Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Norton, Matthew Thomas

NORTON, MATTHEW THOMAS (1732–1800), Dominican, born in 1732 at Roundhay, near Leeds, was converted to the Roman catholic faith during a visit to Flanders, and was professed as a Dominican on 23 Oct. 1754, at the college of Bornhem (situate between Ghent and Antwerp), which had been founded by Philip Thomas Howard [q. v.] in 1657. Norton subsequently studied at the English college of St. Thomas Aquinas in Louvain, and was designed to serve in the island of Santa Cruz in the West Indies; but this assignation was prohibited by the master-general on 2 Dec. 1758. On 29 June 1759 he left Bornhem for Aston Flamville in Leicestershire; on 9 Aug. in the same year he moved to Sketchley, and in the spring of 1765 he removed the mission to Hinckley, near Leicester. In November 1767 he was elected prior of Bornhem, and entirely rebuilt both the convent and the secular college attached to it. He revisited Hinckley in March 1771, but was re-elected prior of Bornhem in 1774, and was instituted rector of St. Thomas's College, Louvain, on 17 Feb. 1775. He was appointed vicar-provincial of Belgium, and held that office from 1774 to 1778; and he was granted the degree of D.D. by the university of Louvain in 1783. He returned to Hinckley in October 1780, built the Roman catholic chapel there in 1793, and thence served Leicester from October 1783 to August 1785. He also founded a mission at Coventry. He died at Hinckley on 7 Aug. 1800, and was buried in Aston Flamville churchyard; his epitaph is given at length by Nichols (Hist. and Antiq. of Leicestershire, iv. 453).

Norton won three medals offered by the Brussels Academy for dissertations respectively upon raising wool (Les moyens de perfectionner dans les Provinces Belgiques la Laine des Moutons, 1777, 4to), upon the using of oxen as beasts of draught (L'Emploi des Bœufs dans nos Provinces, tant pour l'agriculture que pour le transport des marchandises sur les canaux, &c. 1778, 4to), and on raising bees (Les meilleurs moyens d'élever les Abeilles dans nos Provinces, 1780, 4to). He was a strong advocate of the use of oxen by farmers in preference to horses, and purposed writing a work in English upon this subject, in expansion of the ‘Mémoire,’ which, together with the two others mentioned, was published by the Académie Impériale des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Bruxelles.

[Palmer's Obituary Notices of Friar Preachers of the English Province, 1884, p. 21, together with some additional notes kindly supplied by the author; Nichols's History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, iv. 473; Namur's Bibliographie Académique Belge, Liège, 1838, p. 22; Monk's General View of the Agriculture of the County of Leicester, 1794.]

T. S.