SHELDWICH, John I, of Canterbury, Kent.
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Family and Education
Jurat, Canterbury Mich. 1398-1400; bailiff 1408-9.2
Commr. of inquiry, Kent Sept., Nov. 1399 (location of the goods of Roger Walden, former abp. of Canterbury); array, I. of Thanet Mar. 1410.
Escheator, Kent and Mdx. 29 Nov. 1402-12 Nov. 1403.
Tax collector, Canterbury Dec. 1407.
The family of Sheldwich took its name from the village about eight miles west of Canterbury, but was established in the city before the mid 14th century. This John Sheldwich may have been the son of the parliamentary burgess of the same name who had served as bailiff of Canterbury five times between 1340 and 1367. First recorded in December 1390, when party to a recognizance for £200, from March 1395 he was a plaintiff in an action for trespass and debt in Surrey brought against a London goldsmith, a suit which dragged on for at least three years. It may be assumed that his professional training as a lawyer had been completed at some earlier date. In March 1393 he and another man entered into bonds for £200 with two clerks, no doubt as part of the proceedings of other litigation.3 Lawyers were often asked to act as sureties, and Sheldwich was no exception: there were several occasions that he undertook this task between 1395 and 1402, among them being the one in 1396 when he provided pledges for Thomas Ickham* of Canterbury, guaranteeing the latter’s appearance in the Exchequer to answer for discrepancies in his account as bailiff.4
It seems likely that Sheldwich was retained in a professional capacity by Christ Church priory, Canterbury. In 1392 he was one of those who obtained a royal licence to grant in mortmain to the prior property in Faversham and its neighbourhood (including some in the village of Sheldwich) and, in company with a different group of donors, he also joined in making a gift to the priory of certain holdings in London. Furthermore, in 1394-5 he was granted the farm of the issues of the sacrist’s courts together with the profits of the priory’s fairs, for a period of seven years. Not long afterwards he began to take an interest in the administration of the city of Canterbury, and towards the end of his first term as a jurat, in August or September 1399, the citizens sent him to London with Thomas Ickham to give an official welcome to Thomas Arundel, the deprived archbishop of Canterbury, and Henry, duke of Lancaster, on their triumphant return together from exile. On 10 Sept. both delegates were appointed, on Lancaster’s nomination, to a royal commission set up to discover the whereabouts of goods and chattels found to have been removed from the archbishop’s residences following the departure of Roger Walden, Richard II’s protégé, with instructions to take possession on Arundel’s behalf of any such items as they were able to retrieve. Within three weeks Sheldwich had been elected to the Parliament destined to acclaim Lancaster as Henry IV. While up at Westminster he saw personally to the formal registration of Canterbury’s charters in the central courts, at the same time initiating proceedings for the ratification of the city’s liberties by the new King. The following February found him acting at the assizes at Dartford as Canterbury’s attorney, both prosecuting and defending the rights of the city; and in the course of the next ten years he continued to serve the authorities as their legal counsel, although nowhere in the local financial accounts is he given an official title or recorded as receiving a regular stipend. Early in 1403 he was engaged in obtaining on the city’s behalf royal letters patent permitting the commonalty to acquire land up to the value of £20 a year in aid of the fortifications.5 Sheldwich had assumed his most important royal office, as escheator of Kent and Middlesex, just four days after the dissolution of his second Parliament in 1402. During his year of office he was engaged as an attorney in the King’s bench by the abbot of Lesnes, and other of his clients, drawn from among the gentry of Kent, included William Nutbeam*, for whom he acted as a trustee of land subsequently. He continued to make appearances as an attorney at the assizes held in Kent until 1409.6
An indication that Sheldwich’s career in the law proved financially rewarding is provided by evidence of his steady accumulation of landed holdings in east Kent. In 1398 he acquired property at Ulcombe; two years later he took on a lease of premises in Fordwich near Canterbury for payment of £5 p.a.; in 1402 he was party to transactions regarding farmland in Hackington; and in the following year he purchased a messuage in St. Michael’s parish in the city. He and his wife, Agnes, were both named by William Munde as executors of his will, with the task of selling tenements in the parish of St. Mary Breden to pay the testator’s debts and funeral expenses. It is, however, unclear whether his wife was the same person as Agnes, widow of a mason called Thomas Hoo, junior, with whom in 1408 he was jointly to acquire three messuages and seven shops in Canterbury. The last transactions to which he was party included a settlement of property in the city on him and his wife in tail, made in 1410, and the acquisition of land at Thanington, completed in January 1411. On that final occasion he was designated ‘senior’.7
It is presumed that he died not long afterwards, and that the John Sheldwich who represented Canterbury 14 times between 1413 and 1439 was a younger man, perhaps his son.
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Sheldewyche, Shelwyche, Sholdwych.
- 1. In Sept. 1410 Nicholas Baker, husband of Agnes, da. of John Sheldwich ‘senior’ was admitted a freeman of Canterbury by virtue of his marriage: Canterbury Cathedral, City and Diocesan RO, city accts. FA1, f. 90.
- 2. Ibid. ff. 37, 42; List Canterbury Officials comp. Urry and Bunce, 49.
- 3. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 301, 553; 1392-6, pp. 128, 406-7.
- 4. Ibid. 1392-6, pp. 403, 477; 1396-9, pp. 53, 60-62; 1399-1402 p. 120.
- 5. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 122, 150-1; 1401-5, pp. 228-9; Arch. Cant. xlviii. 48; FA1, ff. 40, 41d, 45d, 49d, 55d, 56d, 61d, 72, 91; JUST 1/1512 m. 63.
- 6. CCR, 1402-5, p 87; CP25(1)112/271/447; JUST 1/1521 m. 48.
- 7. CP25(1)111/250/1074, 258/117, 261/191, 112/270/415, 273/489, 275/538; Harl. Chs. 80 B 21, 22; Canterbury burghmote reg. O/A1, f. 23.