death to Stratford then took for his second wife the widow of Thomas Roberts, of Bridge Street, corviser, and inherited his business in 1584; made some mark in the town, and was known as 'John Shakespeare corviser' and 'junior' to distinguish him from Master Shakespeare, alderman and glover, had children by a third wife, and about 1594 returned to Warwick, where he died in 1624.
  • John and Thomas Green of Warwick were cousins, both 'Master Green,' the one host of the Crown Inn, with apparently a brother, Thomas Green alias Shakespeare, who died at Stratford in 1590; the other a mercer in the High Pavement, near the Crown, with a brother John at Tanworth, and two sons Thomas and John, who became lawyers, and resided at Stratford, the former for some years with his cousin the Poet at New Place.

[Page 68-69]

  • Rowington Shakespeares were connected with Wroxall and Knowle. John Shakespeare, a tenant of the Prioress Isabella, and probably a relative of the Bailiff Richard, lived at the Hill in Rowington in 1523, when he was assessed on 7 goods, and died before 1530, when his widow Eleanor married one Cox. She was his second wife, by whom he left a son, Anthony. By his first wife he left a son, John, yeoman, and a son, Richard, weaver. The brothers John and Richard, and their half brother Anthony, interest us through their children.
  • John, yeoman, who died in 1546, left a son, John, whom we will call John Shakespeare the third of Rowington, and a son (by a second wife) Thomas, who was a weaver. Richard, weaver, who died in 1561, by his wife Alice, a sister of John Reeve, left a son, Richard, who was a weaver. These three Shakespeares were stalwarts in the battle with landlordism, which in Rowington was a battle also with 'popery.'
  • Master William Skinner, son of Anthony Skinner, esquire, of Shelfield Lodge and Park, married the daughter of the wealthy John Oldenhall, gentleman, holder under the Crown of Rowington manor and park, and by inheritance and purchase he acquired the lordship.

[Page 71]

  • Champions of the Parishioners were John and Thomas Shakespeare with their kinsmen John Reeve.....
  • .....One of those 'men impanneled' at Warwick, at Easter 1569, was John Shakespeare, the Poet's father, Bailiff and Chief Magistrate of Stratford....

[Page 74]

  • John Shakespeare had died in 1574, but his half-brother and fellow in successful resistance to Squire Skinner was living in 1587 and known as 'old Thomas Shakespeare' to distinguish him from John's son, of whom we shall hear directly. Richard the weaver and churchwarden was the son of Richard, weaver, above, and nephew of the successful defendant at Warwick in 1569, John Reeve.

[Page 75]

  • Richard Shakespeare the weaver lived at Lea Tyings by the Bridge (towards the cost of which, 41s., in 1553 his father contributed 3s. 4d.) among his looms and spinning wheels, with half a virgate to cultivate and 'two parcels of meadow.' He wrote a good hand, witnessed his fathers will in 1560, and made his own in 1591.

[Page 78]

  • Thomas Shakespeare lived at 'the Hill' in Mousley End, the home of his father, was a freeholder of 'Harveys' and 'Lions', had 'six persons to keep and six quarter of oats to spare' in 1595, and a larger household before his death in 1614 (when he left goods and chattels to the value of 89), including his wife Annes, three daughters and three sons with the ever-recurring names of the Shakespeare clan, John, Thomas, Richard.


[Page 88-93]

As a link between Snitterfield and Stratford, and probably between Richard Shakespeare's farm and John Shakespeare's shop, the Townsends call for notice.

John Townsend was a freeholder, known to Master Robert Arden. He witnessed the release of John Palmer's tenement, adjoining Richard Shakespeare's farm, to Master Arden on 1 October 1529. In his will, of 10 October 1546, he bequeathed his freehold to his wife, Margaret, for life and to dispose of at her death as she thought best. He expressed the wish that she and their son Thomas should occupy two parts of the farm jointly, and their younger son William should occupy the third part. Among the three he distributed his corn and crop, beasts, horses, carts, and other things, reserving a cow for his daughter Joan, and a 'nose-calf' for her son. Joan was Mistress Dickson alias Waterman, and her son was Thomas, who succeeded his father as host of the Swan. Another daughter, Mary, was married to John Staunton of Longbridge, near Warwick, and had a son, Thomas Staunton, whose five daughters by marriage formed an influential family connexion. Katharine was the wife of Barnaby Holbage of the Swan in Warwick, supporter of Job Throgmorton; Elizabeth of Edward Badger of Bidford Mills, whom we have seen before; and Judith of William Shakespeare's friend, Hamnet Sadler. After Judith and Hamnet Sadler, the Poet named his twin children on Candlemas Day 1585.

Widow Townsend survived her husband some twelve years. With her sons, of whom Thomas married and had a son, Thomas, she lived on the farm, taking an active share in the work. We see her in her 'old coat' on week-days, with her head in a kerchief, among her bees and milk-pails, grinding malt for her household ale, making cheese, and busy in the kitchen, aided by a kinswoman, Alice Townsend, who after her death, we gather, married her younger son, William. Thomas ploughed with his team of oxen and followed the 'ox-harrow with seventeen tines' - teeth - 'of iron' in it. On Sunday Widow Townsend went to church, where her husband was buried, in a hat or cap, wearing her beads and a silver ring, in a gown of velvet, a black kirtle, and a red petticoat 'over-bodied with red russels', or fox-skins, and a 'harnessed girdle of silver'. She died about the time of Queen Mary's decease and the accession of Elizabeth (17 November 1558), making her will on 1 June 1558, four months before the inventory of her goods on 10 October by Thomas Palmer, Thomas Mayowe, and Master Bott. She bequeathed the freehold to Thomas, with 'all the wood lying against the elms at the chamber-end', and a cow, and a few household things; and all the rest of her possessions, save a few personal gifts, she left to William. Mistress Dickson obtained her mother's cap; Thomas's wife the 'harnessed girdle of silver' and the rest of the Sunday garments; a god-daughter, Margaret Phillips of Chapel Street, Stratford (aunt in the future of Mistress Richard Quyney), the silver-ring; and Alice Townsend a cow, a pair of sheets, a 'twilly' (bed-covering), a caldron, two pewter dishes, a pair of tache-hooks, and two 'partlets'. Mary Staunton's children inherited a memorial groat apiece, and her husband was appointed supervisor of the testament. Thomas's right to seven gold pieces (two angels and five crowns), given to him one day by his mother 'in the barn', is acknowledged by William.

Through the Townsends John Shakespeare may have been apprenticed as a youth to a glover in Stratford, and one able to give him a good start in life - namely, Alderman Dickson, alias Waterman, of the Swan. A grandson of Widow Townsend, John Townsend, had Edward Cornwall as godfather of his son Edward in Snitterfield Church on Sunday, 13 July 1578, and Henry Shakespeare as godfather of his son Henry in the same place on Sunday, 4 September 1586. So the bonds of friendship continued.

Richard Shakespeare's grandfather, as we have seen, took the Lancastrian side in the Wars of the Roses and was rewarded by Henry VII, probably for services at the Battle of Bosworth (22 August 1485), with lands and tenements. He may have settled in Snitterfield from Balsall, as his probable cousins the Shakespeares settled thence in Warwick. There was a family of Shakespeares which settled in Snitterfield, and thence in Clifford Chambers, probably from Rowington. We have noted at Rowington the marriage of John Shakespeare's widow Eleanor with one Cox, and her surrender in 1530 of her farm, which she held jointly with her son Anthony. She may have removed to Snitterfield, where her husband would be William Cox of that village, and her son the father of Thomas, John, and Anthony Shakespeare and their sister Alice. Thomas Shakespeare paid 4 rent for his farm in Snitterfield, served on the Jury of Frankpledge in 1581 and 1583,1 and was defendant in a suit in the Court of Record at Stratford which lasted from September 1585 to March 1586. His surety in this case was William Wilson, glover, of Henley Street - fellow-
  1 ' Of Thomas Shackespere vid for not having and exercising bows and arrows according to the form of the statute; of Thomas Shackesper iiijd for not having and wearing caps on Sundays and holy days to the church according to the form of the statute.' The same day, 25 Oct., Henry Shakespeare of Ingon was fined viijd for the latter offence, viijd instead of iijd because he did not appear in court (Richard was on the Jury). See p. 61 f.  

craftsman and neighbour of Alderman John Shakespeare. His brother, John Shakespeare of Snitterfield (not to be confused with the Alderman nor the 'corviser' of Stratford), married a widow Hobbins of Clifford Chambers near Stratford, succeeded to her late husband's farm, and resided there until his death in 1610. His will throws light on his brothers and sister. He left money for a new bier for Clifford Church. His brother, Anthony Shakespeare, served as a billman under the Earl of Warwick against the Northern rebels in 1569. He lived at Budbroke (where he married) and elsewhere, had a daughter christened in Stratford Church by Vicar Heicroft in 1584, and survived his brother, John. Their sister Alice married Charles Mallory of Clifford Chambers in 1580 and died in 1612. With Clifford Chambers, therefore, the Poet had points of contact besides his friendship with Michael Drayton, who was frequently there as a visitor to Sir Henry Rainsford and his wife, the 'Fair Idea' of his sonnets, Anne, daughter to Sir Henry Goodyere of Polesworth.

Unfortunately we do not know the name of Richard Shakespeare's wife. She may have been a Porter of Snitterfield, a sister of Hugh Porter who occupied part of Master Arden's property adjoining Richard Shakespeare's 'messuage', and was a valued friend of Master Arden, being made a trustee by him for his daughters in 1550. Hugh Porter owned lands at Snitterfield and Barford, which he bequeathed to his son-in-law and grandson, Richard and Porter Meads. There was friendship between the Shakespeares and the Meads.

Richard Shakespeare had two sons, John and Henry, and probably a daughter, Joan. John was born about 1529 or earlier, and presumably was baptized in Snitterfield Church. John Donne was vicar of Snitterfield from 1515 to 1541, and from him or his successor, Thomas Hargreave, 1541-1557, John Shakespeare may have acquired that modicum of learning which enabled him to become a successful man of business, a trusted and valued Chamberlain, Alderman, and Bailiff of Stratford, a keen litigant, and - father of a Poet.

We have more than a glimpse of Sir Thomas Hargreave and his parsonage. He farmed his glebe, with a kinswoman to keep house for him. In his 'hall' were a table, tressels, benches, an 'ambrey' or cupboard, and seven painted-cloths; the 'parlour', over the 'hall', contained bedding, linen, and a coffer (worth together 3 2s. 3d.); in the 'chambers' were six bedsteads. He had a mill-house, as well as a kitchen, a store of winnowed corn, and, growing in the field, 12 acres of wheat, 17 of rye and maslin, 8 of barley and 'dredge', 12 of oats, 19 of peas. We note 4 oxen (valued at 7), a little ambling nag (26s. 8d.), an old lame mare (5s.), a wain, a cart, 2 old tumbrels, 3 ploughs, one pair of harrows, and other things: summa totalis, 34 10s. 2d. He died at the end of Mary's reign, bequeathing his soul 'to God Almighty and our Blessed Lady, and all the Holy Company of Heaven', and his body to be 'buried in the Church of Snitterfield afore my seat in the chancel'. One of his executors was the new vicar of Wootton Wawen, Edward Alcock. In his will, of 27 April 1557, he made beqeuests to relatives, god-children, servants, and the poor 'where need is' (malt, peas, 'beef and bacon as much as there is in the house'). Richard Shakespeare and Richard Meads helped to make the inventory of his belongings on 5 May.

The Poet's grandfather, like his father, was active in public service. He witnessed the will of Henry Walker in August 1558, helped to make the inventory of Roger Lyncecombe in April, 1559, that of John Sambridge in May 1559, and that of Thomas Palmer in January 1560. Widow Arden let his farm in May 1560 to her brother, Alexander Webbe of Bearley, as from 25 March 1561. Apparently there was no intention of disturbing the old man or of immediate removal from Bearley, for in September 1560 Webbe leased from Adrian Quyney land in Bearley for 21 years, at the rent of 26s. 8d. Richard Shakespeare, however, died before the date of Webbe's tenure of his 'messuage'.

In the meantime he and William Bott and others appraised the goods of the Snitterfield blacksmith, Henry Cole, in June 1560 - a craftsman with a reputation beyond the parish for tuning of church-bells - as earlier he had done the same kindly service for Cole's daughter-in-law. Finally, he valued the belongings of his esteemed fellow-parishioner, Richard Meads, on 13 September 1560. Meads left nephews, one of whom, William, became the close friend of Alexander Webbe and his son (William Shakespeare's first cousin), Robert Webbe, at Snitterfield. Richard Shakespeare died in the winter 1560-1, and his goods, in their turn, were priced by old acquaintance at the not large nor mean sum of 38 17s. 0d. His son, John, exhibited the inventory and obtained letters of administration at Worcester on 10 February 1561. In the bond father and son are described as of Snitterfield, and John is termed agricola. John probably farmed land to the end of his days. He retained his interest in his father's holding long enough to be responsible for the condition of the hedges in October 1561. Alexander Webbe entered into possession. Henry Shakespeare, John's younger brother, had removed to a farm not far off, at Ingon, where John also rented land.