(A transcript and copy of the will can be found here.)
Edmond Shepey’s will was written in English on 25 May 1509 and gained probate on 23 November of the same year. There was an inquest post mortem held in 1510 but details of this are yet to be found. The executors of the will were named as Edmond’s wife, Anne, and Sir “Rauff” or Ralph Shirley. Through the various religious devotions and bequests to churches around his lands the will provides insight into not only the property owned by Edmond Shepey but also some of his personal alliances.
As well as naming Sir Ralph Shirley as an executor, the will bequeaths him, Edmund’s “best fysshepole in Smythesby”, fishing rod, and all the “fysshe in the same” for the rest of his life. Edmond also names Richard Shirley as his “brother in law” to whom he leaves “a yoke of oxen” (two oxen). Also mentioned are “Sir Henry Shirley, parson of Braylisford” and Nicholas Shirley, who are named as witnesses to the will. According to the Shirley’s pedigree contained in Stemmata Shirleiana1 Sir Ralph, Nicholas, Richard and Henry are 4 of the eight sons of John Shirley, Lord of Ettington and his wife, Eleanor Willoughby, the daughter of Sir Hugh Willoughby of Middleton. This pedigree also confirms that Henry was a rector at Brailsford. The descendants of Ralph Shirley’s were to become the Shirley Baronets of Staunton Harold and ultimately the Earl’s Ferrers. As a daughter of John Shirley and Eleanor Willoughby, Anne was a descendent of Henry II.
Edmund refers to Sir Henry Willoughby as one of his “coffeoffers”, a feofee is a trustee who holds an estate of land for the beneficial owner. The fee is reference to a knights fee. At the time of Edmund’s will the use of cofeofees enable the settlor to bequeath land to their heirs without the need of feudal overlords to be paid a levy or a wardship to be enacted in the case of an heir in their minority. Sir Henry Willoughby was one of Edmund’s wife’s maternal cousins, and was a influential member of court, being knighted by King Henry VII at the battle of Stoke in 1487 and attended Queen Catherine of Aragon at the field of the cloth of gold in 1520. He was also a Justice of the Peace and the Sheriff for the counties of Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire2.
Edmond’s wife is named in the will as Anne. The pedigree of the Shirley’s found in Stemmata Shirleiana indicates that Anne was married to John Danvers of Swithland. However, the Pedigree of Danvers in the visitation of Leicestershire3 names John Danvers’ wife as Margaret. Both sisters, Anne and Margaret, are mentioned in the Shirley’s pedigree in Stemmata Shirleiana without a named husband for Margaret. It is probable that the error is simple error lying with Stemmata Shirleiana. It should be noted that Edmond Shepey and John Danvers held both the moieties of the manor of Swithland between them.
There are various lands belonging to Edmond Shepey listed in the will. In their modern form these are:
- Smisby, Derbyshire.
- Swithland, Leicestershire.
- Newton Linford, Leicestershire. “Brownes Hey” in the will.
- Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Split over lines 7 and 8.
- Bitteswell, Leicestershire.
- Frolesworth, Leicestershire.
- Kylincoke (Probably Kimcote)
- Sheepy Magna, Leicestershire.
- Great Amington and Little Amington, Warwickshire.
Edmond requested to be buried at the Church of the priory of Bredon which is now known as Breedon-on-the-Hill and is only 5 miles from his manor at Smisby. It is not known if Edmond was buried at the church, and although the priory did not survive the dissolution of the monasteries, the church survived when Francis Shirley purchased the priory from King Henry VIII as a place for the Shirley’s to be interred. The Church has Anglo Saxon carvings and more modern memorials relating the Shirley’s but there is no sign of a burial site for Edmond Shepey.
In his will Edmond mentions his sister, Margaret, to whom he leave a cow. Margaret was married to Bartholomew Kendall and the will makes provision for their second son, John, to receive drink and clothes. This John in the patriarch of the Kendall’s of Austrey. Edmond also makes reference to his own bastard son, Edward.
Edmund left various sums of money to local churches and chapels. In the will the letter j is used as in place of the final i in roman numerals when detailing the sums of money to be left:
- Church Priory of Bredon, 6 shillings and 7 pence
- Cathedral Church of Lincoln, 20 pence
- Church of Repington, 6 shillings and 7 pence
- Church of Swithland, The amount is unreadable
- Church of Rothley, 6 shillings and 7 pence
- Church of Thurcaston, 6 shillings and 3 pence
- Chapple of Woodhouse, 7 shillings and 3 pence
- Chapple of Mountsorrel, 6 shillings and 7pence
- St James, Smisby, 7 pence
Edmond left a “yolk of bullocks” to Hugh Latimer. Given Edmond’s connection to Thurcaston this is likely to be a relative of Hugh Latimer, the religious reformer and future Bishop of Worcester, who was involved in King Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and who was burned at the stake by Queen Mary in 1555. Bishop Latimer came from a family of Yeoman farmers from Thurcaston, but as Bishop Latimer was born in c.1485 he is likely to be a son of the Hugh Latimer mentioned.
1. Stemmata Shirleiana or the Annals of the Shirley Family, Sir Seawallis Edward Shirley, 10th Earl Ferrers (Nichols and Sons, Westminster) 1878 p.39. accessed at https://archive.org/stream/cu31924029787250#page/n61/mode/2up on 11 May 2018.
2. University of Nottingham, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Biography of Sir Henry Willoughby (1451-1529) accessed at https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/collectionsindepth/family/middleton/biographies/biographyofsirhenrywilloughby(1451-1528).aspx on 16 May 2018.
3. The Visitation of the County of Leicester, in the year 1619, William Camden, Clarencieux King at Arms, edited by John Fetherston (London) 1870. pp86-87. accessed at https://archive.org/stream/visitationcount09britgoog#page/n105/mode/2up on 16 May 2018.