Written by: Leo Lawton

May 14, 2011

This is a history of England and the Lawton Family as they intermingle. In places you may find it a little humorous. It was meant to be. However, it is not that farcical, and is a correct history.

History and Stuff 1

A fellow by the name of Henry Tudor was born a Welshman in 1457.  In 1485 with nothing better to do one day, he slew King Richard III in a place called Bosworth Field and declared himself King Henry VII.  Henry, wanting to cement his claim to royalty, arranged a marriage between his son Arthur and Catharine of Aragon who was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.  While they were waiting around for the kids to grow up enough to wed, in 1492 Ferdy and Bella bankrolled that young whippersnapper Chris Columbus as he sailed off westward into the ocean on some wild goose chase he had dreamt up.  The years quickly passed and late in 1501 the youngsters finally got married.

Six months later Arthur was dead.  Henry VII wasn’t about to let that stop him from having a say about what was going to happen in Spain so he up and had his eleven-year-old son, Henry betrothed to the sixteen-year-old widow.  In 1506, the young Henry was considered old enough to wed at fifteen, but now Henry VII wasn’t so sure it was such a good idea so he forced his son to call it off.  Things went bumpily along until 1510 when Henry VII turned up his toes and died.  As one of his first acts King Henry VIII married the beautiful widow Catharine.

Ultimately Catharine and Henry VIII had six children, but only Mary born in 1516 lived more than a couple of months.  When Mary was eleven, in 1527, a couple of noteworthy items took place in England.  First King Henry VIII began an annulment procedure as Catharine had not provided him with a male heir.  The second item was that a fine son named Thomas was born to Richard Lawton of Cranfield, Bedfordshire.  I guess I forgot to mention that Richard Lawton had been born just prior to the turn of the century.

History and Stuff 2

So, old King Henry VIII don’t hear nothing more for four years from the Popery over in Rome about his annulment request, but finally in 1531 it is denied.  Apparently the reasoning was that anyone having six kids can hardly expect to have the Pope decide he had no marriage.  Annulment or not, old Henry VIII started hanging out with  Anne Boleyn.  She wound up pregnant and had a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1533.  King Henry VIII was getting a little tired of Catharine hanging around the castle getting in his way, so he had her removed to a succession of castles where she died in 1536 in one of them.  By this time Anne had produced no son either, so Henry VIII accused her of adultery (though she was never married to him in the first place making adultery impossible), convicted, and beheaded.  Old horny Henry VIII now turned his love interests to Jane Seymour.  Within a couple of weeks of Anne’s untimely demise he married Jane.  Janie got knocked up and delivered a son, Edward, in October 1537.  A couple of weeks after that Jane died.  It was then more than two years before King Henry VIII remarried for the fourth time, to Anne of Cleves.  That only lasted about six months until Henry VIII’s attention started wandering to one of her attendants named Kathryn Howard.  His marriage to Anne was annulled, and he married Kathyrn who was the 19-year-old bride of a 49-year-old king.  Rumors of infidelity began to fly around the castle, but this time it was not the raunchy Henry’s indiscretions, it was those of his wife.  She was charged with promiscuity and it was off with her head in 1542.

In the meantime Henry VIII had been hot under the collar with the Church because the Pope had refused his annulment request.  To make a long story short Henry VIII broke from the Church and confiscated all of their properties, namely the Monasteries and associated lands.  It was at this time that the Lawton family of Cheshire purchased the Monastery property, and it became known as Church Lawton, Cheshire.  At the same time Richard Lawton of Cranfield, Bedfordshire also purchased the Monastery lands there.  His son, Thomas Lawton, was now age fifteen.

History and Stuff 3

Maybe you’ve noticed the cause and effect pattern here.  If most of what took place in the first two segments hadn’t happened, then neither the Lawtons of Cheshire, or those of Bedfordshire, would have owned the property that was formerly owned by the Church.  As the same cause and effect will further affect the Lawton family in the future we will continue with Kings and things for a bit more.

In 1512 a baby girl had been born named Katherine Parr.  Her father died when she was five years old.  By the time she was seventeen, in 1529, she had been married and promptly widowed.  She remarried and in 1542 she was widowed for a second time, but in her thirty years of life she had never had any children.  As King Henry VIII had caused his fifth wife, the former Kathryn Howard, to lose her mind about this same time, he was now single.  As the King was searching for a sixth wife, and Katherine needed a third husband, it seemed ideal for them to wed, so they did.  For nearly five years both managed to stay alive. But in January 1547 King Henry VIII died.  Stepmother to the three children, Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward, Katherine continued as a mother-figure to them.  King Henry VIII had decreed that his son Edward would succeed him.  In case that were impossible, for whatever reason, Mary would be first in line, and Elizabeth was next after Mary.

The ten-year-old Edward ascended to the Throne.  His stepmother Katherine’s brother was made “Protector of the Kingdom” to aid the Boy-King Edward.  This lasted about three years until some time in 1550, and then things began to unravel.  He was replaced by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick.  Oh yes, the plot thickens.  Dudley decided it was in his best interests if King Edward were disposed of.  So, Dudley worked out a plan where King Henry VIII’s youngest sister’s granddaughter, Jane Grey, would marry Dudley’s grandson, Lord Guilford Dudley.  He then insured everyone knew that marriages to Catharine, and Anne, first and second wives of Henry VIII were annulled by the King, theoretically making their children Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate, and unable to become Queen.  Thus Guilford Dudley’s wife would become Queen, bypassing King Edward’s two sisters, and putting John Dudley squarely in control.

History and Stuff 4

King Edward conveniently died in July 1553 at the ripe old age of 16.  John Dudley, seeing his plot coming to fruition, immediately sent troops to capture Mary and Elizabeth.  Dudley had Lady Jane Grey, Guilford Dudley’s wife, declared Queen.  However, Henry VIII didn’t raise any fools for children, and both daughters escaped Dudley’s clutches.  Mary showed up in London 13 days after her brother’s death, declared Lady Jane Grey Dudley an imposter, and Queen Mary I was sworn in.  Her very first act was to present to parliament a petition declaring her father’s marriage to Catharine, her mother, as valid and legal, and it was so passed.  She remained Queen for just over five years, but was not universally popular.  Although Mary was Catholic, she allowed the nobles who had acquired the monastery lands back in 1542 to retain them, thus the Lawton families of Church Lawton, Cheshire and of Cranfield, Bedfordshire kept their estates.  When she died in November 1558, there were joyful outbursts throughout the Kingdom.  Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, reigned from 1558 into the following century.

Meanwhile the deceased Richard Lawton’s son Thomas had grown to be a man, married Joan, daughter of his neighbors Thomas and Ellen Wheeler, and became head of the manor in Cranfield.  In the same year Queen Elizabeth I began her reign Thomas Lawton Jr. was born.  He grew up on the estate and in 1580 he wed a fine young local lady named Mary.  Unto them were born George in 1581, Thomas in 1583, Mary in 1585, and Joan in 1587.  Under the rule of Elizabeth I the Lawtons of Cranfield flourished, times were pleasant, the crops and the children grew speedily and strong.  Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, followed by Thomas Lawton Jr. in 1605.  His son George, now head of the household, married Isbell, daughter of Francis and Ann Smith, the following year.  In 1607 their son George was born, and in 1614 another son Thomas was born.  All together eight children were born unto them.

History and Stuff 5

Backing up a bit, Henry VIII’s oldest sister Margaret married Scotland’s King James IV who reigned from 1488 to 1513.  They had a son James V who reigned from his father’s death until 1542, at which time James V’s daughter Mary became Queen.  She was known as Mary, Queen of Scots, for obvious reasons.  In 1567 she was forced to abdicate in favor of her son, James VI.  Mary hauled butt for England where she asked Queen Elizabeth for protection, which was granted.  As complicated as it seems, with the death of all three children of Henry VIII, the ousted Mary, Queen of Scots, Henry VIII’s grandniece, was next in line to the English Throne.  If Queen Elizabeth I were to die, Mary, Queen of Scots, was heir presumptive to the English Throne.  Hey, if you can’t make it in Scotland, why not try England.  For the next twenty years Mary was the center of several plots designed to rid England of Elizabeth.  In 1587 Elizabeth got tired of this nonsense, had Mary tried for treason, found guilty, and beheaded.  Chalk one up for Elizabeth, politics was played for keeps at the time.  Upon the natural death of Elizabeth in 1603, King James VI of Scotland, as the great great grandson of Henry VII of England, also ascended the Throne of England.  Although the two countries remained completely separate James was King of both, being known as James I of England and James VI of Scotland.

Meanwhile, 92 years after Chris Columbus discovered a whole new previously unknown world, England decided maybe it should be trying to take advantage of its possible wealth.  Queen Elizabeth told Sir Walter Raleigh she would give him title to all land he could colonize.   In 1584 old Walt sent an expedition to scout the New World for a place suitable for settlement.  The expedition members returned with glowing tales of an island they had named Roanoke, thought to be exceptionably suitable to colonize.  Raleigh next sent over a hundred men to tame the wilderness.  They failed and returned to England.  In 1587 Raleigh sent yet another group to the same place.  This second group completely disappeared, and to this day are known as the lost colony.

In 1607, the same year George Lawton was born, a new English colony was started on what was named the James River, in what would one day become Virginia Colony.

History and Stuff 6

James I continued his reign from 1603 through 1625.  In an attempt to assuage the feelings of  the Puritans and the Catholics, he caused a new translation of the Bible.  This is yet known as the King James version of the Bible.  Upon his death his only remaining son, Charles, replaced him in the separated countries of Scotland and England, until 1649.  Charles I, like his father before him, believed in Divine Power, or a God-given right to rule.  He did not get along with Parliament to say the least.  Between 1634-1639, at war with France, Charles resorted to what was known as a Ships Tax.  Individuals were either imprisoned or forced into the armed forces if they refused to pay.

It was during these years that George and Thomas Lawton, along with Thomas’ wife and daughter both named Elizabeth, of Cranfield, Bedfordshire left their homes, and their country, for the relative insecurity of a new beginning in the far-off wilderness of the New World Colonies.  One must take into consideration that they were probably assessed an amount of tax they either could not, or would not, pay.  As there is no known record of their departure, one can only assume they probably left in the dark of night for the nearest seaport, there to be unnamed passengers on a ship sailing west.

After the Jamestown Colony of Virginia had earned the name of the first permanent English settlement in the New World, another was founded far to the north in what is today Massachusetts.  In 1620 Plymouth Colony was formed, later to join with the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Roger Williams broke from that colony in 1636 and started another to the south, which he named Providence Plantation.

In 1638, due to religious differences, a group called Antinomians also broke from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  This group settled on an island further to the south than Williams, and named their settlement Portsmouth.  More on that later.  Suffice it to say that the original group settling there in 1638 signed a Compact which did not include the signatures of the Lawton brothers.  Yet, in early 1639, another Compact was signed, which did include those two gentlemen’s names.  The Lawton family had arrived in America.

History and Stuff 7

Can you imagine what the weather was like on March 7, 1638?  It must have been cold, possibly snowy, surely raw and unpredictable as the Massachusetts Bay Colony outcast Antinomians struggled to the home of William Coddington and signed the Portsmouth Compact as a beginning of a new settlement.


After the nineteen signers had affixed their signatures, they and their families made their way by boat around Cape Cod and up Narragansett Bay to Providence Plantations.  They had been preceded by three members who had purchased the island of Aquidneck of Conanicus and Miantonmah, Chief Sachems of the Narragansett Indian tribe.  The deed was dated March 24, 1638, and it was for consideration of forty fathoms of white beads.  In addition ten coats and twenty hoes had been offered, and accepted, to insure the natives left the island before the following winter.

The first recorded meeting was held May 13, 1638, and the first law was “None shall be received as inhabitants or Freeman to build or plant upon the island but such as shall be received in by the consent of the Bodye and do submit to the Government that is or shall be established according to the word of God.  It is further ordered that every inhabitant of this Island shall be always provided of one muskett, one pound of powder, twenty bullets, and two fademe of match with sword and rest and Bandeliers, all completely furnixhed.”

A meeting was held a week later, and yet another June 27, 1638.  At this last meeting a price of two shillings per acre was placed upon the land.  This price remained in effect until 1713, at which time all land had been sold.  William Hutchinson and John Coggeshall were elected treasurers, to collect all of the shillings.

History and Stuff 8

Thirty-one year old George Lawton was assessed an onerous Ships Tax by Charles I’s government..  He was threatened with armed forces duty and/or prison if he refused.  After much solemn thought and discussion with his twenty-four year old married brother, it was decided to leave their land, their livelihood, and the safety of nearly everything else they had ever known, to embark on a new life in the New World Colonies.  With little fanfare the two, as well as Thomas’ wife and year-old daughter both named Elizabeth, packed all that they could carry on a perilous journey to a new beginning.

When they reached the seaport they met a sea captain willing to provide them a berth in the belly of a freighter.  Their assigned living quarters were a three foot by six foot bunk for each of the adults.  They had to prepare their own meals, but only when the Captain agreed the ship was steady enough to light a small fire on a bed of sand.  The food rations were little more than a starvation diet, but they did subsist on what was offered.

Day and night they lay in their bunks listening to the creaking of the timbers as their small craft wended its way across the breadth of an ocean.  The ship hardly ever stopped bobbing up and down, and there were times it was terrifying when a storm caught up with them.  Lightning slashed across a stormy sky as the ship nearly went into convulsions as it tossed about in the massive waves.  Oh how Elizabeth longed for her old home.  It was over two months of this horrendous routine before the weary voyagers finally heard someone shout “Land Ho!”  Several days later they arrived at their debarkation point, and finally stepped on dry land again.

Within a short while they had made their way to Aquidneck Island to cast their lot with the new settlement of Portsmouth.  At a meeting held April 30, 1639 the little group at Portsmouth wrote the following:  We whose names are under (written acknowledge) ourselves the legall subjects of (his Majestic) King Charles and in his name (doe hereby binde) ourselves into  civill body politicke unto his laws according to matters of justice.  Words in parentheses are missing.  There were thirty-one signers of this second compact.  Among them appears the signature of George Lawton and the X recorded by Thomas.  Yes, I know a descendant of George who tells me I am a descendant of the dumb brother, Thomas, because he was unable to sign his name.

History and Stuff 9

One of the requirements to live in Portsmouth was that the resident had to build a shelter on his property.  One early settler described his first home as:

I lashed a pole to two adjacent trees about seven feet high.  I then built up four walls of rocks found on the site, set with clay from a nearby bog, to a height of five feet.  I suspended poles from the ridgepole to the side walls, and then piled evergreen branches on top of those.  In one corner I built a fireplace for cooking and heat in winter.  Above this I left a flap that could be raised and lowered to allow smoke to pass.  This sufficed for our first winter.

A brass pot and a copper skillet were brought from England on our passage.  We also brought some large needles, with which we were able to sew animal hides together, which we got from the natives.  We used these for a bed, and for a door to our new home.  I was able to make hewn limb chairs and a table.

As well as the hides we were able to trade with the natives for eels, berries, ducks, meat, and a grain they called maize.  We ate the meat of the eel, and then dried and cured the skins.  The eel skins we cut in strips and braided into ropes.  The berries were also dried and were kept well into the winter.  The natives cast large nets over ducks while they were on the water, catching several at a time.  We had brought hooks with us from home and fish were plentiful and easy to catch.

History and Stuff 10

In the second installment of this short family narrative we learned that King Henry VIII, in a snit with the Catholic Church of Rome over his denied annulment request, confiscated all property formerly belonging to the Church.  He then proceeded to sell this same property to the highest bidder.  Richard Lawton of Cranfield, Bedfordshire purchased the former Monastery lands of that area.  At the same time, William Lawton purchased the former Monastery lands in Cheshire.  It might seem the two families were connected in some manner, but that has never been discovered by anyone I know.

Previous to that for centuries the dreaded North Men had been raiding the coasts of all other lands, attacking and carrying off anything of value they could find.  Gold, Silver, art, and fair young maidens were all treasures.  Then they began to settle on some of the lands they had formerly raided.  All along the Angle land of the eastern side of the large island to the north of the continent was becoming dotted with the  settlements of the North Men (Northmen, Norsemen, Normans).  Also along the northern coast of the continent itself Norman settlements began to sprout, like weeds in a fertile garden.  As time passed Normans also appeared along continent river banks that led to the channel between the island and the continent.  This area of France became known as Normandy.  Before 1042 there was little concept of a united country on the large island.  Then Edward the Confessor ascended to the throne of what today is England (a slurred version of Angleland).  When Edward died, William  Duke of Normandy had been promised the throne of England.  However, Harold a former aide to King Edward, declared himself King.  William crossed the channel, slew Harold, and declared himself King.  He was forever known as William the Conqueror.  A man named Hugh arrived as a part of William’s army.  Ultimately descendants of Hugh became the Lawton family of Cheshire.

Going backward in time, today’s Lawtons of Cheshire were almost assuredly of Norman stock from Normandy.  Normans were from the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.  So today’s Lawtons, of the Cheshire sort, are Scandinavian, or French, or English, or something else.

History and Stuff 11

A few days ago the Lawton brothers of Bedfordshire left King Charles I to his own devices.  You may recall that a lot of Englishmen were none too fond of him.  Things regressed downhill from there to the point that on January 20, 1649 King Charles I was tried by the House of Commons for treason.  Although King Charles I denied their right to do so, he was found guilty and ten days later he was introduced to Madame Guillotine.  For the next ten years England was under the control of Oliver Cromwell, followed by his son Richard, by action of the English Army.  In near civil war conditions Richard resigned in 1649.  A new Parliament was elected.  They decided to bring back the prior form of government consisting of a king, Lords and Commons.  The eldest surviving son of Charles I, Charles II was proclaimed king in 1660, but he dated his reign from the date of his father’s death which meant he was seated in his twelth year.  This, and the following years is known as The Restoration.

During the years of the Cromwells, Charles II feared for his life.  He lived in various places for varying lengths of time.  For some length of time in 1656 he was an invited house guest of the Lawtons of Church Lawton, Cheshire, a risky venture indeed.  Squire of the manor at the time was William Lawton.  It so happened that William and his wife Hester (Longueville) were blessed with the birth of their first son in the year 1656.  He was named John after his grandfather Squire John Lawton who had died in 1654.  King Charles II acted as a sponsor to the baby, John, and presented him with his silver drinking cup as a christening gift, remarking that he had little else to offer at the time.  The cup is yet in existence, properly marked to reflect the occasion.  The King also left a carved wooden snuffbox with the Lawton family as a token of his appreciation.  After the restoration, the King had his portrait painted, and presented that to the Lawton family as well.