The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0545  Thursday, 29 October 2009

From:       David Kathman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Thursday, 29 Oct 2009 00:54:48 -0500
Subject: 20.0536 Gibert Shakespeare
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0536 Gibert Shakespeare

William Sutton wrote:

 >I have recently been searching for the truth behind this idea that
 >Shakespeare's brother Gilbert was a haberdasher. My next step is to
 >try and verify from the early records of the Haberdasher's company.
 >Now Halliwell-Phillips searched the Coram Rege rolls of 1597 and
 >found a reference to Gilbert standing bail for a clockmaker of
 >Stratford, describing him as a haberdasher in St Bride's parish,
 >Then I read CC Stopes Shakespeare's Family who claimed that
 >Halliwell Phillips had erred and read Gilbert Shepherd's name in
 >place of Gilbert Shakespeare Stopes searched the Haberdasher Company
 >records and registers in St Bridget's and St Bride's as well as the
 >subsidy rolls. Then I find in Schoenbaum that Stopes is in error and
 >not a very good archivist and that a record does exist! Only he
 >gives no footnote or source for it.
 >The Worshipful haberdasher company's archivist informs me that the
 >early records covering Bindings are incomplete (possibly due to the
 >great fire in 1666) eg bindings for the period aug 1596-nov 1602 are
 >missing. and in the case of the freedom registers these have
 >complete (less detailed) records, but its index is unreliable.

I'm pretty familiar with the records of the various livery companies in 
the Guildhall Library, and have spent a fair amount of time with the 
Haberdashers' records there. The freedom register the archivist 
mentioned to you is Guildhall Library MS 15857/1, and covers the years 
1526 to 1642. It was apparently compiled from another source, now lost. 
It is a chronological list of the men who became freemen of the 
Haberdashers during those years, with the date of each man's freedom and 
the name of his master (if he became free by apprenticeship). In  the 
front there is an index that lists all the men alphabetically by  first 
name (not last name), and chronologically within each first name. I 
looked for Gilbert Shakespeare in there a few years ago and didn't find 
him. However, that index is far from perfect -- in at  least one case 
I'm aware of, it includes the name of someone who is not included in the 
chronological list of freemen, and I'm fairly certain that not all the 
names in the chronological list are in the index. The earliest surviving 
volume of apprentice bindings (Guildhall Library 15860/1) starts in 
1583, and is not indexed at  all. A few years ago, I spent a few hours 
looking through all the apprentice bindings from 1583 and 1584; I was 
mainly looking for apprentices bound by Richard Tarlton, but I was also 
keeping an eye out for Gilbert Shakespeare, and didn't find his name. If 
you really  wanted to, you could look through those apprentice bindings 
for Gilbert Shakespeare's name (as a master), but it would be a long 
slog. The surviving Minutes of the Haberdashers' Court of Assistants 
also survive from 1583, the earliest volume being Guildhall Library MS 
15842/1; it is also not indexed, so you would need to read through it 
looking for Gilbert's name. Guildhall Library MS 15868 contains the 
Haberdashers' yeomanry wardens' accounts from 1601 to 1661, which 
includes the last 11 years of Gilbert's life, but I haven't looked at 
that and don't know how extensive it is.

Dave Kathman
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