LAWTON, Thomas (c.1558-1606), of Church Lawton, Cheshire and Balterley, Staffs. and the Inner Temple, London
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Family and Education
b. c.1558, 3rd s. of John Lawton (d.1598) of Church Lawton and his 2nd w. Margaret, da. of Fulke Dutton of Chester.1 educ. scholar, King’s Sch. Chester 1574;2 St. Alban’s Hall, Oxf. 1575; I. Temple 1576, called 1584.3 ?m. 3 Jan. 1590, Werber, da. of one Kent, ?s.p.4 suc. ?cos. William Lawton (as coh.) 1604. d. by 7 Jan. 1606.5
Although from a minor gentry family, Lawton could trace his ancestry to Adam de Lauton, the lord of Lawton manor under King John. A younger son, it is not known whether he inherited property from his father, whose will has not been found. After receiving a gentleman’s education, Lawton was called to the bar in 1584, made a bencher of the Inner Temple in 1597 and elected autumn reader there three years later. His first formal connection with Chester was his appointment as fee’d counsel to the city in 1596, and in 1601 on the recommendation of his kinsman, alderman Edward Dutton, he was made a freeman without charge in leges erudit. On 12 Jan. 1602, following the retirement of Richard Birkenhead through ill-health, Lawton was elected an alderman and elevated to the recordership. As recorder he strongly supported the admission in 1602 of Robert Whitby, the father of Edward Whitby*, as clerk of the Pentice.11 A year later, however, Lawton accused Robert of detaining fees arising from the city courts that were due to him, whereupon Robert claimed that he had given £50 to Lawton for the right to collect them. At Lawton’s suggestion the corporation decided to tabulate the fees payable to the clerk and recorder respectively. There is no evidence that such a table was ever drafted,12 but in 1604 Robert agreed to pay Lawton £30 p.a. for the right to collect and keep the disputed fees.13
It is unclear whether Lawton was the man of this name elected to serve the Cornish borough of Callington in 1584. Lawton was then in London, having recently been called to the bar, and there is no evidence to connect him either with Callington or its patrons, the 7th Lord Mountjoy and the 3rd marquess of Winchester. In 1604 Lawton inherited property at Balterley, in north-west Staffordshire, and was speedily added to the Staffordshire bench. Later that year he was elected to Parliament for Chester. On 29 Mar. he was appointed to the committee for the bill to confirm the ancient privileges and liberties of the subject. Four days later he was nominated to the committee for the bill to restore the earls of Southampton, Essex and Arundel. Over Easter he returned to Staffordshire, attending the general sessions of the peace on 17 Apr., by which time the Commons had already reassembled. He was soon back in the House, however, as he participated in the debate on the use of the term ‘Great Britain’ on 20 April. His views on this subject have gone unrecorded. He received no further mentions until 8 May, when he was nominated to a legislative committee on poor relief.14 He subsequently intervened twice in the debates on Sir Thomas Shirley I’s* case, arguing on 10 and 14 May that the warden of the Fleet should be summoned by a writ of de homine replegiando.15 As a burgess for a port town, Lawton was eligible to sit on the committee for the Tunnage and Poundage bill which was appointed on 30 May,16 and was undoubtedly encouraged to do so by his constituents, who sought an exemption from the bill’s provisions based upon the rights embodied in their charter. At the third reading (12 June), Lawton tendered a proviso for the city which resulted in a recommitment of the bill and an order requiring Chester’s Member to bring in the city’s charter for examination. The following day Lawton again exhibited the proviso and, after a division, the bill and proviso were again committed. On 14 June Lawton reported from the committee, but after much dispute the proviso was rejected.17
Lawton died in London in January 1606, intestate and probably childless. Administration of his estate was granted to John Monington of Shelwick, in Herefordshire, on 30 May.18 The relationship between Lawton and Monington is unknown.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Chris Kyle
- 1. G. Ormerod, Hist. Cheshire, iii. 17; Vis. Cheshire (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. lviii), 138.
- 2. Cheshire Archives, ‘L. and I. King’s Sch. Scholars’, unpag. typescript.
- 3. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
- 4. Cheshire Sheaf ed. M. Ridgway, ser. 3. ii. 34.
- 5. Staffs. Historical Collections: Staffs. Q. Sess. Rolls V ed. S.A.H. Burne (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. ser. 3, 1940) p. 262; Cheshire Archives, AB/1, f. 288.
- 6. Cheshire Archives, AB/1, ff. 246v, 271v.
- 7. CITR, i. 358.
- 8. Cheshire Sheaf, ser. 3, i. 11; n.s. i. 147; Staffs. Hist. Colls.: Staffs. Q. Sess. Rolls V, 72, 262.
- 9. Freemen of Chester (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. li), 84; Cheshire Archives, AB/1, f. 269v, 271v.
- 10. C181/1, p. 95.
- 11. Cheshire Archives, AB/1, f. 272.
- 12. Cal. Chester City Mins. ed. M.J. Groombridge (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. cvi), 4.
- 13. Harl. 2093, f. 40.
- 14. CJ, i. 157a, 162a, 202b; Staffs. Hist. Colls.: Staffs. Q. Sess. Rolls V, 120.
- 15. CJ, i. 179b, 969a, 971a.
- 16. Ibid. 228b.
- 17. Ibid. 237a, 237b, 239a.
- 18. PROB 6/7, f. 38.