SHELLEY, Henry I (1554-1623), of Warminghurst, Suss.; later of Sullington, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 4 Dec. 1554, o. (posth.) s. of Henry Shelley of Warminghurst and Anne, da. and h. of Richard Sackville of Chipstead, Surr. m. (1) 29 May 1575, Frideswide, da. of Sir Thomas Walsingham† of Scadbury, Kent, s.p.; (2) 15 Sept. 1578, Barbara (bur. 3 Nov. 1612), da. of William Cromer† of Tunstall, Kent, 8s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. suc. grandfa. at birth.1 d. 9 Dec. 1623.2

Offices Held

Capt. militia ft. Suss. c.1585;3 j.p. Suss. 1585-d.;4 commr. grain, Suss. 1595,5 sewers, rape of Pevensey, Suss. 1602-5, Suss. 1604, ?Kent and Suss. 1604,6 subsidy, Suss. 1608, 1621-2.7


Shelley’s great-grandfather, John Shelley† a London alderman probably of Hertfordshire origins, settled in Sussex after marrying the heiress to the manor of Michelgrove, in Bramber rape, in 1474, and represented Horsham in 1491-2.8 Shelley’s grandfather, Edward, was a younger son who became a master of Requests in the reign of Henry VIII and died in 1554, shortly after the decease of his eldest son, Shelley’s father. Shelley inherited an estate which included the manors of Findon, close to the boroughs of Bramber and Steyning, and Warminghurst, not far to the north. However, he had to fight off the claim of a Catholic uncle in a lawsuit that lasted three years and later featured in the Reports of Sir Edward Coke*.9

Shelley has sometimes been confused with a namesake from another branch of the family based at Patcham, near Brighton.10 However, it was almost certainly this man who was elected to Parliament for Steyning in 1586 and Bramber in 1604, as not only did he own property near both boroughs, he was also a member of the Sussex bench.11 Moreover, it is certain that it was this man who was the kinsman on whose behalf Lord Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), the lord lieutenant of Sussex, wrote to lord treasurer Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) in 1586 concerning the purchase of a sheep pasture.12

Shelley was described by Buckhurst as ‘zealous in religion’, but it seems his zealotry was of a conformist kind.13 It was probably he who in the autumn of 1603 assisted the bishop of Chichester in his examination into the Sussex puritan petition in favour of the non-conformist clergy, although a man of that name, presumably his Patcham cousin, had signed it. It was certainly this Member who, in October of that year, was granted the next presentation to the rectory of Birdham in Sussex, in the gift of the dean and chapter, and he received several similar grants during the next few years. He was returned for Bramber in 1604 with another signatory of the petition, Sir John Shurley.14

Shelley received 12 committee appointments in the first Jacobean Parliament, but made no recorded speeches. In the 1604 session he was named to consider the twice committed bill promoted by Sir Henry Neville II*, Buckhurst’s son-in-law (14 May and 14 June).15 In the second session he was named to consider bills for the repair of a Surrey highway (2 Apr. 1606), the drainage of the Fens (15 Apr.), and the regulation of fees in courts of record (6 May), a matter which may have deeply concerned him after his lengthy legal tribulations.16 In the third session he was one of those appointed on 1 Dec. to consider the articles for Union with Scotland and to prepare for a conference with the Lords on that subject. Nine days later he was named to consider the revived bill for the reform of abuses in the Marshalsea Court.17 His four committees in the fourth session included those for an explanatory bill on highways (27 Mar. 1610) and a successful bill to disable alehouse-keepers who offended against two Acts passed earlier in the Parliament (31 March).18

Shelley seems to have been in poor health from at least 1612, which probably deterred him from seeking re-election in 1614.19 His last years were further bedevilled by the responsibility he accepted for his eldest son’s debts. By 1621, when he made his will, he had sold the manor house at Warminghurst and settled in the neighbouring parish of Sullington. He left all his personal estate, including the profits of an otherwise unspecified ‘adventure in Scotland’, to his daughter and executrix Mary who was to pay off debts worth £850. He died on 9 Dec. 1623, and was buried the same day, in accordance with his wishes ‘in my chapel at Warminghurst ... which I built to that purpose’.20

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Coke’s Reps. (1738), i. 92; W. Berry, County Gens.: Peds. of the Fams. in County of Suss. 66-7; E.A. Webb, G.W. Miller and J. Beckwith, Hist. Chislehurst, 112, 135; J. Cave-Browne, Story of Hollingborne, 81.
  • 2. Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Suss. ed. E.W.T. Attree (Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv), 202.
  • 3. Harl. 703, f. 18.
  • 4. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Eliz. ed. J.S. Cockburn, 194; Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 124.
  • 5. Harl. 703, f. 83.
  • 6. C181/1, ff. 27v, 81, 95v, 108v.
  • 7. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1.
  • 8. Oxford DNB sub Shelley, Sir William.
  • 9. E. Turner, ‘Brasses in Suss. Churches’ Suss. Arch. Colls. xxiii. 189; Coke’s Reps. i. 88-106; VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, p. 24; pt. 2, p. 52.
  • 10. See for example HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 375.
  • 11. The identity of the j.p. is confirmed by the fact that he was marked as dead in the list of the justices for the 1624 Lent assizes, although the Patcham namesake survived until the early 1630s.
  • 12. Lansd. 50, f. 39.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. HMC Hatfield, xv. 262; T.W.W. Smart, ‘Extracts from the Mss of Samuel Jeake’, Suss. Arch. Colls. ix. 47; Acts of the Dean and Chapter of the Cath. Church of Chichester ed. W.D. Peckham (Suss. Rec. Soc. lviii), 159, 169, 172, 183, 185, 193.
  • 15. CJ, i. 210a, 238b.
  • 16. Ibid. 292a, 298b, 305b.
  • 17. Ibid. 326b, 329a.
  • 18. Ibid. 416b, 417a.
  • 19. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I, 42, 50, 56.
  • 20. Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Suss. 202; W. Suss. RO, STC11/S.Dean/13; Berry, 66.