SHURLEY, John I (d.1616), of 'The Friars', Lewes, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

2nd s. of Edward Shurley of Isfield by Joan, da. of John Fenner of Crawley. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1562; Clifford’s Inn; m. Temple 1565, called by 1575. m. (1) aft. Dec. 1570, Elizabeth (d. by May 1580), da. and coh. of Richard Kyme of Lewes, 1da.; (2) 14 Sept. 1585, Frances, da. of Henry Capell I of Hadham, Herts., 1s. 2da.

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. from c.1584; bencher, M. Temple 1587, Lent reader 1587, treasurer May 1601; serjeant-at-law 1603.


Shurley was the founder of a cadet branch of the Shurleys of Isfield, some five miles north of Lewes, and uncle to John Shurley II of the senior line. His house in Lewes, called ‘The Friars’, was evidently used as their town house by the Isfield Shurleys, since both Shurley’s elder brother Thomas and his nephew John died there.2

Shurley had to importune Michael Hickes to ask Cecil for his promotion as serjeant-at-law, on the ground that he was the ‘first and ancientest’ named of the Middle Temple by the judges. John Rowe, the antiquary, who received his legal training from Shurley, notes that Shurley was of counsel to the constables of Lewes about 1584. In 1605 he was counsel for Hastings, and in 1608 and 1611 for Rye. But Shurley was more a country gentleman than a lawyer. It was probably he who was called upon on 17 Apr. 1600 to provide 100 horses overnight for the governor of Dieppe, who had arrived with a noble retinue at Newhaven, and needed horses to carry his company to London. Shurley was made responsible for a bequest by his wife’s uncle to the borough of Lewes and, in September 1602, was among those entrusted with a fund for the regular relief of the poor of Lewes, Hove and Buckstead.3

Shurley’s return to Parliament for Lewes requires no explanation, but his return for Lostwithiel does, and one is not forthcoming. No connexion has been established between Shurley and the borough or any possible patron. Thus it must remain uncertain whether it was in fact Shurley who was returned. However, the committee activity of ‘Mr. Shirley’ in 1584 points to a lawyer, so the assumption has been allowed to stand. With this caveat, and another required by the number of Shirleys in the House—the journals take no account of the different spelling of the surname

—Shurley’s committees were on collateral warranties (7 Mar. 1576), wrecks (30 Jan. 1581), wool (23 Feb.), lessees in tail (27 Feb.), Erith and Plumstead marshes (8 Mar.), mariners (15 Mar.), tithes and other ecclesiastical law reforms (6 Mar. 1585), highways (9 Mar.), delay in executions (9 Mar.) and assurances (22 Mar.). In the 1589 Parliament he was given leave of absence on 1 Mar. as ‘Mr. John Shirley, one of the burgesses for the borough of Lewes’ (the journals are often at their most specific when there is no possibility of confusion—there was no other Shirley in 1589), but was back by 17 Mar. for the committee of a bill about the hue and cry. Other committees he was named to in 1589 concerned outlawries (20 Mar.), the Exchequer (20 Mar.), and conferring with the Lords about a declaration of war on Spain (29 Mar.). In the 1597 Parliament his committees, all of which except the last-named he reported to the House, were on the continuation of statutes (11, 18 Nov., 13 Dec.,3 Feb. 1598), John Sharp’s debts (23 Jan. 1598), highways in Sussex, Surrey and Kent (27, 31 Jan.), the better execution of judgment (1, 4 Feb.) and corn (3 Feb.).4

Shurley died Oct. 1616, apparently intestate, leaving his son a minor. His inquisition post mortem and feodary’s survey show that, as well as owning property in Lewes, he died seised of the manor of Broadwater, Sussex, which he had bought in the autumn of 1605.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. Folger V. b. 298.
  • 2. M.T. Recs. i. 207 et passim; W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Suss. (Comber’s copy at Chichester), 204; Suss. Arch. Colls. xviii. 129; c. 120-1; VCH Suss. vii. 37.
  • 3. Lansd. 108, f. 63; Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv. pp. vii. 123, 168; xlviii. 31; HMC 13 Rep. IV, pp. 137, 140, 148, 360; Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 59; HMC Hatfield, x. 133-14.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 290, 301, 364, 371, 441, 446, 449, 450, 454, 559, 572, 586, 589, 591, 592; CJ, i. 111, 120, 129, 132, 134; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 26, 125.
  • 5. C142/355/63; Wards 5/43, pt. 1, dated 22 Feb. 1617; Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv. 206; xix. 66.