DODINGTON, William (d.1600), of Aldersgate, London; Fulham, Mdx. and Breamore, Hants.

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

2nd s. of John Doddington of Sacombe, Herts. and bro. of John. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1545; original fellow Trinity, Camb. 1546, BA 1547-8. m. bet. 1569 and 1572, Christian, da. of William and sis. of Francis Walsingham, wid. of John Tamworth, 1s.

Offices Held

Surveyor of crown lands in Derbys. 1559; auditor of the prests, of first fruits and tenths, and of the mint 1569-95.


Like his brother, Dodington was a minor government official and land speculator. About 1579 he bought his own chief estate, the manor of Breamore in Hampshire, from Sir Christopher Hatton but his work must have kept him almost continuously in London. He was a founder member of the mineral and battery works, but the records do not show that he attended council meetings.1

He presumably obtained his parliamentary seats through his Exchequer connexions—his brother-in-law Sir Walter Mildmay and Sir William Cecil suggest themselves at Penryn, though the immediate patrons there were the Killigrews. At Boston Lord Clinton asked for both seats in 1572, and was granted one—presumably Dodington’s, since the other Member, Stephen Thymbleby, was deputy recorder of the borough. No direct connexion has been found between Dodington and Clinton, who may have been willing to oblige Cecil with a nomination. Either William Dodington or his brother John was appointed to a committee concerning secret conveyances on 14 Mar. 1581.

Dodington’s letters show that he was under a certain amount of pressure at the mint: the size of his bill for ‘espyall’ was queried by Walsingham and he was in correspondence with Burghley about a missing £4,000. Among prominent accounts for which he was responsible during the 1570s were those of the Earl of Warwick at the Ordnance office and Sir Valentine Browne at Berwick. He complained of overwork, telling Burghley in July 1578 that he could not give immediate attention to letters which arrived at midnight. He had also his work as surveyor of crown lands in Derbyshire, and he was appointed to a number of ad hoc commissions, as, for example, to settle disputes over wills and to search for recusants in Hampshire. He was a supervisor of Walsingham’s will, and an executor for Sir Walter Mildmay.2

Dodington’s private affairs became complicated. From about 1594 onwards he was engaged in a desperate Star Chamber suit against one Bulkeley over his Hampshire land, and was defending a Chancery case brought by Jane Morley of Breamore about copyhold tenure there. He claimed exemption as an official of the Exchequer from prosecution in any other court, but as his long and detailed answer to the Chancery bill survives, this plea may have been overruled. He was in prison for a short time, probably early in 1600, but Anne, Lady Herbert of Chepstow used her influence to get him released on account of ‘his wife’s long service’.3

Whether or not there was a strain of insanity in Dodington’s family, (his grandson William later committed matricide) on 10 Apr. 1600, the day before he was due to appear again in the Star Chamber,

Dorrington, rich Dorrington ... went up to St. Sepulchre’s steeple, and threw himself over the battlement, and broke his neck. There was found a paper sealed about him, with this superscription, ‘Lord, save my soul, and I will praise thy name’.

According to Francis Bacon he had ‘walked on the battlements of the church many days and took a view and survey where he should fall’. He left his staff of office on the tower, together with a letter blaming Bulkeley for driving him to suicide.

Surely after they had thus slandered me, every day that I lived was to me a hundred deaths; which caused me to choose rather to die with infamy, than to live with infamy and torment ... I said ‘Jesu, Master have mercy on me’. The unhappy William Dorington the elder.

An enterprising printer named Higgins circulated a broadside about the incident which the Privy Council found ‘very unmeet to be published’.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C142/261/28; PCC 22 Alen; Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 80; Webb, Miller and Beckwith, Hist. Chislehurst, opp. p. 112; Lansd. 47, f. 172; 81, f. 79; E101/296/15, ex inf. Dr. C. E. Challis; CPR, 1550-3, p. 313 seq.; 1558-60, pp. 325, 386-7; 1563-6, p. 230; 1566-9, pp. 181, 274, 351, 368, 385-6, 388; 1569-72, p. 74; VCH Hants, iv. 571 et passim; M. B. Donald, Eliz. Monopolies, 36, 40, 41-2, 67, 72.
  • 2. CSP For. 1572-4, p. 23; SP12/85/49; HMC Hatfield, ii. 66, 188; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 477; APC, ix. 256; x. 81; xi. 135-6; CPR, 1558-60, p. 325; Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii. 285; PCC 33 Drury, 51 Leycester.
  • 3. St. Ch. 5/B92/2, D3/12, 6/7, 7/9, 7/22, 16/32, 17/31, 19/24, 23/3, 10, 20; 29/30, 30/33, 31/5, 37/9; HMC Hatfield, x. 444; C3/245/3.
  • 4. Add. 5821, f. 209; Trans. London and Mdx Arch. Soc. n.s. vii. 124 seq.; Campbell, Lives of the Chancellors (1845), ii. 306; Lansd. 99, f. 88; Add. 5815, f. 137; Sidney State Pprs. ii. 187; APC, xxx. 289.