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Helmdon Historical Articles

The Shortlands of Helmdon

an article by Mary Legge



A relative of mine has a Shortland family Bible which belonged to the Venerable Archdeacon Shortland (1803-1880). In it he has written an account headed - “Memoranda of the Ancestry of the Venerable Archdeacon of Madras B.D.”

“It is certain that the family of the Shortlands have live many hundred years in the same house at Helmdon (near Brackley, Northamptonshire) but the certain time of their coming there is not now known. They have a tradition one of their ancestors came into England with the Duke of Normandy. They first settled in Cheshire and after a short time came from there to Helmdon and have continued there ever since. It is not remembered nor can be proven by any writings that ever the lands at Helmdon were let to any tenant. They had anciently a considerable estate in the neighbourhood about 1590.

At the time of Vincent's marriage with Elizabeth Astell they had in possession besides the farm at Helmdon another “Close and Yard Land” upon which “Close” Vincent built and together with the “yard land” settled it upon his son William. The aforesaid property was sometime after sold, but again bought by Thomas son of Richard Shortland. They had likewise at that time a good farm and another tenement at Floore as also some land at Heyford in Northamptonshire, all which lands had been, time out of mind in the family.. The Estate at Floore and Heyford was settled by Vincent on his son John when he married Isabella Hitchman with whom he had a handsome fortune and then John quitted his right of the inheritance at Helmdon, which gave Vincent the father a power to settle the farm there upon his son Richard. All the land at Weston came into the family by Elizabeth the wife of Vincent. The farm there & 2 cottages was settled upon Edward son of Vincent and the other tenement & lands belonging to it was given to Paul the son of Vincent.

No exact account of the family can be given beyond Thomas, grandfather of Edward and Great grandfather of Vincent Shortland but it may be noted that in the year 1420 the Estate was in possession of John who (cit) wife was named Margaret and their son's name Thomas. Also in the year 1397 mention is made of John and Margaret.”

This gave me a wonderful start to exploring this line of my family. The Reverend Shortland's Bible also contained a list of family names and dates also written by him. From these I constructed two family trees and have fortunately been able to confirm most of the names and dates from Helmdon parish records which had been photographed by the Church of The Latter Day Saints. (LDS fiche nos. 6127736 & 6127737)

The marvellous Helmdon web page gave me access to a manuscript held at Magdalene College, Oxford of a land grant dated 27th January 1362, which mentioned a grant of land from John, son of William Shortlond (cit) of Helmdon, to John Banif. This took the Shortlands of Helmdon back one further generation.

                       Shortlands Cottage

                                            Shortlands cottage (on right)

The Helmdon web page proved to be a mine of information about the village at the time my ancestors lived there. In particular the article by Edward Parry on Helmdon wills. The web page also contained information on Shortland cottage which was first known to be occupied in 1250, and from then until 1871 housed eight generations of the Shortland family. I was lucky enough to obtain some pictures sent to me in 2007 by a relative of the then owner.

The Venerable Vincent Shortland, who was mentioned earlier, was not a Helmdon man. His grandfather Vincent Shortland (1724-!801), presumably because he was a younger son, left the village and was apprenticed to a carpenter Edward Riggins in Oxford. He did very well in life and eventually served two terms as Mayor of Oxford.. His elder brother Richard (1718-1787) remained in Helmdon. Richard married and he and his family were part of the extensive collection of Shortlands in the area. From the extent of the family trees there were certainly many of them; possible candidates for a One Name Study.

As an Australian there was a Shortland line in which I was particularly interested, these were the Shortlands of Coggeshall, Essex. Both families continually use the names Richard and Thomas and both have the tradition they originally came from Cheshire and that the earliest family member came to England with William the Conqueror. The parish records of Helmdon only start in 1570, and the records of the Shortlands in Coggeshall commence in 1580. I was very kindly sent an early

draft of A History of the Shortland Family by Victor Alan Shortland. This details the family from Coggeshall through service with the Royal Navy and their achievements in the New world, especially New Zealand. There were two Shortland Naval Officers on the First Fleet to Sydney with Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788, hence my interest in this branch of the family. Unfortunately I have not managed to find evidence of a connection. But all this is far from Helmdon.

Mary Legge



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