SHILSTON, Sir John (by 1491-1529/30), of Wood, Devon and Southwark, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1491, yr. s. of Robert Shilston of Devon. m. Anne, da. of Sir William Brandon. Kntd. bef. Nov. 1513.2

Offices Held

Keeper and bailiff, manor of Dartington, Devon 1514; j.p. Devon 1515; sheriff 1515-16, commr. loan, Anglesey 1522; under steward, manor of Bromfield, Salop 1522; ‘justice’, N. Wales.3


John Shilston came of a family long established in Devon. As a younger son he enjoyed only the profits during life of houses and 740 acres in the county settled on him by his elder brother, but military service evidently brought him to the attention of Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle, whose sister he was to marry, and this in turn probably led to appointments both in Devon and in North Wales where Lisle was chamberlain. Shilston had been one of the captains on the expedition to Guienne in 1512, and again in the campaign against Tournai during the following year. He also saw action in France in 1522 and 1523.4

Shilston was the defendant in a court of requests case probably of 1523-4 over his alleged abuse of his power as under steward of Bromfield. The plaintiff had obtained judgment against him before the commissioners for the marches of Wales, but complained that Shilston had ignored this and had said ‘in open audience if there came an hundred such commandments to him he would not obey’: Shilston further promised him that ‘if he tarried or dwelled in Bromfield the space of seven years he would tread on his skirts for his busy suit making’, a threat he had already made good by false imprisonment and menace of assault since the litigation began. Some years later, when Shilston was summoned before Chancellor More he demanded, ‘What is [it] for me to be steward of Bromfield if the King’s commissioners should break any order that I had made?’, to receive the reply, ‘The King’s commissioners be set there to order you and all other great officers and all the King’s subjects in those parts’.5

In 1529 Shilston’s brother-in-law, now Duke of Suffolk, was a leading Councillor, and it was doubtless at his nomination that Shilston was chosen for Southwark, where he may have lodged in Suffolk’s house. He can only have attended the first session: he made his will on 10 Dec. 1529 and died not long after, a writ of diem clausit extremum being issued on 23 Jan. 1530. After asking to be buried in St. George’s Southwark, Shilston divided most of his property between his wife, whom he made sole executrix, a great-niece Elizabeth, to whom he left £90 and a gold chain worth £80, and ‘one Jane which was given to me [as a ward] and now remaineth with my sister Coffin’. His Devon lands comprised some four houses and 250 acres of land, held jointly with his wife, and over ten tin mines. Shilston’s death was noted when the list of Members came to be revised in the spring of 1532, and his place was later filled by Thomas Bulla. His widow married Gawain Carew.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. C142/31/34; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 135; LP Hen. VIII, i.
  • 3. A. Emery, Dartington Hall, 71; LP Hen. VIII, i-iii; Cal. Wynn (of Gwydir) Pprs. 1515-1690, pp. 239-40; Req.2/12/154.
  • 4. Polwhele, Devonshire, ii. 461n; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxxvi. 227-8; C1/573/33; LP Hen. VIII, i; Req.2/12/154.
  • 5. Req.2/12/154.
  • 6. PCC 3 Thower; C142/51/89; SP1/56, ff. 2-10 (the ‘mortuus’ is omitted in OR).