Our 15th (and 16th) great-grandmother Jane Andrews (née Playse) was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and even lived in London, England, at the latest since 1595.
But she had not been a city dweller all her life, much like The Bard. Jane Playse was born in 1528 in the East Midlands, more precisely in Northampton, in the shire that bears the same name, some 60 miles north-west of London, and about 45 miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon. There she appears to have grown up, and by the time she was 21, in 1549, she married our 15th (and 16th) great-grandfather William Andrews in Charwelton, a village about halfway between Northampton and Stratford. There, at least two sons were born to them, William Jr. and Robert, both in 1550. Since the bubonic plague was ravaging the area off and on during those years (and for many more decades to come until the Great Plague of London of 1665-66 marked the last great epidemic almost 100 years later), we do not know how many more children they might have had and lost, but we do know that Robert lived long enough to become the father of our 14th (and 15th) great-grandfather John Andrews. John’s own son William, in turn, immigrated to the colonies in 1624 and started the Andrews family of (what was to become) Hartford, CT, and John followed him when he was already 83 and most all his remaining relatives had either died in England or immigrated already.
But back to Jane and William. How long they stayed in the area of Charwelton we are not sure, but the year 1596 finds them in London, where William died, his burial being recorded in the church books of St. Giles Cripplegate. This church lies about a 15 minute walk from St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate where Shakespeare resided during the same year. Presumably, Jane and Andrew lived somewhere in the vicinity as well. St. Giles is also the church where, 15 years later, Jane’s burial is documented. According to the records, she was buried 24 January 1611, that’s today 409 years ago.
I still remember just how exciting it was to realize that Jane and William lived in Shakespeare’s London, and at least Jane had the (theoretical) possibility to go and see a play in the original Globe Theater which was build in Southwark, on the other, as yet barely developed and quite disreputable side of the river, in 1599. Maybe Jane would never have dreamed of going to the playhouse! But maybe she did! We cannot be sure either way.
Jane’s son Robert did not live in London either for the most part, but married and settled in Coventry in Warwickshire, just north-west of his hometown. Chances are that Jane and William moved to London only after their son had left their home to raise his own family. Interestingly enough, however, Robert, too, died in London, at the St. Bartholomew-the-Great hospital, and his burial is recorded in the books of St. Martin, Ludgate. All these places, St. Giles, St. Bartholomew and St. Martin are less than a mile away from each other.
It does make you wonder if people came to London from the countryside to die and be buried there, or if spending a part of your life in the countryside and a part in the big city, like we know Shakespeare did, was quite common back in the day, at least for a certain social class.
In any case, history comes alive when direct ancestors were part of it and no mistake. Rest in Peace, Great-Grandma Jane Andrews. We envy you. A little.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
~ William Shakespeare
Featured: John Norden’s map of London in 1593, cropped