NEWTON, William (d.1453), of Swell, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



May 1413

Family and Education

m. (1) Maud (d. 24 Feb. 1419), wid. of Sir John Lorty; (2) by 1429, Idonea, née Montague, 1s.1

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Som. and Dorset June 1421 (the estates of Sir Robert Urswyk*), Som., Hants, Dorset, Wilts. May 1448 (estates of William Horsey), Som. Aug. 1449 (concealed royal income); sewers May 1425; array Mar. 1450, May 1450; for the assessment of a tax on incomes from land Aug. 1450.

Verderer of Neroche forest, Som. by 1425-d.

Escheator, Som. and Dorset 4 Nov. 1440-1.

J.p. Som. 26 June 1442-d.


Although the surname of Newton was not at all an unusual one, evidence of the activities and the associates of William Newton of Swell strongly suggests that it was he, rather than an obscure local man, who sat in Parliament for Dorchester in 1413. Newton owed his landed holdings in Somerset to his marriage to a widow, Maud Lorty, who held the manors of Swell and North Perrott (estimated to be worth £20 a year) as her dower. Sir John Lorty’s heir, Philip Carteret, allowed Newton and his wife to keep possession of the estate in survivorship, so the MP retained it after Maud’s death in 1419, and in fact, a week later, he presented to the vacant living at North Perrott. In 1429 he arranged for the settlement of Swell on himself and his second wife and their issue and, in the event, secured the inheritance of the manor for his own son. Meanwhile, he had acquired lands at Donyatt, and in 1425 he also had become the tenant of the manor of Sandhill in Withycombe and a moiety of that of ‘Brodeway’, by grant of Sir Hugh Luttrell* of Dunster.2

Shortly after his only appearance in the Commons, Newton joined with another sometime representative for Dorchester, Robert Veel*, in applying for a royal licence to found a chantry in Ilchester, where masses were to be sung for the soul of Joan, the first wife of John Stourton I* of Preston Plucknett, whose brother William had been Speaker in the same Parliament. Like Veel, Newton was a lawyer by profession, and he similarly established important connexions in both Somerset and Dorset. One of his colleagues was Hugh Sampford*, an associate of the Brookes of Holditch. Whether Newton himself shared the heretical, lollard opinions of that family is unknown, but certainly on 13 July 1417, along with Richard Cheddar* and Edmund Pyne*, he entered into recognizances for £1,000 (leviable, in the event of default, to the advantage of the Crown) undertaking that Thomas Brooke* would make no unlawful assemblies or adhere to or maintain the traitor, Sir John Oldcastle*, in any movement to violate the rights of the Church. Furthermore, Newton, Brooke and Pyne all entered into similar recognizances on behalf of Cheddar.3

Along with one Richard Perceval, Newton occupied the manors of Nynehead and Withiel Florey, Somerset, but they were evicted some time in Henry V’s reign by virtue of the findings of an inquest held by the escheator. They petitioned the chancellor for redress and, in 1424, were granted custody of the manors at the Exchequer until ownership should be proved. Before 1428 Newton was enfeoffed by Elizabeth, widow of the 2nd Lord Botreaux, of her lands in Somerset for the purpose of effecting an entail. In 1441 he (with others) joined John Cheverell* (who had also sat for Dorchester in Parliament) in making grants to St. Helen’s chapel in Chilfrome, Dorset, of property in ‘Haseweare’ and Crokern Stoke, their object being to arrange for divine service and prayers for the welfare of the King, Sir James Ormond (afterwards earl of Wiltshire) and his wife Avice, and for the souls of Robert Lovell* and his wife Elizabeth (Avice’s maternal grandparents). They were evidently acting as executors of Elizabeth Lovell’s will. Contribution was likewise to be made, and for the same purpose, to the chantry founded by Guy, Lord Bryan (Elizabeth’s grandfather), at Slapton, Devon, from lands in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. It was also as a feoffee of the former Bryan estates that Newton was connected with John Stork*, another leading Dorset lawyer.4

Newton regularly attended the shire elections in Somerset, being party to the electoral indentures of 1414 (Apr.), 1421 (May), 1422, 1423, 1425, 1426, 1427, l429, 1432, 1437, 1442 and 1447. For the last 11 years of his life he occupied a place on the local bench, and for more than a quarter of a century he held (probably as a sinecure) the post of verderer of Neroche forest, despite the fact that in 1425 he had been said to lack the necessary qualifications.5 He died on 20 Feb. 1453, leaving Swell to his son, Alexander, then aged 19.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


It was probably another William Newton who was bailiff of the estates of Glastonbury abbey, c.1400-2: E372/246-8.

  • 1. C138/38/38a; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 79.
  • 2. C138/38/38a; Reg. Bubwith (Som. Rec. Soc. xxx), 352; Som. Feet of Fines (ibid. xxii), 74; Honour of Dunster (ibid. xxxiii), 188, 208, 213, 217; Feudal Aids, iv. 373, 389, 391, 430.
  • 3. C143/445/19; CPR, 1413-16, p. 371; Som. Feet of Fines, 51; CCR, 1413-19, p. 428.
  • 4. C1/16/134; CFR, xv. 88; CPR, 1422-9, p. 462; 1436-41, p. 500; 1441-6, p. 87; PCC 22 Luffenham.
  • 5. C219/11/3, 12/5, 13/1-5, 14/1, 3, 15/1, 2, 4; CCR, 1422-9, p. 173; 1447-54, p. 458.
  • 6. C139/148/14.