Date:January 19, 2016

1567 – John Shellacres of Leziate in Norfolk

henry1560This is the Will of a man with the surname of Shellacare. He made the Will in the year 1567 at which time he was a married man with a son therefore it is extremely probable he was over the age of twenty-one years. Accordingly he would have been alive during the reign of the infamous Henry VIII….

Henry was King of England from 21st April 1509 until his death on 28th January 1547. This was a mere two decades prior to the date of the Will.

Indeed if this man was over the age of 58 years old at the time he made his Will, which is possible, he would have also been alive in the reign of Henry VIII’s father – Henry VII who himself became king after seizing the crown on 22nd August 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, defeating the Plantagenet Monarch Richard III, and in doing so became the first monarch of the House of Tudor.

Unfortunately, at present I cannot link this man, or his son, to the Shellaker / Shelacre family of Rutland & East Leicestershire. However the proximity of the village of Leziate to the known Shellaker / Shelacre location of Loddington is surely significant. The distance between them is only around 70 miles. Similarly significant could also the short gap in time between the date of this Will, 1567 and the time the Shelacres’ can be found in the records of Loddington c.1616 – only around 50 years and it should be remembered that the population of England at that time was relatively small. Population estimates vary but it is considered the number of people in England in 1520 was only around 2 million, rising to 3.2 million in 1600. The point being, as the population was so small and the distance between these two locations is relatively close, is it not acceptable to speculate the son of this man could be the father or grandfather of the Shelacres’ of Loddington?

Discovery of this Will & Translation

I discovered the existence of this Will by chance during  a random Google Search of the name ‘Shelacre‘. It is housed in the Norfolk Record Office, and following an email discussion with their Searchroom and Research Assistant, I purchased a copy which arrived by post a few days later.

However, as you will see below, the Will is very difficult to read. It is written in handwriting apparently known as ‘Secretary Hand’ and the language is ‘Early Modern English’ which developed from ‘Middle English’ after the late 15th century, and apart from a few words, is virtually indecipherable to the untrained eye.

I subsequently visited the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland and spoke to one of their Archivists who was not only was able to read the Will but also offered his services to translate it. I asked him to translate it line by line so that the resulting translation, which appears below on the left, directly relates to each line of the actual text in the original document. Below right is my ‘translation’ of that text into ‘Modern English’. Finally underneath each section are notes which explain some of the terminology used in this 1567 Will. To make it easier to ready I have split the Will into sections, each with the relevant translations and end notes.

I am extremely grateful to the Norfolk Record Office who granted me permission to reproduce the Will of John Shellacre on this website.

The Will of John Shellacre reproduced by special permission of Norfolk Record Office.
Norwich Consistory Court (NCC) will of John Shellacre, husbandman, of Leziate, 1568, ref: Ponder: 71, on microfilm MF 60.



The Last Will and Testament of John Shellacre of Leziate

A man who lived at the same time as Henry the Eight


John Shellacres of Leziate 1568 - Section 1

Transcription of Original text

Modern English

In the name of god amen the thre
and twentye daye of Marche in the Yeare of ouer
lord god a thousande five hundred threscore and
Seaven I John Shellacare of Lesiate within the
Countye of Norfolke husbandeman beinge of a
perfecte and good remembrannce thankes be
gevne to almightie god do ordeine and make
this my testament and Last Will in manner
and forme followenge
In the name of God amen the
twenty-third of March1 in the year of our
Lord God a thousand five hundred and threescore
and seven2 – I, John Shellacare of Leziate3, within the
County of Norfolk, husbandman4, being of
perfect and good remembrance, (being of sound mind) thanks be
given to almighty God do order and make
this my Testament and Last Will in (the) manner
and form as follows


1 23rd March – The date of this Will, 23rd March, which in 1567 was a Tuesday, is a unlikely to be a random date but possibility followed an ‘end of year’ assessment by John Shellacare of his wealth and property. I will explain further – in 1567 the Julian calendar was in use, as it would be for around the next 200 years until September 1752. Under the Julian calendar the New Year did not start, as it now does, on the 1st January but on 25th March – ‘Lady Day’.

Consequently until the change to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, 25th March was the start of the New Year. So, in England, the day after 24th March 1567 was 25th March 1568. Once the calendar changed, the day after 31st December 1751 was 1st January 1752 – a change that has obviously remained ever since.

Map show Leziate and LoddingtonLady Day is one of the Quarter Days which are still used in the legal system. The Quarter Days divide the year in quarters and are Lady Day (25th March), Midsummers Day (24th June), Michaelmas Day (29th September) and Christmas Day (25th December). Lady Day was also the traditional day on which yearly contracts between landowners and tenant farmers would begin and end.

The date of the Will, 23rd March, under the Julian calendar was only one day before the end of the ‘financial year-end’ and therefore it was a natural time for this John Shellacare to access his wealth and property and to make provisions, by means of a Last Will and Testament, for his wife and son.

2 1567 – At this time in history Queen Elizabeth I had been on the throne for around ten years, having started her reign on 17th November 1558 – a reign which was to last over forty years until 1603. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. The reign of Henry VIII commenced in 1509 and ended with his death in 1547 (a mere 20 years before this Will was written) so undoubtedly this man, John Shellacare, who was married with a child by 1567, lived during the time of the infamous Henry VIII.

3 Lesiate –  The place in which John Shellacare lived, and mentioned above as ‘Lesiate’ in Norfolk, has been identified as LEZIATE, a hamlet located around 5 miles due east of King’s Lynn, and around 7 miles south of The Wash.

Significantly it is less than 50 miles from the western edge of the County of Rutland and as such, is intriguingly close to the established ‘Shellaker/Shelacre’ locations of LYNDON in Rutland (58 miles) and LODDINGTON in East Leicestershire (74 miles). On the map on the right are the approximate locations of Leziate and Loddington.

Due to the unusual and infrequently distribution of ‘Shellaker/Shelacre’ surname together with the relatively close proximity of his home in Leziate to Rutland and East Leicestershire and it is highly possible, even probable that John Shellacare is a direct ancestor of the ‘Shellaker/Shelacre’ family who lived in, amongst other villages, Loddington, Lyndon, Tugby and Billesdon.

4 husbandman – This was a free tenant farmer or small landowner.



John Shellacres of Leziate 1568 - page 1

Transcription of Original text

Modern English

                                  Firste I bequeath my
sowle to almightie god my onlye maker and
redemer and my body to be buried within
the churche yarde of Lesiate afforesaide. Item – I
geve to the parson of the same towne for my
tithes oblite tenne pence
                               First I bequeath my
soul to almighty God my only maker and
redeemer and my body to be buried within
the church yard of Leziate3 already mentioned. Item – I
give to the parson of the same town for
forgotten tithes5, ten pence.


3 Lesiate – see above

5 Tithe – A tithe is a tenth part of agricultural or other produce, personal income, or profits, contributed either voluntarily or as a tax for the support of the church or clergy or for charitable purposes. NB ‘Oblite’ is the original text means ‘forgotten’, e.g. tithe payments overlooked.



John Shellacres of Leziate 1568 - Section 3

Transcription of Original text

Modern English              

                                      Item I geve to christes
churche in Norwiche fower pence Item I geve to
the reparacions of Lesiate churche iii s Item I
geve to the poore mens box vi d
                            Item – I give to Christ’s
church in Norwich four pence. Item – I give to
the reparations6 (repairs) of Leziate3 church three shillings. Item – I
give to the ‘poor box’ six pence.


3 Lesiate – see above

6 Reparations – The act or process of repairing or the condition of being repaired.

A Note on Currency. Pounds, Shillings and Pence were the divisions of currency at this time. One shilling was made up of twelve pence; one pound of twenty shillings, i.e. 240 pence. Pounds, of which there are no mention in this Will, are represented by the £ symbol, shillings as ‘s’ and pence as ‘d’ (from the Latin, denarius). ‘One pound. one shilling and one penny’ was written as £1 1s 1d.

In the previous section John Shellacare makes a tithe payment written, in the original, as ‘tenne pence’. This is obviously ten pence which is 2 pence short of one shilling. In the section above he gives the church in Norwich ‘fower pence’ (four pence) but also bequests ‘iii s’ to Leziate church. In this instance the person writing the Will uses the Roman numerals for three (iii), followed by ‘s’ for shilling. In the second example the ‘poor box’ receives a legacy, again written in Roman numerals, of vi (six) ‘d’ pence.



John Shellacres of Leziate 1568 - Section 4

Transcription of Original text

Modern English              

                                      Item I geve
to margarit my wife all my houses and
londes lienge in the towne and feldes of Lesiate
howldinge by coppie of corte rowle uppon the
mannours of glostrope Wikinhall and Welhale
Duringe the terme of hir life and after hir
discease I will the saide houses and londes
shall remayne unto thomas shelacar my
                         Item – I give
to Margaret, my wife all my houses and
lands lying in the town and fields of Leziate3,
holdings in the copies of the Court Roll7 in the
manors of Gasthorpe8 Wiggenhall9 and Welhale10,
during her lifetime and aftr her
death and Will that these house and land
shall go to Thomas Shelacar11my


7 Court Roll – the register of land holdings, etc., of a manorial court.

The land held by John Shellacare of Leziate listed in this Will was known as ‘copyhold tenure’ which was tenure of land according to the custom of the manor. Copies of the tenure are held in the record of the manorial court as “title deeds” listing which land is owned by an individual, who is said to “hold” the land – ‘have tenure’.

In appears John Shellacare held land under what was known as ‘Copyhold of Inheritance’. He would have paid rent to the tenant landholder of the relvant manors and also undertook duties to the Lord. However under this arrangement the land holding would normally pass to their next heir, e.g. the eldest son or eldest daughter if no son existed depending upon the custom of that particular manor. During their life the tenant could usually ‘sell’ the holding to another person by formally surrendering it to the lord of the manor on the condition he then grant s the holding to the ‘buyer’.

This three-party transaction was recorded in the court roll and formed the new ‘copyhold’ for the purchaser.

8 ‘glostrope’ is Glosthorpe is a manor near Leziate.

9 ‘Wikinhall’ is likely to be the village of Wiggenhall located 11 miles south of Kings Lynn on the River Great Ouse.

10 ‘Welhale’ is Wellhall a manor in Gayton. The village no longer exists and is identified on some maps as the ‘Medieval village of Well’ but a Well Hall Farm remains located north of the village of Gayton.

11 Spelling – The different spelling of the son’s surname is not an issue – ‘phonetic spelling’ (writing words as they are sounded) is very common in historical documents.



John Shellacres of Leziate 1568 - Section 5

 End of Page One of the original document

John Shellacres of Leziate 1567 - section 5A

Transcription of Original text

Modern English              

                             Item I will that the saide margarit
my wife shall kepe the foresaide houses in
good and sufficiente reparacions Duringe the
saide terme Item I geve to the saide margarit
my wife two milche nete two bullokes and
one bedde with all thinges belongenge thereunto
one brasse potte one kettell one panne six
peuter platters and two shepe one graye geldi-
nge two swine halfe my p[?ou]ltreye my
bolles and Dishes thre bushels of wheate
thre bushels of rye thre combes of Barlye &
                         Item – I Will that Margaret,
to my wife keep the house already mentioned in
good and sufficient repair during her,
lifetime. Item – I give to my Margaret
my wife, my two milk neats12 (cows), two bullocks and
one bed with all things belonging in the house;
one brass pot, one kettle, one pan, six
pewter plates and two sheep, one grey gelding13,my
two pigs, half my poultry, my
bowls dishes and three bushels14 of Wheat
three bushels of Rye, three combs of Barley15 and
fower skeppes withe bees four skeps 16 with bees


Skep12 Nete – and also ‘neat’, are Middle English words for a bull or a cow. In the instance the word refers to milking cows. (You may be familiar with ‘Neatsfoot oil’ which is an oil rendered and purified from the shin bones and feet of cattle).

13 Gelding – a castrated horse or other equine such as a donkey or a mule.

14 Bushel – at that time a bushel was a measure of capacity for grain. During the Middle Ages, the bushel of wheat was supposed to weigh 64 pounds.

15 Combs of Barley – I believe a comb is measurement of weights. Combs of barley were malted for use in brewing.

16 Skeps – a type of beehive. They are baskets for placed open-end-down, initially they were made from wicker plastered with mud and dung but from the Middle Ages they were made of straw – an example is shown on the right.



John Shellacres of Leziate 1568 - Section 6


Transcription of Original text

Modern English              

                                      Itm I geve unto thomas
shelacare my Sunne fower milche nete two yearing
bullockes [?] one horse one mare two shepe fower
skeppes withe bees to be delivered unto him at the
age of fortene yeares. Item I geve unto the aforesaide
Thomas my sunne all my houses and Londes
lienge in the towne and feldes of geyton welhale
and aliswithtrpe houlden by coppie of courterowle
uppon the mannor of geitons to him and to his
                        Item – I give to Thomas
Shelacare my son, four milk neats (cows), two yearling17
bullocks, one horse, one mare18, two sheep and four
skeps with bees to be delivered to him at the
age of fourteen years19. Item – I give to
Thomas my son, all my houses and lands
lying in the town and fields of Gayton20, Welhale10,
and Aliswithorpe (Gayton Thorpe)21 houlden23 (held) in the copies of the Court Roll7
in the manors of Gayton18 to him and his


17Yearlings – these are animals around one or two years old, which are not fully mature physically and they are considered too young to be breeding stock.

18 Mare – an adult female horse.

19 The Age of the son – It is obvious at the time this Will was written John’s son Thomas has not reach d the age of fourteen therefore his age could be from a few months to 13 years. Consequently we can place Thomas’ birth year between 1554 and 1567.

20 Gayton – a village or an estate three miles east of John Shellacare’s home in the village of Leziate.

21 Aliswithorpe – likely to be another name for GAYTON THORPE four miles east of Leziate.

22 Geitons – possibly another phonetic spelling of the village of Gayton which was spelt ‘geyton’ in this same paragraph.

23 houlden – held (by copy of court roll, i.e. copyhold tenure).

Next Page: Further details of the Will of John Shellacare