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Shirleys of
Wiston, Sussex



1. Ralph Shirley, esq. of Staunton Harold, Leicestershire, England

Married 2nd Elizabeth Blount

Children of Ralph Shirley, esq and 2nd wife Elizabeth Blount:

2(i). Elizabeth Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)

2(ii). Alice Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)

2(iii). Anne Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)

2(iv). Sanchia Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)

2(v). Margeret Shirley (source: visitation of Sussex)

2(vi). Ralph Shirley Esq. b_________He died 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.

married 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. He was the 2nd son and as such, inherited West Grinstead Sussex Shirleys of 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

married Elizabeth Gorges co-heir of Marmaduke Gorges of Gloucester

3(ii). Jane Shirley

3(iii). Elizabeth Shirley. She married John Lee of Little Worth in Sussex

3(iv). Beatrix Shirley. She married Edward Elryngton of Hogston, married 2nd Sir Edward Bray of Vachery Sussex

3(v). Isabell Shirley. She married 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________He died 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

married 1) Alma Shelley daughter of John Shelly of Michelgrove Sussex

married 2) 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 Shirley. visitation says died sans issue

4(ii). John Shirley ("2nd son" - source: visitation, His name not in other lists)

4(iii). Elizabeth Shirley. She married John Mychell of Stammerham (visitation). Mentioned in her father's 1540 will

4(iv). Ann Shirley She married Richard Fernwold (visitation) Mentioned in her father's 1540 will

4(v). Cicely Shirley married John Ledys (visitation)

4(vi). Alice Shirley married Thomas Chaunceler of Lyndford (visitation)

4(vii). Jane Shirley mentioned in father's 1540 Will as unmarried

4(viii). Frances Shirley mentioned in father's 1540 Will as unmarried

4(ix). Edward Shirley, esq. 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 Shirley Visitation says he died sans issue

4(xi). William Shirley born about 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.

married Mary Isley

children of William Shirley and Mary Isley:

5(i). Anthony Sherley of Preston Esq. Shirleys of Preston, Sussex

5(ii). 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. Shirleys of Wiston, Sussex

married Anne Kemp died 1622/23 daughter of Sir Thomas Kemp of Wye in Kent


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.


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