KIRTON, James I (d.1620), of Almsford Park, Som.
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Family and Education
4th s. of Edward Kirton (d.1601), of Almsford by his w. Lettice Gilbanke. m. c.1607, Elizabeth (d.1618), da. of John Morley, of Halfnaked, Suss., s.p. Kntd. 1618.1
Servant of Earl of Hertford from c.1592; j.p. Som. 1618-19.2
Families of Kirton could be found in many counties in Tudor times, but it is not known whether they were related or whether they had their origin in any of the manors of that name. Traces can be found of Kirtons in Somerset from the beginning of the sixteenth century—John in 1501, Edward in 1524 and Richard in 1527. A Thomas Kirton sat for Westbury in the Reformation Parliament. The Edward Kirton of Almsford Park who died in 1601 heads the list for the tithing of Castle Cary in the certificate of musters in 1569 and is described as gentleman; he is said to have land in ‘Worthie’ in 1590. In the following year, however, Edward Kirton of Castle Cary was one of the names disclaimed by Rouge Croix in the course of his visitation. Probably his property was insufficient to support his claim to gentility; certainly James, his fourth of six sons, needed the good offices of his friends to be put ‘in a very good way’ for Almsford Park when his father died, suggesting that it had been held by the grace and favour of the Earl of Hertford, who was lord of the manor of which it was part.3
Like a number of his family, James Kirton was a servant of the Earl, being employed as his steward on his embassy to Brussels in 1605 and as his general man of business.4 According to his own account, written in 1615, he had been in the Earl’s service for 23 years, which would mean that his period of study at the Temple ended in 1592. He was employed, he says, in matters of the greatest trust from 1599 to 1608 and less onerously thereafter, being bound for the Earl’s debts as occasion arose and for purchases, such as the expenses of the Brussels embassy, to the amount of £70,000 at least. There is much evidence among the Earl’s papers to support this contention. He was alleged to have been sent by Hertford to sound Lady Shrewsbury’s servant about a marriage between Hertford’s grandson and Lady Arbella Stuart.5
Immensely useful to the Earl as resident solicitor and general manager, James Kirton was an obvious candidate for one of his master’s parliamentary seats. His description in the 1593 return as ‘of Bedwin’ presumably refers to his residence on his patron’s estates rather than to any property of his own in the borough or to any other personal connexion with it. The burgesses for Great Bedwyn were appointed to a cloth committee on 15 Mar. 1593. In 1601 he was returned, again as junior burgess, for Ludgershall and maintained his connexion with that borough in the next two Parliaments. There is nothing personal, however, save his continuity as its representative, to connect him with Ludgershall, his election for the borough again demonstrating the strength of the Earl’s influence in this part of Wiltshire.6
He was not active in Elizabethan Parliaments, but the first Jacobean Parliament gave him two opportunities to exert himself, on the first occasion even to display considerable, finesse, in motions of direct concern to his master. Relations between Hertford and the Kirtons deteriorated some time before 1615 when they appeared as parties in a lawsuit, for like many who need to borrow large sums of money, the Earl was suspicious of the manipulations of those who helped him to do it, and challenged the recompenses and safeguards with which the Kirtons had prudently preserved themselves against personal loss. These anxieties apart, James Kirton seems to have flourished in the Earl’s service. He died possessed not only of the mansion and grounds in Almsford Park and grounds in South Cary, but also of the patronage of Castle Cary, and mills there as well as Halfe Gardens and the Mill Close. He had also acquired from Hertford lands in Sopworth, Wiltshire, and held further lands in that county in Kingston Deverill and copyhold lands called ‘Battes’ in Almesbury. The house in Little St. Bartholomew near Smithfield which he mentions in his will may be ‘my house’ near Pie Corner, from which much of the London side of his business was conducted.7
One fortuitous benefit from Kirton’s association with the great has been the preservation of a number of his family letters written between the years 1600 and 1614 in the vast collection of the Seymour papers. These show him as a kind son, brother and uncle and suggest that he was also a hard working servant. His marriage connected him advantageously; he was able, from his wife’s portion, to make her an annuity of £200 a year. Kirton died in 1620 and was buried in St. Botolph’s, Aldersgate. His executor was that Edward Kirton, son of his eldest brother Daniel and Frances, afterwards Lady Vernon, who was to prove a much more conspicuous parliamentarian than his uncle when he came to sit for Marlborough in the Parliament of 1625 and for Great Bedwyn in 1627-8.8
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: Muriel Booth
- 1. Som. Wills, ed. Brown (ser. 1), 43-4; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 140.
- 2. Som. Q. Sess. Rec. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 227, 230, 244, 263.
- 3. Some Som. Manors (Som. Rec. Soc. extra ser.), 14; Som. Med. Wills, ed. Weaver (Som. Rec. Soc. xix), 236, 262; Cert. of Musters 1569 (Som. Rec. Soc. xx), 197; HMC Bath, iv. 149-50, 163, 198; Som. Enrolled Deeds (Som. Rec. Soc. li), 146; Harl. 1559, f. 234v.
- 4. HMC Bath, iv. 149-50, 198, 199, 200, 346.
- 5. M.T. Recs. i. 280, 287, 290, 314; HMC Bath, iv. 202, 213, 346-8; Devizes Mus., shelf no. 242, ‘MS Notes ... relating to the Seymour Family’; HMC Hatfield, xi. 93; xii. 583-5, 586, 601, 605, 628.
- 6. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 309; xviii. 54-5; D’Ewes, 501; Abstracts of Wilts. IPM Chas. I, pp. 20-31.
- 7. VCH Wilts. v. 126-7; HMC Bath, iv. 346-7; PCC 98 Soame.
- 8. HMC Bath, iv. 163-77; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxvi. 268; Som. Assize Orders, 1629-40 (Som. Rec. Soc. lxv.), 61.