Balsall and the Shakespeare family

the forbears of William Shakespeare had their origin here

Few people residing within the parish of Balsall realise that the forebears of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), the poet and dramatist, had their origin here.

Within 20 miles of Stratford-upon-Avon lies the cluster of 4 villages – Balsall, Beddesley Clinton, Wroxall and Rowington. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Balsall was the site of a Commandery or estate of theĀ Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Baddesley (where the moated manor house still stands) was the seat of James de Clinton and his heirs; Wroxall belonged to the nuns of Wroxall Abber and Rowington cam under the Pinley Priory and Reading Abbey. With the exception of Coventry, all the recorded Shakespeares in Warwickshire until 1500 came from these 4 villages.

William Shakespeare’s grandfather, Richard, probably came from one of these places, to live in Snitterfield (before 1529(, and it is known that at least one branch of the Shakespeare family lived in Balsall. In the reign on Richard II, Adam and William lived at “Oldiche” in the southern part of Balsall, bordering on Baddesley Clinton, The register of the Guild of Knowle for 1457 contains several entries from “Oldiche” = one for the prayers for the souls of Richard and ALice Shakespeare; another of Ralph and his wife are mentioned in 1486, their lands at “Oldiche” and elsewhere in Balsall were later held by their son and heir, William. Another Thomas bought more land at “Oldiche” in 1540. It is recorded that John Shakespeare hanged himself there in 1579,

In 1596, during William Shakespeare the poet’s lifetime, a John Shakespeare who was a shoemaker or cordonnier by trade, sold his house at Oldiche and Dopkins Orchard (could the latter be the present=day “Dadkins”?) and other lands at Balsall, much of which had been in the family since the reign of Richard II.

there is little doubt that the ancestors of William Shakespeare came from Balsall – or one of the surrounding villages. Maybe it is with some pride we can feel that this small parcel of rural Warwickshire contributed to the making of him who has been called “the supreme genius of the English race”.

In “Shakespeare’s Homeland” (published by Dent 1903 and reprinted bu AMS Pressm New York, 1972) Oldeiche, Olditch or Woldiche is described as a “remote farmhouse in the parish of Temple Balsall, the house must have been repaired mant times since the 14th century, but it still retains mant of its ancient features – especially in the pre-reformation plan”,

the house has a late 16th century projecting chimney-stack of brick with stone groins and 2 diagonal shafts. It contains a room with an early 16th century open-timbered ceiling with moulded beams and joints.