ACTON, Laurence (d.1410), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Mich. 1385-93; mayor 1393-6.2
J.p. Newcastle-upon-Tyne 26 Dec. 1390.
Commr. of inquiry, Northumb. June 1399, July 1401 (lands of John Chamber).
Acton came from the cadet branch of a distinguished Northumbrian family which occupied estates at Acton and Old Felton from the early 13th century onwards. He was by no means the first of its members to play a permanent part in the affairs of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for his grandfather, William Acton†, served almost continuously as bailiff there from 1336 to 1351, and represented the town in at least two Parliaments during this period. His uncle, Sir William†, pursued a similar career, being twice elected mayor and also acquiring a reputation as a local benefactor by founding the Walk Knoll hospital. Sir William was well placed to further the interests of his younger brother, Laurence, who in turn followed the family tradition by discharging six terms as bailiff of Newcastle and attending Parliament regularly during the 1370s. Not surprisingly, in view of their influence in both the borough and the county, the Actons were able to make good marriages into other landowning families such as the Musgraves and Widdringtons; and Laurence himself took Sir William Sturmyn’s daughter, Elizabeth, as his wife. Besides his extensive property in Newcastle, he owned the manor of Hazon (which he acquired with land at Elswick in 1380), and other holdings in Cramlington, Blaydon, and Jesmond. These passed, in January 1387, to his son and namesake, who had already begun a period of eight unbroken years as bailiff of Newcastle, and had also spent some time, in the early 1380s, defending Berwick-upon-Tweed in the retinue of Henry, earl of Northumberland. He had, moreover, represented Newcastle once in Parliament while Laurence Acton the elder was still alive.3
It was almost certainly in accordance with the terms of his father’s will that Laurence Acton the younger and the master of the Walk Knoll hospital obtained a royal licence, in March 1387, for the endowment of St. Nicholas’s church, Newcastle, with rents worth 14d. a year. Not all the arrangements concerning the deceased’s estate seem to have been effected so smoothly, however, as in the following January Laurence and one of his late father’s trustees were summoned to appear before the King and his council at Westminster. The outcome of these investigations is not recorded but he remained in office as bailiff, and was, indeed, returned again to Parliament three years later. His son, another Laurence, had evidently come of age by April 1395, when an inquisition ad quod damnum was held in Newcastle to determine if they could together alienate two plots of land to the corporation for the building of a bridge over the Lot Burn and the extension of the highway leading to it. Since Laurence Acton, the father, was then mayor of the town, his plans met with no opposition; and two months later royal letters patent were issued permitting him to dispose of the property in question as he wished. Acton senior attended two more Parliaments, in 1397 (Sept.) and 1399, and served twice as a commissioner of inquiry at the very beginning of Henry IV’s reign. He then retired from public life and lived in virtual obscurity until his death, shortly before October 1410, when a writ of diem clausit extremum was issued in his name. The Laurence Acton who held office as mayor of Newcastle in the 1430s (during which time he also represented the borough in the House of Commons) is generally believed to have been his son, but it seems more likely, on chronological grounds, that he was, in fact, a grandson.4
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Aketon, Dacton.
- 1. Arch. Aeliana n.s. i. 30; (ser. 4), xiv. 30. The Acton family pedigree as set out in Hist. Northumb. v. 467; vii. 369 is confused, failing to distinguish clearly between successive generations. It was almost certainly the MP’s son and namesake who married a wife named Maud; no definite evidence survives about the identity of his own wife.
- 2. Surtees Soc. cxxxvii. 155, 170, 219-20.
- 3. Hist. Northumb. vii. 369; Arch. Aeliana, n.s. i. 30; Cal. Scots. Docs. (supp.) v. nos. 4093, 4109; CP25(1)181/14/7.
- 4. CPR, 1385-9, p. 283; 1391-6, p. 584; CCR, 1385-9, p. 393; 1409-13, p. 336; C143/424/1; CFR, xiii. 189.