SHILLETO, George (-d.1637), of Seacroft, Whitkirk, Yorks. and Staple Inn, London

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



14 Apr. 1621

Family and Education

1st s. of Francis Shilleto, yeoman, of Great Houghton, Darfield, Yorks. and Elizabeth, da. of John Dolyff of Heath, Warmfield, Yorks.1 educ. Staple Inn, G. Inn 1606.2 m. (settlement 25 June 1606), Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Bulkeley* of Beaumaris, Anglesey, s.p.3 suc. fa. by 1606. admon. 16 Nov. 1637.4 sig. Geo[rge] Shelleto.

Offices Held

Attorney, Star Chamber 1606-d.5

J.p. Yorks. (W. Riding) by 1608-14, 1622-5;6 recvr. (jt.), honours of Pontefract and Tickhill, Yorks. 1612-d., hon. of Knaresborough, Yorks. 1613-d.;7 high constable, Agbrigg wapentake, Yorks. 1620-1.8


Shilleto’s family had been resident in the Pontefract area since the fourteenth century. His grandfather, a Crown tenant of the demesnes and coalmines of Great Houghton, styled himself a yeoman in his will, though he was granted arms in 1604.9 Having trained as an attorney at Staple Inn Shilleto assisted Sir Lionel Cranfield* in managing the property he acquired from two feckless Yorkshiremen, Sir Richard Gargrave* and Peter Frobisher. He bought the manor of Seacroft and its collieries, near Leeds, from Charles Blount†, earl of Devonshire in 1605, which he improved by enclosure. In 1608 he was outbid for the Crown manor of Great Houghton by Sir Henry Savile*, but two years later he spent £1,000 buying Yorkshire lands from contractors for Crown leases.10

Shilleto’s appointment in 1606 as one of the four attorneys in Star Chamber represented a significant promotion, which is difficult to explain; it was presumably linked to his marriage with one of the premier families of North Wales, or perhaps to the man who thereby became his brother-in-law, Sir Edwin Sandys*.11 In 1612-13 Shilleto acquired local office in Yorkshire as receiver of the duchy of Lancaster honours of Pontefract, Tickhill and Knaresborough. He replaced Sir Henry Slingsby*, who had been removed for financial irregularities, and while his predecessor was initially co-operative, when it became clear that compliance would not secure his reinstatement, Slingsby prosecuted Shilleto in the duchy court, in a suit which merely confirmed his sacking.12

At the hotly contested Yorkshire election of December 1620 Shilleto, then high constable of Agbrigg wapentake, canvassed the freeholders for Sir Thomas Wentworth*. The latter’s opponent, Sir John Savile*, complained to the Commons about a multitude of sharp practices, but the only charge taken seriously was that Wentworth had used the West Riding constables to canvass for him. On 13 Feb. Shilleto testified that he had been asked to establish the level of support for Wentworth in his bailiwick, but had not been compelled to return the names of refusers. This suggested that two other constables who had ordered the freeholders to turn out for Wentworth had exceeded their instructions, and this allowed the House to confirm the election result on 23 March.13 Wentworth expressed his gratitude by supporting the campaign to enfranchise Pontefract, which began with a petition tabled on 26 Mar. by Shilleto’s brother-in-law Sandys, whose ‘dazzling and rhetorical display of inaccurate antiquarianism’ persuaded the House to endorse this request the next day.14 Shilleto’s part in this manoeuvre is uncertain, but he is likely to have been one of the prime movers, as he and (Sir) Edwin Sandys* (nephew of Shilleto’s brother-in-law) were returned for Pontefract against stiff competition at an election held during the Easter recess. Shilleto was by then already in London, where he submitted a petition against the tolls of York to the Commons’ vacation committee on 7 April. The indenture arrived at Westminster on 24 Apr., whereupon the Commons ordered it to be brought in the following morning.15

Shilleto left no trace on the Commons’ debates before the summer adjournment, but made two recorded speeches in the autumn. On 27 Nov., amid official calls for speedy supply for relief of the beleaguered garrisons of the Palatinate, he suggested that an expedition be sent to intercept the Spanish plate fleet in the Caribbean instead. However, this serious point was lost when he attempted to justify this belligerent policy with a precedent from his own court of Star Chamber.16 The Commons urged the king to take a harder line towards Spain, advice which elicited a frosty response. Relations were further soured by revelations that two patentees, Lepton and Goldsmith, had attempted to bring a prosecution against the leading MP, Sir Edward Coke, in Star Chamber. On 13 Dec. Shilleto revealed that Goldsmith had named the promoter of this lawsuit as Coke’s old rival, ‘Lord Verulam’ (Sir Francis Bacon*), who suspected Coke of involvement in his impeachment six months earlier.17 This revelation was clearly intended to defuse one source of tension between king and Commons, but failed to avert an early dissolution.

Wentworth required one of the Pontefract seats for himself in 1624; Shilleto does not appear to have stood at the general election, and when the other seat was vacated early in the session, it was contested by Sir John Jackson* and Sir Richard Beaumont*. The latter was initially reluctant to face another contest in 1625, recommending Sir Henry Savile* or Shilleto as his replacement, but ultimately changed his mind. Shilleto remained a Wentworth supporter, joining the latter in refusing the Forced Loan in 1627, while as late as 1635 lord keeper (Sir Thomas) Coventry* mentioned to Wentworth Shilleto’s ‘zeal in your service’. That same year Shilleto allegedly intervened in a controversial Star Chamber suit involving his Bulkeley relatives.

The final years of Shilleto’s life were overshadowed by difficulties over his accounts as duchy receiver, as a result of which he was imprisoned in the Fleet. He died intestate, and administration of his estates was granted to his widow on 15 Nov. 1637. No other member of the family entered Parliament.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Karen Bishop / Simon Healy


  • 1. R.J. Shilleto, ‘The Shilletos of the West Riding of Yorkshire’, Misc. (Thoresby Soc. xxvi), 292-3.
  • 2. GI Admiss.
  • 3. J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 42.
  • 4. York Wills 1627-36 (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xxxii), 245.
  • 5. Shilleto, 292; STAC 8/224/13; Lansd. 273, ff. 13, 60.
  • 6. C66/1988; W. Riding Sess. Recs. ed. J. Lister (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. liv), 7, 13.
  • 7. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 151, 156.
  • 8. CD 1621, iv. 49.
  • 9. Misc. 282, 293; York Wills 1603-11 [no editor] (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xxvi), 99.
  • 10. HMC Sackville, i. 191, 194, 230, 345; F.S. Colman, Barwick-in-Elmet (Thoresby Soc. xvii), 227; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 541; SP14/45/154; Salop RO, 5586/10/6/1.
  • 11. STAC 8/224/13; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 315; Lansd. 273, ff. 13, 60.
  • 12. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 151, 156; DL4/65/49; 4/67/46; 4/68/38; Yorks. Arch. Soc. DD56/A5/1-2; DD56/A5/3/4; SIR HENRY SLINGSBY.
  • 13. CD 1621, iv. 48-9, 161; YORKSHIRE.
  • 14. A.J. Fletcher, ‘Wentworth and the Restoration of Pontefract’, NH, vi. 88-97; Surr. Hist. Cent. LM1331/29; CJ, i. 572b, 576a; CD 1621, ii. 263, 270; iv. 192, 201.
  • 15. C219/37/319; CD 1621, iv. 212, 250; CJ, i. 588b; PONTEFRACT.
  • 16. CJ, i. 648a [unidentified speaker]; CD 1621, ii. 455 [unidentified speaker]; iii. 464-5; v. 217-18. The anonymous speeches were made at the same point as Shilleto spoke in the other accounts.
  • 17. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 316; CD 1621, ii. 517; C. Russell, PEP, 127-9.
  • 18. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 27, 466; APC, 1627, p. 245; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 465; UCNW, Baron Hill 63; York Wills 1627-36, p. 245.