SHELTON, Sir Ralph (1348-1414), of Shelton and Great Snoring, Norf.

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



Family and Education

b. Great Snoring 18 Mar. 1348, s. and h. of Sir Ralph Shelton (d.1375) of Shelton by his 1st w. Joan (?Burgulion); kinsman and h. of Hugh Burgulion of Gedney, Lincs. and Great Snoring. m. bef. 1374, Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Uvedale of Titsey, Surr. by his 4th w. Benedicta Shelving,1 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. Kntd. bef. Oct. 1375.

Offices Held

Commr. to put down rebellion, Norf. Dec. 1382; of inquiry Mar. 1384 (disputes at Walsingham priory), Jan. 1388 (seizure of a Scottish ship), Norf., Suff., Essex Nov. 1406 (estates late of Sir Robert Hemenale), Norf. Mar. 1410 (disputes at Wymondham); array Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, July 1402, July 1405; weirs June 1398; to raise royal loans Sept. 1405; of sewers June 1406, Nov. 1408; oyer and terminer Dec. 1411.

J.p. Norf. 20 Dec. 1382-July 1389,10 Nov. 1389-Dec. 1390, 5 Mar. 1397-c. Oct. 1399.


The Shelton family took its name from the township lying ten miles south of Norwich, and by the beginning of the 14th century was already well established among the gentry of the shire. Ralph was the heir (probably the grandson) of Hugh Burgulion, who died in 1349 in possession of a number of substantial properties, including a fishery, at Gedney, Holbeach and Whaplode in Lincolnshire, and of manors in Norfolk at Great Snoring and Kerdiston. The wardship of young Shelton, not yet two years old, was granted to his father, Sir Ralph, for an annual rent of 20 marks at the Exchequer and a payment of £40 for his marriage. After making proof of age, Shelton obtained livery of his Burgulion inheritance in 1369, though nearly 30 years later he was to sell the Lincolnshire lands to Croyland abbey.2 Among the properties which his father held were two manors (‘Overhall’ and ‘Netherhall’) in Shelton, and others at Scole and Bedingham, all in Norfolk, and at Brent Eleigh in Suffolk. Certain of these holdings (notably ‘Overhall’ and Brent Eleigh) Sir Ralph the elder had settled on his second wife, Joan, a daughter of Sir John Plaiz, and on her issue by him; accordingly, at his death on 16 Oct. 1375 the heirs to these properties were found to be Joan’s three daughters. Yet all three died childless, and when, more than 30 years later, in June 1406, our Sir Ralph’s stepmother eventually died, the Shelton estates were once more reunited. Before that date Sir Ralph had mainly resided at ‘Netherhall’, and in February 1381 he had obtained a royal licence to enclose a pathway there in order to enlarge his manor-house.3

Shelton’s father had been knighted on the field of Crécy and had subsequently also fought at Poitiers where, although on the victorious side, he had been taken prisoner by the French. Ralph junior followed a similar career as a soldier, but apparently without the same misfortune: before 1373 he served at sea in the retinue of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford; he was a member of the expeditionary force led by John of Gaunt which laid seige to St. Mâlo in 1378; he quite probably accompanied Bishop Despenser of Norwich on the ‘crusade’ to Flanders in 1383; he is said to have taken part in Richard II’s invasion of Scotland in the summer of 1385; and he is also recorded as going to Spain in Lancaster’s army in 1386. A letter of exchange for £100 issued to him in May 1390 suggests that he was then about to set off on an ambitious journey overseas, perhaps including a pilgrimage, and in February 1395 he obtained a royal licence specifically to travel to Rome.4

Shelton’s activities as a trustee of estates in East Anglia suggest something of his standing in the community. In 1385 Joan, widow of Sir Thomas Felton KG, asked him to become a feoffee of her manors of Great and Little Ryburgh, which were to be granted to Walsingham priory, and five years later he served in a similar capacity on behalf of Sir John Strange* of Hunstanton. In 1397 he was named as an overseer of the will of William Wynter of Barningham. The citizens of Norwich evidently considered him to be a person of consequence: in 1398 they entertained him to a breakfast and asked him to sponsor their petition to Richard II. Earlier that year he had witnessed deeds relating to certain estates of Walter, Lord Fitzwalter, which Fitzwalter’s stepmother Philippa (later duchess of York) held for life, and he subsequently did likewise for Sir Thomas Erpingham when, prior to his embarkation in the train of the exiled Henry of Bolingbroke, he made detailed settlements of his lands.5 In later years Sir Thomas, risen high in the service of the Lancastrians, was to act as a trustee of Shelton’s own estates.

In Erpingham, Strange and John Wynter*, Shelton found useful contacts at the court of Henry IV, and his own military service under Henry’s father also no doubt stood him in good stead with the new regime. In February 1401 he and his wife were granted, for life, two tuns of red Gascon wine annually from the royal prise at Bishop’s Lynn, and a year later they received a personal gift of three pipes of wine dispensed at the King’s wardrobe. Shelton was among those summoned from Norfolk to attend the great council of August 1401, and he received a similar summons to appear at Westminster about two years later. In the meantime, in 1402, he had been returned to his second Parliament. He attended the Norfolk elections of 1407 and 1410.6

Shelton died on 25 Oct. 1414, and was buried in Great Snoring church. His heir was his second son, William (d.1421), then aged over 40, but as he had wished to exclude this man from the inheritance in favour of William’s son, John, he had made enfeoffments of his manors at Thursford and Shelton to that end. Nevertheless, William seized possession of all the estates, and Sir Ralph’s attempts to control their descent resulted in protracted litigation.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. F. Blomefield, Norf. v. 265; Surr. Arch. Colls. iii. 81-82, 85-87, 185.
  • 2. CIPM, ix. 182; xii. 386; CFR, vi. 175; CCR, 1369-74, p. 17; 1396-9, pp. 413-14, 420; Blomefield, vii. 242.
  • 3. Blomefield, i. 132; v. 263-6; CP25(1)220/83/23; CIPM, xiv. 282; CCR, 1405-9, p. 167; C137/52/8; CFR, xiii. 3, 41-42; CPR, 1377-81, p. 598. Sir Ralph senior’s will is in Norf. RO, Reg. Heydon, f. 117.
  • 4. Blomefield, v. 263-6; CCR, 1392-6, p. 532; E101/32/20; C76/67 m. 7, 70 m. 20, 79 m. 4.
  • 5. CPR, 1381-5, p. 557; HMC 13th Rep. iv. 424-7; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 331-2; 13969, pp. 314, 309; Recs. Norwich ed. Hudson and Tingey, ii. 41, 51; Norf. RO, Reg. Harsyk, f. 240.
  • 6. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 433; E101/404/21, f. 50; PPC, i. 163; ii. 86; C219/10/4, 5.
  • 7. C138/6/2; Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 365 (where Shelton’s death-date is wrongly given); CCR, 1419-22, pp. 175-6, 185-6; CPR, 1446-52, pp. 463-4. Sir Ralph’s 3rd son, Robert, made his will in June 1415 and died bef. Sept. 1423; Norf. RO, Reg. Hyrning, f. 112.