Open main menu

MORTON, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1672), judge, was the son of James Morton of Clifton, Worcestershire, by his wife Jane, daughter of William Cook of Shillwood, Worcestershire, and great-grandson to Sir Rowland Morton of Massington, Herefordshire, a master of requests in the time of Henry VIII. He became a member of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1622 and M.A. in 1625 : and, having been a student of the Inner Temple concurrently since 24 Oct. 1622, he was called to the bar on 28 Nov. 1630. His name first appears in the 'Reports' in 1639, and shortly after that he took arms on the royal side, fought and was wounded in several actions. He was knighted, served as lieutenant-colonel in Lord Chandos's horse, and was governor of Lord Chandos's castle at Sudeley, Gloucestershire, when it surrendered in June 1644 to General Waller. Clarendon describes the surrender as forced upon him by the treachery of a subordinate and by the mutiny of his men ; but there is no mention of this in Waller's own official account of the surrender (see Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1644, p. 219). Morton was sent to the Tower, and was imprisoned for some years. After hostilities were concluded he returned to the bar, though his name does not figure in the 'Reports.' He became a bencher of the Inner Temple on 24 Nov. 1659, and after the Restoration his courage and fidelity were rewarded. He received the degree of serjeant-at-law in 1660, was a commissioner of assize for Carmarthenshire in 1661, was appointed recorder of Gloucester early in 1662, and counsel to the dean and chapter of Worcester. He was made a king's serjeant in July 1663, and on 23 Nov. 1665 succeeded Sir John Kelynge in the king's bench, and ' discharged his office with much gravity andlearning.' He is said to have particularly set his face against highway robbery, and prevented the grant of a pardon to Claude Duval [q. v.] after his conviction by threatening to resign his judgeship if a pardon were granted. He died in the autumn of 1672, and was buried in the Temple Church. He married Anne, daughter and heiress of John Smyth of Kidlington in Oxfordshire, by whom he had several children, of whom one, Sir James, succeeded him. Besides his lodgings in Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street, which were burnt in the great fire, he had, through his wife, a house at Kidlington, and also was lord of the manor (Anthony à Wood, Fasti Oxon. i. 63; cf. Burton, Diary, iv. 262). A portrait of Morton in his robes, by Van-dyck, belonging to Mr. Bulkeley Owen, was No. 963 in the first Loan Exhibition of National Portraits.

[Foss's Lives of the Judges ; Croke's Reports ; Visitations of Worcestershire, 1634 ; Clarendon, iv. 489 ; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661 ; Pope's Memoirs of Duval; Macaulay's Hist. i. 187.]

J. A. H.