NORTON, Sir Thomas, 1st Bt. (c.1615-91), of Harnall Grange, Coventry, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. c.1615, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of Simon Norton (d.1641) of Coventry by 1st w. Prudence, da. of Richard Jesson of Coventry. educ. Coventry g.s. (Mr Phineas White); Christ’s, Camb. adm. 7 June 1631, aged 16; Wadham, Oxf. 1634, BA (Hart Hall) 1634; MA Camb. 1637. m. Anne, da. of John Jermy of Stutton Hall, Suff., 2s. d.v.p. 5da. suc. bro. c.1646; cr. Bt. 23 July 1661.1
Fellow of Christ’s, Camb. 1634-44; commr. for assessment, Coventry Sept. 1660-1, 1663-80, 1689-90, Warws. 1673-80; j.p. Warws. 1662-90; dep. lt. Coventry 1666-d., alderman 1686-Oct. 1688.2
According to the heralds, Norton wrongly claimed descent from the Nortons of Norton Conyers, Yorkshire. His first identifiable ancestor was his grandfather, settled in Allesley, some three miles from Coventry, under Elizabeth. His father, a prosperous and philanthropic dyer, was mayor of Coventry in 1633 and represented the city in the Short and Long Parliaments. He died in July 1641. Norton’s elder brother, esquire of the body to Charles I, was killed in the Civil War. Norton himself originally contemplated an academic career. In 1644, however, he was ejected from his Cambridge fellowship at Christ’s ‘for not being resident ... and for several other misdemeanours’, and three years later his goods in the college were sequestrated.3
Norton warmly welcomed the Restoration, providing the claret for the public conduits by which Coventry celebrated the coronation, and he was rewarded with a baronetcy. Although he held no municipal office he put his academic training to good effect by a highly rhetorical speech of welcome to the Duke of Ormonde, and in 1666 Joseph Williamson was informed that Norton was encouraging the mayor to proceed ‘with more severity’ against the notorious local conventicles. He was returned for the city as a Tory in a contested election in 1685 with the support of the recorder, Lord Brooke (Fulke Greville), but he was appointed to no committees in James II’s Parliament, and it is not known whether he found an opportunity to exercise his oratorical talent. However, the re-modelled corporation elected him to the bench, and when the King visited Coventry in 1687 Norton ‘made to him an eloquent speech to his great content’. Nevertheless James rejected his offer of hospitality in favour of the more spacious and central home of his Whig opponent, Richard Hopkins II. Norton accepted the Revolution and was continued in the lieutenancy, though he retired from the Warwickshire bench in 1690. He died on 27 Aug. 1691, the last of his family, and was buried at St. Michael’s, Coventry.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: A. M. Mimardière / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. lxii), 238; VCH Warws. viii. 72.
- 2. Warws. County Recs. iv. p. xvii; viii. p. xlv; CSP Dom. 1686-7, p. 203; Midland Hist. iv. 207.
- 3. Vis. Warws. 138; Keeler, Long Parl. 288; PCC 23 Darcy, 114 Evelyn; J. Peile, Biog. Reg. Christ’s College, i. 411.
- 4. W. Reader, Coventry, 76-77, 83; CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 110; 1685, p. 72; 1686-7, p. 203; Coventry RO, A14b/343-4.