SHURLEY, Sir John (1568-1631), of Isfield, Suss.; later of Cuckfield, 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. 20 Apr. 1568,1 1st s. of Thomas Shurley of Isfield and his 1st w. Anne, da. of Sir Nicholas Pelham† of Halland, Suss.2 educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. 1582; M. Temple 1591.3 m. (1) 10 Jan. 1589, Jane, da. of Sir Thomas Shirley I* of Wiston, Suss., 2s. d.v.p. 7da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 14 Mar. 1608, Dorothy (d.1640), da. of George Goring† of Danny Park, Suss., wid. of Sir Henry Bowyer† of Cuckfield, s.p.4 suc. fa. 1579;5 kntd. 11 May 1603.6 d. 25 Apr. 1631.7 sig. John Shurley.

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. by 1597-d.;8 commr. sewers, rape of Pevensey, Suss. 1602-at least 1605, Suss. 1604-30, rapes of Pevensey and Hastings, Suss. 1631, Kent 1618;9 capt. militia ft. Suss. by 1603-at least 1606;10 commr. subsidy, Suss. 1608, 1621-2, 1624;11 commr. and collector of aid, Suss. 1609, collector 1613;12 dep. lt. Suss. 1613-d.;13 sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1616-17;14 commr. brewhouse survey, Suss. 1620,15 oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1625-d., Suss. 1627,16 Forced Loan, Suss. 1626-7,17 martial law 1627.18


Shurley’s great-grandfather, cofferer to Henry VIII, acquired Isfield, situated in Pevensey rape in east Sussex,19 while Shurley’s uncle, John Shurley*, a lawyer, represented Lewes in four parliaments. In 1603 Shurley himself signed the Sussex puritan petition against the ‘hot urging of ceremonies’.20 His father-in-law, Sir Thomas Shirley I*, lived at Wiston, close to Bramber. It may have been this connection which enabled Shurley to secure his return for the borough in 1604, though he may already have acquired the rectory of the neighbouring parish of Steyning.21

Shurley was appointed to 21 committees and made four reported speeches in the first Stuart Parliament. During the first session he was particularly concerned with the claim to privilege of his father-in-law, who had been arrested for debt shortly before the start of the session. Shurley’s uncle, who also had a seat in the Commons, raised the case on 22 Mar., which was referred to a committee five days later. Shurley was not named, but nevertheless it was he who, on 17 Apr. 1604, introduced the bill drafted by the committee to secure payment of the debt owed by his father-in-law and to indemnify the warden of the Fleet. He was also among those later appointed to examine precedents on 2 May, and six days later he successfully moved the imprisonment of the warden of the Fleet for his refusal to accept the Commons’ orders.22

During the second session Shurley contributed to the debate on tightening-up the recusancy laws in the aftermath of Gunpowder Plot, in which he urged that care should be taken to ensure the loyalty of ‘captains of bands, of ships, of forts’ (28 Feb. 1606).23 His puritanism probably explains his appointment on 7 Mar. to consider the bill for restoring deprived ministers.24 He was among those named on 26 May to consider the sermon recently preached against the Commons at St. Paul’s cross by the precentor of Lincoln cathedral, which he may have heard himself.25 His other committee appointments concerned the bills for the repair of highways (6 Feb.) and the satisfaction of due debts (20 March).26

At the beginning of the third session Shurley was named to attend a conference with the Lords on the Union with Scotland (25 Nov. 1606), and on 4 June he moved for Nicholas Fuller’s proposed clause, allowing defence witnesses in Border trials, to be inserted into the relevant bill before it was read.27 On 26 Feb. he was appointed to consider the revived debt bill, and he was also named to the committees for bills to prevent multiple occupation of tenements, to confirm letters patent (both 15 May), and to secure ‘the better execution of the commissions of sewers’ (12 June).28 On 2 July 1607 he attended the committee for the continuance of the Marian Act against unlawful assemblies, where he confirmed a case cited by Edward Alford of a man condemned at the Sussex assizes ‘for words spoken without any evil intent’.29

Early in the following year he married the sister of Sir George Goring*, and settled at Cuckfield, 12 miles north-west of Lewes. Shurley subsequently wrote that his new wife was ‘the best mother-in-law in the world’ to the children of his first marriage. She was also the widow of Sir Henry Bowyer, a supporter of ‘godly’ ministers and a prominent ironmaster, and consequently Shurley came into possession for her lifetime of Cotchford forge.30 His new interest in the iron industry may explain his first committee appointment of the fourth session, for the bill for preservation of woods (22 March).31 He was also named to consider bills on hawking (29 Mar.), highways (30 Mar.), and alehouse-keepers (31 March).32 He was among the Members of the Commons who took the new oath of allegiance on 5 June.33

There is no evidence that Shurley sought re-election in 1614, 1620 or 1624, but may instead have persuaded Sir Thomas Shirley II* to nominate his neighbour Robert Morley* at Bramber on the latter two occasions. In February 1622 he was summoned before the Privy Council to account for his failure to contribute to the Palatinate Benevolence.34 In 1625 he was elected junior knight of the shire, in company with his cousin Sir Thomas Pelham. He left no mark on the records of the first Caroline Parliament, but on 25 Sept., when the brief for a collection for the poor of London and Westminster was received at Cuckfield, he told his fellow parishioners that he had been present at the collection in the House at the end of the session and assured them ‘that every knight of the shire paid down 10s. and every burgess of the Lower House 5s.’35 He is not known to have sought re-election and in 1627 and sold his interest in Cotchford forge for £2,500.36

Shurley drew up his will on his deathbed at Lewes on 25 Apr. 1631, and was buried at his request ‘in my chancel of Isfield church where my ancestors were buried’. The inscription on his splendid altar tomb records that he was ‘of a magnanimous heart, of an exemplary industry, of a justice beyond exception; and that he was stout in good causes, yea, and good in all causes’. He left small sums to the poor of seven Sussex parishes, including Steyning, and forgave £1,400 owed by his brother Sir George, lord chief justice of Ireland. He bequeathed an impressive array of weaponry to a nephew, but gave his ‘gilt rapier, the blade whereof was his father’s’ to Anthony Stapley* who was married to Lady Shurley’s niece, Anne Goring. He named his wife executrix, and George, now Lord Goring, Pelham and Stapley as overseers. No later member of the family entered Parliament.37

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Cal. of Post Mortem Inquisitions ed. L.F. Salzman (Suss. Rec. Soc. iii), 132.
  • 2. Suss. Gens.: Lewes Centre comp. J. Comber, 253.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Suss. Gens.: Lewes Centre, 253; W.H. Challen, ‘Suss. Entries in London Par. Regs.’ Suss. N and Q, ix. 104; Par. Regs. of Cuckfield ed. W.C. Renshaw (Suss. Rec. Soc. xiii), 102.
  • 5. Cal. of Post Mortem Inquisitions, 132.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 107.
  • 7. Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Suss. ed. E.W.T. Attree (Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv), 207.
  • 8. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Eliz. ed. J.S. Cockburn, 326; T.W. Horsfield, Hist. and Antiquaries of Lewes, ii. 148.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 27v, 81, 108v; 181/2, ff. 134, 292v, 320; 181/3, ff. 133v, 166v; 181/4, ff. 36v, 74.
  • 10. Harl. 703, f. 136.
  • 11. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 12. E179/283/12; E403/3732, f. 161.
  • 13. Harl. 703, f. 152v; Horsfield, ii. 148.
  • 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 138.
  • 15. APC, 1619-21, p. 203.
  • 16. C181/3, ff. 138v, 216v; 181/4, f. 72v.
  • 17. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 59.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 461.
  • 19. E. Turner, ‘Isfield Place’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xviii. 128.
  • 20. T.W.W. Smart, ‘Extracts from the Mss of Samuel Jeake’, Suss. Arch. Colls. ix. 47; A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 71.
  • 21. VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, p. 241; Danny Archives ed. J.A. Wooldridge, 71.
  • 22. CJ, i. 175b, 195a, 202b.
  • 23. Ibid. 275b.
  • 24. Ibid. 279b.
  • 25. Ibid. 312b. The diarist Robert Bowyer states that the appointees were those who had been present at the sermon. Bowyer Diary, 179-80.
  • 26. CJ, i. 264a, 287b.
  • 27. Ibid. 324b; Bowyer Diary, 314.
  • 28. CJ, i. 343a, 374a, 382a.
  • 29. Bowyer Diary, 366.
  • 30. J.H. Cooper, ‘Cuckfield fams. (pt. 2)’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xlii. 45; PROB 11/159, f. 486v; W.V. Cooper, Hist. of Par. of Cuckfield, 48, 78; E. Straker, Wealden Iron, 251.
  • 31. CJ, i. 413b.
  • 32. Ibid. 416a, 416b, 417a.
  • 33. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 15.
  • 34. SP14/127/79.
  • 35. J.H. Cooper, ‘Cuckfield briefs’ Suss. Arch. Colls. lii. 25; Procs. 1625, p. 472.
  • 36. Fletcher, 19.
  • 37. Horsfield, ii. 148; PROB 11/159, ff. 485v-6v.