Erdeswicke was born at Sandon in Staffordshire, and entered Brasenose College, Oxford, as a gentleman-commoner in 1553. Leaving Oxford, he returned to his life as a country gentleman under the disabilities of a recusant.
He devoted himself to antiquarian studies, particularly to his county history, the thorough Survey of Staffordshire. By this work his name is chiefly remembered, but it was not published during his lifetime. It was well known before its eventual publication. Considerable mystery exists as to the original manuscript, because the numerous existing copies differ much from one another. A description of these was published by William Salt, F.S.A., in 1844. The Survey itself was published by Simon Degge (1717 and 1723), by Stebbing Shaw in his History and Antiquities of Staffordshire (1798), and lastly by Thomas Harwood (1820 and 1844).
Other unpublished manuscripts by Erdeswicke are in the British Library and the College of Arms. Latterly he employed as amanuensis William Wyrley, a young man whom he had educated and who afterwards published writings of his own. One of these, The True Use of Armorie, was claimed by Erdeswicke as his own work, but he told William Burton the antiquary, that he had given Wyrley leave to publish it under his own name. Anthony à Wood, however, denies this, adding that Erdeswicke "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".
He is buried in Sandon Church, beneath an elaborate monument representing his own recumbent form. William Camden and other antiquaries praise his knowledge and industry, and he is believed to have been elected a member of the Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries.
His father, Hugh Erdeswicke claimed descent from Richard de Vernon, Baron of Shipbrook, in the reign of William the Conqueror. The family resided originally at Erdeswicke Hall, in Cheshire, afterwards at Leighton and finally in the reign of Edward III settled at Sandon. Hugh Erdeswicke was a staunch Catholic; in 1582 he was reported to the Privy Council by the Bishop of Coventry as "the sorest and dangerousest papist, one of them in all England".
Erdeswicke married first Elizabeth Dixwell, secondly Mary Digby (24 April 1593). He died in 1603, but the date usually given, 11 April, must be erroneous, as his will is dated 15 May.
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- David C. Douglas, English Scholars (1939), p. 33.
- Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, Bliss ed., II, 217–18.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1909). "Sampson Erdeswicke". Catholic Encyclopedia. 5. New York: Robert Appleton.