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Humphrey (or Humfrey) Newton de Pownall (October 3, 1466 – March 22, 1536) was an English nobleman, poet, landowner and lawyer from Cheshire best known in contemporary times as a potential paternal distant ancestor of Cometan, his 17th great-grandfather to be exact. He was a writer of the late fifteenth century, a period with a particularly scant roster of biographical data for writers. Humphrey’s father was Richard Newton of Newton (ob. 1497) and his mother, Jane Lowe of Denby (ob. 1498), who herself was the granddaughter of Laurence Lowe, he himself was the second husband of Humphrey’s grandmother, Alice Milton of Milneton.
Humphrey was born at Newton, Cheshire. In 1490, at the age of twenty-four, Humphrey married Elena Fitton, the elder daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Fitton of Pownall. The houses of Fitton and de Pownall (also spent Pounall) had been interlinked since as far back as 1328. The “Fittons of Pownall” had long resided at Pownall Hall with both families, the Newtons and the Pownalls, both being well known even in the early thirteenth century. From c.1498 to 1524, Humphrey compiled a commonplace book which included various extracts and documents regarding the management of the Newton estate (including rentals, lent accounts, harvest records, clothing and food purchases, animal sales, and building works) and the acquisition of Pownall Hall. The Newton chapel was likely to have constructed by funds provided by Humphrey and his wife, Elena.
Humphrey and Elena’s marriage re-established, through female descent, the second dynasty at Pownall Hall, at which the Newtons of Pownall resided from 1490 to 1647, whereafter the estates were broken up. The marriage produced four sons and six daughters. There remains some confusion in the Cometanic family tree surrounding which son of Humphrey is related to Cometan.
In his work, Newton uses many words unique to Cheshire, propelling his texts as valuable secondary sources for dialect and provincial words of the period. Newton’s poetic works have become an indication of the Cestrian literary interests around the year 1500. Humphrey Newton’s family, the Newtons of Newton and Pownall, were related by marriage to the majority of the leading houses in Cheshire.
- Capesthorne MS
- Hanna, R. (2000). Humphrey Newton and Bodleian Library, MS LAT. MISC. C. 66. Medium Ævum. 69 (2), p279-291.
- Robbins, R. H. (1950). The Poems of Humfrey Newton, Esquire, 1466-1536. PMLA. 65 (2), p249-281.
- Youngs, D. (1999). Servants and Labourers on a Late Medieval Demesne: The Case of Newton, Cheshire, 1498-1520. The Agricultural History Review. 47 (2), p145-160.