LANGTON, Thomas (c.1561-1605), of Walton-le-Dale, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1561, o.s. of Leonard Langton by Anne, da. of Thomas Leyburn of Cunswick, Westmld. m. (1) Margaret (div. 25 June 1580), da. of Richard Sherburne of Stoneyhurst; (2) 1580, Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Savage of Clifton, Cheshire, s.p. suc. fa. by 1562; gd.-fa. 1569. KB 1603.
Foreign burgess of Preston merchant guild 1602.
Langton was only eight when he succeeded his grandfather, Sir Thomas Langton†, baron of Newton in Macclesfield, to about 27,000 acres of land, some 600 houses and the parliamentary patronage of the borough. He was the last of his family which, of Leicestershire origin, had been established in Lancashire for 300 years. He was still a child when he was contracted in marriage to Margaret Sherburne. After a divorce he married Elizabeth Savage, probably the daughter of his guardian.
In 1589 Langton was involved in a notorious affray at Lea Hall, Lancashire. After ‘mutual provocations’ one Thomas Houghton, seized certain of Langton’s cattle. Langton’s attempt to recover them in a nocturnal raid ended with the death of Houghton, and one other, and severe injury to Langton. He was taken to the house of a relative, and there arrested in bed. The 4th Earl of Derby took great pains, so he informed the Council, to investigate the matter, but it proved impossible to empanel a jury, and Langton and his accomplices were never brought to trial. The matter dragged on for over two years until Derby interceded with Lord Burghley for the release of the accused, deprecating further proceedings on the grounds that some of those involved were illiterate, while others were ‘great in kindred’, and ‘stored with friends’. ‘If they should be burnt in the hand, I fear it will fall out to be a ceaseless and most dangerous quarrel betwixt the gentlemen that any county of her Majesty’s hath this many years contained.’ The matter was evidently allowed to drop on Langton’s compensating the Houghtons, which compelled him to alienate his manor of Walton.
Like other members of his family Langton was a Catholic, his name being marked with a cross on Lord Burghley’s map of Lancashire in 1590. Though he conformed, and lived discreetly, reports of his Catholicism were sent to the Privy Council and he did not return himself to Parliament until 1601, and then only to avoid his creditors. On the way to London he fell sick, so he sent his solicitor on alone ‘to follow his causes in law’, and to pay a debt to a Mr. John Lacy of Cheapside. The solicitor was arrested at the suit of a creditor and put in Newgate. Pleading privilege he was released, re-arrested, and confined in the Counter. Next day he appealed to the serjeant-at-arms and the solicitor, the creditor, and the arresting officer were called before the Commons, 19 Nov. The solicitor was granted ‘the privilege of the House’ and released; the two offenders were imprisoned for three days and ordered to pay him damages and costs.
Langton had no children, and was succeeded by his cousin, Richard Fleetwood. By virtue of a settlement made in 1594, the barony of Newton passed to Fleetwood, together with ‘the nomination, election, and appointment of two burgesses of the Parliament, which hath been used by the baron’. In 1598 Langton sold the advowson of Wigan church, and it is probable that this was also acquired by Fleetwood. Langton died at Westminster on 20 Feb. 1605, having apparently been reconciled to the Catholic Church by John Gerard. He was buried in the abbey. A plaque, originally placed in Wigan church, and later removed to Duxbury Hall, described him as ‘a gentleman that many times tugged with extremities and made war with the worst of misfortune’.
VCH Lancs. i. 374; iv. 59; vi. 292-3; Lancs. and Cheshire Wills (Chetham Soc. li), 251; Abram, Blackburn, 709-10; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 633; Gillow, Lord Burghley’s Map of Lancs. 1590, 18-19; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 225-6; D’Ewes, 642-3; Neale, Commons, 190; The Hunted Priest, trans. Caraman (1959), 185-7.