PEYTON, John I (1544-1630), of Beaupré Hall, Norf.; later of Doddington, Ely, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. 1544, 2nd s. of John Peyton of Knowlton, Kent (d.1558), by Dorothy, da. of Sir John Tyndale of Hockwold, Norf. m. 8 June 1578, Dorothy, da. and coh. of Edmund Beaupré of Beaupré Hall, wid. of (Sir) Robert Bell, 1s. John III 1da. Kntd. 24 Nov. 1586.3

Offices Held

In household of Sir Henry Sidney in Ireland c.1564-76; with Leicester in the Netherlands 1586; j.p. Norf. from c.1581, sheriff 1588-9, dep. lt. 1588-96, commr. sewers by 1590; j.p. Isle of Ely from c.1579, commr. sewers by 1594; j.p. Mdx. from c.1597, commr. musters 1598; dep. gov. of Bergen-op-Zoom 1586; receiver, Norf. Hunts. and Norwich 1593; lt. of the Tower 1597; gov. of Jersey 1603-28.4


As a young man, Peyton went to Ireland to serve under Sir Henry Sidney, a friend and near neighbour of his father. In 1568 there are references to his bringing despatches from Sidney to England, but few details of his life at this period have been found. He seems to have returned to England finally in 1576.

As a younger son, Peyton had little land of his own, though he inherited leasehold property in Ely and in Cambridgeshire, where another branch of the Peytons had long been settled. However, when the sitting Member for King’s Lynn died, Peyton married the widow and on 6 Nov. 1579 was elected to Parliament by the ‘congregation’ of the borough ‘in the lieu and place of Sir Robert Bell’, and in the following month was made a freeman and member of the merchants’ company. In 1584 he again represented King’s Lynn, but was in the Netherlands during the 1586 election, and did not re-enter the House of Commons until 1593. In the 1581 session of the 1572 Parliament Peyton sat on committees concerning the recusancy laws (25 Jan.) and wool (13 Feb.). His name has not been found in the journals of the 1584 Parliament, and in that of 1593 he served only on the subsidy committees (26 Feb. and 1 Mar.) and a cloth committee (23 Mar.). The King’s Lynn corporation presented him with a hogshead of claret in June 1593, ‘in respect of his service the last Parliament’. At least once he wrote to the Privy Council protesting against monopolies which harmed the town’s trade. After he ceased to be Member for King’s Lynn there is only one reference to him in the local records, when he acted as a pledge for Sir Robert Southwell on his becoming a free burgess.5

In the ten years succeeding his marriage, Peyton became one of the most active local officials in Norfolk, serving on numerous commissions in addition to carrying out his regular work as a justice of the peace, commissioner for musters or deputy lieutenant. In 1596 he drew up a scheme for the improvement of the county levies, reducing the size of companies and appointing captains with military experience. The Privy Council approving his suggestions, Hunsdon, the lord lieutenant, ordered the Norfolk companies to be reduced in size, and the appointment of new captains. Soon after Peyton moved away the former large companies were restored.

Peyton’s court affiliations were with the Sidney-Leicester group, and he counted among his friends influential men like (Sir) Philip Sidney—who wrote in 1585 that Peyton was ‘one whom from my childhood I have had great cause to love’—and Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby de Eresby. It is not surprising, therefore, to find him among those who followed Leicester to the Netherlands, where he was knighted, and in spite of supply difficulties gained some repute as deputy governor of Bergen. Back in England by July 1588, he was appointed a colonel of the Queen’s bodyguard at the time of the Armada. When the troops were disbanded he returned to his Norfolk estates, but continued to take an active interest in national affairs. Early in 1596 he sent up to London a detailed report of rumours locally current about the imminent arrival of another Armada, said to have sailed from Lisbon ‘more than three weeks since’.6

A new period in his career began in 1597 with his appointment as lieutenant of the Tower. Here he had charge of such eminent prisoners as the Earl of Essex and, for a short time, Sir Walter Ralegh, who sent for him five or six times a day ‘in such passions as I see his fortitude is [not] competent to support his grief’. Peyton seems to have been a humane and considerate lieutenant: Henry Cuffe, one of the Essex conspirators, in a will presumably declared invalid, bequeathed him £100, since he had ‘found all kind favours and christian comforts’ at his hands. During his period at the Tower, Peyton served as a justice of the peace for Middlesex, and in 1597 represented the county in Parliament. As a knight of the shire he could have attended committees on enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.). As lieutenant of the Tower he was named to the armour and weapons committee (8 Nov.), and to committees on defeasances (26 Nov.), the provision of a preacher in the Tower (12 Dec.) and the possessions of the bishop of Norwich (16 Jan. 1598). He did not attain a county seat in 160l, returning to the House for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, where his patron was almost certainly Sir Robert Cecil, perhaps acting through Viscount Bindon. This time he served on committees dealing with the clothworkers bill (18 Nov.), monopolies (23 Nov.), Dunkirk pirates (3 Dec.), the relief of the poor (10 Dec.), the Exchequer bill (16 Dec.) and a bill concerning printers (17 Dec.).

By this time Peyton was complaining of the expenses of his office, which had caused him to sell ‘£180 a year’ of his estate. In September 1601 he asked permission to go into the country for five or six weeks, on the grounds that former lieutenants had been allowed to be absent for most of the summer, until (Sir) Owen Hopton ‘came to the place, who having wasted his estate, necessity enforced him to mortify himself with the privilege of his office’.

Early in 1603, when James VI was intent on securing his succession, he wrote to Peyton, possibly overestimating the importance of his office. Peyton avoided committing himself but, when James had been proclaimed King, sent his son John to Edinburgh with professions of loyalty. As lieutenant, Peyton served as one of the knights of the canopy at Elizabeth’s funeral, but he wished to exchange his Tower office for the governorship of Jersey, ‘a place’, he told Robert Cecil, ‘of all others best agreeing with my desires’. He left England in September 1603. In the following month and again in January 1604 his loyalty was suspect owing to the indiscreet activities of his son John, who had been his assistant at the Tower; but nothing came of the rumours that father or son was to be disgraced, and Peyton kept the privilege, granted to him at the beginning of James’s reign, of having access to the privy chamber at all times.7

Peyton’s period as governor of Jersey proved a stormy one. A convinced supporter of the English church settlement, he was soon at odds with the presbyterian party there. In addition he fell foul of the bailiff, John Herault, and the Privy Council received the usual complaints from both sides. In 1616 a special commission was appointed to ‘go thither and set all straight between them’. In February 1617 an order in Council stated that ‘the charge of the military forces’ should be wholly in the governor, and the care of justice and civil affairs in the bailiff.8

‘Pardon the misguiding of my pen’, Peyton wrote to Secretary Conway in December 1624, ‘being led by a hand of 80 years’. He was then living on his Doddington estate in the Isle of Ely, where he seems to have spent most of his time when in England after the death of his wife early in 1603. He was lame and his sight was failing. In another letter to Conway he asked the secretary to consider his ‘trouble and charges’:

I have had six voyages between England and Jersey on church discipline; my salary is £400 ... less than former governors; I have sold land worth £400 a year and am still £4,000 in debt. I have nine grandchildren to provide for.

He resigned his Jersey office in 1628 and died intestate on 4 Nov. 1630, being buried at Doddington. Administration of the estate was granted to the heir, John, in May 1631. Peyton’s complaints about his debts need not be taken at their face value. Judging from the marriage portions he had recently given to his granddaughters, he was a very wealthy man.9

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. C219/33/124, 125.
  • 3. DNB; Vis. Camb. (Harl. Soc. xli), 5; R. E. Chester Waters, Chester of Chicheley Mems. i. 247, 289-98.
  • 4. APC, xv. 385; xxviii. 359; A. H. Smith thesis, passim; Lansd. 63, f. 51; 76, f. 130; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 438; Add. 1580-1625, p. 419.
  • 5. CSP Ire. 1509-74, p. 388; Lansd. 34, f. 148; Chester Mems. 289 seq.; King’s Lynn congregation bks. 1569-91, ff. 186, 188, 189, 215, 291, 388, 395; 1591-1611, ff. 23, 28, 97; HMC Hatfield, iii. 395; CJ, i. 120, 125; D’Ewes, 288, 474, 481, 507.
  • 6. Lansd. 63, f. 51; 81, f. 37; 88, f. 21; DNB; Chester Mems. 289 seq.; A. H. Smith thesis, passim; APC, xxii. 87; HMC Hatfield, vi. 222-3; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 267, 519; 1591-4, p. 400; 1595-7, p. 179; Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii. 225.
  • 7. D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 563, 571, 581, 642, 649, 666, 677, 686, 687; HMC Hatfield, xi. 169, 394; xv. 208-10; Corresp. of King James (Cam. Soc. lxxviii), 80, 81, 92; Chester Mems. 293-6; LC2/4/4; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 68; Edwards, Ralegh, i. 373; Harl. 1616, p. 132.
  • 8. Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, ii. 63, 88; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, pp. 540-1, 550-65 passim.
  • 9. CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, pp. 662, 673; Chester Mems. 298.