Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Erdeswicke, Sampson

ERDESWICKE, SAMPSON (d. 1603), historian of Staffordshire, was descended from a family which could trace its ancestry from Richard de Vernon, baron of Shipbrook, 20 William I (1085–6). Originally seated at Erdeswicke Hall in Minshull Vernon, Cheshire, the Erdeswickes, after the alienation of that estate, resided for several generations in the adjacent township of Leighton, and finally settled at Sandon, Staffordshire, on the marriage of Thomas Erdeswicke with Margaret, only daughter and heiress of Sir James Stafford of that place, in the twelfth year of Edward III (1338–9). The Staffords came from Thomas Stafford and his wife Auda, coheiress of Warin Vernon, and thus a new connection was formed with the original house of Shipbrook (cf. descent given by Erdeswicke himself in Harl. MS. 381, f. 153 b). Sampson was born at Sandon. His father, Hugh Erdeswicke, rigidly adhered to the catholic faith of his ancestors, on which account he was subjected to much persecution during the reign of Elizabeth. In May 1582 Overton, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, reported to the privy council that Hugh Erdeswicke, lord of the manor of Sandon, ‘the sorest and dangerousest papist, one of them in all England,’ was not afraid before him and Sir Walter Aston, ‘openly in the sight of the whole country,’ to strike a justice of the peace ‘upon the pate with his crabtree staff,’ and that in Sandon churchyard, for which he was bound in 200l. to make his appearance at the next general assizes (Strype, Annals, 8vo, vol. iii. pt. ii. pp. 214–215). Allusion is also made to him in ‘An Ancient Editor's Note-book’ (Morris, Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, 3rd ser. pp. 17–18), from which it appears that he was fined and imprisoned for striking a pursuivant whom he found ransacking his house. The occurrence may well have been the preliminary to that recorded by Strype. Sampson studied at Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1553 and 1554 as a gentleman commoner, and afterwards returned to Sandon to pass his days in the pursuits of a country gentleman. His leisure was devoted to antiquarian researches, and he made numerous collections. He began his ‘View’ or ‘Survey’ of Staffordshire about 1593, and continued to labour at it until his death (Fuller, Worthies, ‘Staffordshire,’ p. 45). It commences after the style of a letter, and is addressed presumably to Camden. The history of the manuscript is enshrouded in mystery, which is not lessened by the supposition that Erdeswicke left a second and revised draft. William Burton, the historian of Leicestershire [q. v.], writing in 1604, the year after Erdeswicke's death, states that even then it was not known into whose hands the manuscript had fallen, though he had been informed that it was in the possession of Sir Thomas Gerrard of Etwall, Derbyshire (Gent. Mag. vol. lxviii. pt. ii. p. 1011). According to Sir William Dugdale, the original, from which he made a transcript now preserved at Merevale Hall, Warwickshire, belonged to George Digby of Sandon, and was lent by the latter to Sir Simon Degge [q. v.], who returned it with a letter dated 20 Feb. 1669, giving a gossiping account of the state of the county (Erdeswicke, Survey, ed. Harwood, 1844, preface, pp. liv–lix). Wood asserts that ‘the original, or at least a copy,’ had been acquired by Walter Chetwynd of Ingestrie [q. v.] (Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 736); but in his examination of the Ingestrie manuscripts Stebbing Shaw could not find any trace of the original (Gent. Mag. vol. lxviii. pt. ii. p. 921). The transcript at Ingestrie is fully described in Salt's ‘List,’ p. 8. Numerous other manuscript copies are extant, varying, however, not only in the orthography and language, but even in the topographical arrangement. That in the British Museum (Harl. MS. 1990) belonged to the second Randle Holme; another in the library at Wrottesley, Staffordshire, seems to have been Camden's (Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. app. p. 49). In 1844 William Salt, F.S.A., printed twenty copies of ‘A List and Description of the Manuscript Copies of Erdeswick's Survey of Staffordshire, which have been traced in Public Libraries or Private Collections, 1842–3;’ it had previously appeared in Harwood's 1844 edition of the ‘Survey,’ pp. lxxix–ci. Erdeswicke had intended to include Cheshire in the ‘Survey.’ His collections for that county are Harl. MS. 506, ‘Mr. Erdeswicke's Booke of Cheshire,’ with additions by Laurence Bostock and Ralph Starkey; Harl. MS. 338, genealogical notes and extracts from charters, and Harl. MS. 1990, which contains three leaves of description. An excellent abstract of the deeds of the barons of Kinderton by him is preserved in the College of Arms. Another copy, marked as liber H. in Sir Peter Leycester's collection, is yet in the library at Tabley (Ormerod, Cheshire, i. xvii). ‘Excerpta ex stemmate baronis de Kinderton,’ by his kinsman, Sampson Erdeswicke of London, is in the British Museum, Addit. MS. 6031, f. 165. Other miscellaneous collections among the Harl. MSS. are in those numbered 818, extracts from his Staffordshire collections 5019, notes taken out of the registers of various places 1985, ex chartis S. Erdeswicke; while pedigrees of his family are to be found in Nos. 381, 1052, and 4031. Addit. MS. 6668, f. 317, has also a pedigree with deeds. Addit. MS. 5410 is a large vellum roll nearly 12 feet in length by 2 feet 2 inches in breadth, entitled ‘Stemmata et propagines antiquæ familiæ de Erdeswick de Sandon,’ and written and emblazoned by Robert Glover, Somerset herald, for Erdeswicke in 1586. It was presented to the Museum by Thomas Blore [q. v.] in 1791. There is also in the Harleian collection (No. 473) a thin octavo book which once belonged to Sir Simonds D'Ewes, and described by him as ‘Certaine verie rare Observations of Chester, and some parts of Wales; with divers Epitaphes, Coats Armours, & other Monuments. … All taken by the Author, who seems to me to have been Sampson Erdeswicke, A.D. 1574.’ The writer gives an account of an antiquarian ramble taken with Edward Threlkeld, LL.D., chancellor of Hereford and rector of Great Salkeld in Cumberland, whom he styles ‘one of my old acquayntance syns K. Edward his tyme.’ The handwriting is certainly not his, and Erdeswicke, a strict catholic, would not have been in familiar intercourse with a protestant clergyman. Threlkeld makes no mention of Erdeswicke in his will (registered in P. C. C., 9, Leicester). The portion relating to Cumberland, Northumberland, &c., was printed in 1848 by M. A. Richardson of Newcastle, in his series of reprints of rare tracts.

Erdeswicke died in 1603, on 11 April, say Fuller and Wood, but his will is dated 15 May of that year. He was buried in Sandon Church, ‘which church was a little before new glazed and repaired by him’ (Fuller, loc. cit.). He was twice married, first to Elizabeth, second daughter and coheiress of Humphrey Dixwell of Church-Waver, Warwickshire, and secondly, 24 April 1593, to Mary, widow of Everard Digby of Tugby, Leicestershire, and second daughter of Francis Neale of Prestwold-in-Keythorp in the same county. He had issue by both marriages. Against the north wall of the chancel in Sandon Church is a colossal monument erected by himself in 1601, representing his own figure, 6 ft. 10½ in. in length. In two niches above are seen his two wives kneeling. The monument, which bears an inscription giving the descent of the family from 20th William I, was tampered with about 1756, when the chancel was repaired; originally it must have stood nearly twenty feet. An engraving of it in its first state faces p. 41 of Harwood's 1844 edition of the ‘Survey.’ From his will, or rather indenture, of 15 May 1603, made between him and four Staffordshire gentlemen, proved in P. C. C. 6 Oct. 1603 (registered 82, Bolein), it would seem that Erdeswicke died insolvent. Two children only are mentioned, his daughters Mary and Margery Erdeswicke. He is said to have been a member of the Society of Antiquaries, founded by Archbishop Parker about 1572 (Archæologia, i. ix).

Contemporary allusions to Erdeswicke attest the value and thoroughness of his work. In a well-known passage Camden celebrated him as ‘venerandæ antiquitatis cultor maximus’ (Britannia, ed. 1607, p. 439). William Burton writes in a similar strain in a Latin preface evidently intended for his ‘Leicestershire,’ first printed by Stebbing Shaw in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ vol. lxviii. pt. ii. p. 1011. Many years later Fuller acknowledged the assistance he had derived from the ‘Survey’ (Worthies, ed. 1662, ‘Staffordshire,’ p. 46). The ‘Survey,’ with Degge's letter, was first printed by Curll, entitled ‘A Survey of Staffordshire. … With a description of Beeston Castle in Cheshire; publish'd from Sir W. Dugdale's transcript of the author's original copy. To which are added, Observations on the possessors of monastery-lands in Staffordshire: by Sir S. Degge,’ 8vo, London, 1717. The copy in the British Museum has copious manuscript notes by Peter Le Neve, Norroy. According to Gough only the latter portion of this most inaccurate edition was printed from Dugdale's copy; the earlier part was supplied from a manuscript lent by Thoresby (British Topography, ii. 229–30). Gough is evidently right (cf. Salt, List, pp. 21–2; Harwood, Erdeswicke, 1844, pp. xcix–c). Both parts were reissued, 8vo, London, 1723. It was also incorporated in Shaw's unfinished ‘History of Staffordshire,’ fol., London, 1798–1801. Another edition, ‘collated with manuscript copies, and with additions and corrections, by Wyrley, Chetwynd, Degge, Smyth, Lyttelton, Buckeridge, and others,’ was published by Thomas Harwood, 8vo, Westminster, 1820 (new edit. 8vo, London, 1844). Erdeswicke is also said to have written, or at least revised, ‘The true Use of Armorie,’ published under the name of William Wyrley, his pupil and amanuensis, 4to, London, 1592. Wood, who possessed the original manuscript, much injured by damp, maintained that Wyrley was the sole author, ‘and that Erdeswyke being oftentimes crazed, especially in his last days, and fit then for no kind of serious business, would say anything which came into his mind, as 'tis very well known at this day among the chief of the College of Arms’ (Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, ii. 217–18). Dugdale, however, was of a different opinion (The Antient Usage of bearing Arms, ed. 1681, p. 4), adding in note: ‘I was assured by Mr. William Burton … that Mr. Erdeswicke did to him acknowledge he was the author of that discourse; though he gave leave to Mr. Wyrley … to publish it in his own name.’ The two poems ‘The Life of Sir John Chandos’ and ‘The Life of Sir John de Gralhy Capitall de Buz,’ prefixed to the tract, were certainly written by Wyrley.

[Erdeswicke's Survey of Staffordshire, ed. Harwood, 1844, pp. xxxvi–xliii, 47, 48, 54; Fuller's Worthies (1662), Staffordshire, pp. 45–6; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 736–7, ii. 217–19; Ormerod's Cheshire, i. xvii, iii. 119, 240; Gillow's Bibliographical Dict. of the English Catholics, ii. 174–6; Chalmers's Biog. Dict. xiii. 283; Gower's Sketch of the Materials for a Hist. of Cheshire (1771), pp. 30–1; Gough's British Topography, i. 249, ii. 229–30, 239; Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. App. p. 49, 4th Rep. App. p. 362, 5th Rep. App. p. 339, 6th Rep. App. p. 246, 8th Rep. App. p. 31; Coxe's Cat. Codicum MSS. Bibl. Bodl. (Rawlinson), pars v. fasc. ii. p. 692; Moule's Bibliotheca Heraldica, p. 41.]

G. G.