DODDRIDGE, John (1555-1628), of Barnstaple, Devon and Egham, 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. 1555, s. of Richard Doddridge, Barnstaple merchant, by Joan Badcock, wid. (née Horder) of South Molton, Devon. educ. Barnstaple g.s.; Exeter Coll., Oxf. 1572, BA 1577; M. Temple 1577 from New Inn, ‘commended’ for call 1585. m. (1) Joan, da. of Michael Jermyn, twice mayor of Exeter, s.p.; (2) Dorothy (d.1614), da. of Amias Bampfield of Poltimore and North Molton, Devon, wid. of Edward Hancock, 1s. d.v.p.; (3) Anne, da. of Nicholas Culme of London and Canonsleigh, Devon, wid. of Gabriel Newman of London, s.p. Kntd. 1607.

Offices Held

Of counsel to Barnstaple, to Plymouth 1601; bencher, M. Temple 1602, Lent reader 1603, treasurer; serjeant-at-law, Prince Henry’s serjeant, solicitor-gen. 1604; King’s serjeant 1607; justice of King’s bench 25 Nov. 1612; member, Antiq. Soc. c.1591.1


The date of Doddridge’s first employment as counsel to Barnstaple is not known, but it may have been before 1588, as he was already a capable lawyer of growing reputation. As late as 1612 he was still receiving payment for legal work at Barnstaple. After his membership of the 1589 House of Commons, he was granted £3 6s.8d. towards his expenses.2

He appeared at the bar during Elizabeth’s last Parliament as counsel to one Mr. Dormer, who wanted a proviso added to the tillage bill of 1597. During the last two years of the reign he gave a number of lectures and readings at the inns of court and of chancery, following two series on the law of advowsons at New Inn by taking the official Lent readings at the Middle Temple in 1603. At about the same time Sir Walter Ralegh employed him to draw up a conveyance of lands to other members of the Ralegh family. This was apparently completed in 1602, but later a flaw was discovered in the conveyancing, though Ralegh protested that if Doddridge ‘have law or honesty, it is good’. Despite this transaction, the lands were declared forfeit to the Crown on Ralegh’s attainder, but James I allowed some relief to the widow and her children.3

During James’s reign Doddridge climbed to the summit of his profession. In 1592 Sir Robert Cecil spoke of him as ‘a very great and learned man’, while Francis Bacon recommended James I to consult him, and praised his pleading at the bar. His published works deal with several different types of law, and a small treatise on the royal prerogative, now among the Harleian manuscripts, has been ascribed to him. Fuller found it ‘hard to say whether he was better artist, divine, civil or canon lawyer’. He had other interests besides the law. He was a noted scholar—according to D’Ewes, the best of his time—a member of the Society of Antiquaries, and he wrote a history of Wales, Cornwall and Chester.4

During the last years of his life he lived mainly at Mount Radford, near Exeter, which came to him by his third marriage. In April 1628, during a dispute over the five knights case, he described himself as having ‘one foot in the grave’. He died 13 Sept. following at Forsters, his house at Egham, and was buried in Exeter cathedral. His epitaph reads

Learning, adieu! for Doderidge is gone,
To fix his earthly to the heavenly throne.

His will, drawn up in the month before his death, was proved by the widow in November 1628. He asked to be buried in the cathedral near his deceased wife Dorothy. ‘Forasmuch as in the course of my life I have esteemed books as the best of my treasures’, these were to go to his ‘grandson’ John Hancock. Among other bequests were ‘two great globes ... in the gallery’ at Forsters, left to Trinity College, Cambridge, ‘to which society I have been much beholding’.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. DNB; Foss, Judges, vi. 306-10; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 10; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxxii. 256; Barnstaple Recs. i. 197; J. Evans, Hist. Antiq. Soc. 12.
  • 2. S. E. Dodderidge and H. Shaddick, Dodderidges of Devon, 10-15; Barnstaple Recs. i. 103; ii. 147.
  • 3. D’Ewes, 675; E. Edwards, Raleigh, ii. 292, 299, 312.
  • 4. Dodderidge and Shaddick, 10; Trans. Dev. Assoc. loc. cit.; DNB ; Foss; Harl. 5220.
  • 5. Dodderidge and Shaddick, 16-21; PCC 96 Barrington; DNB.