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Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
1558-
1776

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Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

DR243/1, front binding, edge detail

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Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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Document-specific information
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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Document-specific information
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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Document-specific information
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

DR243/1, front binding, lower right edge detail

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Document-specific information
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

DR243/1, rear binding

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

Parish Register, rear binding, upper detail

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

Parish Register, rear binding, middle detail

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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

DR243/1, rear binding, upper left corner detail

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

DR243/1, rear binding, lower left corner detail

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DR243/1, rear binding, lower left corner detail
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 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, commerical 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
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1

The parish register for Holy Trinity Church contains five references to William Shakespeare. It records Shakespeare's baptism on April 26, 1564; his daughter Susanna's baptism on May 26, 1583; the baptisms of his twins Hamnet and Judith on February 2, 1585; Hamnet’s burial on August 11, 1596; and Shakespeare’s own burial on April 25, 1616. The register also contains 19 additional references to Shakespeare's family. Each of these entries is described individually in Shakespeare Documented.

The practice of keeping parish registers began in September 1538, when Thomas Cromwell issued an injunction ordering all parish priests to “keep one book or register, wherein ye shall write the day and year of every wedding, christening, and burying, made within your parish for your time” (Cromwell’s Injunctions to the Clergy, 5 September 1538, The National Archives, SP 6/3, fol.1). Entries were to be made by the parish priest every Sunday after service, and be witnessed by a churchwarden (lay church officials). The register was to be stored in a chest with two locks, with the parish priest keeping one key and the churchwardens keeping the other.

Most of the volumes created at this early date, many of them written on paper, no longer survive because of another mandate issued in 1598. This additional mandate stated that entries from early registers, dating from at least the beginning of Elizabeth's reign in November 1558, should be copied into more sturdy parchment books, which would then contain all future entries as well. Additionally, the 1598 mandate required a third lock on the chest (see Church of England, Constitutions and Canons. 1597, STC 10066, fol. C3, signed into law by Elizabeth I in January 1598). The parish priest was to send a copy of the previous year’s entries to the Bishop of the diocese—in Stratford's case, the bishop of Worcester. These were called Bishop’s Transcripts. We do not have Bishop's Transcripts for Shakespeare's baptims or burial, his children's baptisms, or Hamnet's burial because the only surviving transcripts for Stratford before 1620 are for the years 1608–9 and 1612–13. After that, a fairly complete set is extant, including, among the burials for 1623, "Ann Shakespeare," Shakespeare's wife. This is more specific than the "Mrs. Shakespeare" written in the parish register at the time of her burial.

In accordance with the regulations requiring parchment books, Stratford's parish authorities purchased a new register and copied in all entries prior to September 16, 1600, including the first four references to Shakespeare and his children. This 66-page section of copied entries is in the same neat hand and attested as a correct record by the vicar, Richard Bifield, and the four churchwardens who oversaw the operation. After that point, new entries were added by parish officials, officially on a weekly basis, but in practice probably less regularly. The entries continue to 1776, with a gap between 1653 and 1687, when a second register was in use. During this period, starting under Cromwell, the responsibility for entering christenings and burials was given to elected officials rather than to parish priests. These elected officials kept their records in a different book. This second register remained in use after the restoration of Charles II in 1660, until the last page was filled in 1687. At this point, entries resumed in the first register.

In 1708, actor Thomas Betterton was the first to consult the parish register for details about Shakespeare as part of the research for Nicholas Rowe’s prefatory biography of Shakespeare for The Works of Shakspear (1709). In 1769, the vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Stephen Nason, copied out the Shakespeare entries in the register and sent them to actor David Garrick, who was organizing a jubilee celebration of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. These notes, somewhat inaccurate, also found their way to the Shakespearean scholar George Steevens, via a local headmaster, Joseph Greene, and the antiquarian James West. Steevens included the information in his edition of Shakespeare’s works (1773).

In 1788, the vicar James Davenport sent both registers, the 1600 one and the Cromwell-era one,  to the Shakespearean scholar Edmond Malone in London, for his research for a never-published Shakespeare biography. Malone had them partially rebound, “vamping them up” with “Russian backs," and returned them within two months, in late June 1788. In the nineteenth century, the register with the Shakespeare entries was shown frequently to tourists, and in 1844, it was rebacked again by the parish clerk, printer and bookbinder Thomas Kite. In the mid-1880s, the registers were put in a permanent display case in Stratford, and the prolonged exposure to light caused significant fading. Still the property of Holy Trinity Church, they have been on deposit at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust since 1966.

Remnants of the original binding are still visible, including the original brown tooled leather over boards with brass corner-pieces decorated with the Tudor rose, and remnants of brass clasps, as shown above. The front cover has inscriptions on the three front panels that read "Stratforde-vpon-Avon 400 leaues," "1600" and "R. Elizabeth 42." One of the panels on the back has a Tudor rose traced in ink, with "Stratford 1600" written inside of it. 

The parish register measures 17 1/2 inches long by 7 1/2 inches wide, and is three inches thick. The text takes up 331 leaves plus two partial leaves and three blank leaves. It includes three sections: baptisms from March 1558 to June 1776; burials from March 1558 to November 1776; and marriages from April 1558 to March 1754 (all with a gap between ca. 1652–53 and 1686, when another register was used). 

Sources consulted:

personal communication, Bob Bearman

personal communication, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: a documentary life. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975)

Robert Bearman,  Shakespeare in the Stratford records (Stratford-upon-Avon : Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 1994).

Richard Savage, published transcript

B. Roland Lewis, The Shakespeare Documents: Facsimiles, Transliterations, Translations and Commentary, vol. 1 (Stanford University, California: Stanford University Press, 1940).

Last updated August 15, 2016