Catalogue description Records of the Shirley family, Earls Ferrers of Staunton Harold, Leicestershire.

This record is held by Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, Record Office for

Details of 26D53
Reference: 26D53
Title: Records of the Shirley family, Earls Ferrers of Staunton Harold, Leicestershire.

Three separate deposits by Earl Ferrers are amalgamated under one accession number, 26D53. They form the main Ferrers accumulation, but should be consulted with a subsidiary collection, 25D60 which comprises Ferrers legal and estate papers, deposited by Messrs. Crane & Walton, solicitors, Ashby-de-la-Zouch.


A further item, 6D61, is the account book kept by the Trustees of the Ferrers estates during the minority of Sir Seymour Shirley, 1657-1668, which contains notes of expenditure relating to the finishing of Staunton Harold Church. This account book appears to be a duplicate of one in the deposit of Shirley family records from Ettington, Warks. (which includes records transferred from Staunton, c.1830.) now in Warwickshire County Record Office. Another deposit of Ferrers material, relating to their Staffordshire estates, is in the Staffordshire Record Office and William Salt Library (No. D.1702.).


Earl Ferrers retained three early 12th century deeds, and the letter of condolence from King Charles II to Lady Shirley, on the death of Sir Robert Shirley in 1657.


For further details of these and other related collections, see later in this introduction.


The Shirley family, which has held the manor of Nether Ettington in Warwickshire, in the male line since the Conquest, is one of the few that can authentically claim this distinction. They took their surname from another of their manors, Shirley in Derbyshire, which they held as early as the twelfth century, and at various times this branch of the family had extensive estates in the counties of Derby, Gloucester, Leicester, Northampton, Nottingham, Stafford, Warwick and Wiltshire. This accumulation includes documents relating to Shirley estates in all these counties, with the exception of records from Ettington and some from Staffordshire, held by the Warwickshire and Staffordshire Record Offices.


Marriage settlements and grants account for the presence of most of these documents; the Shirley connection with Staunton Harold began in 1423, when Ralph Shirley married Margaret, the heiress of John de Staunton, whose family had held Staunton Harold since the 12th century. The Shirleys had earlier connections with Leicestershire however, because several of Ralph's ancestors had married heiresses, adding land at Dalby on the Wolds, and the manors of Ratcliffe on Soar, Barrow on Soar, Ragdale, Willowes, Ratcliffe on the Wreake, and Long Whatton to their Derbyshire and Warwickshire estates.


Similarly later marriages and the lands they brought with them account for the largest proportion of documents in this accumulation. The extensive series relating to the Astwell with Falcutt, and Wappenham area of Northamptonshire, is accounted for by the marriage, in 1556, of John Shirley of Staunton with Jane the daughter and heir of Thomas Lovett of Astwell. This marriage also added the Gloucestershire manor of Dorsington to the Shirley estates. In 1646, Sir Robert Shirley, great-grandson of John and Jane, succeeded to part of the estates of his uncle, the third Earl of Essex, including the Chartley estate in Staffs., which with Staunton Harold became the main estate of this branch of the Shirleys. Sir Robert Shirley's son, also Sir Robert, the first Earl Ferrers, married in 1671, Elizabeth Washington, daughter and heir of Sir Laurence Washington of Garsdon, Wiltshire. This marriage brought the manors of Garsdon and other lands in Wiltshire into the Shirley family.


For most of these marriages, the settlements survive, as well as large numbers of leases, manorial documents and legal papers relating to these estates. The accumulation also contains other legal papers relating to family financial disputes and Earl Ferrers' dispute with the North Staffs. Railway Company, but the main part of the legal papers from these disputes is in the Crane and Walton deposit (25D60).


The management of such large and widespread estates necessarily involved keeping a great many estate records and accounts. The more systematic book-keeping of the 18th and 19th centuries increased the quantity of this type of material and, as the areas of land involved were large, the estate records in the Ferrers MSS for this period are extensive. They include a series of surveys and valuations; estate maps and plans; a big series of accounts, including household and wages accounts; and estate rentals. This series relates mainly to Staunton Harold and Chartley because, by the middle of the 18th century, only these two main estates were left to this branch of the Shirleys. On the death of Robert, first Earl Ferrers in 1717, the Ettington estate and the Wiltshire manor of Garsdon were inherited by two of the younger sons of his very large family. Washington, the fifth Earl, sold the Northamptonshire and Derbyshire estates in the middle of the 18th century, partly to pay for the extensive alterations to Staunton Harold Hall which he planned. In this accumulation is a volume of building accounts, dated 1762-8, for these alterations which amounted to a rebuilding of the Hall, and were not completed until after the death of the fifth earl in 1778 (No.2506.).


The situation of Staunton Harold, close to the Derbyshire border and within the area of the Leicestershire and South Derbyshire coalfield, inevitably led to the Ferrers family holding colliery and other industrial interests. As early as the 13th century iron workings at Staunton are mentioned in a tithe demand, and 17th, 18th and 19th century leases and accounts relate to the lime works and collieries at Staunton and Lount. From 1798-1810 the Hon. Washington Shirley, later eighth Earl Ferrers, who married a cousin of Viscount Dudley and Ward, was manager of Lord Dudley's collieries in the Dudley, Bilston and Tipton area of South Staffordshire, and a quantity of accounts, correspondence and other papers relating to the running of these collieries survive. The Ferrers family also owned salt workings at Shirleywich on the Chartley estate, and although this was obviously on a smaller scale than their colliery interests, the salt sales accounts among these records, prove it a steady source of income during the first half of the 18th century.


One of the most remarkable single items in this accumulation is the Great Pedigree of the Shirley family, not only because of its size and the excellence of its execution, but as a piece of genealogical research. It was compiled in 1632 by Sir Thomas Shirley who was a great friend of Sir William Dugdale, and takes this family of such exceptionally ancient descent, to pre-Conquest period. A slightly earlier Lesser Pedigree of the Devereux and Ferrers families, smaller, but still of impressive proportions, is also included.

Date: 12th C. -1932





1 - 146 Estates of Shirley and connected families, in England and Ireland, 14th - 18th centuries, arranged topographically.




Arranged under county headings in alphabetical order of parishes; the parishes listed are main subjects of each section, but other parishes are included.




147 - 185 Derbys., estates as a whole.


186 - 285 Brailsford.


286 - 335 Various parishes, including: Ednaston, Hone, Hollington, Longford and others.


336 - 388 Shirley.


389 - 402 Various parishes, mainly Yeaveley.




403 - 427 Various parishes, including: Barrow-on-Soar, Burton Overy, Dunton Bassett, Loseby and Cold Newton, Quorndon, and others.


428 - 486 Ragdale; Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake; Sileby.


487 - 537 Staunton Harold.


538 - 557 Various parishes, mainly Worthington and Newbold.




558 - 836 Astwell with Falcutt.


837 - 938 Various parishes, including: Helmdon, Silverstone, Strixton, Syresham, Towcester, and others.


939 - 1061 Wappenham.


1062 - 1075 Weedon and other parishes.




1076 - 1106 Amerton-in-Stowe, and other parishes.


1107 - 1144 Chartley.


1145 - 1164 Colwich; Drointon; Field.


1165 - 1209 Fradswell.


1210 - 1279 Gayton; Grindley in Stowe.


1280 - 1303 Various parishes, mainly Hixon, Milwich, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Shirleywich.


1304 - 1415 Various parishes, mainly Stowe and Lea Fields in Stowe.




1416 - 1432 Various parishes, including: Amesbury, Bulford, Chelford and




1433 - 1560 Garsdon.


1561 - 1580 Various parishes, mainly Lea and Cleverton; and Monkton




Various Counties.


1581 - 1650 MSS concerned with the main Ferrers' estates as a whole; several counties included, mainly: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.




1651 - 1848 Court rolls, etc., arranged topographically.


1651 - 1674 Brailsford, Derbys.


1675 - 1687 Chartley, Staffs.; Duffield, Derbys.; Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake, Leics.; and various parishes, Lincs. and Notts.


1688 - 1764 Shirley, Derbys.


1765 - 1790 Sileby, Leics.


1791 - 1848 Staunton Harold, Leics., Strixton, Northants., Worthington and Newbold, Leics.




1849 - 1864 Various legal papers, mostly relating to disputes over Shirley lands, 13th - mid. 17th cent.


1865 - 1893 Papers connected with the Royalist activities of Sir Robert Shirley, 1648-1652.


1894 - 1916 Late 17th and 18th cent. legal papers, mostly family financial disputes, and separation of Earl and Countess Ferrers (1758).


1917 - 1943 19th cent. legal papers, including dispute with North Staffs. Railway Co., and Ferrers peerage claim.




1944 - 1979 Wills, probate inventories, etc., 1306-1859, relating to Shirley family. Also includes Inventory of goods of Sir Isaac Newton (April 1727).




1980 - 2004 Mainly 18th and 19th cent. surveys and terriers of Ferrers estates in Derbys., Leics., and Staffs.




2005 - 2037 Accounts, work reports, letters etc., relating to lord Dudleys Staffs. collieries (Bilston, Brierley Hill, Parkhead, etc.) 1798 - 1820.


2038 - 2042 INQUISITIONS POST MORTEM (1517 - 1633)


2043 - 2045a HENRY SMITH'S CHARITY (1627-1641).




Various 14th - 19th cent., including bills for work at Tamworth Castle mills, 1703.


2104 - 2134 LETTERS.


Misc. Ferrers family and business letters, mainly about financial affairs, 18th and 19th centuries.


2135 - 2192 MAPS & PLANS (All 18th or 19th cent).


2135 - 2152 Var. places on Chartley estate, building and estate plans; also maps of farms at Ednaston, Derbys.


2153 - 2167 Maps of var. parts of Chartley estate, mainly Fradswell, Gayton, Grindley and Hixon. Also maps of Happisburgh area, Norfolk.


2168 & 2169 Detailed 18th cent. field plan of Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake, Leics.


2170 - 2173 Shirley, Derbys., and var. places on Chartley estate.


2174 - 2176 Staffs. and Uttoxeter Railway, 1861-2.


2177 - 2187 Staunton Harold and Worthington, Leics., Weston, Staffs.


2188 - 2192 Rivers, canals and railways in Leics. and Staffs.




2193 - 2325 Rentals, mainly of Derbys., Leics., and Staffs. estates, 1305-1916. (Mostly 18th and 19th centuries.)




(Dates do not usually indicate an unbroken series.)


2326 - 2353 General accounts - 14th and 15th cent. rents; 17th and 18th cent. household and estate accounts; 18th cent. industrial accounts.


2354 - 2407 Main estate accounts, 1842 - 1932. (Chartley and Staunton Harold.)


2408 - 2531 Subsidiary accounts, 1743-1919, mainly Chartley and Staunton Harold estates, including: Stewards' and Agent's accounts; Farm and bailiff's accounts; wages; building; timber and garden produce; rates and taxes. Also includes some household and personal accounts; Lount colliery and Shirleywich salt sales accounts.




2532 - 2573 Various 13th - 16th cent. MSS; mainly appointments to var. offices; marriage dispensations; wardship of estates; agreement with tomb makers (1585).


2574 - 2582 Papers concerned with Henry Salte's tenure of Shirley vicarage, 1592 - 1615.


2583 - 2679 Var. MSS, mainly 17th cent. and later. Includes: personalia, military commissions, bills, letters, etc.; recipe books; list of MSS belonging to Sir Isaac Newton (May 1727.); library catalogue of Staunton Harold (1834).


2680 - 2685 17th cent. Ferrers Bible; Great and Lesser Pedigrees and grant of supporters. 18th cent. grant of Earldom and settlement of estates after execution of 4th Earl.


2686 Bundle of letters release of property at Ednaston, Derbys., 1840-1844.

Related material:

Catalogues of the following additional deposits of Shirley family records may also be found in A2A:-


25D60 Records received from family's solicitors, including legal papers re-court cases and sale of Chartley estate, and other estate records 1726-1923


22D64 Family letters 1803-1854


23D66 Records re-property in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire 1311-c.1641


15D72 Cartulary of Sir George Shirley of Astwell, Northants. (c.1120-1617)


Late 16th/Early 17th c.


DE2638 Estate records, correspondence and personal papers c.1105-1961


Other Shirley family records deposited in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland:-


6D61 Staunton Harold estate and church accounts (under trustees) c.1656-1668


4D68 Rental of estate of Washington, Earl ferrers at Ettington, Whatcote and Oxhill, Warwicks.




5D69 Account book of John Johnson, Staunton Harold Steward 1724-1755


DE170 Fisher Mss containing deeds to property of the Staunton and Shirley families in Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire 13th c.-1688


DE1452/1 Court rolls and minutes of court for Shirley family manors, including Ragdale, Willows and Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake, Leics. 1351-1560


For further details of these and associated collections held by other repositories see:


Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts Guides to Sources for British History No.11. Principal family and Estate Collections: Family Names L-W (1999).


See also: Heather E. Broughton Family and Estate Records in the Leicestershire Record Office (1991)

Held by: Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, Record Office for, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Shirley family, Earls Ferrers of Staunton Harold, Leicestershire

Physical description: 2686 documents
Access conditions:

No restrictions

Publication note:

Transcripts and extracts from many of the documents listed in this schedule, are to be found in:


Nichols, J. The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester. Vol.3. pp 715-719. (pub. 1804.)


Shirley, E.D. Stemmata Shirleiana, particularly appendix of documents.


(pub. 1841.)

  • Staunton Harold, Leicestershire
  • Leicestershire
  • Derbyshire
  • Northamptonshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Warwickshire
  • Wiltshire
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