MORTON, Sir George, 1st Bt. (1593-1662), of Milborne St. Andrew, Dorset
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Family and Education
b. 1 Feb. 1593,1 1st s. of Sir George Morton of Winterbourne Clenston, Dorset and Katherine, da. of Sir Arthur Hopton† of Witham Friary, Som.2 educ. M. Temple 1612.3 m. Anne, da. of Sir Richard Wortley of Wortley, Yorks., wid. of Sir Rotherham Willoughby (d.1613) of Aston Rowant, Oxon., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.4 suc. fa. 1611;5 cr. bt. 1 Mar. 1619.6 d. 28 Feb. 1662.7
Gent. of privy chamber extraordinary by 1641.14
Morton’s forebears held Milborne St. Andrew from the early fifteenth century. One of the family sat for Shaftesbury in 1437, but their most famous member was Cardinal Morton, archbishop of Canterbury and chief minister to Henry VII. Morton’s father was ‘a man of great note’ in Dorset, and the owner of more than a dozen manors. However, the estate carried debts of £8,000 when Morton inherited it as a minor in 1611, and he was also obliged to provide for 11 younger brothers and sisters. Despite these initial financial problems, he was able to purchase a baronetcy in 1619.15
Morton resided chiefly in Oxfordshire, presumably on his wife’s dower lands, and was therefore little known in Dorset when he was proposed by his kinsman Sir John Strangways* for a seat as knight of the shire in 1626. With no significant local following, he defeated John Browne II* only because the sheriff brazenly manipulated the poll, disqualifying some of Browne’s supporters. When the Commons learned of this it voided the election (17 Feb.), but when it was re-run Morton again beat Browne, albeit by just 13 votes, and with further evidence of fraud. Having finally secured his seat, Morton kept a low profile in the House, making no speeches, and receiving no committee appointments.16
The 1st earl of Shaftesbury (Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper†) described Morton as ‘of the shape and temper of his family, large, strong, stout, generous, and plain-hearted; but wanting conduct [he] had much worsted his estate’.17 His financial difficulties increased in the 1630s through his involvement in the affairs of the equally indebted (Sir) George Horsey*, and he was even reduced to selling his furniture for £400 to his brother-in-law, Edward Pitt*. In 1637 he fled to Wales to evade his creditors.18 However, he had presumably returned to Dorset by the outbreak of the Civil War, as he was repeatedly appointed to royalist commissions there. He subsequently claimed that he had merely taken refuge with friends in the king’s quarters, and as his entire estate was already under extent by the end of the conflict, he escaped with a delinquency fine of £600.19
Morton drew up his will on 25 Mar. 1656, but lived on for nearly six more years, dying in London in February 1662. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried with his ancestors at Milborne St. Andrew, though without the funeral monument that he had also requested. His affairs were clearly still in disarray, as his son John, who sat for Poole in the Cavalier Parliament, took nearly nine years to prove the will.20
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. WARD 7/36/172.
- 2. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 595.
- 3. M. Temple Admiss.
- 4. Hutchins, ii. 595; VCH Oxon. viii. 22; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 102.
- 5. WARD 7/36/172.
- 6. CB, i. 121.
- 7. Hutchins, ii. 595.
- 8. C181/3, f. 72v.
- 9. Hutchins, ii. 452.
- 10. C231/5, p. 256; C66/2859.
- 11. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 12. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 73, 81.
- 13. SP29/42/114.
- 14. LC3/1.
- 15. Hutchins, ii. 593, 598; Som. and Dorset N and Q, iv. 23-4; J.K. Gruenfelder, ‘Dorsetshire Elections, 1604-40’, Albion, x. 5; SP14/61/51; WARD 5/11, p. 1964.
- 16. Hutchins, ii. 592; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 79; Som. and Dorset N and Q, iv. 23-4; Gruenfelder, 5-7; Procs. 1626, ii. 62.
- 17. W.D. Christie, Life of Shaftesbury, i. app. 1, p. xvii.
- 18. Hutchins, ii. 598; iv. 429; PROB 11/200, f. 431.
- 19. SP23/102/579; 23/226/767, 791.
- 20. PROB 11/335, ff. 49-50; Soc. Gen., Milborne St. Andrew par. reg.