Laying the foundations of wealth and power
JOHN SHELDON (1380-1428) left behind the hills of Rowley Regis to establish his family at Abberton, Worcestershire, due in no small part to his marriage to wealthy heiress Joan (Juana), daughter of John Cotton, of Cotton Hall, Cheshire, during the reign of Henry IV (1399-1413).
He quickly laid the foundations of a wealthy dynasty that in time would spread its power and influence far and wide and endure right through to the early part of the 20th century.
The Sheldons would continue to hold the manor of Abberton, located some eight miles to the east of the city of Worcester, right through to 1798, when the then incumbent, Thomas Sheldon, sold it to John Hardcastle
With little or no documentary evidence available to enable us to trace in detail the family’s early progress, we are left to rely on the observations of the noted herald, Sir William Dugdale, who closely followed the fortunes of the Sheldon family and clearly held them in the highest esteem, and the College of Arms Warwickshire Visitation of 1619.
It is through them that we learn of John Sheldon’s marriage to Juana de Cotton. The 1619 Visitation shows that John Sheldon had a fruitful marriage, with six sons, Richard, Morris, Daniel, John (of London), Ralph (of Beoley), William (of Abberton) listed. There was also a daughter, Joan, named after her mother.
The Visitation was taken for William Camden, the grandly-titled Clarenceux KIng of Arms (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarenceux_King_of_Arms for a detailed explanation of the function of this high officer of the College of Arms), and the Sheldon family are afforded the honour of being placed first in the list of great families of the county.
The pedigree appears to indicate that John Sheldon was quite acquisitive during his time at Abberton, adding properties at Spechley, near Worcester, which Daniel inherited, Beoley, also in Worcestershire, which Ralph (Raph) went on to hold so successfully and possibly even in London, for John, while continuing to hold Abberton for youngest son William.
John Sheldon must have been a lessee of the Abberton manor since it was clearly held by Pershore Abbey right up to the Dissolution, when it passed to the Crown. William Sheldon, John’s grandson, held it briefly but when he died without issue the lease passed to his brother, Ralph, who held it in 1540.
Following the Dissolution, Henry VIII (1509-1547) granted the manor to Ralph Sheldon’s sons, William and Francis, in January 1544.
From then on the manor passed through the hands of various Francis Sheldons, with a number of National Archive and other records confirming the holding in 1625, 1632, 1699, 1711 and 1720.
In 1733 an Act of Parliament was required to pass the discharging of the Abberton estate of Francis Sheldon, a lunatic, from the trusts of an earlier Act of Parliament, made to ensure the payments of his debts and allowing for a trust to manage his affairs.
Records show Thomas Sheldon holding the manor in 1776 and with his wife Margaret in 1798, when the manor was conveyed to John Hardcastle.
The parish church, St Edburga’s, was entirely rebuilt in 1882 but a number of Sheldon family slabs pre-date the new-build, including Samuel Sheldon 1659 and Mercy 1729, son and daughter of Francis Sheldon; Susanna, wife of Francis Sheldon, 1719, with arms impaling Dormer; and Francis Sheldon, 1700, with arms Sheldon impaling Savage and others.
Go to British History Online for more information on the village of Abberton.
FOLLOW THE SAGA: William Sheldon at the Battle of Bosworth
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