CLAYTON, Thomas (c.1612-93), of Oxford and The Vache, Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1612, 1st s. of Thomas Clayton, MD, master of Pembroke 1624-47, by Alice, da. of Bartholomew Warner, MD, of Oxford. educ. Pembroke, Oxf. matric. 25 May 1627, aged 15, BA 1629, MA 1631, BM 1635, MD 1639; G. Inn 1633. m. bef. 1650, Bridget (d. 11 Dec. 1687), da. of Sir Clement Cottrell, groom-porter, of Southrepps, Norf., 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1647; kntd. 27 Mar. 1661.1

Offices Held

Fellow of Pembroke, Oxf. ?1629-49; regius professor of medicine and master of Ewelme hospital 1647-65; j.p. Oxon. July 1660-Mar. 1688, Oxford 1661, Bucks. 1663-Feb. 1688, Bucks. Sept. 1688-d., Oxon. Oct. 1688-d.; commr. for visitation, Oxf. Univ. July 1660-2, assessment, Oxon. Aug. 1660-80, Oxf. Univ. Aug. 1660-1, 1673-9, Oxford 1661-9, Bucks. 1663-74, 1679-80, Oxon. and Oxf. Univ. 1689-90; warden of Merton, Oxf. 1661-d.; commr. for recusants, Bucks. and Oxon. 1675.2


Clayton’s father, a Yorkshireman, married the daughter of the regius professor of medicine at Oxford and succeeded to his chair. A Laudian in religion, he became the first master of Pembroke and died while preparing to resist the parliamentary visitation of the university after the Civil War. Clayton’s brother was a Cavalier officer, but he himself, a practising physician, took no known part in the war. He submitted to the parliamentary visitors, and was allowed to inherit the professorship, which was augmented during the Protectorate ‘on account of his merit and the trouble attending his office’. But the ungrateful recipient ‘hazarded his life and spent much money for the Restoration’, at least by his own account.3

Clayton defeated William Lenthall, the former Speaker, at the general election of 1660, and became a moderately active Member of the Convention, in which he was appointed to 26 committees and made 11 recorded speeches, mostly on the religious issue. He spoke against receiving the petition of the intruded dons on 25 June, but was the first to be nominated to the committee to report on it. He was among those instructed on 4 July to prepare for a conference on three orders issued by the House of Lords. He was as violent in supporting the referral of the religious settlement to a synod as Denzil Holles was in opposing it, and he considered the bill inadequate because it failed to mention the Thirty-Nine Articles as well as scripture. Religion must be founded on the law of God, but must also conform with the law of the land. ‘Discipline [was] as necessary with doctrine as life in a natural body.’ He was no more enthusiastic about the bill for settling ministers in livings, proposing to defer the second reading for ten days, but was appointed to the committee. He supported the proposal to except Sir Arthur Hesilrige from the indemnity. On 24 Aug. he was added to the committee to recommend measures for regulating printing. He was teller for the bizarre motion that the serjeant-at-arms should assist in searching for smuggled tobacco. He was appointed to the committee to examine defects in the Disbandment Act and helped to manage the conference on settling ministers. In the second session he moved for an additional tax on all who had accepted Cromwellian titles or falsely assumed the style of Doctor of Physic, and his name was the first on the committee list. He was among those ordered on 17 Nov. to bring in a bill for modified episcopacy. He supported the proviso introduced by his colleague John Mylles to exempt the university letter-carriers from the nationalization of the postal services.4

Clayton prepared to contest the general election of 1661, but was bought off through the intervention of his brother-in-law, Sir Charles Cotterell. He was knighted, made warden of Merton, and allowed to buy a forfeited regicide estate in Buckinghamshire for £9,500. Unfortunately for his posthumous reputation, his position as warden brought him into frequent conflict with the university chronicler, Anthony à Wood, who described him as impudent and lascivious, and one who had ‘sided with all parties’. He was regarded by the local Quakers as a persecutor; but his record of compliancy was ended by James II. To the lord lieutenant’s questions in 1688, he answered:

He shall think fit that the Penal Laws against the dissenters in matters of religion be repealed, but not the Tests till he shall be convinced that he ought to do so. ... He is not able to assist at any elections of persons of what judgment or persuasion soever by reason of his very great age and the many infirmities thereby.

He was removed from the commission of the peace, and apparently accepted the Revolution. He died on 4 Oct. 1693. His only son had no parliamentary ambitions and died without issue in 1714.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Leonard Naylor


  • 1. Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xix), 132; D. Macleane, Hist. Pemb. Coll. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxiii), 213-15; PCC 76 Essex; information from Miss J. K. Cordy.
  • 2.