KIRTON, James I (1559-1620), of Almsford Park, Som. and Rosemary Lane, London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

bap. 21 Dec. 1559,1 4th s. of Edward Kirton (d.1601) of Almsford Park and Lettice, da. of one Gillbank of London.2 educ. New Inn; M. Temple 1585; ?travelled abroad.3 m. (1) by 1596, Ann (d. 7 Sept. 1603), da. of Henry Bodenham of Fugglestone St. Peter, Wilts., s.p.;4 (2) 12 Feb. 1607,5 Elizabeth (bur. 28 Nov. 1618),6 da of John Morley I† of St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate, London and Halnaker, Boxgrove, Suss. s.p.7 kntd. 6 July 1618.8 bur. 28 Aug. 1620.9 sig. James Kirton.

Offices Held

Servant to Edward Seymour, 1st earl of Hertford from c.1592-d, steward, 1599-1608.10

Commr. sewers, Som. 1603-at least 1615;11 j.p. Som. by c.1612-c.1615, 1618-d.12

Member, earl of Hertford’s embassy to Spanish Neths. 1605.13


According to the Somerset antiquarian Thomas Gerard, who was a friend of Kirton’s nephew Edward*, the Kirtons originated in Essex.14 However, by the mid-sixteenth century they had long been resident in Wiltshire. Kirton’s grandfather lived in Burgage, the neighbouring parish to Great Bedwyn, the home of the Seymours.15 He was clearly closely connected with the latter family as, Edward Kirton, this Member’s father, was the godson and page of Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset and lord protector.16 By 1557 Edward Kirton had settled at Almsford, a Seymour manor in Somerset, and was subsequently listed as a retainer of the duke’s son, Edward, 1st earl of Hertford.17

Two of Kirton’s brothers followed their father into Hertford’s service, as did other members of the family. Kirton, the fourth of six sons, may have been intended for the same course from a young age, but during the second half of the 1580s, when he was at the Middle Temple and travelled abroad, he evidently contemplated alternative employment. Nevertheless, he entered the earl’s service in around 1592, and from 1599 was being employed ‘on matters of the greatest trust’. It was probably at this time that he became the earl’s steward, the position he held during Hertford’s embassy to Brussels in 1605.18 After his father’s death in 1601, Kirton also became Hertford’s tenant at Almsford.19

Kirton undoubtedly enjoyed Hertford’s support in the parliamentary election for Ludgershall in 1601, and his continuing service with the earl explains his re-election to the borough in 1604 and 1614. The Commons Journal does not differentiate between Kirton and his cousin, James Kirton II, who also sat in James’s first Parliament. The latter, a barrister, was also connected with Hertford, but not as closely as this Member. It was therefore presumably Kirton who was named on 21 Apr. to consider the bill for assuring property to the dean and chapter of Windsor, which also confirmed a lease of tithes belonging to the dean and chapter to Hertford. The bill was passed and the lease was subsequently conveyed to Kirton as Hertford’s trustee.20

Kirton’s principal concern in the 1604 session was the bill promoted by his patron’s nephew, Edward Seymour*, to secure possession of property in Devon that had formerly belonged to the duke of Somerset, but which Hertford desired for himself. It was probably this Member, rather than his namesake, who successfully moved on 27 Apr. for counsel to be heard concerning the measure. It was certainly this Member, described in the Journal as ‘servant and officer to the earl of Hertford’, who secured an order of the House for Seymour to leave the chamber for the second reading debate on 12 June. In response, Seymour’s allies moved that Hertford’s officers should also depart but this was rejected as they were ‘no parties themselves’. Kirton was therefore among those named to consider the matter, which was never reported.21

Other references in the parliamentary records are harder to attribute to Kirton rather than his namesake. One or the other was named to the delegation to present an address on the abuses of purveyors on 27 Apr., and on 7 May he was one of the Members listed as being able to provide proof of the House’s articles on that subject. A week later a ‘Mr. Kirton’ spoke in the debate concerning the case of Sir Thomas Shirley I*, who had been arrested for debt shortly before the session. He suggested that Parliament should legislate to disable the warden of the Fleet, who had refused to release Shirley, from holding office. In addition, one or other spoke on the Form of Apology and Satisfaction of the Commons at its second reading on 20 June, though to what effect is not known.22

Kirton received one committee appointment in the 1605-6 parliamentary session: both this Member and his namesake were added to the committee to consider the Marshalsea bill on 21 March.23 By 6 Apr. Kirton had left Westminster for Somerset when Sir John Rodney, father-in-law of James Kirton II, wrote to inform him that the House was about to be called. Writing again on 19 Apr., the day after the Easter adjournment, Rodney reported the call ten days previously and assured Kirton that ‘all was safe and well’, presumably having ensured that the latter had been excused.24 However, during his absence Sir Henry Poole*, a prominent Wiltshire knight, had launched an assault on Kirton’s employer over his conduct as lord lieutenant of Wiltshire. Speaking in the debate about grievances on 16 Apr., Poole attacked Hertford for levying rates in his county to pay for the muster-master and imprisoning those who refused to pay this. Poole was particularly incensed because the muster-master in question was Hertford’s secretary, Josias Kirton, this Member’s brother.25 When the grievances were reported on 10 May, Sir John Holles presented a letter from Hertford defending his actions. In response Poole renewed his attacks on the earl, producing a letter from the justices of the county, prompting from Kirton, in the words of the diarist Robert Bowyer, ‘a sober speech in defence of my lord’s honour’, the same source describing him as ‘one of my lord of Hertford’s followers’. Kirton reiterated the falsehood, put about by Hertford, that Josias had been appointed muster-master before the earl became lord lieutenant. He produced paperwork which claimed would vindicate his employer and asked for a committee to consider the matter, but was denied.26 The dispute was taken up by the Privy Council after the session and Josias was subsequently gaoled for several weeks despite Kirton’s approaches to Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury, for his examination to be deferred.27

After 1608 Kirton was ‘employed on less weighty matters but still enjoyed his [Hertford’s] favour’, which suggests he ceased to be the earl’s steward at that date, but remained in his service.28 Kirton may have been in financial difficulties by this time. In May 1608 he was ordered to compound for undervalued former Crown lands in Worcestershire and Warwickshire, which he had settled on his wife as a jointure. Possibly as a result he seems to have purchased a royal pension of £200 from the Scottish courtier Sir James Sempill. In February 1609 he surrendered the pension and, at Sempill’s suit, obtained a grant of £100 p.a. each for himself and his wife.29 In the fifth session Kirton’s namesake was given leave of absence for his health on 12 Mar. 1610, and consequently it is likely that it was this Member who was appointed to consider the bill concerning non-resident provosts on 2 April.30 He left no further trace on the records of the first Jacobean Parliament.

In his service as Hertford’s steward, Kirton had been frequently bound for his employer’s debts and had made extensive purchases on the earl’s behalf. According to his later account, Kirton became worried that he would not be paid what the earl owed him, and in 1611 he persuaded Hertford to convey certain lands to him. These may have included an estate in Sopworth, Wiltshire, and a house in Smithfield, London, both mentioned in Kirton’s will as having formerly been Hertford’s property.31 The acquisition of property enhanced Kirton’s status, and his less onerous duties for his patron presumably enabled him to spend more time at home in Somerset, where he was added to the bench in around 1612.

Kirton was re-elected in 1614, presumably with Hertford’s support, when his only recorded contribution to the work of the House was to suggest that the issue of undertakers should not be put to the question (2 May), arguing that ‘one accusation will beget another’.32 He received no committee appointments.

The following year saw a significant breach between Hertford and Kirton, when the former tried to challenge the 1611 conveyance of property.33 Perhaps as a result, Kirton was purged from the Somerset bench at about this time. However, the breach does not seem to have been permanent. Kirton was a party to a settlement of some of Hertford’s estate in 1617, and probably remained in the earl’s service until his death.34 The following year he was restored to the bench and received a knighthood.

In his will of 20 July 1620, Kirton asked to be buried without ‘vain and unnecessary pomp’. He left his interest in Almsford Park to his mother, and then after her death to his nephew Edward Kirton*, who also received property in the neighbouring parish of Castle Cary. He set aside £210 to clear a debt of his recently deceased brother-in-law (Sir) Edward Morley*, while his own debts were to be satisfied by the sale of land he had been granted in Sopworth and Smithfield. Another Wiltshire property was to be sold to a great-nephew for £500. He further ordered the distribution of £680 in gifts and annuities to various relatives, but made a plaintive reference to £750 in pension arrears due from the Crown. Edward was appointed executor and heir to the remainder of the estate, provided he gave security to John Wightwick*, Sir Henry Berkeley* and William Chaffin that he would faithfully execute the will.35 Although his wife had recently been buried in their parish church in London, Kirton was laid to rest beside his father at Almsford, on 28 Aug. and his will was proved by Edward Kirton on 7 November.36

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. Almsford par. reg. (Soc. Gen. transcript).
  • 2. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix-cx), 87.
  • 3. MTR, 280; HMC Bath, iv. 346.
  • 4. PROB 11/83, f. 266v; 11/87, f. 160; H. David, Historical Account of Curiosities of London and Westminster (1759), pt. 2, p. 74.
  • 5. GL, St. Giles Cripplegate par. reg.
  • 6. F. Brown, Abstracts of Somersetshire Wills ed. F.A. Crisp, i. 44.
  • 7. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 140.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 169.
  • 9. Almsford par. reg.
  • 10. HMC Bath, iv. 200, 346.
  • 11. C181/1, f. 70v; 181/2, f. 246.
  • 12. C66/1898; 66/2047; C231/4, f. 59; Q. Sess. Recs. for County of Som. ed. E.H. Bates. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 263.
  • 13. HMC Bath iv. 200.
  • 14. Gerard’s Description of Som. ed. E.H. Bates (Som. Rec. Soc. xv), 221.
  • 15. Vis. London, 87.
  • 16. Heraldic Cases in Ct. of Chivalry ed. G.D. Squibb (Harl. Soc. cvii), 129.
  • 17. Almsford par. reg.; Gerard’s Description of Som. 221; HMC Bath, iv. 199.
  • 18. HMC Bath, iv. pp. xvii, 199, 346-7.
  • 19. PROB 11/136, f. 277v.
  • 20. CJ, i. 181b, 954a; Wilts. RO, Savernake Estate, 9/4/33.
  • 21. CJ, i. 237a, 959a, 990b.
  • 22. Ibid. 188a, 202a, 243b, 971b.
  • 23. HLRO, HC/CL/JO/1/5, f. 81v.
  • 24. HMC Bath, iv. 167.
  • 25. Bowyer Diary, 130.
  • 26. Ibid. 154-6; CJ, i. 307b.
  • 27. HMC Hatfield, xix. 182, 417.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, iv. 346.
  • 29. Ibid. 170-1; SO3/4, unfol. (Feb. 1609).
  • 30. CJ, i. 409a, 418b.
  • 31. HMC Bath, iv. 347; PROB 11/136, f. 277.
  • 32. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 123.
  • 33. HMC Bath, iv. 346-7.
  • 34. Wilts. IPMs ed. G.S. and A.E. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 27.
  • 35. PROB 11/136, ff. 277-80.
  • 36. Almsford par. reg. (Soc. Gen. transcript).