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Stratford-upon-Avon Borough: Court of Record: Proceedings
June 2,
1557

BRU12/1: (i), folio 22 verso

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BRU12/1: (i), folio 22 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: Court of Record: Proceedings
Date: June 2, 1557
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU 12/1: (i), fol. 22v-23r

Item Title
Stratford-upon-Avon Borough: Court of Record: Proceedings
Item Date
June 2, 1557
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU12/1: (i), fol. 22v

BRU12/1: (i), folio 22 verso detail

View Image Assets
BRU12/1: (i), folio 22 verso detail
Click image to enlarge

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: Court of Record: Proceedings
Date: June 2, 1557
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU 12/1: (i), fol. 22v-23r

Item Title
Stratford-upon-Avon Borough: Court of Record: Proceedings
Item Date
June 2, 1557
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU12/1: (i), fol. 22v

BRU12/1: (i), folio 23 recto

View Image Assets
BRU12/1: (i), folio 23 recto
Click image to enlarge

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: Court of Record: Proceedings
Date: June 2, 1557
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU 12/1: (i), fol. 22v-23r

Item Title
Stratford-upon-Avon Borough: Court of Record: Proceedings
Item Date
June 2, 1557
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU12/1: (i), fol. 23r

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: Court of Record: Proceedings
Date: June 2, 1557
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU 12/1: (i), fol. 22v-23r

In the autumn of each year, at Stratford’s court leet – originally a manorial court with delegated authority in minor criminal matters – officials were elected to assist the bailiff in the governance of the town. These officials included two tasters, whose principal duty was to ensure that bread and ale were sold at the official weights, volumes and prices as defined by statute – the assize of bread and ale – and to present at the local court those who had infringed the regulations. John Shakespeare was appointed as taster around October 1556, the first local government position he held.

The elections at the autumn meeting of the court leet in October 1556 are not recorded but John must have been chosen one of tasters then as, at a meeting of the court of record held on June 2, 1557 he was fined 8 pence for his failure to attend the previous three sessions of the court. The entry, shown here in images 1 and 2, the last on the page, reads in translation from the Latin: “From John Shakysper one of the tasters of ale of the said borough because he has not come for the performance of his office for three courts. Therefore he is fined.” His fine, 8 pence (“viiid”) is added in the left margin. Beside this is the monogram “IS,” for James Saunders, an early nineteenth-century Stratford antiquary who appears to have discovered the entry. Overleaf, shown in image 3, is a note of the last case heard on that day followed by the opening proceedings of the court held a fortnight later on June 16.

The court of record, inaugurated under the town’s 1553 charter of incorporation, sat fortnightly (every two weeks) to deal with civil actions to the value of £30. The first nine cases heard on June 2, 1557 had been carried over from the previous sitting of the court but the remainder were new ones, beginning, with a claim made by Isabel Robins, about half way down the page. Four of the subsequent cases exhibit why the tasters’ presence would have been desirable: John Cartwright, Roger Sadler, Richard Ange, and Henry Sydnall were each fined 12 pence for selling underweight white loaves. However, it was soon decided that cases of this sort did not fall within the jurisdiction of a civil court, and were thereafter heard only in the twice-yearly court leet.

The men chosen to serve the borough in the minor role of taster were usually recruited from young tradesmen in the town who were thought might serve in due course as one of the town’s twenty-eight-man governing body, made up of fourteen Aldermen supported by fourteen Capital Burgesses. Despite his absence from the May-June courts, John Shakespeare must have been thought generally reliable as, in September 1558 he was elected to serve the borough in the more important office of constable, by which time he may already have been elected a Capital Burgess.

Written by Robert Bearman

Last updated February 16, 2017