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John Norris

Death: June 29, 1786 (64-65)
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Norris and Ellen Norris
Partner of Deborah Busby
Father of Jane Norris; John Norris; Elizabeth Bevan; John William Norris and Charles Norris

Occupation: English merchant and a member of the landed gentry. He was High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1775
Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About John Norris

John Norris was an English merchant and a member of the landed gentry. He was High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1775.

Norris' father, Robert Norris (d. 1751) was a prosperous merchant in London, but through misfortune or mismanagement he lost all his money, and ended up in Fleet Prison (a debtor's prison). Fortunately his wife, Ellen Savage, came from a very wealthy family in Bishop's Tachbrook, Warwickshire, and when her father died she inherited property and lands worth £140,000.

The young Norris was educated at Eton College, and when he was 17 he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford. He was offered a demyship at Magdalen College, Oxford, from where he gained BA and MA degrees. He later obtained a Doctor of Civil Law.

On his father's death, John Norris inherited land and property in Warwickshire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and in Islington. He had two manors, Hawley Place in Hawley, Hampshire and Hughenden Manor in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Norris had five illegitimate children by his housekeeper, Deborah Busby, of which three survived: Elizabeth Norris (who married Richard Bevan), John Norris (1774–1845), and Charles Norris (1779‑1858). John inherited his father's lands and properties, and was considered to be the wealthiest commoner in England. Charles was a topographical etcher and writer who is best known for his landscape work of the Welsh countryside, especially the area around Tenby.

Norris left £5,000 in his will to Magdalen College, Oxford, for the completion of the New Buildings, although the buildings were never completed (Biographical story by Ursula Norris. 1966). [1]

Portrait of John Norris, at Woolley Park, Wantage, (Michael Wroughton) in 1966 (Ursula Norris)


If you are a descendant of John, I have traced his ancestors back to Edward I "Longshanks", King of England, Edward II, king of England, Edward III, king of England, Louis IV, king of West Francia , William "the Conqueror", king of England and Gange-Hrólfr 'Rollo' of Normandy. This was done by careful checking of the lineage proposed by Ursule Norris, back to the Derehams and Audleys of Norfolk, Their family tree was recorded by the College of Arms, where Ele Guybon , daughter of Sir John Awdeley, Kt., of Swaffham Market married Thomas Dereham .ólfr-Rollo-of-Normandy/2915061

Hawley House, Hampshire

"It is well-known locally that Hawley House was one of the homes of the two John Norris. Father and son were successive owners of both Hughenden (before Benjamin Disraeli), and of Hawley House."

"The elder John Norris has been described as the "richest commoner in England" (along with at least a dozen other claimants to this title). He appears to have kept a different mistress in each house. Henrietta Mason was established at Hawley House and Deborah Busby at Hughenden. In his will Norris acknowledged that Deborah's eldest illegitimate son was his rightful heir. The latter had been known as John Williams, but as John Norris the younger he lived at Hawley House with his young wife Louisa."

"The Yateley Parish Registers record the baptisms of the younger John Norris' nine daughters between 1800 and 1813, and the burial of two of them. John Norris II would have been the owner in 1828 when the engraving of Hawley House was published in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts" (P. J. Tipton, 2014) [2]


1. Norris, Ursula (1966). "Charles Norris, Tenby Artist, and his Family". Cylchgrawn Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (The National Library of Wales Journal). 14 (4): 489–496. document - accessed 21 April 2018

2. P J Tipton - Yateley Local Historian
History of Hawley Park & Hawley House
Twitter: @yateley_history
Hart District Council Conservation Area Appraisal

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John Norris's Timeline

April 24, 1721
London, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom
January 21, 1766
March 27, 1768
February 14, 1771
January 12, 1774
London, Middlesex, England
August 23, 1779
London, England
June 29, 1786
Age 65
Hitchenden, Buckinghamshire, England