Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sutton, Richard (d.1524)
SUTTON, Sir RICHARD (d. 1524), co-founder of Brasenose College, Oxford, is said by Churton to have been related to William Sutton, D.D., who in 1468 was principal of Brasenose Hall, and bore the coat-of-arms of the Suttons of Cheshire, also borne by Sir Richard Sutton. This conjecture is corroborated by a pedigree entered at Glover's visitation of Cheshire in 1580, which represents Richard as the younger son of Sir William Sutton, knt., of Sutton in the parish of Presbury, master of the hospital of Burton Lazars, Leicestershire, a preferment which seems at this time to have been hereditary in the family (Churton, p. 411; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, IV. i. 154). Nothing is known of his education, but he must have become a member of the Inner Temple, his name appearing with two others in the ‘Catalogus Gubernatorum’ for nine years between 1505 and 1523; in 1520, 1522, and 1523 it heads the list (Dugdale, Orig. Jurid. p. 172; Inner Temple Records). He is stated to have repaired the Temple Church.
That he early acquired affluence, presumably by the exercise of his profession, may be inferred from the circumstance that in 1491 and 1499 he purchased land at Somerby, Leicestershire. In 1498 he appears as a member of the privy council, possibly as a kind of legal assessor, since he is styled in the dockets of the court of requests ‘Sutton jurisperitus.’ He also became, though at what date is unknown, steward of the monastery of Sion, a valuable preferment; in 1522, on the occasion of ‘an annual grant by the spiritualty’ for the French war, we find the entry ‘Mr. Sutton of Sion 100l.’ (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iii. ii. 1049). In this capacity he displayed his love of literature by bearing the expenses of the publication of ‘The Orcharde of Syon,’ a folio printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1519, and a ‘most superb and curious specimen of ancient English topography.’ He also gave certain estates purchased in the neighbourhood to the monastery.
Sutton's project of participating in the foundation of a college appears to have become known in January 1508, when Edmund Croston, who had been principal of Brasenose Hall, bequeathed the sum of 6l. 13s. 4d. towards ‘the building of Brasynnose in Oxford, if such works as the bishop of Lyncoln and Master Sotton intended there went on during their life or within twelve years after’ [see Smith or Smyth, William, (1460?–1514)]. In October 1508 Sutton obtained from University College a lease of Brasenose Hall and Little University Hall for ninety-two years at 3l. a year, the interest of the grantors to be released upon conveyance by Sutton to University College of land of the same net yearly value. The site, however, was not absolutely conveyed to Brasenose College till May 1523, the year before Sutton's death. In the same year (1508) he acquired, with a view to the endowment of the future college, lands at Borowe in the parish of Somerby, Leicestershire, and in the parish of St. Mary-le-Strand, Middlesex. In 1512 he added the manor of Cropredy, Oxfordshire, and in 1513 an estate at North Ockington or Wokyndon in Essex. All these estates he conveyed to the college in 1519, the value of them being nearly equal to those given by Bishop Smyth. In 1512 he was also instrumental in obtaining an endowment for the college of lands in Berkshire by Mrs. Elizabeth Morley, probably a relative. In 1522 he further added an estate at Garsington and Cowley, Oxfordshire. All these properties had been recently purchased by him, which proves him to have acquired a large amount of personalty. The presence of his arms over the gateway of Corpus Christi College, of which the first president, John Claymond [q. v.], was a benefactor to Brasenose, indicates that Sutton was probably also a contributor to the expense of the building of Corpus in 1516.
No record exists of the date at which Sutton was knighted. He was esquire in May 1522, but a knight before March 1524, when he made his will. The will was proved on 7 Nov. 1524, and, as he was long commemorated by Brasenose College on the Sunday after Michaelmas, it is probable that he died at that period of the year. An inventory of his goods in the Inner Temple was presented to the parliament of that inn on 22 Oct. 1524. He lived in the inn and was unmarried. The place of his burial is unknown, but it may possibly have been Macclesfield, where, or alternatively at Sutton, he ordered the endowment of a chantry for the repose of his soul, and of the souls of Edward IV and Elizabeth his wife, and of sundry other eminent persons, most of whom appear to have been members of the Yorkist party. Sir Richard bequeathed money to the master of the Temple and to the abbess of Sion for pious purposes, to Clement's Inn and to Macclesfield grammar school. He left 40l. for making a highway about St. Giles-in-the-Fields.
Sutton was the first lay founder of a college, and that he was a man of piety and letters is evidenced by his benefactions. His relaxation of the severity of the college statutes after Bishop Smyth's death shows that his piety was free from the austerity of the ecclesiastic. With Smyth he may be taken to have entertained some distrust of the new learning of the renaissance, if we may rely not only on the statutes of the college but on a saying of his recorded by the Duke of Norfolk in 1537: ‘Non est amplius fides super terram’ (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, xii. ii. 291). The portrait of Sutton, clad in armour and surcoat quartering the arms of Sainsbury with those of Sutton, hangs in the hall of Brasenose. By his side is the open visor of a knight's helmet. It is difficult, however, to believe that the benevolent and somewhat weak face, apparently of a young man under thirty years of age, was the likeness of a man who in 1522 or 1523 had passed a long and active career. If, as may be supposed, the portrait is genuine, the face was probably a copy of an earlier portrait with the knightly accessories added, possibly after his death.[State Papers, Dom. Hen. VIII, vols. ii. and iii.; Churton's Lives of William Smyth, bishop of Lincoln, and Sir Richard Sutton, Knight, 1800; Inderwick's Calendar of the Inner Temple Records, 1896, vol. i.]