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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.
This precept, issued by John Shakespeare in his capacity as justice of the peace, concerned William Shotteswell's suit against Richard Walker for a debt of £10. It should have been preceded by an initial hearing, but of this there is no surviving record.
Following his election as bailiff in 1568, John Shakespeare presided over meetings of the Corporation, although minutes were only properly kept for two – on October 1, 1568 and April 20, 1569 (Minutes and Accounts, ii, pp. 13-14, 24-5).
Joan, John and Mary Shakespeare’s fifth child, was baptized on April 15, 1569, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. It was a normal practice at the time to use the name of a deceased child for later offspring.
Under Stratford’s 1553 charter of incorporation, the Corporation elected annually a chief alderman to serve as a justice of the peace. He assisted the bailiff in the execution of his office, particularly at sessions of the court of record.