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Buxton Family of Norfolk



Towards the end of the sixteenth century the Buxton family adopted a fictitious pedigree tracing their ancestry back to Peter de Bukton, seneschal and steward in the household of the Earl of Derby, afterwards King Henry IV, but for heraldic as well as genealogical reasons it is more likely that the family originates from Oulton or Irmingland near Buxton in Norfolk, from which the family name almost certainly derives.

The earliest records of this family begin with John Buxton junior (d. 1522) in 1464. Through careful land management and marriages the family grew to be one of the major landowning families in the region. Robert Buxton (d. 1528) acquired the manor of Channons near Tibenham by marriage to Christiana Glemham, and his son John (1488-1572) built Channons Hall during the 1560s, home to the Buxton family for the next 200 years.

Under Robert Buxton (c. 1533-1607) the family rose to prominence. Robert entered the service of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, as surveyor and solicitor in 1559, serving him faithfully until the duke's death in 1572. After the duke's death Robert Buxton looked after the interests of his son Philip, Earl of Arundel, and later was one of the very few men licenced to visit the earl in the Tower. Robert Buxton was appointed one of the government's surveyor generals of the Howard lands in Norfolk and Suffolk. For his services to the crown he was rewarded, first with a lease of Rushford College (1580), and in 1599 with a licence to purchase the property. Between December 1597 and April 1599, however, he spent more than a year in Fleet prison. The reasons for his imprisonment are not clear, but may be connected with disputes over Rushford College and other Howard lands following the Earl of Arundel's attainder. Buxton's political influence in Norfolk and Suffolk is demonstrated by the offices he held: MP for Bramber (1559), Horsham (1563) and Arundel (1584), mayor of Thetford in 1588 and 1597, and Justice of the Peace in Norfolk in 1590-7 and 1604-7.

Robert Buxton's estate passed to his grandson Robert (1588-1611), his eldest son John (c. 1560-96) having died during his own lifetime. Robert's son, John Buxton (1608-60), followed the family tradition by entering the legal profession (admitted to Gray's Inn in 1626), and by 1635 was a Justice of the Peace. As a lieutenant-colonel in the Norfolk militia John Buxton was obliged to take part in the military exercises of the neighbourhood and to muster troops. There is no evidence, though, that he was involved in any military campaigns during the Civil War. On the death of Sir Francis Astley in May 1638 he became High Sheriff of Norfolk. John Buxton's papers include detailed accounts of the expenses and organisation which the office entailed at the Norfolk assizes or the mayor's feast in Norwich, but also of the support he received from his friends and neighbours.

In 1645 John Buxton was included with several men of royalist or neutral sympathies in a committee charged with the raising of the tax for Lord Fairfax's New Army in Norfolk. In 1649 he seems to have suffered some harassment at the hands of the Army, necessitating a letter of protection from Fairfax. A few years later, in 1656, John Buxton was elected MP for Norfolk, but, like other royalists, was barred from taking up his seat in the Commons. He died on 29 April 1660, just a month before Charles II made his entry into London.

The following two generations were only short-lived. Robert Buxton (1633-62) survived his father by only two years. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Topcroft Hall, the family estate of Robert's widow, Hannah Wilton. Their eldest son John (1659-82) died at Orléans at the age of twenty-three, so his brother Robert (1659-91) continued the family line, having married into the Gooch family of Earsham. It was under his son, John Buxton (1685-1731) that this family began to adopt Shadwell as their principal home. In his lifetime John established a reputation as an amateur architect of some talent. Having inherited the Earsham estate from his mother, he completely rebuilt the manor house for his own use and designed Bixley Hall for his cousin, Sir Edward Ward. In 1721, shortly after its completion, he sold his house at Earsham to Col. James Windham and moved to Channons, subjecting the old house to extensive alterations and adding a new stables complex. Between 1727 and 1729 he built a new house at Shadwell on his Rushford estate. Initially Shadwell Lodge was intended as a secondary residence to escape the harsh climate and bleak surroundings of Channons during the winter months, but eventually the move to Shadwell became permanent. This transition was completed in 1786, when two of the three wings of Channons Hall were pulled down. John Buxton held few public offices - he was a major in the Norfolk militia, treasurer of Norwich Castle prison and Deputy Lieutenant in 1731 - and does not appear to have had a great deal of interest in the political affairs of his county.

John Buxton was succeeded first by his eldest son Robert (1710-51), who died unmarried, and then by Robert's brother John (1717-82). John seems to have taken care of the family estates long before the death of his ailing brother. After several years at Cambridge (Clare Hall) he put much energy into creating a park at Shadwell, planting huge numbers of trees and creating an artificial lake in 1754, thus changing completely the landscape surrounding Shadwell Lodge. Politically, John took a more active interest in county affairs. In the county elections of 1754 he and his friend William Fellowes unsuccessfully contested the nominations of George Townshend and Sir Armine Wodehouse, and in the 1768 election he campaigned on behalf of Sir Edward Astley and Wenman Coke in opposition to the government.

Having served as Deputy Lieutenant in 1740 and 1761, and as Justice of the Peace in 1767, John Buxton was succeeded in 1782 by his son Robert John (1753-1839). In May 1777, Robert John married, without his father's consent, Juliana Mary Beevor. For this and other reasons, which are not entirely clear, John seems to have temporarily disinherited his son, or at least severely cut his income; he certainly expelled him from Shadwell. Although they were reconciled by 1779, Robert John remained with his wife on an estate of his mother's family near Chippenham in Wiltshire until his father's death in 1782. Robert John's political career is well documented by his papers and by official documents. He was a loyal supporter of William Pitt, whose government he represented in several elections and through active attendance in parliament. He sat as MP for Thetford, 1790-6, and Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, 1797-1806. Robert John Buxton received a baronetcy in November 1800. On a county level, he served as a magistrate, Deputy Lieutenant (1780 and 1792) as well as lieutenant-colonel in the Norfolk Provisional Cavalry.

The last two generations of the Buxtons of Shadwell were much less ambitious politically though they, too, served as MPs. They devoted their energies to the management of their estates, to administrative offices and charitable work in the county and, not least, to the cultivation of an agreeable social life with entertainments at home or at holiday resorts. Sir John Jacob Buxton (1788-1842), educated at Harrow School and Christ Church, Oxford, was MP for Great Bedwyn (1818-32), Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff for Norfolk in 1841. His main contribution to the history of his family is perhaps the enlargement of Shadwell Lodge to the designs of Edward Blore, one of the leading country house architects of the time. Between 1840 and 1842 the house was considerably enlarged and remodelled in the Jacobean style. Having waited to the mature age of fifty to come into his inheritance, John Jacob died three years later, and it was left to his widow Elizabeth (née Cholmeley) to supervise the completion of the building project. Lady Buxton also managed Shadwell and its estates during the minority of her son, Sir Robert Jacob Buxton (1829-88), who was educated at Norwich and, like his father, at Christ Church, Oxford. He later became captain in the Norfolk Rifle Volunteer Corps (1860), High Sheriff of Norfolk (1870) and MP for South Norfolk (1871-85). In 1852, Sir Robert Jacob and his mother rebuilt the nearby parish church of Brettenham; three years later the remains of the old College of Rushford were restored and a bridge built across the adjoining ford. The architect for these building projects was Samuel Sanders Teulon, who also was responsible for the sensational additions to Shadwell House between 1856 and 1860. They turned the Buxtons' home into a monument of Victorian neo-Gothicism and have been described as one of Teulon's most important surviving works. The family history, as far as the Buxton Papers are concerned, ends with Sir Robert Jacob's heir, Maud Isabel Buxton (1866-1949), who sold the estate in 1898 and, in 1901, presented the Buxton family archive to the University Library.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


Buxton papers

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Buxton
Scope and Contents The Buxton Papers, 131 boxes and miscellaneous individual items, consists of about 11,600 documents dating from around 1160 to 1926. The principal interest of the collection lies in the light it sheds, across many centuries, on local East Anglian society and on the interaction of the county of Norfolk with national affairs. The range of the material is considerable, opening up a wide range of potential research avenues. There are some 1200 deeds and charters, half of which date from c. 1160...
Dates: 1160-1926
Conditions Governing Access: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (