The Sherman family’s immediate English ancestors emigrated from Dedham, Essex, in the 17th century. However, the earliest proven family connections with the American line are provided by Thomas and his son John, the latter living in Yaxley, Suffolk County, England. John died in 1504.
Yaxley was surveyed in the Domesday Book in the 11th century, but few other documents survive which relate to the parish prior to the 16th century. Those that have survived were found in the church chest and refer to the transfer of town lands and property. The majority are signed by members of the town guild – the “Guild of St. Thomas Martyr in Yaxley.” One such document relates to the offer for use as a guildhall of a town house; it is signed by John Sherman as a member of the guild and dated 1497.
The guildhall would have provided a venue for local tradesmen to discuss trade and local affairs and it is fairly certain that John and subsequently his son Thomas would have regularly attended meetings there. The guild was dissolved towards the end of the 16th century and the guildhall then reverted to its role as a private dwelling. In 1587 the owners leased the house to Francis Sherman for seven years at an annual rent of £3.62.8d. (three pounds, six shillings, and eight pence). Other Shermans may well have lived for periods in the house after the dissolving of the guild, and the search for further deeds is continuing.
Though little known and over 500 years old, the guildhall still exists as a private home. Presumably this makes it the oldest Sherman residence in existence.
In 1986, the current owner intends to allow persons visiting Britain and who have an interest in the Sherman ancestry, to stay at the Guildhall. Further information may be obtained by writing to: P. Williams, “The Guildhall,” Yaxley, Suffolk, England 1P238BS.
By P. G. Williams Suffolk County, England