HOUGHTON, Sir Gilbert (1591-1646), of Hoghton Tower and Walton, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. 1591, 1st s. of Sir Richard Houghton* of Hoghton Tower and Catherine, da. of Sir Gilbert Gerrard† of Ince, Lancs. educ. at Court, by 1604, embassy, Paris 1616. m. settlement 12 June 1611 (with £2,500),1 Margaret (d. 23 Dec. 1657), da. and coh. of Sir Roger Aston* of Cranford, Mdx., 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.).2 kntd. 21 July 1604.3 suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 1630.4 bur. 8 May 1646.5 sig. Gi[l]b[er]t Hoghton.
Gov. Blackburn g.s. 1611;6 steward, master forester, master of the game, Bowland and Quernmore, Lancs., master forester, Myerscough, Amounderness and Bleasdale, kpr. of Myerscough Park 1621-d.;7 freeman, Preston by 1622,8 Wigan by 1628,9 Liverpool by 1629;10 commr. Forced Loan, Lancs. 1626,11 knighthood fines 1631-2,12 sewers 1632;13 j.p. Lancs. by 1627-42,14 dep. lt. 1627-41,15 sheriff 1642-3.16
At the age of only 13 Houghton was knighted at Court, where he became an early favourite of Prince Charles. As a youth he participated in tournaments at Whitehall,19 was renowned for his dancing, and was described as a ‘noble favourer of virtuous spirits’ in a publication dedicated to him in 1614 by the satirist Nicholas Breton.20 Court life brought benefits, including a grant in 1615 of three quarters of the fines that had accrued to the king in Common Pleas over the preceding decade.21 However, Houghton’s prospects were overshadowed from the outset by his father’s mounting debts. In June 1616 he petitioned for a monopoly of Irish exports of tallow, butter and hides, but the grant was blocked by the objections of Sir Francis Bacon*.22 After accompanying Lord Hay on a sumptuous embassy to France in July 1616,23 Houghton joined the royal progress to Scotland in the following year,24 and together with his father entertained King James at Hoghton Tower in August 1617, an event which brought the family close to bankruptcy and left Sir Richard a debtor in the Fleet until his death in 1630. Houghton managed to avoid the same fate mainly because of his advantageous marriage to Margaret, co-heiress of Sir Roger Aston, master of the wardrobe; nevertheless he spent much of his adult life trying to recover his estates, which had been leased or mortgaged, and in litigation against his father’s creditors.25
The local influence of Houghton’s family accounted for his return at Clitheroe in 1614. His only appointment in that brief session was to attend the Palatine marriage conference with the Lords on 14 April.26 In 1620 he was elected a knight for Lancashire. He was named to bill committees concerning Lord Montagu’s lands (16 Mar.), Sir Walter Stewart’s naturalization (19 Mar.), lighthouses and sea-marks (7 May), and ostlers and inns (28 May); he was also appointed to attend a conference with the Lords on the Sabbath bill (24 May).27 Although not a Member in 1624, he submitted a petition to the Lords concerning Walton manor, one of the estates heavily mortgaged by his father, which he was trying to save from repossession by various creditors. In this petition he requested that Sir William Cockayne, who had bought out the share of a previous lender, return to him Walton manor, as he had finally paid the debts secured upon it; he thereby managed to avoid further litigation, and to regain possession of Walton, where he occasionally resided from the later 1620s.28 He was also indirectly involved with the Commons in 1624, as he and the other co-heirs of Sir Roger Aston appeared as plaintiffs against one Grimsditch before the committee for the courts of justice.29 The House ruled against Grimsditch, who nevertheless petitioned the Commons in 1626,30 by which time Houghton was again sitting for Lancashire. Once more Houghton played only a minor part in proceedings, being appointed to committees to consider a malt bill (9 Mar.), corrupt victuals on Count Mansfeld’s voyage (22 Mar.) and the disputed Leicester election (26 April). On 25 May, the Thursday preceding Whit-Sunday, he was granted leave to go to Lancashire because his wife had been taken ill, but though instructed to ‘return as soon as he can’ it is unlikely he came back before the dissolution on 15 June.31
After Charles’s accession Houghton retained his place as a carver in the royal Household, obtaining an exemption from the Forced Loan of 1626-7 as a ‘servant in ordinary’ of the king.32 From about 1627, however, he evidently spent more time in Lancashire than at Court, becoming an active magistrate and serving as a deputy lieutenant; he took on the local offices of his father, including the latter’s role as a Duchy forester, several years before he actually succeeded him as second baronet in 1630.33 Unlike his father, a suspected crypto-Catholic, Houghton was a committed Anglican, siding in 1633 with John Bridgeman, bishop of Chester, in a dispute concerning the defrocked incumbent of Ormskirk, James Martin. The latter complained of ‘outrages’ committed by Houghton and the ‘puritans of Preston’, claiming that he dared not return to Lancashire for fear they would shoot him.34
At the outbreak of the Civil War Houghton was removed from the bench by the Parliament, but was appointed sheriff of Lancashire by the king in December 1642.35 A keen supporter of King Charles, he immediately joined the county’s royalists, led by James Stanley* Lord Strange. After capturing a cache of confiscated papists’ weapons at Whalley, he attempted to take Blackburn, besieging the town during the winter of 1642-3. He was defeated, and in February 1643 lost control of Hoghton Tower, which was partially destroyed by an explosion that killed a large number of parliamentary troops.36
Though his estates were sequestered and his family divided, Houghton remained a royalist until his death; he was buried at Preston on 8 May 1646.37 His third son, Roger, a royalist officer, was killed by cannon fire at Hessam Moor in 1643, and a fourth son, Gilbert, also a royalist, became governor of Worcester.38 His eldest surviving son and heir, Sir Richard, whose marriage in about 1633 to a daughter of Philip, Lord Chesterfield had helped boost the family’s beleaguered finances, was a parliamentarian, and rapidly recovered the Houghton estates; he succeeded as third baronet, and was elected as a knight of the shire in 1646 and 1656.39 Houghton’s widow, Margaret, did not remarry; at her death in 1657 she was remembered as ‘an earnest puritan’ in a published funeral sermon.40
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. Cal. Hoghton Deeds and Pprs. ed. J.H. Lumby (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. lxxxviii), 248.
- 2. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxv), 154.
- 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii.134.
- 4. CB.
- 5. St. John Preston Burials 1642-1812 transcribed W. Worthington (Lancs. Fam. Hist. and Heraldry Soc. 2002), pt. 3, p. 6.
- 6. W.A. Abram, Hist. Blackburn, 330.
- 7. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 143.
- 8. Preston Guild Rolls ed. W.A. Abram (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 53.
- 9. D. Sinclair, Hist. Wigan, i.197.
- 10. G. Chandler, Liverpool Under Chas. I, 150.
- 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145
- 12. E178/5389, f. 5.
- 13. C181/4, f. 130.
- 14. Lancs. RO, QSC5-38.
- 15. Cal. Hoghton Deeds and Pprs. 256; Lancs. RO, DDN1/64.