Saturday, 24 September 2011

Where did William Shakespeare live in London?

The disputed 'Flower portrait' of William Shakespeare now believed
to date for the Nineteenth Century
Where did Shakespeare lodge in London? On 15 November 1597 the Petty Collectors [of Taxes] for Bishopsgate stated in their accounts the names of certain persons who had avoided, for whatever reason, payment of their taxes. Among the names for St. Helen's parish (Bishopsgate) was that of William Shakespeare, assessed five shillings on goods valued at £5, the assessment made in October 1596 and falling due in February 1597. So we can conclude that sometime before October 1596 Shakespeare was living in the St. Helen's parish of Bishopsgate, perhaps near the church which is still standing. What we don't know, however, is whether he paid his five shillings taxes.

Our next sighting of the poet was again through the tax collectors when he was assessed thirteen shilling and four pence on goods valued at £5, the assessment made on 1 October 1598. On 6 October 1660 the amount due was still outstanding, and the Court of Exchequer referred the arrears to the Bishop of Winchester who had jurisdiction in the liberty of the Clink, an area on the south bank of the Thames in the county of Surrey. So we can see that Shakespeare had migrated across the river, perhaps following his theatre which had also relocated about this time. In his accounts for 1600-1 the Bishop reported the amount collected from the names of persons referred to him, including, one images, William Shakespeare. So near the end of the decade, possibly in 1599, the dramatist had taken up residence in the liberty of the Clink in Southwark in the county of Surrey.

Winchester House, the residence in Southwick of the Bishop of Winchester.
From Hollar's View of London circa 1660
How long Shakespeare resided in Southwick is not known, but we do know that no later that 1604 he was back in the city of London residing in the house of a French Huguenot by the name of Christopher Mountjoy in Silver Street in the Cripplegate ward. Mountjoy made ornamental headgear and wigs, and he employed an apprentice by the name of Stephen Bellot. In November 1604 Bellot married Mountjoy's daughter Mary, and in 1612 undertook a civil action against his father-in-law over the amount he alleged he had been promised as his marriage-portion or dowry. On 11 May 1612 Shakespeare was called to testify, and in his deposition stated that he had known both parties 'as he now remembrethe for the space of tenne yeres or thereaboutes'. This indicates that he could have been lodging in Silver Street as early as 1602. He was also asked to state his present address which he gave as Stratford upon Avon. 

One further house in London associated with Shakespeare is the 'Blackfriars gate-house' which he purchased in March 1613 from one Henry Walker 'citizen and minstral of London'. However, the very day after the sealing of the deed he mortgaged the gate-house back to Walker, so the purchase appears to have been purely an investment.

(Silver Street circa 1570 is included in the 'Agas' map of London and can be viewed at address


  1. And your view on Shakespeare's identity is???


    nice post and nice blog

  3. Nice article. But it's Southwark, and was then too. Not Southwick.

  4. I LEARNT NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1