ESTON, John (by 1518-65), of Southwark, Surr. and the Inner Temple, London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. by 1518. educ. I. Temple. m. (1) Mildred, da. and coh. of George Congehurst of Hawkhurst, Kent, wid. of Thomas Scott (d.1533/36); (2) 1548/49, Margaret, da. of John Gainsford of Lingfield, Surr., 2da.3
City’s steward, Southwark by 20 Oct. 1539-d., sworn 27 July 1542 and 4 Dec. 1550; collector subsidy 1543; j.p. Surr. 1547; commr. relief, Surr., Southwark 1550.4
Of the contemporary namesakes of John Eston many were dead by 1545. One who was still alive in that year dwelt at Penketh, Lancashire; he was related to the Assheton family of Bamfurlong near Wigan and also to the influential Gerard family, but his modest status makes it unlikely that he sat in Parliament. The auditor of augmentations who died on 14 Aug. 1542, not long after his appointment as a justice of the peace for Surrey, was probably the Member’s kinsman (although he cannot have been the father). Eston himself was granted two tenements in the borough on 28 Mar. 1544.5
Although no record of Eston’s admission to any inn of court has been found, a ‘Mr. Eston’ served as butler at the Inner Temple in 1546. That this was the Member is all but proved by a Star Chamber case, probably of Edward VI’s reign, in which the plaintiff claimed to have been forcibly evicted from some houses in Southwark by Eston and others; in his deposition John Eston ‘of Southwark, gentleman’ mentioned his ‘chamber at the Temple’.6
Eston’s name appears regularly in the London repertories from 1540 until his death; in 1550 his annual fee as ‘steward of the courts of the town of Southwark belonging’ to London was fixed at £10. Apart from his probable earnings as a lawyer in private practice, there were other regular and occasional payments due to him, for example, the fees and profits of the return of writs and processes in Southwark granted to him in 1545 ‘so that he at his costs and charges do obtain that liberty of returning of writs... to be quietly granted and allowed to the said city [of London] according to the point of their charter thereof’.7
As the City’s steward Eston was one of those who in 1542 consulted Sir John Gage, the King’s steward in Southwark, about the City’s disputed liberties in the borough. Eston’s support for the recovery and maintenance of these privileges cannot have endeared him to his fellow-residents and may explain why he was not elected for Southwark until after the borough’s integration with the City on 23 Apr. 1550. Conversely, the City’s jealousy of its own position may have been the reason why seats were found for him in 1545 and 1547. A more personal connexion between Eston and the Seymour family is suggested by Eston’s imprisonment in the Tower in 1552 (and perhaps in 1551 also) when the Duke of Somerset’s adherents were sent there. That this imprisonment lasted for some time is clear both from the Privy Council’s order of 24 June 1552 for restoration of his lands and goods and from the City’s decision on 5 July to confirm him in the stewardship, ‘but for the ordering of the fee and profits thereof during the time of his trouble the court would be advised’. In September 1552 the City agreed to pay Eston’s arrears of fees, so that he did not suffer financially; nor did he politically, for he was to sit for Southwark in Parliament only six months later.8
Eston’s Protestantism is reflected in his description of himself in his will as ‘one of the number of the faithful and Christian congregation of Jesus Christ our only Saviour and Redeemer’. His beliefs were evidently no stumbling-block to his Membership of all but one of Mary’s Parliaments, although he is not known to have followed Sir Anthony Kingston’s lead in opposing one of the government’s bills in the Parliament of 1555. His name is one of those marked with a circle on a copy of the list of Members for that of 1558. In April 1557 the corporation had granted him an annual sum of £10 by way of gifts in addition to his fee and his retainer towards his costs of representing the City in the Exchequer court. It appears that in addition to practising as a lawyer he traded as a grocer. His subsidy assessments in Southwark and Clapham were among the highest, £120 in fees and fines under Edward VI, 40 marks and £40 in goods under Mary and Elizabeth.9
Eston died on 8 May 1565, and was buried in St. Olave’s, Southwark, being survived by his widow Margaret, whom he named sole executrix of his will. Dated 24 Apr. 1565, the will reflects not only his religion and his material prosperity but also a variety of interests: music, in the reference to ‘my black covered virginals’; science, in the bequest of ‘all my instruments of astronomy’; and literature, in that of ‘all my books in all places’. The debts owed both by and to Eston were considerable, £152 and £148 respectively; the former may have been in part for stock of his grocery trade, most of the latter perhaps for unpaid legal fees. He wrote that ‘my Lord Grey of Wilton oweth me by his father’s bill’ £22, and both the size and age of this debt (for William, 13th Lord Grey of Wilton, had died in December 1562) suggest its possible origin. Grey had been imprisoned in the Tower, with Somerset, in October 1551, but released in June 1552, and it is tempting to speculate that the ‘bill’ for which £22 was still owing 13 years later may have been one drawn by Eston for Grey, pleading, successfully, for the latter’s release. If the services of learned counsel were hard for a prisoner in the Tower to come by, Eston may have been tempted, in naming his fee, to exploit his scarcity value—and Grey, in later years, may have regarded the debt as a contract incurred under duress, and thus lacking both moral force and legal validity.10
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Authors: D. F. Coros / A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Hatfield 207.
- 2. Only Eston’s christian name survives on the damaged indenture, C219/23/122; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
- 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Req. 2/17/106; PCC 32 Morrison; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 93.
- 4. City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 10, ff. 181, 268; 12, f. 290v; 15, f. 440v; CPR, 1547-8, p. 90; 1553, pp. 357, 362.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiii, xvi, xviii, xix; Lancs. and Cheshire Fines, iv. (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. lx), 161-2; Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxi), 112 and n; Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), 17; C. Haigh, Last Days of Lancs. Monasteries and the Pilgrimage of Grace (Chetham Soc. ser. 3, xvii), 31; Chetham Soc. n.s. xciii. 31; J. B. Watson, ‘Lancs. gentry 1529-58’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1959), 117, 128.
- 6. Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 143; LP Hen. VIII, i, iii-v, xiii, xiv; St.Ch.3/3/23.
- 7. City of London RO, rep. 11, ff. 25, 162, 282v; 12(1), ff. 259, 261; 12(ii), f. 290.
- 8. Ibid. rep. 10, f. 242v; 11, ff. 503v, 528v; APC, iv. 88; D. J. Johnson, Southwork and the City, 109-11.
- 9. City of London RO, rep. 13(ii), f. 495; 15, f. 454v; E179/185/230, 257, 286; Surr. Arch. Colls. xxxii. 102; PCC 32 Morrison; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264.
- 10. PCC 32 Morrison; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 424.