STOUGHTON, William (?1543-1612), of Worplesdon, Witley and Stoke-next-Guildford, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. ?1548, 1st s. of Anthony Stoughton of Warwick by his 1st w. Jane, da. of Thomas Jones of Witley. m. Elizabeth, da. of William Muschamp of East Horsley, Surr. and Kensington, Mdx., 7s. 3da. suc. fa. 1574.2

Offices Held

Lay commissary of peculiar of Groby, Leics. by 1575.


Stoughton’s father began his career in the household of Catherine Howard, and remained a courtier during four reigns. In 1562 Elizabeth confirmed the grant of the hospital of St. John in Warwick, which remained his family’s main residence. Stoughton himself, though the eldest son and heir, remained in Surrey. His background is obscure. If he was the William Stoughton who qualified as a civil lawyer, it is odd that he should be described as ‘gent.’ on the election return. At any rate he became associated in some way (probably as a member of his household) with the puritan 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, whose religious views he shared, and who may have obtained for him the position at Groby, since, as a peculiar, it was exempt from diocesan jurisdiction. His return to Parliament for Grampound in 1584 may have been due to Huntingdon’s friendship with the 2nd Earl of Bedford. Stoughton was added, 16 Dec. 1584, to the committee examining the many religious petitions offered to the House, which, in turn, compiled a petition for the Lords containing a demand for the removal of unqualified ministers. On the following 15 Feb. he ‘offered unto this house a certain supplication in parchment of certain abuses in the ministry within the county of Leicester’, one of several county reports which the puritans had been compiling for some time. His interests as a country gentleman are reflected in his appointment to a committee for the preservation of game, 17 Mar. 1585, and on 26 Mar. he was in charge of a committee dominated by puritans which, contrary to the Queen’s specific order, revived a bill against excessive fees in ecclesiastical courts.3

Little is known about Stoughton’s later career. He appears as a witness to several wills in Surrey in the 1590s ! but there is no local evidence to indicate whether he was pursuing any puritan activities there. Early in James I’s reign he published abroad An Assertion for True and Christian Church Policy, advocating a reformed episcopate and an end to canon law. He thought ministers should be selected by their congregations.4

Stoughton’s will, made in January and proved in November 1612 suggests that he died in debt, though he made provision for his wife and six surviving sons and daughters. He owned land in Witley, Kingston, Pirbright and Stoke, Surrey, and some of his furniture was in the parsonage at Stoke. A long passage towards the end of the will suggests that his religious beliefs had not changed.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. Dugdale, Warws. 460.
  • 2. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 171 table; iii. 29; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii); Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 141, 315; P. Collinson, Letters of Thomas Wood, x; Eliz. Puritan Movement, 181.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xv. 9 and xvi. 175; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 110; CPR, 1555-7, p. 396; VCH Warws. ii. 115-16; v. 121; Collinson thesis, 504, 508-11; Nichols, Leics. iv. 632-3; D’Ewes, 340, 349, 369, 373.
  • 4. Surr. Rec. Soc. iii. 52, 92, 106-7; W. Stoughton, An Assertion, 13-14, 36-7, 191, 247.
  • 5. PCC 103 Fenner.