NORTON, Richard II (c.1666-1732), of Southwick, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



9 Jan. 1693 - 1700
1702 - 1705

Family and Education

b. c.1666, o. s. of Daniel Norton by Isabel, da. and coh. of Adm. Sir John Lawson of Scarborough, Yorks.; gds. of Richard Norton I*.  educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 8 Feb. 1682, aged 15.  m. Feb. 1702, Lady Elizabeth, da. of Edward Noel†, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, s.psuc. fa. 1666, gdfa. 1691.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Newport, I.o.W. 1698, Winchester by 1701; Warden, Forest of S. Bere, Hants by 1704–?14.2


On the death of his grandfather in 1691, Norton succeeded to most of his Hampshire property, including Southwick Priory, the family’s principal seat. He was first returned to Parliament at a by-election for Hampshire in 1693. Classed on Grascome’s list as a Court supporter, Norton was inactive during this Parliament. He was granted leave of absence on 21 Mar. 1695 for 21 days. He was returned unopposed for Hampshire in the election of that year, and in January 1696 was noted as likely to support the Court in the forecast for a division on the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association in February, and in the following session voted on 25 Nov. for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†.3

In 1696 Norton published a play called Pausanias, The Betrayer of His Country, in which two songs contributed by Anthony Henley* were set to music by Purcell. The play was considered ‘feeble’ by some, but Samuel Garth, author of The Dispensary, praised its ‘Athenian wit’, to which Sir Richard Blackmore, alluding to Norton’s wealth, replied:

          Without his gold what generous Oran writ,
          Had ne’er been standard, sheer Athenian wit.

In 1698 Norton successfully contested the county and was classed as a Court supporter in a comparative analysis of the old and new Commons, although this classification was queried in a subsequent list. However, on 18 Jan. 1699, during the debate on the third reading of the bill to disband the army, he was noted by James Vernon I* as one of the ‘country gentlemen’ who came in ‘voluntarily, and without any concert, to declare their dislike of so small a number’, and that he spoke ‘very handsomely and close to the purpose’. He followed this by voting against the bill. In the second session he spoke on 11 Apr. 1700 in defence of the lord chancellor (Sir John Somers*). This action may account for the fact that in an analysis of the House into ‘interests’ that year Norton was noted as a possible adherent of the Junto.4

Norton did not stand in the first general election of 1701, but in August he showed where his sympathies lay when he and Henley presented an address from the Hampshire grand jury upon the King’s return, pledging support in meeting the dangers threatened by the union of France and Spain. It was reported before the second 1701 election that Norton was to stand for the county with the support of the Duke of Bolton (Charles Powlett I*), though he did not contest the election. He did, however, stand in 1702, when he was returned unopposed. He was once again an inactive Member of Parliament. At the beginning of the 1704–5 session he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and he was one of the Members noted by Robert Harley* as a potential lobbyist on the issue. At the division on 28 Nov. 1704 he either voted against the measure or was absent.5

After 1705, when he stood down, Norton seems to have virtually retired from public life, except for his wardenship of the Forest of South Bere, which had involved him in a dispute over perquisites with the Earl of Scarbrough in 1704–5. In 1712 an Act was obtained for transferring to new trustees certain estates originally placed in Norton’s trust under the marriage settlement of his friend Henley, who was now dead. Although this may have been a matter of convenience, it may also have reflected a certain anxiety about Norton’s mental condition. Two years later he drew up a will in which he left the revenues of his estates, then estimated at £6,000 a year, with £60,000 in ready money, to be formed into a fund for the use of the ‘poor, hungry, thirsty, naked strangers, sick, wounded and prisoners to the end of the world’. He appointed Parliament to be his executors, and in the event that Parliament declined the trust, it was to devolve upon the archbishops and bishops. After Norton’s death on 10 Dec. 1732 the will was set aside on the grounds of his insanity.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Ivar McGrath


  • 1. N. and Q. ser. 10, vii. 331–2; Post Boy, 24–26 Feb. 1702.
  • 2. HMC Astley, 94; Hants RO, Winchester corp. recs. ordinance bk. 7, f. 166; Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 209; xx. 28–29, 158; xxvii. 224.
  • 3. VCH Hants, iii. 164, 324; Luttrell Diary, 27, 365.
  • 4. Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 103, 151–2; Add. 40773, f. 113; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 253; iii. 22; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 251, 268.
  • 5. Add. 40775, f. 61; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 154; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn coll. Blathwayt mss, box 20, Robert Yard* to William Blathwayt*, 8 Aug. 1701; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/01/1, Mrs Burnet to Lady Jekyll, [n.d.].
  • 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 209; xx. 28–29, 158; HMC Lords, n.s. ix. 233–4; N. and Q. 332.