PEYTON, Sir John (c.1561-1616), of Peyton Hall, Isleham, Cambs.

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

b. c.1561,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Robert Peyton II† of Isleham and Elizabeth, da. of Richard Rich†, 1st Bar. Rich of Rochford Hall and Leez Priory, Essex, lord chan. 1547-51. m. 29 June 1580, Alice (d.1626), da. of Sir Edward Osborne† of St. Dionis Backchurch, London, Clothworker, gov. of Levant Co. 1581-92 and ld. mayor of London 1583-4, 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 7da. (1 d.v.p.)2 suc. fa. 1590; kntd. 1 Nov. 1596;3 cr. bt. 22 May 1611.4 d. 19 Dec. 1616. sig. John Peyton.

Offices Held

J.p. I. of Ely, Cambs. c.1584-at least 1609,5 Cambs. 1591-?d.;6 sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1593-4, 1604-5;7 commr. subsidy, Cambs. 1593, ?1608, Cambridge ?1608,8 sewers, Gt. Fens 1594-at least 1609;9 dep. lt. Cambs. 1596-at least 1598, 1602-at least 1605,10 collector, Privy Seal loans 1597-8,11 commr. musters, 1601,12 inquiry, manorial boundaries, Cambs. and I. of Ely 1602,13 ?aid, Cambs. 1609,14 to find the lands and goods of Edward, Lord Vaux 1612.15


Until the later thirteenth century the Peytons were based in southern Suffolk, but the marriage of Thomas Peyton in 1484 to a Cambridgeshire heiress saw the family establish their principal seat at Isleham, just across Suffolk’s western border. By 1518 the family had estates in four counties, but it was in Cambridgeshire that it assumed prominence in local government. Robert Peyton I† served twice as sheriff and was returned to Parliament for Cambridgeshire at least once, while his eldest son, Robert Peyton II, occupied the shrievalty three times and twice represented the county at Westminster. The family’s status in the county reflected its wealth: before 1620 its annual income from holdings in Cambridgeshire and properties straddling the Suffolk border amounted to around £1,200.16 The family thus provided a tempting prospect for Henry VIII’s avaricious lord chancellor, Richard, Lord Rich, who married off one of his daughters to Robert Peyton II sometime before 1550.

Peyton should not be confused with his Doddington cousins (Sir) John Peyton I†, governor of Jersey, and the latter’s son John. The second of the three sons of Robert Peyton II and his wife Elizabeth Rich, Peyton was born in about 1561 and became heir apparent on the death in 1577 of his unmarried elder brother. In 1580 he wed the 17-year-old daughter of a wealthy London alderman. The match doubtless produced a large dowry, which was topped up by a cash bequest amounting to £100 from the estate of his wife’s late godfather, Sir William Hewett. Within a few years of attaining his majority Peyton was admitted to the Isle of Ely bench, and following his father’s death in 1590 he was appointed a magistrate for Cambridgeshire and served as sheriff. In 1593 he resumed the family’s electoral representation of the county after a lengthy interlude, and in October 1596 he was added to the list of the county’s deputy lieutenants, probably at the instigation of his uncle, the lord lieutenant, Roger, 2nd Lord North (Sir Roger North†). It was presumably North, a privy councillor and treasurer of the Household, whose influence obtained for Peyton a knighthood a few days later. During the later 1590s North favoured his nephew, one of the wealthiest landowners in Cambridgeshire, by endeavouring to transfer his contributions towards the cost of raising military forces to the alien merchant Sir Horatio Palavicino, a newcomer to the county.17

Peyton was elected senior knight for Cambridgeshire in February 1604, but his seat was placed in jeopardy after he was pricked as sheriff for the second time in November 1604. However, by the time the House voted to confirm him in his place, on 23 Jan. 1606, his term of office had already expired.18 As a fenland landowner, Peyton’s principal concern at Westminster was with legislation concerned with fen drainage, which he opposed. He was accordingly named, either in person or as a knight for Cambridgeshire, to bill committees on fen drainage (12 May 1604; 4 Mar. 1606; 15 Apr. 1606; 26 Mar. 1610), the avoidance of lawsuits connected with the fens (21 May 1606), the execution of sewer commissions (12 June 1607) and the relief of the projector Thomas Lovell (2 July 1604), who, having spent £12,000 on draining fenland in Lincolnshire, had been denied his share of the spoils by the fenmen.19 On 8 May 1606 he attempted unsuccessfully to attach a proviso to a drainage bill after the bill was reported from committee, a move which should probably be regarded as a wrecking tactic.20 During the second reading debate on a measure to authorize the draining of 300,000 acres in the Isle of Ely (27 Apr. 1607) Peyton and the Member for Cambridge, Robert Wallis, presented ‘some reasons and petitions ... against the bill’.21 Peyton may have been in the forefront of the campaign to obstruct this piece of legislation, both inside and outside Parliament, as a manuscript of around 1606/7 in the Barrington papers reveals that several landowners and commoners who petitioned against fen drainage entrusted copies of a particular certificate to Peyton.22 When a further drainage measure was laid before the House in 1610 Peyton, belatedly delivering his maiden speech, opposed it (26 March).

Peyton’s interests were not exclusively confined to fen drainage. Like his cousin the 3rd Lord Rich (Robert Rich†), for whom he acted as a trustee,23 he was confident of his own election to grace,24 and probably sympathized with puritan attempts at the beginning of James’s reign to reform the Church. On 19 Apr. 1604 he was appointed to the committee to identify areas of discussion for the impending conference with the Lords over religion, and on 4 June 1604 he was nominated to the committee to consider two bills against ecclesiastical pluralism. During the course of the following three sessions he was appointed to attend a joint conference with the Lords to consider grievances against the Church (10 Apr. 1606), and to bill committees regarding canons unconfirmed by Parliament (11 Dec. 1606) and ecclesiastical leases (25 Apr. 1610). This last-named measure was notable as a puritan attempt to limit the landed interests of the clergy, and as such was condemned by the bishop of Rochester as ‘squint-eyed’.25 Peyton exhibited no recorded enthusiasm for any other issues of national importance, such as purveyance, wardship and the Great Contract, but was appointed to a joint conference concerning the Union on 14 Apr. 1604, and to the committee for debating the bill establishing commissioners from both kingdoms (29 Nov. 1606), in preparation for a further conference with the Lords.26

Peyton’s inclusion on the committee for the bill to assure a jointure for the wife of Martin Calthorpe (27 Apr. 1604) was undoubtedly prompted by a desire to protect the interests of his Kentish cousins, the Peytons of Knowlton, to whom the Calthorpes were related by marriage.27 The concerns of this junior branch of his family may also help explain Peyton’s later appointment to the committee to consider a bill regarding a dispute over a Leicestershire manor between All Souls’ College, Oxford, and Sir William Smith*, one of whose daughters had married a Calthorpe (29 Apr. 1607).28 Peyton’s own interests presumably influenced his appointment to the committee for the bill to confirm the grant of Soham manor to Sir Roger Aston* on 13 Dec. 1606, as Soham lay sandwiched between his properties of Isleham and Wicken.29 The reasons for Peyton’s nominations to bill committees concerned with Sir Thomas Jermyn* (9 May 1604) and Sir Robert Drury (27 Mar. 1610) have not been ascertained, but both Jermyn and Drury resided in west Suffolk, close to Peyton’s manor of Great Bradley.30 Peyton’s nomination to two committees relating to Norfolk landowners, Edward Downes and Christopher le Grys (2 and 15 May 1604), suggests that he had interests in these measures which have not been traced.31 Peyton’s other appointments were concerned with restoring in blood the children of John Littleton (11 June 1604); the removal of weirs and other obstructions in navigable rivers (23 June 1604); the naturalization of the 18th earl of Mar (11 June 1604) and the physician Peter Baro and his wife (6 Dec. 1606); flooding in western England (3 Mar. 1607); the petitions of London’s armourers and gunmakers (6 May 1607); the lands of Sir John Wentworth† of Gosfield, Essex (21 Mar. 1610) and Sir George Booth of Dunham Massey, Cheshire (24 Mar. 1610); Southampton’s charter (29 May 1607); and hawking (29 Mar. 1610). On 9 Mar. 1610 Peyton was also appointed to the privileges committee in order to debate the Bridgnorth by-election.32

Peyton was among the first purchasers of the newly created title of baronet in 1611, but whether he could really afford the honour is questionable. Giving evidence in Chancery in 1652, Peyton’s grandson, Thomas Peyton, alleged that in 1616 Peyton’s son son Sir Edward inherited an insupportable burden of debt.33 If true this would explain why Sir Edward began to sell off the family estates within a few years of entering into his inheritance and why Peyton himself, in his will of 20 Nov. 1615, chose to limit the wearing of blacks at his funeral to his immediate family and household servants. He hoped that his friends would not object to this arrangement, as he could not pay for them all to wear funeral garb, and ‘if one have and another have not there will be unkindness and exceptions against it’. Peyton’s decision to appoint his 19-year-old unmarried daughter Susan as his executrix also hints at financial difficulties, as presumably he feared that if he made Sir Edward his executor Susan would not get the full dowry to which she was entitled.

The cause of Peyton’s financial problems is unknown, but university fees for three sons and dowries for five daughters, coupled with the extravagance of a baronetcy, are likely to have been contributory factors. Whatever the reason for the family’s declining fortunes, Peyton’s decision to deny Sir Edward the right to execute his will and to prevent him from exercising any say in the choice of husband for Susan - a duty which was fixed on Lord Rich instead - may have opened up a rift between father and son. Shortly before his death, Peyton appended a codicil to his will, in which he spitefully ordered Sir Edward to pay the £120 ‘which he oweth me for the board and diet of his first wife’.34

In the final eight years of his life Peyton was invariably prevented from travelling far from Isleham owing to ill health.35 Following his death in December 1616 he was buried, in accordance with his wishes, in the south chapel of Isleham church, ‘where many of mine ancestors lie and are entombed’. A monument to Peyton, sporting Corinthian columns and ‘big achievements flanked by allegorical figures’,36 was subsequently erected, presumably by a forgiving Sir Edward. Soon after Peyton’s death, the Crown recorded an outstanding debt of £40 against his estate in connection with his second term as sheriff.37 Peyton’s widow announced her belief that she had been elected to grace in the will drawn up shortly before she died in 1626.38 Sir Edward went on to represent Cambridgeshire in all but one of the parliaments of the 1620s.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. C142/228/76.
  • 2. Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 4-5; R.E. Chester Waters, Geneal. Mems. of the Chesters of Chicheley, 219-24; St. Dionis Backchurch (Harl. Soc. Reg. iii), 9.
  • 3. Chester Waters, 220. cf. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 94, which merely gives the year.
  • 4. 47th DKR, 125.
  • 5. E163/14/8; C181/1, f. 98; 181/2, f. 96.
  • 6. Hatfield House, ms 278; C66/1988.
  • 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 14; C66/1649, m. 35. Hughes incorrectly records Peyton’s Christian name as Robert in the entry for 1604-5.
  • 8. Lansd. 74, f. 204; SP14/31/1.
  • 9. Lansd. 76, ff. 129v-30; C181/1, f. 74v; 181/2, f. 83.
  • 10. C231/1, ff. 21, 140; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 149; Harl. 6599, ff. 122v, 126v.
  • 11. E401/2583, ff. 51v-2.
  • 12. Harl. 6599, f. 87.
  • 13. C181/1, f. 32.
  • 14. SP14/43/107.
  • 15. C193/6/242.
  • 16. Calculated from C5/15/81, a Chancery bill of 1652 entered by Peyton’s grandson. Reference kindly supplied by A.P. Wright.
  • 17. L. Stone, Palavicino, 283-4, 286-7; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 134.
  • 18. CJ, i. 258b.
  • 19. Ibid. 207b, 251a, 277a, 298b, 311a, 382b, 414b.
  • 20. Ibid. 306b, 414b.
  • 21. Ibid. 364a.
  • 22. Essex RO, D/Dba O14.
  • 23. Leics. RO, DG7/2/1/1, p. 2; Harl. 3959, ff. 15, 25.
  • 24. PROB 11/129, f. 370v.
  • 25. CJ, i. 951a, 231b, 296b, 329b, 421a; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, i. 243.
  • 26. CJ, i. 172a, 326b.
  • 27. Ibid. 187a; W. Berry, Peds. of Fams. in Kent, 213.
  • 28. CJ, i. 346b; PROB 11/67, f. 108.
  • 29. CJ, i. 330b.
  • 30. Ibid. 204a, 415b.
  • 31. Ibid. 195a, 210a.
  • 32. Ibid. 236a, 245b, 272a, 328a, 346a, 369b, 376b, 408b, 413b, 414a, 416a.
  • 33. C5/15/81.
  • 34. PROB 11/129, ff. 370v-1v.
  • 35. Lansd. 163, f.368r-v.
  • 36. N. Pevsner, Buildings of Eng.: Cambs. 416.
  • 37. BL, Royal 17.C. xxxvi, f. 30v.
  • 38. PROB 11/150, f. 312v.