FITTON, Richard (c.1376-1437), of Pownall, Cheshire.
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Family and Education
b.c.1376, yr. s. of Thomas Fitton (d.1397) of Gawsworth, Cheshire. m. by Jan. 1411, Margaret (1396-1437), da. and coh. of John Olton (d.1396) of Erdeswyk by his w. Pelerine Cradock, at least 1s.1
Under forester of Chirk, Denb. 17 Oct. 1397-d.2
Bailiff of Bp. Hallum of Salisbury’s estates in Dorset and Som. by 1415.3
J.p. Dorset 22 Feb. 1419-d.
Commr. to raise royal loans, Dorset Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420.
A study of Richard Fitton’s early life and background certainly supports J.C. Wedgwood’s view that he sat for Newcastle as ‘a complete carpet-bagger’, although there is no evidence of his having been returned through the influence of the duchy of Lancaster. On the contrary, his associations were initially with the palatinate of Chester, where he was born in about 1376, the second son of Thomas Fitton, a prominent local landowner, justice and royal commissioner. He cannot have been more than 21 years of age when his father died in 1397, but within a few months the under forestership of Chirk was awarded to him by Richard II.4
In February 1400 and again four years later, he acted as a mainpernor on behalf of persons summoned before the court of Chancery. His election as MP for Newcastle in 1406, and, indeed, his return long afterwards as a shire knight for Dorset, probably owed a good deal to his influential kinsman, John Fitton, who was then a canon of Lichfield. A clergyman—and a pluralist—of some distinction, John not only attended the church Councils of Pisa (1409) and Constance (1415), but also went on to become first a canon of Salisbury (1410), and then chancellor of the cathedral (1422). He was thus well placed to further the careers of Richard and his younger relative, Laurence Fitton*, both of whom, significantly enough, were retained by successive bishops of Salisbury during the reign of Henry V. John’s hand may clearly be detected in the award to Richard (as an inhabitant of the diocese of Lichfield) of two papal indults: one, in March 1413, permitting the use of a portable altar, and the other, eight years later, for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death. Even so, Richard did establish Staffordshire connexions of his own. In the summer of 1407, for example, John and Maud Rushton settled their manor of Rushton upon him as a feoffee-to-uses; and at some unknown date he acquired a life interest in ‘Halle Place’, near Hilderstone. Across the county border in Cheshire, he was able to build up more impressive holdings, partly as a result of his marriage to Margaret, the third daughter and coheiress of John Olton, who left her a share of his property in and around Erdeswyk. For a while Fitton exercised the custodianship of the estates of John Downes (which he relinquished in 1409); and he also appears to have inherited some of his father’s land in Pownall.5
It is hard to tell exactly when Fitton moved permanently from the north-east Midlands to Dorset, but he had evidently made the decision to join his kinsman, John Fitton, by 1415, the date of his appointment as steward of Bishop Hallum of Salisbury’s estates in Dorset and Somerset. He was subsequently involved in two unsuccessful rounds of litigation with local men over the non-payment of debts; and in 1419 he took a seat on the Dorset bench, which he retained until his death. Although not otherwise much in demand in an official capacity, he acted in 1424 as a trustee for the endowment of Salisbury cathedral, as well as performing the duties of a feoffee-to-uses on at least two occasions in Somerset. Fitton must have been about 56 years old when he represented Dorset in the Parliament of 1432, and he was, not surprisingly, included two years later on the list of county gentry who were required to take the general oath that they would not support anyone disturbing the peace. He died on 9 Apr. 1437, being succeeded at once by his son, John, a young man of at least 21. The inquisition after his death recorded that he held no estates of the Crown, but there is a strong possibility that he owned property in, or near, Sherborne, where he was buried. His wife did not survive him for long, if at all, since her will of 20 Feb. 1437 was proved at the beginning of May. In it she left modest bequests to the friars of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Lichfield, Chester and Salisbury.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Feton, Fyton, Fytton. For the early history of the family see J.P. Earwaker’s East Cheshire, i. 50-51.
- 1. DKR, xxix. 51-52; xxxvi. 157, 181-2, 370-1; Staffs. Parl. Hist. i (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), 167; C139/85/2.
- 2. DKR, xxxvi. 181.
- 3. E179/188 m. 244.
- 4. DKR, xxix. 51, 61; xxxvi. 181-2; Staffs. Parl. Hist. i. 167, 185.
- 5. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 209; 1402-5, p. 314; CPL, vi. 344; vii. 333; Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. ed. Emden, ii. 737-8; CFR, xvi. 349; DKR, xxix. 74; xxxvi. 157, 182, 370-1; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 217.
- 6. CPR, 1416-22, p. 156; 1422-9, p. 234; 1429-36, pp. 95, 382; Som. Rec. Soc. xxii. 65, 79; Staffs. Parl. Hist. i. 167; C139/85/2; E179/188 m. 244; SC8/130/6478-9.