MORTON, Sir William (c.1605-72), of Winchcombe, Glos. and Hampden Manor, Kidlington, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. c.1605, 1st s. of James Morton of Clifton-on-Severn, Worcs. by Jane, da. of William Cookes of Sheltwood, Tardebigge, Worcs. educ. Trinity, Oxf. matric. 26 Oct. 1621, aged 15; Sidney Sussex, Camb. BA 1622, MA 1625; I. Temple 1622, called 1630. m. 8 Feb. 1630, Anne (d. 4 Jan. 1669), da. and h. of John Smith of Hampden Manor, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 5da. suc. fa. 1625; kntd. 8 Sept. 1643.1
Lt.-col. of horse (royalist) 1643-4; gov. Sudeley Castle 1643-4.
Sheriff, Glos. 1643-4; bencher, I. Temple 1659; commr. for oyer and terminer, Oxford circuit July 1660; j.p. Oxon. July 1660-d., Woodstock Aug. 1660, Haverfordwest Sept. 1660-6, Mdx. 1666-d., c.j. S. Wales circuit Aug. 1660-5; commr. for assessment, Worcs. Sept. 1660-9, Oxon. 1661-9, Glos., Gloucester, Carm. and Haverfordwest 1663-9, Oxford and Pemb. 1664-9; recorder, Worcester Sept. 1660-d., Gloucester 1662-d.; freeman, Haverfordwest 1661; counsel to dean and chapter of Worcester 1662; commr. for loyal and indigent officers, Glos. 1662.2
Serjeant-at-law Oct. 1660, King’s serjeant 1663-5; j.K.b. 23 Nov. 1665-d.
Morton’s great-great-grandfather, a master of requests, acquired a farm in Clifton-on-Severn under Henry VIII. Morton, a lawyer, was in arms as a Royalist in the Civil War until he was forced to surrender Sudeley Castle to Sir William Waller I in 1644. He was arrested during the second Civil War and composed in the Tower a discourse in support of the divine right, aimed at rescuing the King’s ‘sacred person out of those barbarous and profane hands’. But even before the trial of Charles I he had petitioned to be ‘admitted to a reasonable fine for his delinquency’, and on 5 Apr. 1649 he compounded for £252 6s.8d. at a third on an estate of £157 13s.4d. p.a., most of it mortgaged.3
Little is known of Morton’s career during the Interregnum. His position improved when his wife inherited a property in Oxfordshire, and in 1659 he was one of the Royalists called to the bench at the Inner Temple when Richard Goddard became treasurer. At the Restoration he became a Welsh judge. In the general election of 1661 he stood for Haverfordwest in the court interest. He was defeated by Isaac Lloyd, but petitioned. The election was declared void on 23 May 1663 and Morton was successful in the by-election. He was moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament, being named to 12 committees, including those for the better trial and conviction of criminals, the preservation of prize goods, the abolition of damage clere and the five mile bill, all in the Oxford session.4
Morton was made a high court judge after this session and filled this office with ‘much gravity and learning’, though he acquired a reputation for severity, particularly towards highwaymen. His staunch Anglicanism and unswerving allegiance to the crown are evident in his attempts to uphold the measures of the Clarendon Code. As recorder of Gloucester, he enabled the loyalists to regain control of the corporation, though only after the forfeiture of the charter. He died on 23 Sept. 1672, ‘aged 68’, and was buried in the Temple Church. His son-in-law described him as one who had ‘vindicated the rights of the English crown, not only with his weapon, but his pen, and prosecuted the rebels as well with the dint of reason and argument as with that of his sword’.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 72; M. H. A. Stapleton, Three Oxfordshire Parishes (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxiv), 92-94; A. Wood, Survey of Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxvii), 198.
- 2. W. H. Black, Docquets of Letters Patent, 117; W. R. Williams, Great Sessions in Wales, 174; Worcester chamber order bk. 1650-78, ff. 38, 90; C. C. Webbe, Haverfordwest, 96.
- 3. VCH Worcs. iv. 195; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi), 150; CSP Dom. 1644, pp. 219-20; 1648-9, pp. 227-8; 1673-5, p. 220; SP23/209/627-31.
- 4. CJ, viii. 396-7, 491.
- 5. Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 357; CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 242; 1670, p. 220; 1671-2, pp. 133, 298, 420; 1673-5, p. 221; Harl. Misc. iii. 313; Oxon. RO, G. Jaggar, ‘Sir William Morton’, 186-202, 281-6.