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Shakespeare's Warwickshire contemporaries online

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brother of the Guild of Knowle, 1469, and in 1504
Masses were said for his soul. His son was John,
whose son was Thomas, sheriff of the county. Thomas
married Joane, daughter and heir of William Walton,
and died on the 19th of February, 8 Henry VIII. (15 17).
This was the trustee for the purchase made by Robert
Arden of Wilmcote. His death partly fixes the period
at which Leland must have been in the county, for in
his "Itinerary," he says, "Mr. Trussell, an ancient
gentleman, dwelleth at Billesley, three miles from Strat-
ford." As his son William, who had married Cecilia
Curzon of Kettlestone, died before his father, this could
not refer to him, nor to his son, Alured or Avery, who
was four years old when he succeeded his grandfather
in 1 5 1 7. Alured married Margaret, daughter of Robert
Fulwood of Tamworth, co. Warwick, and had a large
family — John, his heir ; Edward, who went to London
and became a clothworker ; Thomas, Robert, and Henry.
There were also five daughters — Dorothy, who married
Adam Palmer, Robert Arden's friend and trustee; Mary,
who married John Gelsthorp ; Sisseley, Ursula, and

Thomas Trussell presented to the church of Billesley
in 1498, Alured in 1539, and John in 1574.

John married Mary Grimston, and had three sons —
Thomas, Henry, and George. (John, the son of Henry,
went to Winchester, became the Bishop's Steward there,
and wrote several historical works.) Thomas, called in
the "Visitation " "the Souldier," who married Margaret,
daughter of Edward Boughton of Causton, was for a

2 12 Shakespeare s fVarwicksbij'e Contemporaries

time in the army. He was the author of a little book,
which he dedicated to the Earl of Salisbury, request-
ing his acceptance of the small trifle to suggest means
of supplying the King's State. "The Souldier, plead-
ing his own cause . . . with an epitome of the qualities
required in the officers of a private company." A second
edition came out in 1619.

Thomas, the Soldier, possibly remained a Catholic,
and docs not seem to have been financially fortunate,
as he sold Billesley, the ancient home of his fathers, to
Sir Robert Lee, who rebuilt much of the ancient manor
house, in which was found a priest's secret chamber with
an underground passage for escape.

The name of Thomas often appears in the Stratford
Records, where he is described as a gentleman or as an
attorney. He brought a case to the Court of Records
in 1 59 1. He was the attorney for Nicholas Lane in
his suit against Henry Shakespeare, 1587, and in 1592
he drew up the inventory of the goods of Henry
Shaw and of Henry Field, in conjunction with John
Shakespeare. Among the baptisms at Stratford-upon-
Avon are : Rose, daughter to Mr. Thomas Trussell ;
John, 31st March, 1579 ; Thomas, 13th October, 1580;
Elizabeth, 2nd September, 1582 ; Avery, 15th Novem-
ber, 1583; Richard, 19th November, 1585; Thomas,
13th December, 1586; George, 24th August, 1589;
John, 27th October, 1591. Among the burials are:
John, 8th April, 1579; Rose, 26th August, 1582;
Thomas, 26th November, 1587; George, 6th February,
1592; "Johannes filius Thomae Trussell, generosus,
i6th June, 1593"; and "Thomas Trussell, generosus,
20th September, 1593." There are later allusions to
his son Thomas.

Dugdale says, "How it comes to pass I know not,
but the Trussclls of Billesley have been reputed lords
of the manor of Moreton Bagot for a long time, and

The Trussells of Billesley 2 1 3

had also an interest in the advowson of the church, as
by some records and other authorities appeareth."

Among those who present to the church are "Will.
Trussell de Cublesdon, Miles, 1361 ; Aluredus Trussell,
Miles, 1 4 1 3 ; William Trussel, Ar., Dominus de Morton
Bagot, 1427 ; Humfr., co. Staff, Ratione Minoris aitat.
Joh. fil, et haer. Will. Trussell, ar., 1433; Jo. Trussell,
ar., Dominus de Moreton, 1480; Thomas Trussell,
Dominus de Moreton, 1485 ; Aluredus Trussell, ar., de
Billesley, 1541." Others follow.

Shakespeare introduces the name as "Tressel and
Berkley" in Richard I 11.^ Act i, sc. 2.

It may be remembered that Shakespeare's grand-
daughter, Elizabeth Hall, was married to her second
husband, Mr. John Barnard of Abington, at Billesley.
Some writers have suggested that it was because she
was a Catholic, and connected with the Trussells. But
it may clearly be seen that the Trussells had left
Billesley long before. Any personal association, there-
fore, would have been between Sir Robert Lee and
Mr. John Barnard (afterwards made a knight). Both
were aldermen of London. The registers of Billesley
are lost, and it may therefore be entered as one of the
possible places in which Shakespeare was married.

( 214 )


The Cloptons.

The Cloptons had been owners of Clopton Hall from
the time of Henry III. Their names are recorded
among the Guild brethren : John Clopton was Master
of the Guild of Holy Trinity, 13 Edward IV. ; Thomas
Clopton, Master of the Guild of the Holy Cross, 21
Edward IV. ; William Clopton granted land to the
Brethren and Sistren of the Guild, 9 Henry VIII. The
above-mentioned John de Clopton had a license to build
an oratory in his manor house for the private exercise
of divine service. His elder son was Thomas ; his
second son, Hugh, went to London, became a wealthy
mercer there, was Mayor in 7 Henry VII., was knighted,
and by some means acquired possession of the family
property. Sir Hugh Clopton was a great benefactor to
Stratford, where he built the famous stone bridge of
fourteen arches to replace the old timber bridge, said
to have been erected by Queen Matilda because she
had got wet in attempting to cross the ford. It had
become perilous to use. When Leland visited the place,
he wrote: "The Bridge ther, of late time, was very
smalle and ille, and at high waters, very hard to passe
by. Whereupon in tyme of minde one Clopton, a great
rich marchant and Mayor of London, as I remember
born about Stratford, having never wife nor children,
converted a great peace of his substance in good workes

The Claptons 2 1 5

in Stratford, first making a sumptuous new Bridge and
large, of stone, where in the middle be a VI great arches
for the main streame of Avon, and at eche ende certen
smaul arches to here the Causey, and to pass commo-
diously at such times as the river riseth " (Leland's
"Collectanea," ed. Hearne, vol. iv., part i., p. 16). In
another place he says it "was but a poor bridge of
Timber, and no causeway to come to it, whereby many
poor folks refused to come to Stratford when the river
was up, or coming thither stood in jeopardy of their
life." Sir Hugh Clopton's liberality and thorough work
became a national benefaction. One can well imagine
the impetus it would give to the trade of Stratford to
have this great bridge built over its river, to make it
the main thoroughfare of the county.

Sir Hugh instituted Exhibitions for poor scholars
at Oxforci and Cambridge, a grant which no doubt
helped the success of Stratford School. He also restored
the Guild Chapel, and built just opposite to it, for his
own use, "the praty house of Brick and Timber" men-
tioned by Leland, which was to be bought and dwelt in
by Shakespeare a hundred years after its founder's

Sir Hugh hoped to have been buried at Stratford-
upon-Avon, but as he died in St. Margaret's parish,
Lothbury, London, he was buried there, 12 Henry VII.
He never married, and his property passed to his elder
brother Thomas, who was one of the proxies of John
Mayowe to deliver seisin of the land at Snitterfield to
the Ardens, 1 501-2.

His will was proved in October, 1496. One item
was : "To William Clopton 1 bequeath my grete house
in Stratford-on-Avon, and all my other lands and
tenements being in Wilmcote, in the Brigge Towne
and Stratford, with reversion and services and dueties
thereunto belonging ; remayne to my cousin, William

2 1 6 Shakespeare s fi^arzvicksbire Contejuporaries

Clopton, and for lak of issue of him to remayne to the
right heires of the Lordship of Clopton for ever."

This William was son of John and grandson of
Thomas, brother of Sir Hugh. A life interest had been
granted in the great house to one Roger Paget, on
whose death, July, 1 504, it was delivered to William
Clopton, who left it to his wife. Rose, for life.

On her death in 1525 it fell to her son, William, but
in 1 543 he let New Place to Dr. Thomas Bentley on
lease for a term of years, afterwards altered into a life
tenure for himself and his wife. Bentley died in 1 549,
leaving New Place "in great ruyne and decaye." His
widow, by marrying Robert Charnock, forfeited the
lease, and William Clopton entered into possession. In
the Inquisition taken at his death in 1 560 it is designated
as his "freehold estate then in tenure of William Bott."
He had apparently burdened his property with too
heavy legacies, and his son and heir, William, went
abroad, evidently intending to retrench, with unfortu-
nate results. In some mysterious way the house became
the property of the William Bott mentioned above, a
man who seems to have been of an objectionable
character. John Harper, of Henley-in-Arden, brought
a suit against him in 1564 ; and William Clopton, being
called as a witness for Harper, said that Bott, acting as
his agent while he was in Italy, had received his rents,
withheld the money, and forged a deed relating to the
Clopton property. Very probably he referred to New
Place, because in 1567 Bott sold that house to the

Another property remained to the Cloptons. Dugdale
says that the village of Bridgeton, Stratford-upon-Avon,
contained a hermitage, endowed for the repair of the
Bridge, which belonged to the Powers until Christopher
Power passed it to William Clopton in 5 Henry VIII.,
since which time it has been called a manor.

The Claptons 1 1 7

The legendary but unprovable story of Charlotte
Clopton, who had been buried too hastily at the plague
time in 1564, had regained consciousness, and had been
found standing dead by the gate of the tomb, having
striven to free herself, may have suggested "Juliet's"

The William who was twenty-two at his father's
death in 1560, married Anna, the daughter of Sir
George Griffith. They had two sons — Ludovick and
William, who died without issue ; and three daughters.
There is a legend that his daughter Margaret (born
30th September, 1563), through disappointed love,
drowned herself in a well at the back of Clopton House,
and some have imagined that her fate suggested that
of Ophelia.

His other two daughters were Joyce, who married
Sir George Carew, created Baron Carew of Clopton and
Earl of Totness ; and Anna, who married her kinsman,
William Clopton of Sledwick, co. Durham. William
Clopton died in 1592, and his wife, Anne, in 1596.
Joyce inherited Clopton, and repaired and beautified
the handsome tombstone to the memory of her parents,
which still remains in the North Aisle of Stratford
Church. The registers note the baptism of Ludovicus,
son of William, 8th June, 1561; Guiza, daughter, 17th
September, 1562; Margaret, 30th September, 1563;
William, son to William Clopton, 3rd July, 1571 ;
and of Anne, 9th January, 1576. A William, son to
William Clopton, gen., i2th August, 1593, would seem
to be the son of the cousin, and an Anne, 12th January,
1596, his daughter. Among the marriages are George
"Caroo and Mrs. Jeys Clopton, 3 ist May, 1 578 "; " Mr.
William Clopton and Mrs. Anne Clopton, 3rd August,
1589"; "Johannes Combes, gen., et Rosa Clopton, i8th
September, 1561."

A case of William Clopton's appears in the Court of

2 I 8 Shakespeare's Warwickshire Contemporaries

Record, I 59 I. One incident would give to Clopton
House an unenviable notoriety during the poet's time.
Robert Wilson held it under a lease from Sir George
Carew (afterwards Earl of Totness) and sub-let it in
September, 1605, to Ambrose Rookwood, of Coldham
Hall, Stanningfield, Suffolk.

It was in Clopton House that Rookwood entertained
his fellow-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, Wright,
Winter, Keyes, Robert Catesby, John Grant of North-
brook, and his two brothers (who had been suspected in
the treason of Somerville as before related). When the
plot was discovered the Bailiff of Stratford went in
person to search the house, and in the priest's chamber
was found a cloak-bag " full of copes, vestments, crosses,
chalices, and other massing reliques," a full inventory
of which has been preserved in the Library at the
Birthplace. There had not been such a keen hunt for
"superstitious relics " since the days of Elizabeth.
They now really signified a political conspiracy run to
earth here.

After the death of the Earl of Totness without heirs
in 1629, the Countess left Clopton by will to Thomas,
the third son of her sister Anna. Thomas* entered
into his inheritance on the death of his aunt Joyce in
I 636. He married Eglantyne, one of the daughters of
John Keyte, Esq., of Ebrington, and their son John
married Barbara, daughter and heir of Sir Edward
Walker. This gentleman in 1675 bought New Place
from the executors of Shakespeare's grand-daughter,
Lady Barnard, and left it by will back to the Cloptons,
through his daughter Barbara in 1677. His will gives
some interesting details concerning the transfer of the
property formerly owned by Shakespeare. f

* In a Recusant Roll of i6 Car. I. Thomas Clopton, of Old Stratford, is men-

f In J. C. M. ndlcw's "Shakespeare's Home at New Place," 1863, elaborate
pedigrees of the Cloptons and the Combes are given.

( 2 19 )


The Combes.

The Combes were not such old residents in the neigh-
bourhood as were these others. But they were of as
old a flimily. Away south in the parish of Swanscombe,
Kent, there was an ancient manor called Alkerdene, or
The Combe, so named from the old word "Combe," a
hollow in a hill. There, according to Hasted, the
historian of Kent, dwelt in old time a family that had
taken the place-name. The head of this family, John
Combe,* or A-Combe, for no recorded reason, left
Kent early in the reign of Edward IV., settled in War-
wickshire, and is believed to have been the founder of
the Stratford family that Shakespeare knew.

The Warwickshire Visitation gives the pedigree of
the Combes of Ashley, co. Warwick, and the descent
of John Combe of Old Stratford.

The earliest local incident recorded of the family was
recorded by Mr. Mark Bullen and published in the
Athencviim. It is a petition "To the Right Reverend
father in God, Steven, Bishop of Winchester, Lord
Chancellor of England, ^SS'}>~^SSS'

"The Complaint of Adryan Quynye of Stretford-
upon-Haven, Mercer. — The complainant is seized in
fee of one tenement called Barlands House, with one
garden, one orchard and one barn in Stretford. Divers

* Jolin A-Combc is mentioned as one of those holding a reversionary interest
in CliHord Chambers, before the final purchase by the Rainsfords in 1562.

2 20 Shakespeare's fVarwicksbire Contemporaries

evidences and writings relating to this estate have come
into the hands of one John Combes (sometimes written
John O'Combe) of Stratford, gentleman, who, by means
thereof, doth make and convey sundry estates, secretly
of the premises, to the disheryson of your said orator."
He prays relief in the usual form. (Early Chancery
Proceedings, Bundle 1373, Record Office.)

On the 15th September, 1563, a case was tried in the
Court of Record, Stratford-upon-Avon, John Combes
versus Humphrey Underhill. He had another suit in

Other cases in the Court of Record were brought
by Thomas Combe, gent., 28 Eliz. (1586); George
Combes, gent., 29 Eliz.; Edward Combe, gent., 31
Eliz.; Thomas Combes, gent., 32 Eliz.; George Combe,
gent., 36 Eliz. Edward lived at Wasperton, and mar-
ried Anna, daughter of Stephen Hales of Newland,
brother of Bartholomew Hales of Snitterfield.

The Combes' coat of arms, granted in 1584, bore
ermine, three lions passant. John Combe married first,
Joyce, daughter of Sir Edward Blount, and second, Rosa,
daughter of William Clopton.

The old college of Stratford, which was seized at the
Dissolution, passed through many hands before it was
bought in 1596 by John Combe, who made it his
principal residence. Besides children born elsewhere —
Edward, Thomas and George — the Registers record
the baptism of Elizabeth his daughter, on the 26th of
May, 1566; Francis his son, on the 8th of April, 1575;
and John his son, on the 29th of January, 1577.

William, son to Mr. Thomas Combes, was baptized on
the 8th of December, 1586; Thomas on the 9th of
February, 1588; Maria on the i6th of May, 1591;
and Jodoca or Joyce on the loth of May, 1593.

It is probable that this Thomas, who married Maria
Savage, and became heir to his brother, was a man of

The Combes 22 1

some literary taste and a translator, for in the Stationers'
Registers it is recorded that on the 9th of May, 1593,
there was allowed to Richard Field "The Theatre of
fine Devices conteyning an Hundred Morall Emblcmes
translated out of French by Thomas Combe, authorized
under the hand of Master Michael Murgatrode, vi^."
If it were his, it is interesting to think that Richard
Field was publishing two books for two fellow-towns-
men in the spring of the same year.

In May, 1602, Shakespeare purchased for three
hundred and twenty pounds from John and William
Combe, one hundred and seven acres of land near
Stratford-upon-Avon, of which, as he was not in town,
seisin was delivered to his brother Gilbert, and in 16 10
he bought twenty acres more, the whole being reckoned
four and a half yard lands.

John Combe reared a grand tomb for himself, and
it has been reported that he asked Shakespeare for a suit-
able epitaph, who is said to have replied impromptu:

"Ten in a hundred lies here engraved;
'Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not saved.
If any man ask who lies in this tomb,
Oh Ho quoth the Devil, 'tis my John a-Combe."

It is very improbable that Shakespeare composed these
doggerel verses. A suggestion of the epitaph occurs
in "The more the merrier. Threescore and odd headless
Epigrams by H. P. Gent, 1608." In Camden's "Re-
mains," 1 6 14, are preserved similar lines:

"Here lies ten in the hundred
In the ground fast rammed ;
It's a hundred to ten
But his soul is damned."

And Richard Braithwaite, "Remains," 161 8, has also
a variant of the epitaph.

If, however, Shakespeare did vary the idea to fit the

2 22 Shakespeare's fVarwickshire Contemporaries

name, it must only have been given as a merry jest,
and taken in good humour. It neither hit John Combe
too deeply, nor rankled in his mind, because by his
will dated the 28th of January, 1 612-13, ^^ ^cft the
poet five pounds. He also bequeathed twenty shillings
for two sermons to be preached in Stratford Church ;
61. 35. 4^. to buy ten gowns for ten poor people of
Stratford; twenty pounds to the poor; and one hundred
pounds to be lent to fifteen poor tradesmen from three
years to three years, at fifty shillings per annum, which
interest was to be given to the relief of alms. To
Francis Collins, sen., he bequeathed ten pounds.

John Combe died at the very time the great fire of
Stratford was raging. He was buried on the loth of
July, 1 6 14, in Trinity Church at the upper end of the
choir ; over him is a handsome monument with his statue
in alabaster, and an epitaph recording his bequests.

His legacy to Shakespeare remained uncancelled, but
it is possible that the poet never received it, as John
Combe's will was not proved till the loth of November,

John's heir William at once took to enclosing at
Welcombe ; and stirred public feeling to fever heat
during the autumn of 16 14. On the 12th of Novem-
ber, 1 6 14, at the Common Council it was agreed that
"all lawfull meanes shalbe used to prevent the enclosing
that is pretended of part of the old town field." On
the 5th of December the Council resolved "that six of
the company should go with their love to Mr. William
Combe at his return home and ask him to forbear." One
of the six was Richard Hathaway. A week later they
reported that Mr. Combe said "he was to have some
profytt by the enclosure, but it was not to be to his
own use, that it was to be enclosed by Mr. Mannerynge
when the frost passed." A deputation was to be sent
to Mr. Mannering, "and I the sayd Thomas Green,

The Combes 223

the Steward and Councillor for the Borough to assist
them ao-ainst the enclosure."

Shakespeare's attitude towards this has been by some
supposed to be favourable, so that he himself were
secured from damage. The scheme might materially
affect him through the lease of the tithes. Much dis-
cussion has arisen over the true meaning of the entries
in the note-book of his cousin, Thomas Green, the
Town Clerk of Stratford-upon-Avon. Unfortunately
these are badly written, and the composition is dubious,
but to my mind whether it was "I" or "he," the
meaning remains the same that Shakespeare "could not
bear the enclosing of Welcombe." This is one of the
few colloquial phrases of the poet which have come
down to us. (See Dr. Ingleby's "Shakespeare and the
Welcombe Enclosures.")

But there is no doubt as to the opinion of the Town
Council. In the Records there are several orders made
opposing the action of Mr. William Combe of the
College. The intended enclosure seems to have been
"the north part of the fields of Old Stratford, Wel-
combe and Bishopton towards Warwick, leading from
a certain gate called Clopton Gate, to a certain bush
within the fields of Welcombe called Beggar's Bush,
alias Bragg's, along by a piece of land of Sir Francis
Smyth's, knight, in the occupation of Edward Hunt,
directly to the upper end of a furlong of tillage ground,
lying under Rowley, and so long by the overend of a
quickset hedge there lying between Trinity Peece and
King's Furlongs, and so from thence to a gate called the
Slynge, and also two earable lands now lying in Ford
Greene between the land of our Sovereign Lord the
King on the west side, and the land in the occupation
of Anthony Nash on the east side." Finding their
orders neglected the Town Council went in person to
resist the enclosures, but William Combe "overthrew

224 Shakespeare's fVarwickshire Contemporaries

the aldermen who came peaceably to hinder his dig-
ging, whereof great tumult arose."

On the 25th of January, 1615, Mr. Daniel Baker
and Mr. Chandler were sent to London to take advice
of counsel against enclosing, and on the 24th of February
it was resolved that a case be made out against the riots
and misdemeanours, and an appeal to the Lord Chief
Justice of England at Warwick. Further appeals se-
cured a reply from Sir Edward Coke that the enclosure
was against the law of the realm. Another petition was
sent up to the Lord Chief Justice on the 27th of March,
161 6, describins Mr. Combe as "of so unbridled a
disposition" that he continued his enclosures in spite
of orders to the contrary.

In the midst of this local storm the poet died. He
left nothing to William, but he remembered his brother
in his will, February, 161 6. "To Mr. Thomas Combe,
my sword." (This Thomas died at Stratford in July,
1657, aged 68.)

The disputes about the enclosures continued. On
the 14th of February, 161 8, an inhibition arrived,
signed "Francis Verulam, Pembroke, Naunton, Fulke
Greville." (See the Wheler Collection.)

It is strange that in spite of this, William Combe
should have been made Sheriff of the County not only
in 1608, but in 161 6.

On the 17th of March, 161 9, William Combe was
requested to view the decays in the parish church, and
in 1622 it was agreed that "all the trees of the church-
yard should be cut down and sold to repay the cost of
repairing" (See the Chamberlain's Accounts). So that
we may not even have a fancy that any of the trees
that waved round the church in Shakespeare's time

Among the recusants 16 Charles I., are entered
"William and Thomas Combe of Old Stratford."

The Combes 225

William Combe lost his wife Katharine on the 21st of
June, 1662, at 51 years of age, and he himself died at
Stratford on the 30th of January, 1666-7, ^gcd 80,
leaving one son and nine daughters.

Several names of the family occur among Dr. Hall's
cases, for instance : — " Part ii.. Case xxxiv., Mrs. Combs,
aged thirty-six." "Case xliv., Mrs. Mary Comb of
Stratford, aged thirteen. Feb. 15th, 1631."

The Register records the baptism of Constance on
the 4th October, 1632; Grace on the 20th of April,
1634; Elizabeth on the 20th of March, 1635-36.


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