WALTON, James (1479/80-1546/50), of Preston, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. 1479/80, s. of James Walton of Preston by Ellen. m. Alice, a widow. suc. fa. by 1499.1
Bailiff, Preston 1515-16, mayor 1526-7, ?1532-3, ?1533-4, 1546-6, alderman by 1542.2
The Waltons had probably taken their name from Walton-le-Dale, two miles from Preston. A John de Walton and his son Richard were freemen of the borough in 1397, and when it began to return Members again in 1529, after a long interval without representation, James Walton was a natural, though probably not an undisputed, choice to be one of them.3
A reconstruction of Walton’s career involves its disentanglement from that of a younger namesake and probable kinsman. In November 1527 the elder Walton brought an action in the duchy of Lancaster court in which he claimed that, at the end of his term of office as mayor, Sir Richard Houghton and his faction had prevented the lawful election of his successor and had imposed their own candidate Nicholas Banaster. Houghton’s party, on the other hand, maintained that Walton had tried to foist William Wall on the town. Walton was able to prove his case and by February 1528 Christopher Haydock, who was to be Walton’s fellow-Member, had been appointed mayor and in November 1528 articles for ‘the good rule’ of Preston were drawn up by agreement between James Walton and Henry Clifton on behalf of the town and Audley on behalf of the duchy.4
At some time after October 1534 Walton brought a further action against Houghton, whom he accused of unlawfully retaining various freemen of Preston and outsiders ‘to the intent to have all the rule and governance there’. He listed those so retained, including James Walton the younger, and claimed that since his coming to London Houghton had tried to unseat him and replace him by one Alexander Clayton, then bailiff. Describing the reasons for this malice, Walton revealed that his agreed parliamentary wage was 16d. a day and that his stepdaughter was Houghton’s mistress. He went on to describe how James Walton the younger and others had been indicted on 5 Nov. 1534 for attempting another unlawful mayoral election on 3 Oct. 1534 and subsequent days. There is no evidence to suggest that Walton received less countenance and protection from the authorities on this occasion than in 1528. Although he is marked ‘mortuus’ on the list of Members drawn up about 1532 and Preston included in the list of vacancies drawn up shortly afterwards, Walton certainly did not die during the Parliament; both he and his namesake were aldermen of the guild in 1542 and he was mayor again in 1545. He could therefore have been re-elected in 1536, in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members, and could also have sat in the two following Parliaments, for which the names of the Preston Members are unknown.5
It is not clear which of the Waltons was mayor in 1532 and 1533 but it was the younger who was mayor in 1551. In 1536 a James Walton was one of two persons, described as the earl’s servants, sent by Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby, to advise and command the rebels beyond Lancaster to disperse; this was probably the younger man, whose master Houghton was active in support of Derby during the Pilgrimage of Grace. The date of the elder James Walton’s death is a matter of inference. In the regnal year 5 Edward VI, probably in 1551, his widow Alice brought an action against James Walton, then mayor, for having on 20 Apr. 1550 riotously entered the messuage and garden in Preston which, she alleged, her husband had leased from the dean and canons of New College, Newark, but which James the younger claimed to have inherited from his father, here named Richard. The elder Walton had bequeathed the lease to Alice with remainder to his ‘cousin’ James Walton, who was perhaps a son of Thomas Walton of Bermondsey, Surrey.