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HOUGHTON, Sir ROBERT (1548–1624), judge, son of John Houghton of Gunthorpe, Norfolk, was born at Gunthorpe on 3 Aug. 1548, entered Lincoln's Inn on 11 March 1569, where he was called to the bar on 10 Feb. 1577, was Lent reader in 1591 and 1600, and one of the governors from 1588 to 1603. He was returned to parliament in 1592–3 for Norwich, of which city he was elected recorder in 1595. On 17 May 1603 he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law. In 1612 he resigned the recordership of Norwich, and on 21 April 1613 he was appointed to a puisne judgeship in the king's bench and knighted. When required in January 1614-15 to give a separate extra-judicial opinion for the guidance of the crown in the case of the puritan Peacham [q. v.], he at first demurred on the ground of his inexperience of business of that nature, but being, as Bacon said, 'a soft man,' ultimately consented; he also acted with the majority of the judges in the celebrated commendam case in 1616 [see Coke, Sir Edward, 1552–1634]. Houghton died in February 1623–4 at his chambers in Serjeants' Inn, and was buried on the 6th in the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, where his widow, Mary, daughter of Robert Rychers of Wrotham, Kent, caused a splendid monument to be erected to his memory. He is described by Croke as 'a most reverend, prudent, learned, and temperate judge and inferior to none in his time' (Croke, Rep. James I, p. 685). Several manors which he held in Norfolk descended to his heir, Francis, and remained long in his posterity. His sister Cecilia married Richard Thurlow of Burnham Ulph, Norfolk, a lineal ancestor of Lord Thurlow.

[Blomefield's Norfolk, ed. 1805, iii. 359, 370, v. 272., xi. 113; Dugdale's Orig, 254, 261–2; Nichols's Progr. James I, i. 157, ii. 627; Burke's Peerage, 'Thurlow;' Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.