SKEFFINGTON, John (1534-1604), of White Ladies, Salop, Fisherwicke Park and Brewood, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 1534, 1st s. of William Skeffington of White Ladies and Fisherwicke by Joan (Elizabeth), da. of James Leveson of Lilleshall, Salop and Trentham, Staffs. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1552; I. Temple 1556. m. by 1563, Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Cave of Stanford, Northants., 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1551.1
Skeffington’s grandfather was a merchant of the staple and sheriff of London who invested in land and founded a branch of the family which by 1559 was of almost equal importance with the Skeffingtons of Skeffington, Leicestershire. Skeffington himself was content with the role of country gentleman, and married into one of the leading Staffordshire families, but his brother George, like his grandfather, was a merchant of the staple.
At his father’s death John was still under age, and his wardship was sold to John Ryder, cofferer of the King’s Household. He was granted livery of his Yorkshire lands—a group of manors in Holderness—in 1555, and presumably of his other lands at the same time. His interests seem to have been primarily bound up in his estates and their augmentation, for he played no part in county affairs in spite of his connexion with the Levesons and, after his mother’s third marriage, the Giffords. His lands in Staffordshire were concentrated in the southwestern quarter, at Barr, West Bromwich, Goscote, Rushall, Walsall, Bloxwich, Penn and Wombourn, and in 1563 he settled these upon his wife as her jointure, together with lands at Hornsey, Middlesex, and Walpole, Norfolk. His choice of a wife suggests that Skeffington preferred to maintain close relations with his Leicestershire cousins, rather than with the Staffordshire gentry among whom his father had sought alliances. Alice Cave was the daughter of a neighbour of the Skeffingtons of Skeffington and her sister married William Skeffington†, the contemporary representative of that branch of the family. The connexion was further strengthened when, after Sir Thomas Cave’s death, John Skeffington’s brother, James, married Alice’s mother.2
It may be presumed that Skeffington was already well-known to the Caves of Stanford, and particularly to Alice’s uncle, Sir Ambrose, by December 1558, when the election writs for Elizabeth’s first Parliament went out. Sir Ambrose was chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and as such was able to secure a seat for Skeffington at Newcastle-under-Lyme. It is probable that Skeffington was a convinced protestant, which would have made his return to this Parliament particularly welcome. There is no direct evidence on this point, but what the alliance with the Caves suggests is confirmed by the attitude of other members of the family. The Parliament of 1559 was his sole incursion into public life. Thereafter he returned to the cultivation of his estates. He was tenacious of his rights and in 1561 was involved in a lawsuit concerning some manors in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, which the Queen ordered Lord Keeper Bacon to settle. By 1566 he was increasing his holdings in south-western Staffordshire by purchase, and it may have been this which gave him the excuse of pleading poverty in 1570, when approached for a privy seal loan of £50. His petition to be excused was supported by the justices of Staffordshire, by his mother-in-law, and by his brother-in-law Roger Cave, who wrote to Sir William Cecil on his behalf. Still, he left an unencumbered estate to his son, who was able to buy a baronetcy in 1627.3
Skeffington died at Fisherwicke 7 Nov. 1604, and was buried at St. Michael’s Lichfield on the following day. His son William had been playing an active part in his father’s and the county’s affairs for several years. No will or inquisition post mortem has been found.4
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: Irene Cassidy
- 1. Shaw, Staffs. i. 3; (Harl. Soc. ii), 110-12; CPR, 1558-60, p. 231; C142/93/61, 94/66.
- 2. Erdeswick’s Surv. Staffs. 461; C142/49/44, 50/95; Wards 9/154; Poulson, Holderness, ii. 31-2; Shaw, loc. cit.; Colls. Hist. Staffs. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.) xvii. 215;
- 3. PCC 3 Lewyn, 28 Darcy; Pennington and Roots, Committee at Stafford 1643-5, 534; Kidson, Gentry of Staffs, 1662-3, 28-9; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 171, 386; Colls. Hist. Staffs. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.) xiii. 263, 277; xv. 132, 135, 149; xvi. 159.
- 4. Shaw, Staffs, i. 339, 341.