MIDDLETON, John (aft. 1558-1636), of Hills Place, Horsham, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. aft.1558,1 o.s. of Richard Middleton, ironmaster, of Horsham and Bennett, da. of one Porter of Cuckfield, Suss., wid. of one Evernden of Sedlescombe, Suss. m. by 1588, Frances, da. of Nicholas Fowle, ironmaster, of Wadhurst, Suss., 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1604. d. 17 July 1636.2
Bailiff, Horsham 1603-4;3 commr. sewers, Suss. 1604-at least 1631;4 escheator, Surr. and Suss. 1605-6;5 capt. militia ft. Suss. by 1602-6;6 j.p. 1609-c. Jan. 1626, 3 Mar. 1626-d.;7 sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1617-18;8 commr. brewhouse survey, Suss. 1620,9 subsidy 1621-2, 1624,10 martial law 1626-7,11 Forced Loan 1626-7,12 knighthood fines 1630-2.13
Middleton’s family rose to prosperity in the Wealden iron trade, although his great-grandfather was a Crown servant in the reign of Henry VIII. By the late 1580s he was a partner in his uncle’s gunfounding business, which he subsequently inherited. The firm’s profits do not seem to have been adversely affected by peace with Spain, when they probably switched to the export trade.14 Middleton was of sufficient prominence in Horsham to serve as bailiff in 1603-4, and consequently was the borough’s returning officer for the election to the first Jacobean Parliament. He succeeded to a comparatively modest landed estate in the same year, but soon expanded the property. By 1609 he had bought and rebuilt Hills Place, just outside Horsham, where he subsequently resided, and his rise in status was signalled by his appointment to the county bench. Nevertheless he remained active in the iron industry, and in 1612 suffered the embarrassment of being named in the grand jury’s presentment complaining of the trade’s impact on the county’s roads.15
In 1614 Middleton was returned for Horsham, presumably on his own interest, and was subsequently re-elected to every Parliament in his lifetime. It is difficult to distinguish him from Robert and Hugh Myddelton in the surviving records of the Addled Parliament. However, as the clerk felt the need to specifically identify Middleton as ‘John Middleton’ when he was appointed to the committee to consider the bill against the export of artillery on 11 May it is likely that the references to ‘Mr. Middleton’ in the records relate to one of the other Members.16
Although Hugh Myddelton also sat in the third Jacobean Parliament, it was presumably Middelton who was among those appointed to the drafting committee for another artillery export bill on 26 Mar. 1621 and to the committee after its second reading on 14 May. He was also probably the Member appointed to the committee for the bill to establish a new trust for the Sussex Catholic Viscount Montagu (16 March).17 By 1624 Myddelton had been made a baronet, and consequently the ‘Mr. Middleton’ recorded as having spoken at the committee for trade on 26 Feb. can be confidently identified as this Member, although his words were not recorded. He left no other mark on the records of the fourth Jacobean Parliament.18
In the first Caroline Parliament Middleton was appointed to consider a bill ‘for increase of timber and wood’ (8 July), a matter of interest to him as the iron industry relied on plentiful supplies of timber. Indeed, he and his partners had used £4,200 worth of wood from one Sussex park alone between 1589 and 1596.19 He was also named to the committees for two private bills, one for draining the marshes in two Thames-side parishes in Kent (28 June), and the other to enable Richard Amherst* and his fellow trustees to sell land in settlement of the debts of the 3rd earl of Dorset (8 July).20 Amherst had been a friend of Middleton’s father, and was, like Middleton himself, a trustee of the charity established by the London alderman and philanthropist Henry Smith.21
By 1620 Middleton owed Smith some £4,000, possibly arising from his involvement in the financial affairs of the spendthrift Thomas Shelley*, whose sister had married Middleton’s eldest son in 1610.22 By this date Middleton had taken over much of the Shelley property near Bramber, and exercised the interest it brought him in that borough in favour of his son-in-law Walter Barttelot* in 1625 and 1626 and his own trustee (Sir) Sackville Crowe* in 1628.23 In early 1626 he was temporarily removed from the commission of the peace, but was nevertheless re-elected to Parliament. He was only mentioned once in the surviving parliamentary records, when he was appointed on 15 Feb. to the committee to consider a bill against scandalous ministers.24
In 1627 Middleton was forced to seek Crown protection from the creditors he had acquired ‘by suretyship for Mr. Shelley’, assuring the Privy Council that he could, given time, pay off all debts, ‘and yet leave a moderate fortune for himself and his children’.25 He was returned for the last time to the third Caroline Parliament, but left no mark on its records. He continued to receive royal protection while taking to steps to liquidate his liabilities: early in 1630 he sold a moiety of Worth manor to Smith’s charitable foundation, and later in the year claimed, when asking for a third renewal of his protection, that he had paid over £11,000, ‘to the full satisfaction almost of all his creditors’.26 He died in July 1636, and was buried at Horsham on 10 August. No will or grant of administration has been found. His eldest son Thomas was returned for Horsham at both elections in 1640, gave lukewarm support to Parliament in the Civil War, and was re-elected in 1660.27
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Alan Davidson
- 1. PROB 11/109, f. 398v.
- 2. Suss. Gens.: Horsham Cent. comp. J. Comber, 274-7; C.E.D. Davidson-Houston, ‘Suss. monumental brasses’, Suss. Arch. Colls. lxxx. 105; Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Suss. ed. E.W.T. Attree (Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv), 160.
- 3. C219/35/2/83.
- 4. C181/1, f. 81v; 181/4, f. 74.
- 5. List of Escheators comp. A.C. Wood (L. and I. Soc. lxxii), 166.
- 6. Harl. 703, f. 136.
- 7. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 25; Arundel, Letters, Peers to Spiller, 16 Jan. 1626; C231/4, f. 198; C193/13/2, f. 67v.
- 8. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 138.
- 9. APC, 1619-21, p. 203.
- 10. SP14/122/89; C212/22/21, 23.
- 11. APC, 1626, p. 221.
- 12. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 59v.
- 13. E178/7154, f. 197; 178/5678, f. 4.
- 14. E. Straker, Wealden Iron, 422, 441; J.J. Goring, ‘Wealden ironmasters in the age of Elizabeth’, Wealth and Power in Tudor Eng. ed. E.W. Ives, R.J. Knecht and J.J. Scarisbrick, 217, 222.
- 15. Wiston Archives ed. J.M.L. Booker, i. 90; VCH Suss. vi. pt. 2, p. 163; ‘Horsham Churchwardens’ Acct. Bk.’ ed. R.G. Rice, Suss. N and Q, i. 106; Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I, 47.
- 16. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 202.
- 17. CJ, i. 556b, 572b, 621b.
- 18. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 28.
- 19. Procs. 1625, p. 358; Straker, 458.
- 20. Procs. 1625, pp. 257, 349.
- 21. PROB 11/109, f. 112; C.P. Gwilt, Notices Relating to Thomas Smith of Campden, and to Henry Smith Sometime Alderman of London, 24.
- 22. Gwilt, app. p. iv; Suss. Gens.: Horsham Centre, 273; C.F. Trower, ‘Findon’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xxviii. 199; C2/Jas.I/S2/38.
- 23. C2/Jas.I/M13/45; VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, p. 26; C.F. Trower, ‘Findon’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xxvii. 17; Add. 39386, f. 155.
- 24. Procs. 1626, ii. 44.
- 25. APC, 1627, p. 340.
- 26. APC, 1627-8, p. 512; 1629-30, p. 27; 1630-1, p. 169; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 182, 592; E. Turner, ‘Mem. of Henry Smith esq.’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xxii. 42.
- 27. Add. 5698, f. 206; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 273-4.