NORTON, William I, of Westminster, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. by Easter 1390, Joan, ?1s.1
Tax collector, Mdx. May 1379, Dec. 1380, Apr. 1404.
Coroner of Mdx. and the abbot of Westminster’s liberty in Mdx. Jan. 1380-aft. 2 Nov. 1403.2
Commr. to make an arrest Nov. 1380; of oyer and terminer, Mdx. Feb. 1405.
Manciple (or purveyor) for the abbot and convent of Westminster ?by 20 Oct. 1391-aft. 30 Nov. 1396.3
Norton’s background is obscure, although he may have been a kinsman of the King’s servant, William Norton, who was granted various annuities in the late 1370s on becoming blind.4 A William Norton of Westminster is first mentioned during the Easter term of 1373 as a trustee of land in Kelvedon, Essex; and it was no doubt he who became joint owner of a messuage in Westminster four years later. From this date onwards he occurs regularly as a witness of conveyances of property by the abbot and convent of Westminster, having perhaps already been appointed coroner for both the county of Middlesex and the abbot’s liberty there. His connexion with the abbey was a strong one. In October 1391, by which time he was probably in office as manicple or purveyor for the community, he took bonds in £100 from a number of local butchers who had infringed its privileges by attempting to do business within the precincts of the abbey.5 In July 1395 Norton offered sureties in Chancery on behalf of the monks at Westminster; and in the following year he and his fellow manciple, Godfrey atte Perry*, found themselves liable for distraint (together with the abbot) because of their failure to render an account at the Exchequer for the goods of two felons. Again, in June 1402, he appeared with the .abbot in a legal dispute, this time concerning the latter’s title to property in Westminster.6 Norton was, meanwhile, involved in litigation on his own account. In November 1385 he sued one John Murye of Glastonbury for a debt of £4, but had still to recover the money three years later. He seems to have been no more successful in his attempts to collect the £31 13s.4d. owed to him by other defaulters at about this time, yet he was himself able to exploit the delays inherent in the legal system when, at a much later date, the London grocer, Peter Kyrkeby, began an action for debt against him in the court of common pleas.7
Over the years Norton added to his holdings in Westminster. During the Easter term of 1390 he and his wife bought the reversion of a messuage and appurtenances there: they had entered this property, together with another messuage and five shops, by Michaelmas 1405, when they leased the premises at a rent of 20s. a year to William Norton the younger, who was probably their son. The couple also owned a modest estate in the country. In 1412 they conveyed farmland and buildings in the Shelford and Great Bardfield area of Essex to Richard Alfred and others, who either bought their title outright or, as seems more likely, held it as trustees. Nine years later the Nortons were confirmed in possession of lands and rents in Paddington, but there is nothing to suggest that they owned property on a large scale.8 William Norton was, none the less, a man of considerable standing in the local community, as can be seen from his activities as a mainpernor, often, predictably, on behalf of clergymen. In September 1400, for instance, he offered sureties of £40 in Chancery for Robert Fulmer, a canon of St. Stephen’s chapel, Westminster; two years later he performed a similar service for a clerk named Thomas Stanley, who was being sued by the Crown for contempt; and in October 1420 one Robert Ely, clerk, also named him among his sureties. Norton was himself bound over to keep the peace in January 1412 after he had behaved threateningly towards Robert Haxey of Middlesex.9
In January 1390, one year before his own return to Parliament, Norton attended the Middlesex county elections and offered personal guarantees on behalf of John Shorditch I, one of the newly returned shire knights. He is also known to have been present at elections to the Parliaments of May 1413, November 1414, 1417 and 1422, although the William Norton who witnessed the return of 1432 was almost certainly the kinsman and namesake upon whom he had previously settled his Westminster properties.10 This William Norton was probably the crown servant employed from 1405 to after 1448 as keeper of both the council chamber at Westminster and the Exchequer of Receipt. On chronological grounds alone, he, rather than the subject of this biography, is more likely to have been the William Norton of Middlesex, ordered in May 1434 to take the general oath not to maintain persons disturbing the peace.11
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CP25(1)/151/79/111.
- 2. KB27/479 rex rot. 19, 520 rex rot. 1; KB9/168/54.
- 3. Westminster abbey muns. 5993-4, 6229.
- 4. CCR, 1377-81, p. 163; CPR, 1381-5, p. 383.
- 5. Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 168; London and Mdx. Feet of Fines, 153; Westminster abbey muns. 1624, 17696, 17698, 17701, 17703, 17711-14, 17720-1, 28117.
- 6. CPR, 1391-6, p. 600; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 539-40; Westminster abbey muns. 5993-4, 6229.
- 7. Corporation of London RO, hpl 108 mm. 13, 22; CPR, 1385-9, p. 487; CCR, 1409-13, p. 409.