Family History Notebook

'Sir' 1 John Swyndells

Son of John Swyndellsc, assumed born very approximately 1500.




Died about

Person ID 02914


0    Text in red represents information obtained from the internet (family trees etc) which I have not yet confirmed.

1    The title of 'Sir' was given to clergy who had obtained a bachelor's degree from a university but not a master5's degree. See #a below.

2    Witness to a grant of land in Wisborough, Sussex in 1527 (#a). A chaplain at this date.

3    Admitted to Kenton Vicarage, Devon on the 18th of February 1533/4 (#b)

4    Died after 1536 and before 1539 (#b)

5    A list of vicars of Wisborough Green ' begins in 1273 and can be seen beside the south door ' (Church History booklet) . I cannot find this information on-line.

6    An Edmund Swyndell, yeoman, of Washington (Sussex), acting as executor, was defending a claim against John Swyndells estate in about 1554. Edmund could be John's brother or other relative but his presence confirms that the Swyndells were established in Sussex and not just passing through. An Elizabeth Swyndell was baptised in Westbourne, Sussex in 1601.


a)    Title: Grant
Reference: Par/210/10/1
(a) John Clerk late of Wisborough Green, to (b) Richard Hyberden and John Napper, junior, churchwardens of Wisborough Green
Parcel of land or small garden lately acquired from John Chaper, son of Henry Chaper, in Wisborough Green, abutting to N., road from Newbryge to Petworth: to S. and W., tenement and land formerly of Robert Jakes, and now the relict of John Napper of Brynkhurste; to E. tenement and land of Thomas [?de hedin?] formerly of John Wheler
Witnesses: John Alyn of Drongwyke, Sir John Swyndels, chaplain, John Napper, senior, John Luttman, Thomas Jakeman
Seal: Small red wax pendant seal with [?scallop shell] motif and initials [?M] E.
Endorsed The House to the church
Date: March 1527
Held by: West Sussex Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

b)    Ecclesiastical Antiquities in Devon p18

Parish of Kenton

John Swyndell, admitted the 28th of February, 1533 : In 1536 (?) his Vicarage was was valued as 34 13s 4d per annum:
Richard Arche, admitted on Swyndell's death the 22nd of July, 1539 ...

(Kenton is 4 miles north of Dawlish, Devon)

The Valor Ecclesiasticus (Latin: "church valuation") was a survey of the finances of the church in England, Wales and English controlled parts of Ireland made in 1535 on the orders of Henry VIII.

The section above is from "Valor ecclesiasticus temp. Henr. VIII: autoritate regia institutus" by John Casey 1814. (The original is in Latin).

 By John Caley

c)    Reference: C 1/1334/90-91

Short title: Burnam v Swyndell.
Plaintiffs: Thomas BURNAM of Aldingbourn, husbandman.
Defendants: Edmund SWYNDELL of Washington, yeoman, executor of John Swyndell, priest.
Subject: Balance of money given to the said John as complainant's guardian and to his use by John Swyndell his father.
Sussex, Hampshire

Date: 1553-1555
Held by: The National Archives, Kew

d)   The title of Sir applied to Priests; and academic titles.

It can be confusing at times to see priests with the prefix Sir which was a common title given to them in England and Scotland in the sixteenth century. The origin  of this application , or rather the peculiar class of the Priesthood to whom it was applicable, has not been well defined.  It was essentially to distinguish them from persons of civil or military Knighthood that they were first called the Pope`s Knights, and not as some have supposed, a title conferred on them by  the Bishop of Rome. Walter Myln for example, replied to his accusers when they called him Sir Walter  that "I have been ouer long one of the Pope`s Knights.".

A better and more logical explanation is given in Laing`s Works of Knox  which explains that it denoted the academic rank or degree which had been taken, and not intended to denote an inferior rank of priesthood. The title was never applied to laymen but given to regular and secular clergy, or other`s in Priests Orders who had  taken their Bachelor degree, but was not in itself an academic rank.  Those priests who were appointed Chaplains were chiefly those persons who had  not been able, for a variety of reasons, to pursue their studies to a Master of Art`s degree and were given the title to mark the difference. The title of Master or Maister, by those who graduated was jealously guarded to the turn of  the 17th century and is still used by some traditionalists.

On the other hand ecclesiastics of all ranks from Archbishop  and Abbotts, to Friars and Vicars who had a Master of Art`s degree were never called Sir, always Master, prefixed to their baptismal name in addition to their office, thus Maister James Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews; Maister Patrick Hepburn , Prior of St Andrews.