WHITTON, George (d.1606), of Woodstock, Oxon.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of Owen Whitton of Woodstock and bro. of Edward. m. 28 Sept. 1556, Dorothy, da. of Thomas Peniston of Dean, s.p. 3ch. illegit. suc. bro. 1558.
Yeoman of the chamber by 1550; comptroller of works and surveyor of parks within the manor of Woodstock, keeper of hares and woodward in the lordship of Spelsbury, Oxon. 1550-1600; mayor of Woodstock 1571-3, alderman 1573-81, from 1587, j.p. by Feb. 1587.1
Whitton succeeded in 1550 to the comptrollership of the royal park at Woodstock, for which he received, in November 1575, a fee of 1s. a day for life. The headship of the family and its estates, consisting principally of the manor of Hensington adjoining Woodstock, was reunited with the comptrollership in March 1558, when Whitton’s elder brother died only three years after his father. During Princess Elizabeth’s detention at Woodstock, Whitton was able to do, as it was stated some 40 years later, ‘many services to the Queen, which in her sister’s time procured him disgrace and threatened him danger’. He enjoyed no reward when she ascended the throne. Whitton’s return to the Parliament of 1572 was due to his official position at Woodstock and to his connexions with the Penistons, behind whom was the leading figure in Elizabethan Oxfordshire, Sir Francis Knollys, whose mother, Lettice Peniston, was Dorothy Whitton’s aunt. Whitton’s fellow-burgess in 1572, Martin Johnson, was probably already a servant of Knollys’s daughter, another Lettice. As mayor, Whitton presumably presided at his own and Johnson’s return. At about the time of this election Whitton was confronted with a new lieutenant, Sir Henry Lee, a more distant connexion of the Penistons with whom he was from the first on bad terms. In December 1580 he complained to the Privy Council that Lee had stolen game from the park, kept him out of his Spelsbury stewardship, and annoyed a London alderman, the husband of his sister-in-law Winifred Peniston. Lee was cleared of the allegations and Whitton committed to the Marshalsea. The affair formed the basis of one of the charges against Lee’s friend, the Earl of Leicester, in Leycester’s Commonwealth.2
Whitton was released on 20 June 1581 and immediately found himself at odds with the corporation of Woodstock, where he was senior alderman. In July, 20 of his men occupied by force land claimed by the corporation, which Whitton asserted was part of his manor of Hensington. Two months later, at elections held according to a procedure which he had himself only recently helped to draft, Whitton was disappointed in his hopes of the mayoralty. In July the corporation had asked Lee, as high steward of the borough, to attend the elections ‘to make an oration to the commonalty’. In his disappointment Whitton ‘broke out into choleric speeches’, demanded a return to the letter of the borough charter and set himself up as a champion of a democratic faction against an alleged attempt of the victuallers to dominate the corporation. Deprived of his place as alderman and disfranchised, he continued his campaign against the borough in Star Chamber and the Exchequer, where he was countered with charges of irregularities in his own term as mayor.3
Not surprisingly, Whitton looked elsewhere for a seat in the Parliament of 1584. To that and the succeeding Parliament he was returned by the Northamptonshire borough of Brackley. James Croft, the senior burgess on each occasion, lived near Woodstock on his wife’s manor of Weston-on-the-Green, and presumably asked the 4th Earl of Derby, who nominated at Brackley, to have Whitton returned. But why he was so anxious to be of the House has not been ascertained. He made no known contribution to its business. By 1587 relations between Whitton and Woodstock had been repaired and in 1597 Lee wrote to Cecil asking for Whitton to be released from a privy seal under which he was called to contribute £25 towards a forced loan. On 7 July 1600 Whitton, now an old man, surrendered his comptroller’s patent granted him 50 years before, on Lee’s writing to Cecil asking that Whitton’s nephew be given the office. This would please the ‘ancient uncle’ and be agreeable to the Earl of Essex, who, as the son of Lettice Knollys, was himself related to Whitton.
Whitton died at Hensington 4 Nov. 1606. His heir was his brother’s son, but he left Hensington to his own illegitimate son and £500 to his two illegitimate daughters, all by his servant Alice Darling. In his will Whitton asked that a brass be set up at Woodstock to show that his family had been comptrollers of the park since the time of Henry VII.4
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: Alan Harding
This biography is based upon E. K. Chambers, Sir H. Lee.
- 1. Harl. 1110, f. 24; Lansd. 104, f. 35; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 153; Oxon. Rec. Soc. xvii. 75; C142/303/131; Bodl. Oxon. wills, ser. 1, vol. 6, f. 117; CPR, 1549-51, p. 308; Woodstock borough mss, box 81/1, f. 1.
- 2. HMC Hatfield, x. 75; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 153.
- 3. Woodstock mss 82, ff. 9, 11, 12; A. Ballard, Chrons. Woodstock.
- 4. HMC Hatfield, vii. 310; x. 75, 92; CPR, 1549-51, p. 308; C142/303/131; PCC 98 Stafford.