SWANTON, Francis (c.1605-61), of Salisbury, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1605, 4th s. of William Swanton of Wincanton, Som. and the Middle Temple by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Aubrey of Chaddenwicke, Wilts. educ. M. Temple 1630, called 1638. m. (1) Prudence, da. of Laurence Povey of North Mimms, Herts., at least 3s. 2da.; (2) lic. 3 July 1661, aged 56, Philippa, da. and h. of William Povey, Dyer, of All Hallows the Less, London, wid. of James Phillipps, Pewterer, of St. Magnus Corner, New Fish Street, London, s.p.2
Clerk of assize, Western circuit 1637-56; j.p. Wilts. c.1641-d., Som. 1648-57, Cornw., Devon and Hants 1651; commr. for assessment, Wilts. Dec. 1649-52, 1657, Wilts. and Salisbury Jan. 1660-d., oyer and terminer, Western circuit 1655, July 1660.3
Although Swanton’s father became treasurer of the Middle Temple in 1618, he himself did not begin to read for the bar until somewhat beyond the usual age, possibly on his marriage to a niece of Auditor Povey. Simon Spatchurst, whose mother was a Povey, acted as surety on his admittance; he was clerk of the assize for the Western circuit at the time of his death in 1636, and probably arranged for his kinsman to hold the reversion. Swanton’s modest estate of £30 p.a., with stock worth £100, was sequestrated because he had acted as clerk of assize under royalist auspices during the Civil War. One of his Somerset nephews was a Cavalier captain, and another came under suspicion as steward to the Berkeleys, but Swanton seemingly convinced the sequestrators that he had acted under force majeure. Not only did he escape financial penalty, but he apparently retained his post. He was unable to avoid appearing in the trial of Penruddock’s followers in 1655, but extricated himself with uncommon dexterity. The attorney-general reported him ‘very faithful and active in this business’; but ‘two honest, godly men’ whispered to one of the commissioners about ‘daubing and knavery in slubbering over matters in examination’ by Swanton and Edward Tooker, who ‘made it their work to extenuate offenders’ faults’. Swanton was inevitably dismissed, but was allowed to hand on his post to his son.4
Swanton was returned for Wilton on both indentures in 1660, and allowed to take his seat, the first of his family to enter Parliament. An inactive Member, he was appointed to nine committees in the Convention, of which the most important was for the indemnity bill. In debate he was prepared even to defend such unpopular figures as Edmund Ludlow and John Pyne, for whose son he had stood security at the Temple. On the continuance of judicial proceedings, he asked the House to bear in mind his own position as attorney of common pleas. On 20 July he complained that he had been ordered to give evidence in the House of Lords about the trial and execution of a loyalist who had attempted to rescue the King in 1648. He was named to the committees on bills for regulating fees, supplying defects in the poll tax, and suppressing profanity. The last of these he supported in debate, suggesting provision for rewarding informers.5
With both seats at Wilton controlled by the Nicholas interest in 1661, Swanton moved to Salisbury, no doubt with Tooker’s encouragement. His name appears on Lord Wharton’s list of friends, to be managed by Sir Richard Onslow. In his only session in the Cavalier Parliament he was very active; though he had to miss the last fortnight before the adjournment to go on circuit, he served on no less than 26 committees. On 14 May he was one of the five Members appointed to peruse the Journal every week, and he had himself named to the committee for the regicides bill, no doubt again in Pyne’s interest. He probably died shortly before the end of the recess, for on 20 Nov. John Norden was recommended for the vacant clerkship of assize.6