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The name of Shakspeare, or Shake-speare, for so, without doubt, it was originally written, were we to .
thus denominated. Our ancestors were always extremely fond of abbreviations (vocabula truncata), and seem to have had a peculiar aversion to the letter r, which they very frequently omitted, by placing a line or stroke over the word as a mark of the abbreviation. Arderne being generally thus written [Ardene], the was at length wholly omitted in writing and speaking. The successive representatives of the family of Arden, however, according to the capricious modes of ancient spelling, were by no means uniform in writing their names : some exhibiting it in one way, some in another. In Leland's time, the name, we find, had acquired the softer sound which we now give it: indeed, a century before, if Fuller is correct, Robert Arden (not Ardern), Esq. of Bromwick, was returned in the list of the gentry of this county by the commissioners appointed for that purpose in the twelfth year of King Henry VI. A. D. 1433.
Many other names have undergone a similar change. Thus the name of Nangle, in process of time became Nagle ; Grenville, became Greville ; the word Nursery, became Nurs'ey, &c.
4 Usually pronounced Wincot. So, Mr. William Clapton, in his will, made May 9, 1521, devises Clapton and Wyncote to his executors till they shall have received 200 marks, as a marriage portion for Elizabeth his daughter.
This village was formerly more considerable than it is at present, having had a church, as appears by the Register of the Guild of the Holy Cross at Stratford. “ Raphe Couper, rector of the church at littell Wilmicote, was admitted into the brotherhood of the Gild, Ano. Dni. 1408, x Henry iiii.” fol. iii. b.
The tithes of this rectory do not appear to have belonged to the Guild of the Holy Cross in the 22d year of Henry VIII. (1530); not being mentioned in the Rent-Roll of the Guild for that year, now among the archives of Stratford; but in the 37th of Henry VIII. according to a survey then made (Dugdale's Antiq. of Warw. p. 485), “ the lands and tenements of the Guild, with the tithes of Wylmyncote, certified to belong thereto, were valued at 501. 23d. ob. per ann." In a Rent-Roll,
pu do not apygd year of
regard etymology, might lead us to suppose that the founder of this family, in the tenth or eleventh century, before surnames became common, had, like Longue-espee, or Longsword, Earl of Salisbury 6, distinguished himself by military achievements, and thence obtained this designation ; but I know not that the history of other families of kindred denomination, of the family of Spearepoint, in Stratford, or of Nicholas Breakspeare, better known by the title of Pope Adrian the Fourth, whose names denote a similar origin, would warrant such an hypothesis. It is, however, a very probable conjecture, and countenanced by a learned antiquary, who was contempo
Ed. VI. , I find the tithes of Wilmecote were then let at 20s. per. ann., and the total revenue of the guild was 491. 18s. 8 d.
s Agnes Webbe was a native of Bearley, a village about three miles from Wilmecote. In the proceedings of a court leet held at Stratford in April, 1558, I find the following entry: “ Raf Cawdrey for making a fray upon Alexander Web of Bereley, he stands amerced siid"
From the will of Mrs. Arden, of which a more particular account will be given hereafter, it appears that she was sister to Alexander Webbe. She survived her husband twenty-four years, as appears from the register of the parish of Aston Cantlow, in which, among the burials, is found " 1580 The xxixth daye of Dec. was buried Agnes Arden, wyddow." Christopher Arden was buried there August 8, 1581 ; and Elizabeth Arden March 29, 1588 : but I know not in what degree of relationship they stood to our poet's grandfather.
6 William, Earl of Salisbury, a natural son of Henry II. by fair Rosamond, if we may believe the metrical romance of Richard Cour de Lion, acquired the title of Longue-espee, in consequence of his gallant exploits at the siege of Messina, under our Richard the First, when he was on his way to the Holy Land.
rary with our author'. His townsmen, indeed, appear to have paid no attention to the etymology of his name; but very soon after he became known to the literary world, its heroick and martial sound was recognized and alluded to in some encomiastick verses, of which even our poet had reason to be proud.
Whatever may have been the origin of the name, the family of Shakspeare is of great antiquity in the county of Warwick, and was established long before our poet's time, in the woodland part of it, principally at Rowington and Lapworth"; from which
7 " Breakspear, Shakspear, and the lyke, have byn surnames imposed upon the first bearers of them, for valour and feates of armes." Verstegan's Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 4to, 1605, p. 294. See also Camden's Remaines, 4to. 1605, p. 111.
Nicolas Breakspeare, as well as our poet, bore arms which have a reference to his name; a broken lance, &c. See his arms accurately described in the Notes on N. Upton's treatise De Militari Studio, p. 46.
• No information concerning the Shakspeares of Rowington during the fifteenth century, at which period, and probably long before, they flourished there, can be obtained from the register of that parish, the earliest register being lost, and the oldest book now extant commencing in 1639. But other documents fully ascertain what is stated in the text.
"Willm. Wethyford of the parish of Rownton in the county of Warwick," made his will 31st March, 1564 ; and it was proved at Worcester, on the 25th of Feb. 1574. An inventory of his effects is annexed with the following title:
"This is the Inventorye of all and singular the goodes and cattel of Willm Wethyford of Rownton, latelye deceased, praysed by Jhon Benett, Rich“. Shakspere, Willi. Ley & Thomas Ley, the xiii day of September, 1564.” Bundle of Wills, sub an. 1574, in the Consistory Office at Worcester.
From the will of John Shaxpere of Rowington, made the 26th of June, 1574, it appears that he had two sons, and one
places several of them branched out, and settled at Wroxall ’, Knowle?, Claverdon", Warwick “, Balsal, Stratford, Hampton ", and Snitterfield.
daughter. To his son Thomas he bequeathed twenty pounds ; to his son George, his " freeland called Madge Wattons ;" to his daughter Annis, fifteen marks, to be paid on the day of her marriage. The testator mentions a brother of the name of Nicholas. That part of the paper which contained an account of the probate, being torn off, and wanting, I know not when he died. Bundle of Wills, sub an. 1574, ut supra.
George, the younger son of the above-mentioned John, died in 1628; and by his will, made Jan. 30, 1627 , devised to his son Thomas, Madge Wattons, adjoining to Schrewle heath, in the parish of Hatton, and after the death of his wife his copyhold in Rowington. Bundle of Wills in 1627, ut supra.
Richard Shaxsper, the elder, of Rowington, probably the person mentioned in the inventory annexed to the will of William Withyford, in 1564, made his will, Sept. 6. 1591. He had four sons ; John, Roger, Thomas, and William. John was then married, and had three sons born, of which the eldest was Thomas. Richard Shaxper died between Sept. 1591, and March 31, 1592: his will having been proved on that day. Bundle of Wills, sub an. 1592, ut supra.
From the Court Rolls of the manor of Rowington (from which I have been obligingly furnished with an extract by Mr. John Payne, of Coventry, Attorney at Law), it appears that John Shakspeare, the eldest son of Richard above-mentioned, died in 1609; and that Thomas Shakspeare was admitted to the Hill Farm as his son and heir. This Thomas, from his will, which was made in 1614, appears to have been a mealman, or baker, and lived at Mouseley End, in Rowington. May 5, 1614, his widow was admitted in the Court Baron to her free-bench, and afterwards surrendered to her son John, who was then admitted accordingly. He died in Feb. 1652-3, leaving two sons, William, who died in 1690, and John, who died in 1710.
Another Richard Sharper of Rowington, who is likewise styled the elder, died in April, 1614. His sons, as appears from his will, were William, Richard, Thomas, and John. Richard, the younger, had four sons then living, all minors; and William had
Our poet's family, says Mr. Rowe, “ as appears by the register and publick writings of Stratford, were of
one son, named John, likewise a minor. Bundle of Wills, sub an. 1614, ut supra. Richard the elder having surrendered a messuage in Turner's End, or Church End, Rowington, to the use of his youngest son John (who was a weaver), after the death of himself and his wife Elizabeth, the eldest son, William, contested this disposition. From a bill filed by John against William, in May, 1616, and the answer of William in the same year, it appears that the copyhold and tenement above-mentioned had been possessed by the father for fifty years. In Tur. Londin. Record Office, S. xiv. 57.
In May, 1595, a bill was filed by Thomas Shackspeare, of Row. ington, yeoman, and Mary his wife, daughter and heir of William Mathew, deceased, against William Rogers. This Thomas claimed, in right of his wife, “a messuage and tenement with the appurtenances in Rowington and Claredon, and of certain lands in Hatton Schrewle, Rowington, and Pinley." This bill contains nothing else worth notice; and is only mentioned here, as ascertaining the existence of such a person. In Tur. Lond. Record Office, Ss. xi. 32.
Various branches of the family of Shakspeare continued at Rowington, during the last and present century. The only person, as I have been informed, now remaining in that parish of the name of Shakspeare, is a person who keeps a publick house at a place called Pinley Green, the son of Thomas Shakspeare, blacksmith, who died in 1785. The Hill Farm, however, above-mentioned, which descended from Richard Shakspeare who died in 1592, was possessed by the late Mr. William Shakspeare, of Knowle Hall, who died in August, 1762, at the age of seventy-five, and, as I learn from Mr. John Payne, of Coventry, attorney-atlaw, is now the property of Mr. John Edward Yarrow, the fifth in descent from Mary Shakspeare, grand-daughter of John Shakspeare, who, as we have already seen, died in 1609.
9 It appears from the register of Lapworth, that William Hart and Alice Shakspeare were married there, October 15, 1564. We shall presently see that our poet's sister, Joan Shakspeare, married a William Hart, at Stratford, in or before 1599, who might have