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Shirleys of


Pedigree of the Shirleys of Wiston, Sussex
1. Ralph Shirley of Staunton Harold, Leicestershire, England
Married 2nd Elizabeth Blount
2. Elizabeth Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)
2. Alice Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)
2. Anne Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)
2. Sanchia Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)
2. Margeret Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)
2. Ralph Shirley Esq. b_________d 1510

He inherited the manors of: Wystoneston (WISTON) near Steyning, Aysshurst ASHURST), Chyltyngton (CHILLINGTON), Sloughtre (SLAUGHTERS in Bellinghurst), Hion (HEENE IN TARRING), Irynghams (ERRINGHAM BROASE in Old Shoreham)...all in Sussex. Weedonhill (alias- Woodrow, Woodside or Wood-hill) in Amersham, in Buckingham
Will of Ralph Sherley of Wiston Esq. 1510
11 Feb 1509. To be buried in church of Westneston, to Cathedral of Chichester, to church of Westneston, chapel of Heene, church of Chiltyngton, church of Chesham Wobone Bucks, church of Lytelmyssyngdon, church of Lynemynster, church of Stenyning, Ffyndon, Wasshyngton, Ashynton, Bownton (Buncton), Ashurst, Botolphs, Cokeham, Lawnsyng and Olde Shorym. To daughter Jahane Dawtre, Elizbeth Lee, Beatrix Elryngton, and Isabell Dawtre, to Rauff Belyngham the younger and Rauff Palmer my godchildren, to nephew Andrew Tanner, to Edward Berde, to wife Johane farm of Bodyngton, to son Thomas Sherley, to son Richard. Wife executor, to good friend and cousin John Sherley cofferer to the King overseer, "where Thos Cooke, Rauff Belyngham, John Lee, Edward Palmer, John Cowper,and Wingary Sayne lately recovered against me certain lands and tenements in Hunderage, Charlerage, Botley, Chesham Leycester, and Chesham Wobourn in county of Buckinghamshire the use of me during my life…PCC Proven 1510.

m. Jane Bellingham daughter of Thomas Bellingham of Lymster Sussex
children of Ralph Shirley esq and Jane Bellingham:
3. (i) Thomas Shirley mentioned in father's 1509 Will. 2nd son Inherited West Grinstead Sussex
Will of Thomas Sherley of West Grinstead Es 1545
Henry the 8th 26. to church of West Grenstead, to church of Weston, church of Horsington, church of Lansing, church of Burton, church of Asshehurst, church of Shepley, church of Northurste, to son William lands in Slaugham called Slutt and lands bought of cosyn Bellows when 21. If 30 and no issue then to son Francis when he is 21, to son Francis place of Grenestead, to William at 24 farm of Bodington, to Isabell St John, to my daughter Dorthe to her marriage, to daughter Blanche to her marriage, to John my ladd, my brother Lyster, brother Bray, and son Browne overseers. With codicil. Wit: Mr. Henry Browne esq. Mr. Francis Sherley gent, John Fletcher Clarke, Thomas psnne of Slaugham, Thoamas Peper with others. Proven PCC 1545


m Elizabeth Gorges co-heir of Marmaduke Gorges of Gloucester


[From here the Shirleys of West Grinstead]

3. (ii) Jane m [?Sir] John Dawtry of Petworth in Sussex
3. (iii) Elizabeth m John Lee of Little Worth in Sussex
3. (iv) Beatrix m Edward Elryngton of Hogston, m 2nd Sir Edward Bray of Vachery Sussex
3. (v) Isabell m Sir John Dawtry of Southampton m 2nd Sir Richard Lyster of Wrestworth York (see engraving by Hans Holbein on right)
History books appear to incorrectly list Jane Sherley as the wife of Sir Richard Lyster, rather than correctly stating sister Isabell Sherley. July 1533 Patent Rolls grants.
929 (36):" Francis Dawtry. Livery of the lands as son and heir of Sir John Dawtry, including all reversions that should fall to the King on the death of dame Isabella, late wife of the said John and now wife of Sir Richard Lyster, chief baron of the Exchequer..."
3. (vi) Richard Shirley b________d 1540 Will proved February 5, 1540 London. Inherited Wiston He was sheriff of Surrey and Sussex CO in 1515 and again in 1525. He was a Catholic.
Will of Sir Richard Sherley of Wiston 1540
21 October 32ne year of Henry Ith. 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 Frences 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


m. 1st Alma Shelley daughter of John Shelly of Michelgrove Sussex
m. 2nd Elizabeth Guildford (she was the widow of either Isley or Stafford. Daughter of Sir Richard Gifford of Sussex (No children by 2nd marriage).
children of Richard Shirley and Alma Shelly
4. (i) Thomas visitation says died sans issue
4. (ii) John ( "2nd son" - source: visitation, not in other lists)
4. (iii) Elizabeth m. John Mychell of Stammerham (visitation) (1540 Will)
4. (iv) Ann married Richard Fernwold (visitation) (1540 Will)
4. (v) Cicely married John Ledys (visitation)
4. (vi) Alice married Thomas Chaunceler of Lyndford (visitation)
4. (vii) Jane mentioned in father's 1540 Will as unmarried
4. (viii) Frances mentioned in father's 1540 Will as unmarried
4. (ix) Edward mentioned in father's 1540 Will as unmarried. Visitation says he died sans issue. Mentioned in brother William's 1551 Will

Crown grant (letters patent) date: 9 Jul 1545 Attached: receipt by John Williams, kt, treasurer of the court of Augmentations, for the purchase money; 4 Jul 1545; letter of attorney by JG to Edward Shurly, esq, Edmund Pope and Thomas Welles, gents, to receive seisin; 18 Jul 1545. source: Gage Family of Firle East Sussex archive - Could be Edward Shurley of Isfield
4. (x) Richard Visitation says he died sans issue
4. (xi) William Shirley b abt 1498 [ age 42 at time of father's death] d May 28, 1551. Buried in the chapel at Wiston. Will proved July 20, 1551 Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Heir of father in 1540 Will. He mentioned his brother, Edward, and his sisters, Frances and Jane, in his will.
m. Mary Isley
children of William Shirley and Mary Isley:
5. Anthony Sherley of Preston Esq.
[From here the Shirley family of Preston, Sussex, England]

5. Sir Thomas Shirley, the elder b_______d 1612 Buried in the chapel at Wiston. He changed from Catholic to Protestant.

In 1578 he served as sheriff for Surrey and Sussex CO. He later became Treasurer of War in the Low Countries (Holland). Having fallen under the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth, he became indebted to the Crown, his estates and personal effects, with exception of the manor of Wiston, settled on his wife, were seized.

King James 1st was indebted to Sir Thomas Sherley for the idea of the creation of the baronetage. This brought to the Majesties coffers--more than 100 thousand pounds. He was promised by the late Lord of Salisbury, Lord Treasurer, a good recompense, and this he never received.

The following lands were sold by Sir Thomas Sherley the elder: SUSSEX CO: West Chiltington, Erringham and Slaughters in the Parish of Billinghurst. SUSSEX CO: Buncton with lands in Blackland and Frenchland in the Park of Findon, The manor of Barkfold with the ironworks in parish of Kirdford and the 1/4th part of the manor of Heyghley. SURREY CO: Burstow near Ryegate BERKSHIRE CO: East Ilsley LEICESTERSHIRE CO: Cottsback
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE CO: Bugbrook. (The last two were given to Sir Thomas Sherley by Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex).
m. Anne Kemp died 1622/23 daughter of Sir Thomas Kemp of Wye in Kent
Will of Dame Anne Sherley widow of Sir Thomas Sherley late of Wiston Sussex decd. 19 Feb 1622. To be buried in church of Wiston, to poor of St Giles in Field Middlesex, poor of Wiston and steyning Sussex, to daughter Cicely Laware late wife of Thomas Lord laware, to grandschild son Laware rug at Parham, sheets at London, to grandchildren daughters of Laware viz Ann West, Elizabeth West, Cicely West, Jane West, Lucy West, Essex West, to daughter Ladye Crofte wife of Sir John Crofte, to daughters of Ladye Crofte, to Anne now wife of Lord Wentworth, to Frances Crompton now wife of Sir John Crompton, to Jane Mildmay now wife of Sir Humphrey Mildmay, to Dorothy Benett now wife of Sir John Benet the younger, to Mary Crofts, to Cicely Crofts, to Alice Crofts, to my daughter Lady Tracey now wife of Sir John Tracey the elder, to daughter of Lady Tracey viz Anne Tracey, to daughter Lady Onslow late wife of Sir Edward Onslow decd, to daughter Lady Brocas wife of Sir Pexall Brocas, to grandson Thomas Brocas, to son in law Sir John Shurley, to granddaughter Lady Covert, to daughter of Sir John Shurley viz Cicily Shurley, Elizabeth Shurley, Anne Shurley, Charity Shurley and Mara Shurley, to other grandchildren Frences Molle now wife of ___Molle esq, to Thomas Shirley my grandchild, to friend Lady Bishipp wife of Sir Thomas Bishopp of Parham in Sussex, to Lady Gresham wife of Sir John Gresham, to Frances Alford now wife of John Alford esq…to my sister in law Mrs Shirley the eldest of Preston, to Anne Harris once my woman, to servants Lawrence Baskerville, Francis Bromley, Mary Follyott, Susan Stoniard, to grandchild Henry Shirley wit" Lawrence Baskerville, R. Peito, Richard Cobby. Codicil to Lady Delves, to Doctor Lionell Sharpe doctor of divinity.


children of Sir Thomas Shirley and Ann Kemp
6.(i) Sir Thomas the younger 1565 d. 1633 Isle of Wight
In 1579, at the age of 15, he and his brother was entered into Hert Hall University in Oxford. Thomas was there for 2 years or more. It appears he left without a degree. He served in Ireland where he was knighted by Lord Deputy Sir Wm Fitzwilliam October 26, 1589. In the autumn of 1591 he apparently married Frances Vavasour without the consent of her father. Queen Elizabeth was very unhappy about this marriage and had him imprisoned for more than 3 months perhaps a year or more. By 1593 he was a captain serving in the Low Countries. In 1601 he was chosen to sit in Parliament for Steyning (in Sussex CO.). In 1598 he began taking sea voyages, the first being to Portugal. He returned in 1602 and soon afterwards undertook an expedition against the Turks. Sir Thomas the younger returned from the levant in the year 1605, having for several years suffered very severe treatment and imprisonment under the hands of the Turks. He was confined in the island of Negropont and afterwards at Constantinople, where he was a prisoner thirty-three months. He was at last released by the mediation of his sovereign, King James 1st. By 1607 he was confined to the Tower, for over busying himself with the traffic of Constantinople. In 1612 he is in the King's Bench Prison. In January 1615 he addresses a letter asking to be forgiven his debt etc. He mentions his fathers idea of the baronetage and estimates the expenses of his two voyages at 14,000 pounds. In 1624 he requests the keeping of the Park in the Isle of Wight. [In 1602, Sir John Shurley of Isfield Village, (married to Jane Sherley, daughter of Sir Thomas Sherley the elder), Sir Edward Onslow and Anthony Sherley of Preston (plus 2 other people), were involved in a sale of Wiston which was not completed because Thomas Sherley the younger was imprisoned in Constantinople]. The family lost Wiston because of debts before Anne Kemp Shirley died in 1622.


m. 1st Frances Vavasour
children of Sir Thomas Shirley, the younger and Frances Vavasour


7. (i) Catherine
7. (ii) Elizabeth married Sir Arthur Daking of linton York
7. (iii) Frances bapt 31 Aug 1598 at St Anne Blackriars London married John Mole, esq. of Culworth Northampton. She died Dec 1639
7. (iv) Cheyney d. young, buried March 5, 1605 Foot's Cray, Kent CO.
7. (v) Henry b______d. 1627 murdered . He was a playwright and was of St. Botolph, Aldergate, London
7. (vi) Sir Thomas Shirley bapt. June 30, 1597 in parish of West Clandon, in Surrey. Living as late as 14 June 1664 when he received a receipt for taxes paid. He was brought up in a military capacity and was referred to as Captain. His name appears among Sussex delinquents about 1643. He was with Charles I at Oxford (residing in Magdalen College) when he was knighted by His Majesty, February 25, 1645 by the name of Sir Thomas Sherley of Sussex, a colonel in the garrison at Oxford. He was living in 1664 as his name appears on a receipt for payment of taxes in the State paper Office.
m. Ann Blundell
children of Sir Thomas Shirley and Ann Blundell
8. (i) Sackville born Feb 22, 1629 St.Bride Fleet Street, London. Sackville buried Sept 8 1634 St Margarets Westm.
8. (ii) Mary born Feb 22, 1629 St.Bride Fleet Street, London; twin who died 2 hours after birth;
8. (iii) Christobella 1631 St Margarets Westminster married 1) Richard Rogers of the Middle Temple and 2) Walter Bethell, esq. of Ellerton York
8. (iv) Mary 1632 St Margarets Westminster married George Fielding, esq of Hillfield Solihull, Warwickshire, likely eldest son of Sir Roger Fielding, knt.
8. (v) Anne 1637 St Margarets Westminster died young
8. (vi) Jane died young
8. (vii) Thomas Shirley, M.D. bapt. October 15, 1638 parish of St.Margarets within the city of Westminster (by London). died 5 Aug 1678; buried in the southwest vault of part of St Brides church near Fleet Street, London
He lived as a boy in Magdalen college (Oxford) with his father, during the time that the University was a garrison for the King. He bred up in grammar learning in the free-school joining to the said college. He afterwards went into France, studied physic, and was graduated in that faculty. After he returned home he became noted for his practice therein, and at length was made physician in ordinary to his Majesty King Charles II.
m. 1st Hannah Fleet, daughter of John Harfleet of Fleet (Southfleet?), Kent

9.(i) Anne
9.(ii) Margaret
m. 2nd Elizabeth Baskett, daughter of Capt. Richard Baskett of Apse, parish of Newchurch, Isle of Wight
1667 June 5 Thomas Sherley of St. Margarets Westminster esq widower about age 35 married Elizabeth Baskett of same spinster age about 23. Her father consents marriage to be at St Mary Savoy, St Savior Southwark, or St Bartholomew Great or Less London;
9. (iii) Thomas Sherley chr 1660
Post Man and the Historical Account (London, England), Tuesday, August 12, 1701; Issue 390.Classified ads .
The late Dr Sherleys Anodine Tincture. Was Physician in Ordinary to King Charles the 2nd. Now prepared and published by his son Tho. Sherley. It cures the stone in the kidneys or bladders also in the gravel or straguary an cholick it will give speedy care and in many other distempers mentioned in the printed bills of directions. Price 2s and 6d. The bottle containing half a pint and are to be had of Mr Madox a cane shop over against the Royal Exchange. Mr Wignell, perfumer at the Cavalier at the lower end of Bedford Street, Covent Garden; and Richard Gray shoemaker at the Crown and Shoes in Fleet Street near St Dunstans church.

9. (iv) Richard 1662 no info
9. (v) Elizabeth


m. 2nd Judith Taylor, widow of William Bennet, of London. Marriage at St Nicholas Deptford, Kent on 2 December 1617.
children of Sir Thomas Shirley and Judith Bennet
7. (i) John Sept 1, 1618 St. Margarets, Westminster, London
7. (ii) Hugh (may be the one who died 1642 St Mary Whitechapel, Middlesex Co Mentions bro. Thomas in administration).
7. (iii) Thomas, esq of West Clandon Surrey b_______d. 1 January 1657/8 in Surrey Co.and left a will; buried at Purton Church, Oxfordshire
7. (iv) Robert June 11, 1624 Colborne, Isle of Wight (living in 1657)
7. (vi) Richard Nov 14, 1625 Colborne, Isle of Wight (living in 1657)
7. (vii) Judith died as an infant
7. (viii) Anne living in 1657
7. (ix) Judith appears to have been the second wife of Sir Thomas Pelham, knt. and married in 1637; she died and was buried at Laughton Sussex 21 Nov 1638
7. (x) Elizabeth died as an infant
7. (xi) Bridget, bapt 7 May 1623 in Colbourne, Isle of Wight; living in 1657
7. (xii) Elizabeth (listed as a dau in the Harl. MSSS 4023 written in 1638)


6. (ii) Sir Anthony b. 1563 at Wiston d. 1633 Granada, Spain.
He entered Hert Hall, Oxford in 1579 and received a B.A. Feb 8, 1581. In November of same year he was elected probationer of All Soul's College. From the university he removed to the Inns of Court. In 1596 Sir Anthony Sherley undertook, under Lord Essex's patronage, an expedition against the Isle of St. Thomas and the settlements of the Spaniards in the West Indies. On the eve of his departure he was presented by Essex and the Lord Admiral to the Queen, "and used with great favor both in privy and drawing chambers." (Details of his life can be found in "Elizabethan Errants"). In the winter of 1598-9 Sir Anthony was asked to go to Persia and prevail upon the King of Persia to unite with the Christian princes against the Turks. From Persia Sir Anthony proceeded to Russia, in the quality of an ambassador from the Persian King to all the princes of Europe. He received an indifferent treatment from the Czar of Muscovy and traveled into Germany and was received with honor at Prague by the Emperor Rudolph. From Prague he came to Nuemburg, Munick, Trent and arrived in Rome in 1601. He afterwards retired to Venice where he remained until the spring of 1605. He returned to Prague and was soon after employed by the Emperor of Germany as ambassador to the King of Morocco. In the autumn of 1606 Sir Anthony Sherley is at Lisbon and in the spring of 1607 he is at Madrid. Here the King of Spain made him "General of the Mediterranean Seas." In July 1607 he was at Naples and from here he returned to Prague to give an account of his embassy to the Emperor, by whom he was created a Count of the Empire. In 1608 he was again in Italy and returned to Spain. In 1611 Count Anthony Sherley retired to Granada, Spain. (He lived in Spain 20 years). In 1622 Count Anthony Sherley wrote a book in which he incorporated various projects which he advanced over the years. His purpose was to get the attention of the Conde Duique de Oivares, who was then at the beginning of his power. His projects had been: the establishment of the cloth trades in the territories of Spain, an embargo on the importation of manufactured goods. He suggested to Olivares a number of ways in which his talents might be employed. There were, for example, shameful frauds in the refining and transportation of silver and gold from America, by which Sherley estimated, roughly 30 per cent of the of the gold was being embezzled and lost to the crown. In 1623 one Juan Nicholas pointed out to Olivares the numerous occasions on which the government to the detriment of the country had disregarded the wise counsel of Sherley. Count Anthony had advised the Dutch should be excluded from the salt pans at Punta Araya in Venezuela. No notice was taken of him, with the result the Dutchmen grew rich on Spanish salt. In 1624 Count Anthony summarized a number of his projects in a single document. He again urged that Spain should obtain control of the Strait of Gibraltar. "I assert that with closing or obstructing the passage of the Strait, Your Majesty is placing his foot on the necks of the princes of Italy and the Turk, for passage through the Strait is crucial to their commercial life". He advocated a regular mail service between Spain and the Indies and offered to establish it. He suggested that a company should be formed in Mexico to sell spices. He pointed out the wisdom of establishing a market for dyes, spices, and drugs at Final, of fortifying the island of Mogador, of basing a merchant fleet on Cartagena, of making peace with the Turk. But the King's ministers were jaded and annotated his document with such comments as "No", "Nothing" and "Nothing in this". Two years later he put forward his most ambitious proposal, which was that he and his Spanish descendants, his son Don Diego is mentioned specifically, should be given proprietary rights to a town on the island of Fadala and another in Anafa, or Mogador in Barbary, to hold as vassals of the King of Spain with the title of Senorio or Lord. He and his descendants would have the right to fortify these towns and develop the fishery in the vicinity, to buy wheat, hides, meat, and other products in Barbary, and to sell these products to Spain. In return for these privileges Sherley agreed to maintain a fleet of fifty ships which would be at the disposal of the King four months of the year and for trading operations the other eight months. He was 61 years old at this time. There is no record this proposal was carried forward. Doubtless he was a famous man, full of stories of the wars in Flanders, of the munificence of the Persian court, of sea fights in the Indies, of the horrible machinations of the famous English heretics, Queen Elizabeth, Essex, Cecil, Sir Walter Raleigh, all of whom he had known. He died in 1633. He is buried in the parochial church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Granada. Count Anthony Sherley's death was written about in the Anales de Granada of Francisco de Jorquera. He notes the death of Count Anthony and says Anthony left a son of outstanding quality whom His Majesty will employ in his service for he is capable in many matters. In another paper, Count Anthony refers to his Spanish descendants, his son Don Diego is mentioned specifically.
m. Frances Vernon. By this marriage there was no issue according to Stemmata.

6. (iii) Sir Robert
The youngest of the three brothers, was born at Wiston. He accompanied his brother Sir Anthony to Persia in 1598, and remained in that country for several years after his brothers departure. In the year 1609 Sir Robert was employed by the Persian monarch as ambassador to several princes of Christendom, for the purpose of uniting them in a confederacy against the Turks. He first went to Poland, and to Germany where he received the title of Earl (Count) palatine and knight of the Roman Empire. He was given the single power of legitimating all bastards, the children of great Princes, Earls, and Barons only excepted. The title of Earl of the sacred palace of Lalteran and Chamberlain was also conferred upon him by Pope Paul the Fifth. He traveled to similar places as his brother Anthony.Sir Robert Sherley arrived in Barcelona in December 1609 and remained in Spain mostly at Madrid. He sent for his wife who was in Poland. He had married her in 1607. She was the daughter of a Persian Prince. In 1611 they became the parents of a son, Henry. The Prince of Wales was his sponsor. Sir Robert remained in England during the year 1612 (the year of his father, Sir Thomas the elders, decease). He and his wife left England in 1613 leaving little Henry in England, whom he recommended to the protection of the Queen. This child died in England although the exact date is not known. Sir Robert served many years as a Persian Ambassador and died in 1628 at Cazbyn, Persia. He was entombed under the threshold of his own house in the city without much ceremony. His wife, Lady Teresia (the daughter of a Persian Prince), retired after Sir Roberts death to Rome. About 30 years later, Lady Teresia had Roberts bones removed to Rome. She died in 1668 and they are buried in the tomb in the church of Santa Maria della Scala at Rome.


6. (iv) Mary m Sir John Crofts of Suffolk *** (see below)
6. (v) Elizabeth m Sir Edward Onslow
6. (vi) Margery m Sir Pexall Brocas
6. (vii) Jane m Sir John Shurley of Isfield Sussex
6. (viii) Anne m Sir John Tracey of Soddington
6. (ix) Cecily m Sir Thomas West Lord De la Ware

SHIRLEY, Sir Richard (by 1477-1540), of Wiston, Suss.
Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982

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.



Did the Wiston Shirleys die out as the pedigree suggests?

1. Nothing is known about the children of Dr. Thomas Shirley who fought to retrieve Wiston in court. Certainly, a possiblity exists that his children named in the Shirley pedigree continued.

2. One item hints at further Wiston descendants:

The well-known dramatist named Thomas Killigrew wrote a letter to the Duke of Ormond in 1668 complaining about the scandal his "cousin Shirley" found himself in with Mary Ware. The Ware incident was famous in the mid-1600s accusing James Shirley, an employee of the exchequer's office in Dublin Ireland, of abducting the heiress Mary Ware for the purpose of forced matrimony in 1666. Shirley at one point fled to London and then died not long aferward. His brother and heir, John Shirley, also in Ireland, handled many of the financial matters following the death of James Shirley.

At first glance, Killigrew's occupation as a dramatist would lead one to suspect a kinship with the family of James Shirley, the London dramatist of this same era. However, this Thomas Killigrew married Cecillia Crofts, d/o Sir John Crofts and Mary Shirley of Wiston, sister of the 3 famous Shirley brothers. (see above for generation 6) Killigrew's 1st cousins would be generation 7, and his 2nd cousins would be the unknown children of any of that generation.


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