HOUGHTON, Robert (1548-1624), of Lincoln's Inn and Norwich, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 3 Aug. 1548, 3rd s. of John Houghton of Gunthorpe, Norf. by Agnes, da. of Robert Playford of Brinton, Norf. educ. L. Inn, called 1577. m. Mary, da. of Robert Rychers of Wrotham, Kent, 3s. 3da. Kntd. 1613.1

Offices Held

Steward, Norwich 1585-95, recorder 1595-1613; of counsel to King’s Lynn 1590s; j.p.q. Norf. 1593; bencher, L. Inn 1589, reader 1591, 1600, treasurer 1599; serjeant-at-law 1603; judge of King’s bench 1613.2


A younger son from an undistinguished family, Houghton was a successful Norfolk lawyer. When he resigned the recordership of Norwich he recalled that he had been of counsel there ‘by the space of almost 30 years’, trying ‘to advance truth and do right to everyone’. He promised that he would retain his ‘good affection to the city’ and would always be ‘ready to do for the same any good office’ that should lie in his power. Norwich did not often elect its legal officers to Parliament under Elizabeth, and it is possible that Houghton was sent in 1593 partly to carry out some legal business for the city. During his Membership, he received wages of 5s. a day. He may have attended committees concerning kerseys (23 Mar.) and spinners (3 Apr.), to which the burgesses for Norwich were appointed. He was probably the ‘Mr. Auton’ who was appointed to the committee on 12 Mar. 1593 concerning poor relief.3

Houghton was made serjeant just before the Queen’s death, and was appointed a judge and knighted ten years later. Almost at once he was involved in the controversial case of the will made by Thomas Sutton in favour of the Charterhouse, and surprised John Chamberlain by joining his fellows in deciding in favour of the charity, though ‘lately advanced and knighted by the contrary side’. Two years later he, like Edward Coke, demurred at giving an individual opinion to the Crown on the Peacham case, but he eventually consented. He died at his chambers in Serjeants’ Inn on 6 Feb. 1624. His will, made a few days before his death, requested a burial ‘without funeral pomp’. He gave a life interest in his property at Norwich and his manor of Lessey in Suffolk to his wife, with remainder to his eldest son Francis, to whom he left all his other lands in Norfolk. He bequeathed gifts of money to his wife, daughters and grandchildren and his law books to Francis, whom he appointed sole executor. Houghton was buried at St. Dunstan-in-the-West, London.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: G.M.C.


  • 1. DNB; Foss, Judges, vi. 161-2; Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 161.
  • 2. H. Le Strange, Norf. Official Lists, 127-8; L. Inn Black Bk. ii. 11, 17, 57, 59, 66; King’s Lynn congregation bk. 1591-1611, ff. 40, 73, 219.
  • 3. Norwich corp. bk., city revenues and letters, ff. 5-6; corp. ct. bk. 1587-95, p. 761; D’Ewes, 499, 507, 514.
  • 4. Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 456-9; PCC 28 Byrde.