LAWTON, John (1656-1736), of Lawton, Cheshire
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Family and Education
bap. 7 May 1656, 1st s. of William Lawton of Lawton by Hester, da. of Sir Edward Longueville, 1st Bt., of Wolverton, Bucks. educ. Coventry sch.; St. John’s, Camb. 1675. m. (1) by 1679, Anne (d. 1717), da. of George Montagu† of Horton, Northants., and sis. of Charles*, Christopher*, Edward†, Irby* and James Montagu I*, 7s. (6 d.v.p.) 8da. and 7 other ch.; (2) 22 Sept. 1719, his cos. Mary (d. 1766), da. of Edward Longueville of Iver, Bucks., wid. of Sir Edward Longueville of Wolverton, 1s. suc. fa. 1693.1
Capital burgess, Newcastle 1691–1712, mayor 1692–3; steward, manor of Newcastle 1698–1702, 1706–10, 1716–17; bailiff, Halton serjeantry 1706–10, 1716–17.2
Gent. of privy chamber 1716–27.3
Although Lawton’s estate lay on the Cheshire–Staffordshire border, the area had strong economic links with Newcastle and its environs. The forge at Lawton was supplied from the ironstone mill at Tunstall, while lead from Lawton was a vital ingredient in the manufacture of pottery. There is some evidence that John Lawton was involved in some of this industrial activity, at least to the extent of leasing his salt works to another entrepreneur.4
After sitting in the Convention of 1689, Lawton appears not to have contested the 1690 election. Nevertheless, he consolidated his interest, serving as mayor of Newcastle in 1692–3 and being elected to Parliament in 1695. His political position was that of a government Whig, which was not surprising given the influence in the ministry of his brother-in-law, Charles Montagu. In January 1696 he was forecast as likely to support the Court in connexion with the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association and in March voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following session he voted on 25 Nov. 1696 for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. On 13 Feb. 1697 Lawton received 55 votes in the election of a commissioner of accounts to succeed Thomas Pelham; when the winner, Lord William Powlett, asked to be excused Lawton received 133 votes in the fresh election which was won by James Sloane. While in London for this session, Lawton became involved in a dispute over the appointment of a receiver-general for taxes in Staffordshire, probably because of its effect on his electoral interest. In February he attended the Treasury to complain against the current receiver, a Mr Green, over his conduct during the recoinage crisis, and recommended Thomas Spendelowe in his place. After some wrangling Lawton got his way, the decision being characterized later by Philip Foley* as a move ‘to please the new Lord Halifax [Charles Montagu] . . . to serve a turn for Mr Lawton’. This manoeuvre brought no immediate electoral advantage at Newcastle since he did not contest the 1698 election, probably desisting after a canvass, and in the long term caused him considerable trouble. His appointment as steward of the manor of Newcastle, only a week before the election, presumably came too late to prevent the return of two Tories. An analysis of the old and new Parliaments compiled in around September 1698 classed him retrospectively as a Court supporter. Like several Whig grandees he appears to have been engaged for Hon. Robert Shirley in the struggle for the second seat at the Staffordshire county election, although he regretted this when writing to the main Tory protagonist, Edward Bagot*. The death of Sir Thomas Bellot, 2nd Bt.*, gave Lawton an opportunity to return to the Commons at a by-election in 1699, but he was narrowly defeated by a Tory, Rowland Cotton*. This contest was one of several in which the results were interpreted by contemporaries as a defeat for the Court. Lawton petitioned, accusing his opponent of polling unqualified voters and of bribery, but his petition was withdrawn after two months without being proceeded upon.5
During the next few years Lawton was in straitened circumstances, mainly as a result of Spendelowe’s failure to clear his accounts as receiver-general with the Treasury before he died. Lawton’s liability, as a surety for a man he had done much to get appointed in the first place, led to his estate being extended for the debt. By November 1705 over £600 had been raised in this way, and in March 1707 Lawton and John Sneyd (another surety) declared that they had paid off £3,000 on their surety bonds. This did not represent the extent of his financial difficulties, however, for in March 1703 he was trying to compound with the Treasury for a debt of £1,800, bequeathed to him by the lessee of his salt mines in Cheshire. Given these difficulties, an active political role was virtually impossible, especially after he was deprived of the stewardship of Newcastle shortly after Queen Anne’s accession.6
Lawton re-entered the political fray at the 1705 election in partnership with Crew Offley*. Although defeated, they petitioned and were seated on 27 Feb. 1706 after evidence of bribery by their opponents had been revealed at the committee of elections. An analysis of the Commons early in 1708 classed him as a Whig. Both Lawton and Offley were defeated at the 1708 election, only to be seated on petition in February 1709. Almost immediately after taking his seat he supported the naturalization of the Palatines. In the following session he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. It is unclear whether he contested the 1710 election, but as a consequence of the Tory dominion over the corporation he was discharged from his place on the aldermanic bench in December 1712 and replaced by William Burslam* who had himself been stripped of that office after his role in the 1708 election.7
Although Lawton benefited from the change of dynasty in 1714 in terms of office for himself and, later, his son (also John†), he did not attempt to re-enter Parliament. He died on 10 June 1736, worth a reported £1,800 p.a. His son John sat for Newcastle between 1734 and 1740.
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Ormerod, Cheshire, iii. 17; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), ii. 169; IGI, London.
- 2. R. W. Bridgett, ‘The Hist. of Newcastle-under-Lyme, 1661–1760’ (Keele Univ. M.A. thesis, 1982), 172; P. W. L. Adams, Hist. Adams Fam. 78–79; Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 168.
- 3. Info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz.
- 4. VCH Staffs. ii. 18, 117; viii. 103n; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 413; xviii. 190.
- 5. Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/O59/6, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 23 Feb. 1696–7; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 356; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Harley) mss Pw2 Hy 234, Philip Foley to Thomas Foley ?II*, 7 Feb. 1701[–2]; Wm. Salt Lib. (Stafford), Bagot mss D/1721/3/291, Lawton to Bagot, 31 July 1698; Add. 70019, f. 143.
- 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 340; xx. 476, 524, 649; xii. 199; xvii. 413; xviii. 190.
- 7. Adams, 78–79.