SHELLEY, John, of Rye, Suss. and Sandwich, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Dec. 1421

Family and Education

m. bef. Mich. 1411, Idonea, ?1s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Kent, Suss. July 1410 (piracy).

Mayor, Rye Aug. 1411-12, ?1418-21; jurat 1412-14.2

Jurat, Sandwich Dec. 1423-5, 1431-9; mayor 1426-7; dep. mayor Apr. 1434.3


In December 1410 Shelley was the victim of a gang of robbers, led by Robert and Edmund Chymbham, allegedly mercers of London, who broke into his house at Rye by night, carried off plate and jewellery worth £7, and beat, wounded and kidnapped him, although nothing more is heard of the affair. From that year until 1421 he owned land near Rye at Wivelridge and Hope, on which as a Portsman he claimed exemption from taxation. In addition, his marriage brought him substantial holdings elsewhere in east Sussex and also in Kent. In 1411 he and his wife, Idonea, made a quitclaim of her land at Brenzett, Snargate and Warehorne, and in 1417 they leased to William Thirlwall* and his wife, for £8 a year, Idonea’s life interest in three messuages and some 330 acres in Tenterden and Appledore (Kent) and Broomhill, Playden, Rye and Ewhurst (Sussex).4

In 1417-18 Shelley was sent to London to petition for the remission of the five vessels which Henry V had demanded over and above the Cinque Ports’ usual contingent for ship-service. During his last mayoralty of Rye, in 1421, he arranged to account at the Exchequer for the money granted by Richard II in 1380 for repairs to the town walls, then showing that the townsmen had spent, on materials and labour, considerably more than had been received under the grant.5 However, not long afterwards he severed his connexion with Rye, moving instead to Sandwich, where he was to take an active part in local government for 16 years. It was during his term as mayor of Sandwich, in February 1426, that he was first returned to Parliament for his new home town. Not surprisingly, the Cinque Ports in general continued to employ him on their common business. In 1432 or 1433 he was one of four delegates chosen to present a suit to the warden, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, asking that certain letters sent contrary to the Ports’ liberties should be rescinded. The Brodhull evidently expected considerable difficulties, for it promised that should any of the four be vexed or prosecuted personally in this common cause, he would be fully recompensed. Then, in July 1433, Shelley acted as counsel to the men of Lydd, the member-port of New Romney. He represented Sandwich at a Brodhull held in January 1434. Early in 1436 he was entertained at New Romney when he brought news to the Brodhull of the projected expedition of Richard, duke of York, recently appointed the King’s lieutenant in France (news he may have heard before leaving Westminster at the close of the Parliament in the previous December); and in March that year, again representing Sandwich at the general meeting of the Ports, he was put on a delegation to Gloucester and others of the King’s Council about the calling out of the Ports’ full ship-service on York’s behalf, such service being by then customarily rendered only when the King was to take part in an expedition in person. The delegates were to take with them copies of the Cinque Ports’ charters and of writs issued in earlier reigns. He last attended a Brodhull in December that year, but lived on until 1439 or later.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: A. P.M. Wright / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. He may have been the John, bro. of Richard Shelley, the rector of Swanscombe, Kent, whose children were left bequests in their uncle’s will in 1413; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, 2, f. 170d.
  • 2. Rye Corporation mss, 77/1, 2; E368/185, 192, 194; Cat. Rye Recs. ed. Dell, 136/177.
  • 3. Sandwich Black bk. ff. 2, 5, 7, 14, 16d, 20, 28d, 32, 38, 46; St. John’s hosp. reg. 15, 16; W. Boys, Sandwich, i. 155.
  • 4. E101/67/18/2, E179/225/34, 36, 40, 42; CP25(1)112/276/570, 291/64/54.
  • 5. Romney assmt. bk. 2, f. 88; E364/57 m. Hd.
  • 6. Lydd Recs. ed. Finn, 45; White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports (Kent Rec. Ser. xix), 1, 3, 7, 9; Romey assmt. bk. 2, f. 121.