Papers of the Sherburne family

Scope and Content

The papers of the Sherburne family comprise wills and settlements, surveys of the Sherburne estates in Stonyhurst, Lancashire, correspondence with Gabriel Hesketh who was appointed as steward to those estates in the 1640s and 1650s, family correspondence and legal documents relating to a dispute over the 1667 will of Richard Sherburne. The material largely covers just 50 years when the family was closely connected with the Constables of Everingham.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Sherburne family had owned land in Stonyhurst in Lancashire since at least 1246 when Robert de Sherburne is recorded as living there. Richard de Sherburne (1381-1441), who married Agnes Stanley, sat in the 1420s parliaments of Henry V. Their only son, Richard, predeceased his father but left a son, Robert de Sherburne (1431-1492), who married Joan Ratcliff and they had several children. Their eldest son, Richard (c.1460-1513) built the choir at Mitton church and his son, Hugh Sherburne (c.1480-c.1528; the first to drop the prefix of the surname), made additions to the fourteenth century mansion at Stonyhouse and built the chantry of the church. He married Anne Talbot in 1511 and they had several children. Their eldest son, Thomas (c.1505-1536), was high sheriff of Lancashire and married Joan Townley (Sherborn, A history of the family of Sherborn, pp.1-28).

During the time that their eldest son, Richard Sherburne, was alive the family's estates and wealth grew. Born in 1526 he was knighted at the age of only 22 in 1544. He held various public offices including high forester of Bowland and lieutenant of Lancashire. He enlarged his estates and put effort into rebuilding the house at Stonyhurst and also Mitton church. He also built two families. His marriage to Maud Bold in 1539 resulted in the birth of five sons and three daughters. In addition, he had by his mistress, Isabel Wood, a son and two daughters. Two other illegitimate sons were also mentioned in his will. After the death of his wife in 1588 he married Isabel Wood. Richard Sherburne died in 1594. Born before the reformation, he retained his catholic faith throughout his life and his recusancy was largely ignored by the authorities (Sherborn, A history of the family of Sherborn, pp.28-38).

The successor to his estates was his second son, also Richard, born in 1546. This Richard Sherburne was given the captaincy of the Isle of Man and he and his first wife moved there. They had several children before she died in the same year as his father in 1591. He moved back to Stonyhurst and remarried, but his second wife died childless in 1611 and he remarried for a third time. By his first wife he left five children and his will also mentions an illegitimate daughter. He built the estates up further and bought from James I the rectory and advowson of Mitton. He finished the building his father had started at Stonyhurst. He also managed to avoid the full weight of the authorities for his recusancy, possibly through being able to control the living at Mitton church. When he died in 1629 he was buried in this church, along with his first wife whose body was moved from the Isle of man at his request (Sherborn, A history of the family of Sherborn, pp.39-43; DDEV/69/1).

The papers in the collection relate entirely to the family in the seventeenth century and the will of this Richard Sherburne dated 1627 is the earliest document. However, most of the papers are those of the next two generations. Richard Sherburne's son, also Richard (b.1586), married Elizabeth Walmsley and in the 1630s they were both arraigned for recusancy. In the 1640s they were forced to flee to Cumberland and then York when their estates were sequestered by parliament; Oliver Cromwell is known to have stayed at Stonyhurst at least twice during his military campaigns (Sherborn, A history of the family of Sherborn, pp.43-4).

The Sherburnes stayed slightly ahead of events through Richard Sherburne taking the National Covenant in May 1646 (DDEV/69/10). In 1649 they arranged marriages for their two children. Their son, Richard (b.1626), married an heiress, Isabel Ingleby, whose marriage portion was £3000 (DDEV/69/12). Their daughter, Anne, married Marmaduke Constable, the eldest son of Philip Constable, who was also a royalist and a recusant. Their marriage helped the financial plight of the Constable family and in the 1650s Richard and Elizabeth Sherburne were deeply involved in the efforts of the Constables to retain their lands. Throughout the early 1650s Richard Sherburne and his son in law Marmaduke carried out a whole series of 'false' sales and leases (to a network of catholic friends and London lawyers) to prevent total loss of the Constable estates. In this they were largely successful (Roebuck, 'The Constables of Everingham', passim; Roebuck, Yorkshire baronets, pp.156-68).

Richard and Elizabeth Sherburne moved to Yorkshire to live with their daughter and the Constable estates were managed in the 1660s by Anne, as Marmaduke Constable had to flee abroad. She was aided by Robert Sherburne, a cousin, and his papers and those of his brother Alexander are scattered through the collection. In 1666 Elizabeth Sherburne died and her husband died at the beginning of the following year. They left their daughter a large amount of money as well as rents and profits from their Lancashire estates. This became a bone of contention between Anne Constable and her brother and papers in the collection indicate that the ensuing legal battle was acrimonious. Anne and Marmaduke Constable died within a year of each other in 1679 and 1680 respectively. He died abroad. The papers in Hull University Archives end with those of Anne Constable nee Sherburne.

Anne was outlived by her brother, Richard, by ten years. The estates he inherited at Stonyhurst were depleted by sequestrations and the financial burden placed on them by his parents and his sister's family. He also failed to escape the consequences of being a catholic and had to flee abroad during the popish plot. He and his wife left two sons and two daughters. Both daughters predeceased him, but his son, another Richard Sherburne (b.1652), inherited the dwindling estates. However, he only outlived his father by one year, dying childless in 1690, and the youngest son, Nicholas (b.1658), inherited Stonyhurst. His son and heir predeceased him in 1702 and the Sherburne estates then passed to his daughter Mary, whose marriage to Thomas Howard, 8th duke of Norfolk, ensured that they finally passed into the family of the dukes of Norfolk (Sherborn, A history of the family of Sherborn, pp.46-52).

Access Information

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Related Material

Hull University Archives:

U DDEV/9/56-57; U DDEV/24/4; U DDEV/31/97; U DDEV/38; U DDEV/44/125; U DDEV/50/34, 44-58, 201-202, 232-234; U DDEV/53/13-15; U DDEV/54/9; U DDEV/55/45; U DDEV/56/461; U DDEV/60; U DDEV/65/19; U DDEV/68/248

Other repositories:

Stowe MSS and some Harleian letters, British Library

Estate papers (privately-owned), Stonyhurst College, nr. Blackburn, Lancashire


  • Roebuck, Peter, 'The Constables of Everingham: the fortunes of a catholic royalist family during the civil war and interregnum', Recusant History, 9 (1967-8)
  • Roebuck, Peter, Yorkshire baronets 1640-1760: families, estates and fortunes (1980)
  • Sherborn, Charles Davies, History of the family of Sherborn, 2 vols (1901-18)
  • Wilton, Richard Cecil, 'A list of guests at Everingham Park, Christmas, 1662', Catholic Record Society Miscellanea, 27 (1927)