SHURLEY, John (c.1546-1616), of The Friars, Lewes, Suss. and Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street or Chancery Lane, 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




Family and Education

b. c.1546,1 2nd s. of Edward Shurley (d.1558) of Isfield, Suss. cofferer to Henry VIII, and Joan, da. of John Fenner of Crawley. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1562; Clifford’s Inn; M. Temple 1565, called by 1575. m. (1) Elizabeth (bur. 30 May 1580), da. and coh. of Richard Kyme of Lewes, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) 14 Sept. 1585, Frances (d.1642), da. of Henry Capell† of Little Hadham, Herts., 1s. 2da.2 d. 2 Oct. 1616.3

Offices Held

Reader, New Inn 1578-9, M. Temple 1588, 1597,4 bencher 1587-1603, treas. 1601-2;5 fee’d counsel, Hastings, Suss. 1605, Rye, Suss. by 1607;6 sjt.-at-law 1603-d.7

J.p. Suss. by 1585-d.;8 commr. sewers, rape of Pevensey, Suss. 1602-at least 1605, Kent 1603, Suss. 1604, 1610, Kent and Suss. 1604,9 subsidy, Suss. 1608, aid 1609.10


Shurley was the younger son of a gentry family based at Isfield, five miles from Lewes, that was headed in this period by his nephew Sir John Shurley*. He followed a legal career in London, but also kept a house in Lewes. Returned three times for the borough under Elizabeth, he was occasionally consulted by the town authorities on legal matters.11 He was promoted to the rank of serjeant-at-law in 1603 and was re-elected for Lewes the following year.

Shurley was appointed to 56 committees, made five recorded speeches and delivered three reports in the 1604-10 Parliament. On 22 Mar. 1604 he moved for privilege to be granted to Sir Thomas Shirley I*, whose daughter had married Sir John Shurley and who had been returned for Steyning only to be arrested for debt shortly before Parliament met. Five days later Shurley was named to a committee to consider the case.12 As a serjeant-at-law, Shurley was entitled to attend the committee for the continuance or repeal of expiring statutes that was named on 24 March.13 The committee drafted a bill, which received its second reading on 5 June, when it was committed to the members of the drafting committee with additions. During the debate Shurley responded to Nathaniel Bacon’s motion for a proviso concerning the export of corn, arguing that the new committee should also be empowered to draft a separate measure to repeal the existing statute, but his suggestion was not taken up.14 On 29 June the members of the committee were instructed to confer with the Lords about the continuing statutes bill. The conference also considered the bill against Jesuits and seminary priests, and on 3 July Shurley reported the amendments to this measure agreed at the meeting, which were debated and confirmed the following day.15

On 11 June Shurley successfully reported the bill to explain the bankruptcy laws, renamed the bill ‘for the better relief of creditors’, although he had not been named to the committee.16 He was among those ordered to attend the king (8 Mar.) and to confer with the judges (5 Apr.) over the Buckinghamshire election dispute.17

In the second session Shurley was one of seven Members ordered on 19 Feb. 1606 to prepare to confer with the Lords on purveyance, and he ‘set forth the occasion’ at a conference a fortnight later.18 He received leave of absence on 17 Mar. ‘to ride the circuit’, although he may already have left, having not been mentioned in the Journal since 5 Mar., when he was appointed to the committee to draft fresh recusancy legislation.19 He had returned to the Commons by 1 Apr., when he was appointed to consider the bill to relieve counties of the cost of conveying malefactors to gaol, which he successfully reported eight days later.20

Shurley was named to only nine committees in the third session, including the bill for the sale of the Lincolnshire estates of Herbert Pelham*, the kinsman of his neighbour, Thomas Pelham† of Laughton. On 4 Dec. 1606 he spoke in the debate concerning the impact of the Union with Scotland on escuage, the feudal tenure of military service, and a week later he was appointed to prepare for a conference with the Lords about the Union. On the same day a motion by Shurley prompted Richard Digges to report from the sub-committee concerning the potential impact of the Union on the English shipping industry. He does not appear to have been entirely happy with what Digges said, and queried his exposition of the navigation laws.21 On 5 June Shurley spoke against Nicholas Fuller’s proposed clause allowing witnesses to defendants in Border trials, arguing ‘for defence of the law as it stands’.22 He was appointed to 11 committees in the fourth session, including two which may have been of interest to him for professional reasons, for bills relating to forcible entries (24 Feb. 1610) and warrants of attorney (29 Mar.), but he made no recorded speeches. He left no trace in the meagre records of the fifth session.23

Shurley was probably in his late sixties by 1614 and his age may have deterred him from seeking re-election. He died at Lewes on 2 Oct. 1616, leaving property there and at nearby Ringmer as well as the manor of Broadwater in West Sussex. He was buried three days later in All Saints’ church ‘in the alley of the little side chapel’. As his eldest son was still a minor, his widow purchased his wardship for £100. No will or administration has been found. His descendants became extinct in the male line in 1637 without further parliamentary service.24

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to Queens’, Camb.
  • 2. Suss. Gens.: Lewes Centre comp. J. Comber, 252-4; Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.; W.H. Challen, ‘Kyme Fam. of Lewes’, Suss. Arch. Colls. c. 119-21.
  • 3. Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Suss. ed. E.W.T. Attree (Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv), 206.
  • 4. Readers and Readings in the Inns of Ct. and Chancery ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. xiii), 168, 170, 211.
  • 5. MTR, 413, 422, 430.
  • 6. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 137, 140, 360.
  • 7. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 537.
  • 8. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Eliz. ed. J.S. Cockburn, 194; Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 70.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 27v, 57, 81, 95v, 96, 108v, 134v.
  • 10. SP14/31/1; 14/43/107.
  • 11. HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 378; Town Bk. of Lewes ed. L.F. Salzman (Suss. Rec. Soc. xlviii), 125.
  • 12. CJ, i. 149a, 155b.
  • 13. Ibid. 152a.
  • 14. Ibid. 986a.
  • 15. Ibid. 248b, 251b, 252a.
  • 16. Ibid. 990a.
  • 17. Ibid. 157a, 166b.
  • 18. Ibid. 270b, 277a.
  • 19. Ibid. 277b, 285a.
  • 20. Ibid. 291b, 295b.
  • 21. CJ, i. 329b, 1007b, 1009b; Bowyer Diary, 205.
  • 22. CJ, i. 1049b.
  • 23. Ibid. 399a, 416b.
  • 24. Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Suss. 206-8; WARD 9/162, f. 240v; ‘Par. Reg. of All Saints Lewes’ ed. W.H.G.; Suss. N and Q, vii. 222.