Search billions of records on

Lineage: Grace6, Thomas5, Robert4, Thomas3, Thomas2, John1

  NORTON, 1582-1701 Related Families:  Cooper | Merry | Cranmer | Sands | Hare | Wells
| Seward | Scranton | Cole

Migration: Bedfordshire, ENG>London, ENG>New Haven, CT


        (1)  John Norton, born abouit 1483, of Sharpenhow, Bedfordshire, England; married Jane Cooper (Cowper). Parents of:


        (2) Thomas Norton, born about 1500, died 10 March 1584; married Elizabeth Merry, daughter of Robert Merry of Northall, member of the Inner Temple. Thomas Norton was a wealthy citizen and purchased Sharpenhoe from the Crown. Thomas' second wife was brought up in the house of Thomas More and is said to have practised necromancy, but became insane and drowned herself in 1582. The third wife, Elizabeth Marshall, who has been mistakenly listed as the wife of Thomas (1532-1584), was the widow of Ralph Ratcliffe of Hitchen Hertfordshire.
        The Norton family was closely connected with the Grocers Company.
        In his work, England Under the Tudors, G. R. Elton has the following to say about Thomas Norton, in a section dealing with pressure put on Queen Elizabeth over the isue of succession to the throne:

        In the Commons there was a body of some 40 or 50 very active members, mostly with puritan sympathies, who dominated the less independent men and were not afraid of taking issue with the privy councillors who represented the queen and government. The unofficial leader of the first of this 'choir' , as a contemporary called them, was Thomas Norton, the first of the great puritan parliament men and the hero of the two sessions of this parliament....
        Thomas Norton...died (1584) after nearly 25 years in the commons. A ready debater, skilful tactician, and strongly principled puritan, he more than anyone had nursed and shaped the parliamentary opposition of the reign. His reward was a general fame as 'Master Norton the Parliament-man', though it is only recently, after being for long overshadowed by the more assertive and dramatic Wentworth that he has come into his own again. [Note at bottom of the page: Norton is the real hero of professor Neale's Elizabeth I and her Parliaments 1559-81].

Parents of:


        (3) Thomas Norton, a.k.a. "Rackmaster-General of England" for his tortuous inquisitions of Catholics; married first Margaret Cranmer, daughter of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he had no children; married second Alice Cranmer, daughter of Thomas' brother Edmund Cranmer, Archdeacon of Canterbury, and Alice Sands.
        Thomas was a famed Elizabethan-era poet and lawyer. He debated anti-Roman Catholic measures in the English Parliament and examined Roman Catholics under torture. He translated John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (1561), among other important works. He is most famous for his co-authorship with Thomas Sackville (cousin to Queen Elizabeth) of Gorboduc, the first English-language drama to be composed entirely in blank verse.
        Thomas got his M.A. at Cambridge on 10 June 1570. It was said that he had a brother Lucas who was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1583. As a boy Thomas entered the service of the Protector Somerset and eagerly adopted his amanuensis' views on religious reform. He entered the Inner Temple in 1555 and soon after married Margery, third daughter of Thomas Cranmer. His wife's stepfather was Edward Whitchurch, the Calvinistic printer and Thomas lived under his roof for a time. He was called to the bar and his practice grew rapidly. On Lady Day 1562, he became standing counsel to the Stationers Company, and on 18 June 1581 Solicitor to the Merchant Taylors Company.
        Norton's activity and legal ability soon recommended him to the Queen's ministers. In January 1581 Thomas became official censor of the Queen's Catholic subjects. He complained to Walsingham on 27 March 1582 about being known as the "Rackmaster General". Amongst those Thomas tortured were Alexander Briant, Thomas Myagh (an Irishman who had already been "loosened up" by Skevington), Edmund Campion, and Francis Throgmorton.
        But Thomas’ concern over the church's lack of zeal lead to him being imprisoned in the Tower where he continued to press Walsingham to be harsher with the Catholics. Although freed, his health had suffered and he died at his house at Sharpenhoe on 10 March 1584. He was buried at Streatley Church and the will he had written on his death bed was proved 15 April 1584. His executor was Thomas Cranmer, his wife's brother.
        Thomas Norton's second wife, Alice Cranmer, was always a bigoted Protestant and fell victim to religious mania. By 1582 she was hopelessly insane. At the time of her husband's death she was living at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, under the care of her eldest daughter Ann, the wife of Sir George Coppin. She never recovered her reason and was still at Cheshunt early in 1602. She was afterwards removed to Bethlehem Hospital.


  1. Robert, mentioned below
  2. Anne; married Sir George Coppin.
  3. Elizabeth; married Myles Raynesford.
  4. Henry; married Sarah Lawson.
  5. William.


        (4) Robert Norton, born 1575, died 1634; married Anne Hare (Heare), daughter of Robert Hare. In his pedigree entered in the 1634 visitation of Hertfordshire, Robert listed himself as son of Thomas first wife, Margaret, but according to Mr. Waters (Chesters of Chichley) she died without issue in 1568.
        Robert studied engineering and gunnery under John Reinolds, Master Gunner of England, and through his influence was made a master gunner in the royal service.
        On 11 March 1624, he received the grant of a gunner's room in the Tower of London, and on 26 September 1627 he was sent to Plymouth in the capacity of engineer to await the arrival of the Earl of Holland and to accompany him to the Isle of Rhé. In that same year he was granted the post of Engineer of the Tower of London, for life.

        In 1628 he authored The Gunner, which included discussions of artillery theories, as well as of developments in hardware, such as corned gunpowder. On the title page he describes himself as "one of his Maiesties Gunners and Enginiers" , and says by way of preface: "lead on by Experience the Mistris of all Arts, Action being the best Tutor...I...h
aue endeuoured herein more to respect a few experimented truthes, then many Rhethoricall imbellishments of words." Gunnery, he said, was a profound study, "euen able to spose the knowne parts of Naturall Philosophy, Arithmetick, Geometry, and Perspectiue, each of which her handmayd is." His work was later borrowed from by John Bate in his Book of Fireworks (1635), containing information derived from "the noted Professors, as Mr. Malthus, Mr. Norton, and the French Author, Des Recreations Mathematiques."
        Robert's later work, The Gunner's Dialogue, published in 1643, described the type of pieces used in the artillery at the start of the Civil War in England. aMong questions posed in the dialogue were: "If you were to make a shot in the night, at a mark showed you in the day, how would you prepare for it?" and, "How would you make a shot at an enemies light, in a dark night, not having any candle, lanthorn, or other light by you?"
        Robert died in 1635, his will was dated 28th January 1634/5 and proved that February 19th. Parents of:


        (5) Thomas Norton, baptized 15 September 1609 at Sharpenhoe, Streatley, Bedfordshire, England, died 16 May 1648, Guilford, New Haven Co., Connecticut; married 5 May 1631 in Shelton Parish, Bedfordshire, England, Grace Wells, born about 1584 in Bedfordshire, England, died August 1648 in Guilford, New Haven Co., Connecticut.
        They emigrated with Rev. Mr. Whitfield in 1639 to Guilford, New Haven Colony, Connecticut, where Thomas was a signer of the Plantation Covenant, and one of the original proprietors. There he served as town miller until his death nien years later.
        His home lot in Guilford contained two acres and was on the west side of Crooked Lane (now State Street); upon his death the lot fell to his son, John, and was afterwards occupied by Thomas' son-in-law, Lt. William Seward. Thomas also owned seventeen and one-half of "upland in the plains" and a parcel of one and one-half acres of marsh land by the seaside. Parents of:

  1. Grace, born before 13 January 1631/1632 in Deems, Bedfordshire, England, died 5 March 1701/1702 in Guilford, New Haven Co., England; married 2 Apr 1651 in Guilford, New Haven Co., Connecticut, Lt. William Seward, born about 1627 in England, died 2 March 1688/1689 in Guilford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Parents of:
    1. Mary Seward, born 28 February 1651/1652 in New Haven, New Haven Co., Connecticut, died about 1688; married 12 March 1672/1673 in Guilford, New Haven Co., Connecticut, Capt. John Scranton., born about 1641 in Guilford, New Haven Co., Connecticut, died 2 September 1703. Parents of:
      1. Mercy Scranton, born about 1705 in Wallingford, Connecticut; married Samuel Cole, born 7 March 1698 in Wallingford, Connecticut.


© Mark A. Wentling, 2000-2002
Return to the LEGENDS Menu
Created 29 November 2002