LAYTON, Thomas I (1520-84), of Sexhow, Yorks.

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. 1520, 1st s. of Thomas Layton of Thornton le Street by Muriel, da. and coh. of Thomas Lindley of Skutterskelfe. educ. G. Inn 1547. m. by 1551, Elizabeth, da. of James Metcalf of Nappa, 2s. suc. fa. 1536.1

Offices Held

Attorney-gen. co. palatine of Durham 1561; chancellor, bishopric of Durham 1562-c.72; j.p. co. Dur. from c.1562, custos. rot. by 1574; j.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) from c.1562, Northumb. from c.1574.


Layton was a member of a cadet branch of a family which had, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, established several branches in the Cleveland district of the North Riding. Though he inherited a small estate in Hutton from his father, and was also heir to his mother’s share in a considerably larger estate, Layton adopted a legal career. In 1561 Bishop Pilkington, recently appointed to Durham, made him clerk to the justices of assize in Durham, clerk of the peace in Durham and Sedburgh, clerk of the chancery and attorney general of the county palatine, with an annuity of £14. Later in the year he was appointed to keep the hallmote courts, in the absence of Robert Mennell, his kinsman, and Michael Wandisforde, and in the following year became temporal chancellor to the bishop. As an important official in the county, Layton subsequently appears on local commissions, particularly piracy commissions. His protestantism—for which the bishop commended him in 1564—doubtless played some part in his appointment, but Layton also seems to have been a personal friend of the bishop, in whose will he was appointed supervisor of all the bishop’s goods north of the Thames. Layton also acted for the Crown: in 1563 he was prosecutor at a gaol delivery. It is probable that he maintained a considerable private practice, since a servant of Leonard Dacre recalled 20 years later that Dacre had frequently consulted him in his affairs.2

During the northern rebellion of 1569 Layton remained loyal. On 17 Nov. he rode through the night to the Earl of Sussex to warn him that Christopher Neville was calling out the Westmorland tenants in Cleveland. He was subsequently given a commission to levy men in the neighbourhood and march to Hartlepool. After the rising had collapsed he took part in the proceedings against the rebels.3

The council in the north would doubtless favour the return of such a protestant to Parliament, and for this reason it is assumed that this was the man who sat in 1571 for Beverley, where the council in the north was then influential. Layton was an active committeeman in both his Parliaments. In 1571 he served on the bill against great hosen (14 May), and on one probably concerning the navy (25 May). In the long Parliament of 1572 he was on several legal committees (25 June 1572, 25 Feb. 1576, 8 Mar. 1576, 17 and 20 so Feb. 1581) and several concerning social questions: the poor (11 Feb. 1576), excess of apparel (10 Mar. 1576), bigamy (31 Jan. 1581), wool and yarn (13 Feb. 1581). In addition he served on the ports bill committee (13 Feb. 1576), and on others concerning pistols (17 Feb. 1576), leather (18 Feb. 1576), supply (25 Jan. 1581), the clerk of the market (27 Jan. 1581), wrecks (30 Jan. 1581), Carlisle (27 Feb. 1581) and Dover harbour (4 Mar. 1581).4

By 1573 Layton had given up the chancellorship of Durham but he became custos rotulorum for the county and remained prominent in local affairs until his death. The success of his career is reflected in the considerable expansion of his estates. While many of his land transactions are shrouded in the obscurity of legal devices, his main activities can be clearly seen. He reunited to his mother’s estates the remaining two thirds of the Lindley inheritance, and also enlarged his wife’s inheritance from her mother. In 1567 he bought the original family manors of Sexhow and Brawarth from his cousin Robert, who was selling all his estates. In 1577 he settled the manors of Seamer and Sigston on his heir, Charles, probably on the occasion of his marriage; an estate which comprised less than a third of his property. Not all his transactions may have been due to self interest; his dealings with the manor of East Layton remain obscure but seem to have been for the benefit of his kinsman, not himself, despite the fact that it was ultimately returned to his son. Layton died 22 Dec. 1584 and was probably buried at Rudby in Cleveland with his ancestors.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. J. Graves, Hist. Cleveland, 171, 172; C142/51/61; 57/65; 64/122.
  • 2. DKR, xxxvii. App. 1, 71, 72, 73, 80, 82; CPR, 1560-3, passim; 1563-6, passim; Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 66, 71; CSP Dom. Add. 1547-65, p. 572; APC, vii. 284; Surtees Soc. xxxviii. 9; E134/Mich. 32 and 33 Eliz./21.
  • 3. CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 110, 131; Sharp, Memorials of the Rebellion, 160, 186, 240; J.J. Cartwright, Chapters in Yorks. Hist. 68.
  • 4. CJ, i. 89, 93, 102, 105, 106, 108, 112, 113, 120, 121, 125, 127, 128, 130, 131; D’Ewes, 183, 189, 224, 247, 254, 288, 289, 290, 295, 298, 299.
  • 5. Yorks. Fines (Yorks.Arch. Soc. rec. ser. ii), 183, 186, 267, 310, 312, 313, 338, 361, 362, 368; (v), 3, 12, 47, 48, 57, 132, 176; C142/207/93; 367/93; VCH Yorks. N. Riding, i. 75, 86, 94, 101, 130, 131, 132, 135, 151, 158, 179, 223, 275, 309, 374, 407, 436, 458, 494; ii. 265, 284, 287, 289, 292; CPR, 1563-6, 285, 309.