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Ralph Shirley of Ettington and Shirley, Warwickshire
(Bef 1408-1466)
Elizabeth Blount
(Abt 1422-)
Thomas Bellingham of Yapton, Sussex
(Abt 1425-1490)
Joan Wiltshire
(-Abt 1501)
Ralph Shirley of Wiston, Sussex
(Abt 1433-Between 1510/1510)
Jane Bellingham
(-After 1510)
Sir Richard Shirley of Wiston, Sussex
(Bef 1477-1540)


Family Links

1. Alma Shelley

2. Elizabeth Guildford

Sir Richard Shirley of Wiston, Sussex 1

  • Born: Bef 1477
  • Marriage (1): Alma Shelley before 1500 1
  • Marriage (2): Elizabeth Guildford 1
  • Died: 10 Nov 1540 2
  • BuriedMale: 16 Nov 1540, St. Mary's Church, Mouse Lane, Wiston, Steyning, West Sussex, BN44 3DZ, GB 3

  General Notes:

Family and Education
b. by 1477, 1st s. of Ralph Shirley of Wiston by Joan, da. of Thomas Bellingham of Lyminster; bro. of Thomas. m. (1) by 1498, Alma, da. of John Shelley of Michelgrove, 4s. 6da., (2) Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Guildford of Cranbrook and Rolvenden, Kent, wid. of Thomas Isley of Sunridge, Kent. suc. fa. 1510. Kntd. 1526.1

Offices Held
J.p. Suss. 1512-d.; commr. array 1512, subsidy 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, musters 1539; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1513-14, 1526-7; knight of the body by 1533.2

The Shirley family, which had owned Wiston since the early 15th century, only made it their residence after the death of Richard Shirley's grandfather in 1466. His father built up a reputation in the county, served Henry VII as an esquire of the body and was pricked sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1503. Shirley's own career mirrored that of his father. He served the crown on local commissions and as a justice of the peace, and was pricked twice as sheriff, but he rarely looked beyond Sussex for adventure or gain. During the French campaign of 1514 Shirley, as sheriff, mustered 55 men and led them to Canterbury to join the retinue of the 5th Lord Bergavenny. In 1526 the King made a progress through the southern counties and appears to have knighted Shirley while he was in Sussex. In 1536 Shirley was ordered to supply troops and march against the northern rebels, but his services were not required in the field and he remained to keep order in Sussex; three years later he was asked to survey the county's coastal defences against the threatened French invasion. He was an occasional visitor at court and it was presumably as a knight of the body that he attended the reception of Anne of Cleves in 1540.3

Like his father Shirley derived part of his income from farming: he is known to have exported tallow and leather from Shoreham but whether he also sent wool by sea the scanty customs accounts do not indicate. In 1524 he was assessed at £120 in lands at Wiston and in January 1527 he bought property in Ashington, Chiltington, Grinstead and Washington for £35. He assisted Sir Roger Lewknor with the administration of his estates and in 1526 he was sued in the Exchequer to account for money he had collected as receiver of Lewknor's lands in Sussex.4

As a justice of long standing and a recent sheriff Shirley was well qualified for a knighthood of the shire in the Parliament of 1529 even if he had not sat in an earlier House of Commons, as he may well have done. Yet he probably owed his election to the sheriff, Richard Bellingham, who was his cousin, while the fact that his fellow-Member Sir John Gage was his wife's brother-in-law cannot but have helped. It is likely that he and Gage shared the same outlook on the great issue of the divorce when it confronted them in the House. Early in 1533 Shirley's name was one of those included by Cromwell on a list of Members who are thought to have been opposed, either on grounds of conscience or of economic expediency, to the bill in restraint of appeals to Rome then being debated in the Commons: if this is indeed the basis of the list, Gage's name would doubtless also have been on it if he had not by then retired from court, and probably also from Parliament, as a gesture of disapproval of the divorce proceedings. Close on two years later both men's names do appear on another of Cromwell's lists. This one, dating probably from December 1534, appears to relate to the treasons bill then in passage, the Members named perhaps constituting, or being considered for, a committee on that bill: if so, Gage and Shirley may be thought of as belonging to the group of 'opposition' Members included in the total. That Shirley did not forfeit the King's favour is implied by his retention of his appointment as a knight of the body: probably for him, as for Gage and others, the death of Catherine of Aragon in January of that year helped to relieve the tension and the fall of Anne Boleyn a few months later eased the situation still further. There is thus no reason to doubt that he reappeared in the Parliament of June 1536 in accordance with the King's request for the return of the previous Members.5

Shirley made his will on 21 Oct. 1540. Professing himself 'to be a true Christian Catholic man and in full and perfect belief of Christ's Church intending through God's mercy in the same to die', he asked to be buried in the chancel of Wiston church before the image of St. Anne, where masses would be said for his soul. He provided for his wife and three unmarried children, and appointed his son William executor: his overseers included his cousins Richard Bellingham, Sir John Gage and (Sir) William Shelley, and his brother Thomas Shirley. Shirley died on the following 16 Nov., and was succeeded by William, then rising 42.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales

1. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 7, 159; Suss. Arch. Colls. v. 1-13.
2. LP Hen. VIII, i-v, xiii-xv; Statutes, iii. 84, 113, 169; Suss. Rec. Soc. lvi. 62.
3. LP Hen. VIII, i, xi, xiv, xv; H. H. Leonard, 'Knights and knighthood in Tudor Eng.' (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 163, 319, 324.
4. E122/36/1; Suss. Rec. Soc. lvi. 62; Barbican House, Lewes, Knole ms cal. Kn. 1/1, 2.
5. LP Hen. VIII, vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; ix. 1077 citing SP1/99, p. 234.
6. PCC 22 Alenger; C142/67/91; Nairn and Pevsner, Suss. 382.

[History of Parliament 1509-1558]


Sir Richard Sherley, eldest son of Ralph, was Sheriff of the counties of Surrey and Sussex in 1515, and again in 1525. In 1516 he was one of the knights of the body to King Henry VIII. By the inquisition taken on his death, it appears that it took place November 10, 1540, his eldest son William being at that time forty-two years of age.

The Will of Sir, Richard Sherley, Knt.
[Extract from the Registry of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.]

[...pp 243-245 omitted...]

Sir Richard Sherley's monument still remains in a very perfect state on the south wall of the Sherley chapel at Wiston: it is an altar-tomb of freestone; at the base is the coat of Sherley quartering Braose, and on either side two shields bearing the arms of Sir Richard Sherley's two wives, viz. Shelley quartering Michelgrove or Fauconer (Quarterly or and azure, a falcon proper), and Guildeford quartering Argent, a chief sable, over all a bend engrailed gules (Maiden). Sir Richard appears standing on a rock with uplifted hands; his first wife Alma, the daughter of John Shelley of Michelgrove, in Sussex, esq. stands on his left hand, and on his right Elizabeth, his second wife, daughter of Sir Richard Guildeford, KG.; she had formerly married Thomas Isley of Sundridge, in Kent, esq. and after Sir Richard Sherley's decease re-married William Stafford, esq. According to the "Honywood Evidences," a repertory of original memoranda, compiled previously to the year 1620, and printed in The Topographer and Genealogist, vol. ii. p. 268, Elizabeth Guildeford married first Isley, secondly Stafford, and thirdly Sherley.

By his first wife Sir Richard had issue four sons and six daughters: viz.
William Sherley his eldest son, Thomas, Edward, and Richard; of the three younger sons I have no further accounts; the daughters were,
1. Elizabeth, who married John Mychell of Stammerham, in the parish of Horsham, in Sussex, esq.
2. Alice, married Thomas Challenor of Kenwardes in Lindfield, in Sussex, esq.
3. Anne, married Richard Earnfold of Wickham, in the parish of Steyning, in Sussex, esq.
4. Cecilia, married Richard Leeds of Steyning (?) in Sussex, esq.
5, 6. Jane and Frances were the other two daughters, who appear to have died unmarried.

[Stemmata Sherleiana] 4


• Manorial Estate, 1510-1540, Erringham Brewes Manor, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN43, GB. 5 In 1202 William of Wiston and Agnes his wife, another of the daughters, received the whole township of Erringham in settlement of their claim against Aline for Agnes's purparty. Afterwards there was some further re-arrangement, presumably between the daughters and their husbands or heirs, for in 1239 Erringham was divided into three.

William of Wiston's share of Erringham, later called the manor of BREWES BARN or ERRINGHAM BREWES after its lords from 1357 to 1426, descended with his manor of Wiston until 1564. A later William of Wiston was granted free warren there in 1252, which was confirmed to his successor Adam de Bavent in 1285. In 1292 Erringham manor was said to be held of Sir Thomas Peverel, and in 1399 was held of the duke of Norfolk by service of 1/5 knight. In 1564 Thomas Shirley conveyed the manor to John Bellingham (d. 1576).

• Manorial Estate, 1510-1540, Heene Bavent Manor, Heene, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11, GB. 6 HEENE BAVENT descended with Wiston between the mid 12th century and 1602. Adam de Bavent (d. by 1292) was confirmed in free warren there in 1279 and 1285, but his claim to right of wreck was refused. After his death Gervasia, widow of William of Wiston, held Heene in dower. Roger de Bavent was apparently taking wreck illegally in the manor in 1304 and 1333, but in 1357 the Crown granted right of wreck to Peter de Braose. John de Braose (d. 1426) had both right of wreck and free warren there. In 1602 Sir Thomas Shirley sold Heene Bavent, with free chase and right of wreck, to the tenant James Graves.

• Manorial Estate, 1510-1540, Wedon Hill Manor, Weedon, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP22, GB. 7 The names of William Wedon and of his wife Mabel and son Ralf occur towards the end of the 12th century, and also that of Richard son of Ralf Wedon. Ralf occurs as lord of the manor in 1218, and his successor, Sir John de Wedon, witnessed a charter at Amersham in 1273. This holding was assessed at 1½ hides in 1284 in the hands of Ralf de Wedon, who died seised of it in 1302. His son and heir Ralf obtained in 1312 the manor of Drayton Beauchamp (q.v.) in marriage, with which Wedon Hill descended until 1365, when it was bestowed in fee upon Peter Brewes. His successor Sir John Brewes died seised of it in 1426 and his wife Margaret, with whom he was jointly seised, in 1449. Sir John Brewes's sister and heir, Beatrice wife of Sir Hugh Shirley, had died c. 1440, and her son and heir Ralf died shortly after, so that on Margaret's death Ralf's son Ralf entered into possession of Wedon Hill. He and his second wife Alice, upon whose issue Wedon Hill appears to have been settled, both died in 1466, and their son Ralf died in 1510, leaving as heir a son Richard, afterwards knighted, upon whose death in 1540 the manor descended to his son William. The latter died in 1551, leaving a young son Thomas and a widow Mary, who married Richard Elderton. They were defendants in an action brought in 1563 by William son of Thomas Shirley, the brother of Sir Richard, to recover a five years' annuity of £20 granted in 1526 by Sir Richard to Thomas his brother, and thirteen years of a life annuity of £6 13s. 4d. granted by Sir Richard in 1516 to his sister Anne, who died c. 1537, both charged on Wedon Hill Manor. The plaintiff appears, however, to have renounced all claim in the same year, and the manor was enjoyed by Thomas the son of the William who died in 1551, and by him alienated in 1575 to Richard Tothill, on whose death in 1593 it passed to his son William Tothill.

• Manorial Estate, 1510-1540, Wiston Manor, Wiston, Steyning, West Sussex, BN44, GB. 8 Another William of Wiston, apparently Henry's son, is recorded in 1238, and held 4 fees in Wiston and West Chiltington in 1242 and later. In 1252 he was granted free warren in his demesne lands at Wiston. In 1272 he granted the reversion of the manor to Adam de Bavent, who was confirmed in free warren there in 1279 and 1285 and had died by 1292.

Adam's widow Alice was the largest taxpayer in Wiston in 1296. Their son Roger who came of age in 1301 was the largest taxpayer in 1327 and 1332, and was summoned to Parliament between 1313 and 1322 and between 1332 and 1335. Roger's son Roger, who had succeeded by 1338, granted Wiston to the Crown in 1344, and enjoyed a life-interest in it after 1345. After his death in 1355 it was held by Dartford nunnery (Kent) until 1357, when the Crown granted it to Peter de Braose and his wife Joan. Peter's son John had succeeded by 1378, and was confirmed in the manor 20 years later. After his death in 1426 his widow Margaret, who later married Sir Thomas Wickham, succeeded, and at her death in 1449 Wiston passed under a settlement of 1409 to Ralph Shirley, great-nephew of John de Braose (d. 1426). He was succeeded at his death in 1466 by his son Ralph, and Ralph in 1510 by his son Sir Richard, the two last-named both holding the office of sheriff. Sir Richard (d. 1540) was succeeded by his son William (d. 1551), whose widow Mary, wife of Richard Elrington, held Wiston in 1568.

• Will, 11 Feb 1510. 9 Rauf Shirley, of Westneston, in the county of Sussex, Esquire, 11th February 1509. To the repair of the Churches of Chesham, Woborne, and Little Missenden, in Bucks, vi s. viii d. each; I bequeath my lands in Hunderuge, Charluruge, Botley, Chesham, Leycestre Chesham, to Thomas Shirley, my second son; remainder to my eldest son and heir, Richard Shirley. Proved 8th May 1510.

• Will, 21 Oct 1540, Principal Probate Registry, London, GB. Will of Sir Richard Sherley of Wiston 1540 - 21 October 32nd year of Henry VIII. To be buried in church of Wyston, to Cathedral of Chichester, to church of Wiston, Chyltynton, Lawnsyg, Ashurst, Hene, to wife Dame Elizabeth, to daughter in law Mary Sherley, son Edward Sherley and 2 daughters Jane Sherley and Frances Sherley allowance at cost of my son William Sherley until they marry with consent of Sir Thomas West Lord Laware, Sir Richard Lyster Lord Cheefe Barron, Sir William Shelly, Sir John Gage, my brother Thomas Sherley and Master Richard Bellingham, to Elizabeth Farnfolded (Anne?), to Elizabeth Mychell, to Andrew Taverner, to Phillip Lucye. Residue to son William Shirley executor…PCC proved 1540

• Probate, 5 Feb 1541, Lambeth, London, GB. 10

• Inquisition: Post Mortem, 2 Oct 1542, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19, GB. 11

Richard married Alma Shelley, daughter of John Shelley of Michelgrove, Sussex and Elizabeth Michelgrove, before 1500.1 (Alma Shelley died about 1542.)

Richard next married Elizabeth Guildford, daughter of Sir Richard Guildford of Cranbrook and Rolvenden, Kent and Unknown.1


1 Evelyn Phillip Shirley, <i>The Annals of the Shirley Family</i>, second ed. (London, GB: Nichols and Sons, 1873), 235.

2 Evelyn Phillip Shirley, <i>The Annals of the Shirley Family</i>, second ed. (London, GB: Nichols and Sons, 1873), 235 & 243.

3 Evelyn Phillip Shirley, <i>The Annals of the Shirley Family</i>, second ed. (London, GB: Nichols and Sons, 1873), 243.

4 Evelyn Phillip Shirley, <i>The Annals of the Shirley Family</i>, second ed. (London, GB: Nichols and Sons, 1873), 243-247.

5 <i>A History of the County of Sussex</i>, 8 (London: Victoria County History, 1953), 6 Part 1: 149-154.

6 <i>A History of the County of Sussex</i>, 8 (London: Victoria County History, 1953), 6 Part 1: 85-92.

7 Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire, Volume 3, pp 141-155.

8 <i>A History of the County of Sussex</i>, 8 (London: Victoria County History, 1953), 6 Part 1: 259-268.

9 Nicholas Harris Nichols Esq., <i>Testementa Vetusta - an Illustration From Wills of Customs... </i> (London, GB: Nichols and Sons, 1826), 2: 493.

10 Evelyn Phillip Shirley, <i>The Annals of the Shirley Family</i>, second ed. (London, GB: Nichols and Sons, 1873), 245.

11 Sussex Record Society, <i>Sussex Record Society </i> (N.p.: Sussex Record Society, n.d.), XIV Post Mortem Inquisitions in Sussex - 1 Henry VII (1485) to 1649 and after: 204.

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