LAYTON, William (by 1514-51/52), of Harrow, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1514, yr. s. of William Layton of Dalemain, Cumb. by a da. of Thomas Tunstall. educ. Camb. BA 1527/28, MA 1529/30; Oxf. incorp. 1533; Louvain matric. 20 Sept. 1537. m. Joan, wid. of Ralph Stepneth of Aldenham, Herts. prob. s.p.2

Offices Held

Prebendary, Cantlers, Mdx. 1544-d., Ulleskelf, Yorks. 1544-d.; surveyor, duchy of Lancaster woods Feb. 1548-d.; commr. chantries, Cheshire, Lancs. and Chester 1548, ?reform of detestable crimes c.1551.3


The identity of William Layton has to be established by a series of connexions. There can be no doubt that the man of that name who was appointed in February 1548 surveyor of the woods of the duchy of Lancaster had been returned to Parliament in the previous year for Lichfield, a city re-enfranchised on that occasion by Sir William Paget, chancellor of the duchy. It was presumably the same man who was made a chantry commissioner in February 1548 and, less certainly, a commissioner for reform of ‘detestable crimes’ three years later. An earlier connexion with Paget is reflected in Layton’s employment, with Humphrey Welles, by the secretary in connexion with the property of the former college of Burton-upon-Trent. Layton’s fellow-Member Edmund Twyneho, a servant of Paget’s, was also appointed to duchy office in February 1548.4

If the circumstances of his election thus go far towards establishing Layton’s identity, the termination of his Membership serves to clarify it. On the list of Members as revised for the fourth session of the Parliament, which began in January 1552, Layton’s name was struck through and replaced by Alexander Walker’s. This change can have been made only on the eve of the session or shortly after it had begun, and the reason for it must have been either that Layton was dead or that he had been deprived of his seat. Deprival would not have been out of the question: in the autumn of 1551 Paget was put in the Tower as part of the campaign against the Duke of Somerset, and Layton’s dependence on him could have meant the forfeiture of the seat. In fact, Layton died six months before the session opened and three months before Paget’s disgrace: he had made his will on 15 July (in a year unspecified) and on 23 July 1551 Bishop Ridley had written of the vacancy in the prebend of Cantlers ‘by the death of one Layton’. In the will Layton described himself as of Harrow but mentioned both a Staffordshire lease and a debt owing to him in Yorkshire which he bequeathed to his brother Cuthbert and his sister ‘Gilpynge’. William Layton of the Dalemain family had a brother named Cuthbert (perhaps the knight of Malta who received a pension on the dissolution of the order in 1540 and who rejoined it under Mary), and their sister Margaret became the wife of Edwin Gilpin and the mother of Bernard Gilpin, the ‘Apostle of the North’.5

Layton had followed his best-known brother, the monastic visitor Dr. Richard Layton, to Cambridge where during 1527-8 his admission to the bachelor’s degree was expedited because his patrons proposed to send him to study at Paris. These patrons may well have included his uncle Cuthbert Tunstall, then bishop of London, whose principal registrar in 1528 was one William Layton, presumably not the Cambridge graduate but probably one of his older relatives, perhaps his father. Layton continued his studies abroad and was probably the brother of Richard Layton employed in 1535 by Simon Heynes, the ambassador in France, to carry letters to Cromwell. Two years after Layton’s matriculation at Louvain, Thomas Wriothesley in Brussels put the captive Henry Phillips (who had himself been responsible for the arrest of William Tyndale) in the custody of Layton and one Joye, his kinsman and fellow-student at Louvain, but the two ‘traitors’, as Wriothesley called them in writing to Cromwell on 9 Feb. 1539, allowed their charge to escape, seemingly for fear that, ‘being of his counsel’, they would be compromised by his confession. Wriothesley’s comment that both Tunstall and Richard Layton would be sorry to see ‘such unkind imps of their stock’ was reflected in Richard’s intervention on his brother’s behalf, including the argument that William could not want to see papal jurisdiction restored since that would be fatal to his only friends, Tunstall and Richard himself.6

In January 1543 Layton received a pardon and by May 1544 he was again in Brussels, this time in the service of his brother as ambassador. Richard Layton was mortally ill and William seems to have deputized for him, corresponding with both Paget and (Sir) William Petre. Early in June Paget, who had been Richard Layton’s contemporary at Cambridge, wrote to Petre from Antwerp recommending that this ‘honest young man’ should be given either one of his brother’s prebends or one in the archbishop of York’s gift: Paget thought that Sir Anthony Browne, who knew Layton well, would favour his preferment. Various payments to William Layton or to ‘Mr. Leighton’ are also recorded at about this time and in 1546 a William Layton conveyed £10,000 to (Sir) Ralph Sadler in the north.7

On his brother’s death Layton received the prebends of Cantlers and Ulleskelf. In the grant of Ulleskelf he was styled clerk but it was as a gentleman that he surrendered Cantlers in December 1546. This transaction must either have fallen through or have been rescinded, for he was still holding the prebend at his death: it was probably to this episode that Ridley alluded when he described how William Thomas had claimed that ‘Layton might have eliminated the said prebend unto him’, but the bishop was determined that it should go to a less secular candidate. There is no other indication that Layton had taken even minor orders, although he was probably also keeper or chaplain of the free chapel of Tokyngton in Harrow, an office which was exchanged in May 1545 for an annuity of £4 13s.4d. In settling at Harrow Layton followed family precedents, for both Tunstall and Richard Layton had been rectors there. It may have been another resident, William Gerard I, who was the ‘Mr. Jarad’ mentioned in Layton’s will as owing him £18. Layton made this will on 15 July 1551 and it was proved the following 22 Mar. His widow married Philip Bold of London.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 262; C. Sturge, Cuthbert Tunstal, app. i; PCC 9 Powell; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 439.
  • 3. Le Neve, Fasti 1541-1857, i. (1969), 25; iv. (1975), 60; Somerville, Duchy, i. 323n, 449; CPR, 1548-9, p. 135.
  • 4. Staffs. Rec. Soc. 1937, p. 187.
  • 5. G. M. V. Alexander, ‘The life and career of Edmund Bonner, bp. of London until his deprivation in 1549’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1960), 356; PCC 9 Powell; Ridley’s Works (Parker Soc.), 331-4; Statutes, iii. 780; E. J. King, Kts. of St. John, 86.
  • 6. Emden, 346, 447-8; DNB (Layton, Richard; Tunstall, Cuthbert); LP Hen. VIII, iv, ix, xiv.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xix; APC, i. 175, 400.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xix-xxi; APC, iii. 58; VCH Mdx. iv. 226, 254.