MORTON, Thomas (b.c.1336), of Bishop's Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
Town clerk, Lynn Mich. 1374-96.4
Controller of customs and subsidies, Lynn 8 Feb. 1378-Nov. 1384, c.1387-June 1388.
From 1373 Morton, a trained lawyer, was actively engaged in the affairs of the borough of Bishop’s Lynn. In that year he rode along the coast to Blakeney to employ carpenters for the construction of a barge for royal service, and to Sandwich and London (twice) on legal business for the town; and in November he accompanied the parliamentary burgesses to Westminster, where he stayed ten days longer than they did, for an audience with the royal council. After his appointment in the next year as town clerk, he regularly received an annual fee of £2 and an ‘oblation’ or reward of 6s.8d. In 1375 these emoluments were supplemented by an extra £2 for his labours in London and elsewhere. His duties during the next two years included journeys to Boston (for negotiations with envoys from the Hanse ports), Lincoln, Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft, Wycombe, Oxford and Norwich, outings frequently interspersed with more visits to the capital. In 1376 he again accompanied the Lynn MPs to Westminster. Early in the following year, in consideration of his services, the mayor and his council admitted Morton as a burgess without need to pay an entry fine, granted him freedom from local dues while he continued to hold office, and promised him adequate compensation for work undertaken away from home. It was on the very day of his admission that Morton was returned to the first of his 11 Parliaments. He remained at Westminster for five-and-a-half days longer than his companion from Lynn in order to settle some official business for the borough. In addition, certainly by May 1385, Morton served as clerk to the powerful Holy Trinity guild of merchants.5
In the meantime, in June 1377, a royal commission of oyer and terminer had been set up to investigate allegations made by the overlord of the borough, Bishop Despenser of Norwich, that Morton and other burgesses had assaulted him at Lynn, besieged him in St. Margaret’s priory and even threatened to murder him. Such charges were evidently, however, not allowed to stand in the way of the lawyer’s appointment, on 8 Feb. following, as controller of customs at Lynn, on condition that he would personally perform the duties, including writing the rolls. The same day he appeared in Chancery to provide assurances in a bond for 100 marks that the burgesses would build a balinger for royal service before 1 Mar., and it was on this basis that, on the following day, Lynn’s charters were granted official confirmation.6 Morton was continually employed on behalf of the community not only in the neighbourhood (where for instance, in 1384-5, he was sent to West Barsham to consult with another man of law, Edmund Gurney, regarding a breach of the peace), but also, even especially, in the House of Commons. So busy, in fact, did he become that he sought (and obtained in May 1388), a royal licence to appoint a deputy to exercise his office as controller of customs until the end of the Merciless Parliament, which he was then attending.7
Of his own property nothing has been discovered. But in 1376 he had appeared in the court of common pleas to effect a conveyance for other inhabitants of Lynn, and in 1391 he was appointed a feoffee by Thomas Brigge*. Three years later, he testified in Chancery on behalf of John Wace*, that the latter had not shipped malt to Norway under his royal licence.8 Morton probably retired in 1396.