DACKOMBE, John (c.1570-1618), of the Middle Temple, London; the Savoy, Westminster; Wanstead, Essex and Templecombe, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1570,1 1st s. of Richard Dackombe of Motcombe, Dorset and Alice, da. of William Monntier or Mountier of Motcombe.2 educ. M. Temple 1596. m. by 1607 Melior (d.1646), da. of John Pitt, mercer, of Blandford Forum, Dorset, wid. of Robert Mohun of Bothenhampton, Dorset, 1s. 2da.3 suc. fa. aft. 1600; kntd. 1616. d. 27 Jan. 1618.

Offices Held

Escheator, Som. and Dorset 1600-1;4 feodary, Wilts. 1603-13,5 Som. 1605-13;6 bailiff, Carston manor, Som. by 1604;7 ch. ranger, Melchet forest, Hants 1606-d.;8 steward, Bultford and Cheniell manors, Wilts. 1609;9 commr. inquiry, Enfield Chase, Mdx. 1609,10 lands of one Skevington, Kent 1613,11 new buildings, London 1615;12 j.p. Mdx. 1615-d., Herts., Dorset and Som. 9 Jan. 1618-d.;13 jt. temporary steward, Ryme manor, Dorset 1616.14

Steward and later sec. to Sir Robert Cecil† (1st earl of Salisbury) aft. 1602-12;15 solicitor to 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil, Visct. Cranborne*) by 1613.16

Surveyor-gen. to Prince Charles 1613-at least 1615,17 trustee (jt.) 1616-at least 1617,18 cllr. 1616-d.;19 master of Requests 1613-16;20 commr. sale of Crown lands 1614,21 concealed lands, duchy of Cornwall 1615;22 chan., duchy of Lancaster 1616-d.23


Dackombe’s grandfather was listed as an able archer in the Dorset muster-rolls of 1539, but his promotion to deputy lieutenant under Edward VI, recorded by the heralds in 1623, must be a pious legend.24 Dackombe was raised by his uncle Boden, and commended to Cecil by Sir Arthur Gorges† in 1597 as a gentleman of the inns of court who was anxious to become his retainer and follower. He described him as ‘very honest and very valiant upon my knowledge and a proper man both in discretion and the use of his pen’. However, since Dackombe was then ‘dedicated to follow the study of the law’,25 it was apparently not until 1602 that he performed a service for Cecil, when his uncle instructed him to wait on Sir Robert.26 It was with considerable justification that Dackombe subsequently acknowledged Cecil, now earl of Salisbury, as ‘the only author of all the good he and his posterity shall have in the world’.27 It was probably through Salisbury that the king was persuaded to write to the provost and fellows of Oriel College, Oxford to grant Dackombe the reversion to the Lincolnshire rectory of Colby in 1606, and it was undoubtedly as a result of Salisbury’s intervention that Dackombe obtained a reversion to one of the auditorships of the prest in 1610.28 Although he died before an auditor’s place became vacant, Dackombe was possessed of Colby rectory at his death, when it was worth £80 a year.29 These grants were of minor importance, however, alongside Dackombe’s acquisition of the Somerset manor of Templecombe. Here again Salisbury’s influence can be detected for, after the decease of the lord of the manor in April 1610, the property had come into his possession.30

Following Salisbury’s death in 1612 Dackombe was anxious to play down the extent to which he had relied on his employer’s patronage. Indeed, he claimed that ‘I came not unbred nor without means (which I ever veiled with humility) into my lord my master’s service, and was not ignorant how to augment mine own estate that knew how to advantage his lordship’s so much’.31 This was not entirely boastful, for the claim that he had improved the value of Salisbury’s property is confirmed by the testimony of a disinterested observer, Sir Henry Wotton*, who described the earl’s estate as having been ‘neglected almost to ruin’ before Dackombe set to work.32 Salisbury, too, paid handsome tribute to his servant in a codicil to his will: ‘In mine own estate I had been overthrown by large expense and lack of care if he had not been’. As a reward for his loyal and effective service, Salisbury granted Dackombe a legacy of £100 and an annuity of a further £100. He also waived, for the term of Dackombe’s life and the lifetime of Dackombe’s son, an annual rent of £100 upon the manor of Edmonton, a Middlesex property Dackombe had leased from Salisbury the previous year. In addition Salisbury conferred £500 upon Dackombe’s eldest daughter, Alice.33 Such generous treatment led to protests from Salisbury’s other servants, among them Sir Walter Cope*, who ‘laid great blame on Dackombe’ because the will, which had been penned by Dackombe, read as though it had been dictated ‘from his own mouth’.34 In response, Dackombe asked Salisbury’s son, the second earl, to be permitted to enjoy ‘some part of his lordship’s bountiful legacy without malice’.35 Whether Dackombe really did employ underhand methods in order to benefit from the will is uncertain, but he was certainly open to bribery: in 1614 (Sir) Richard Wynn*, then anxious to purchase the Flintshire town of Mostyn, recorded that his servant gave Dackombe £5 ‘which did stop his mouth, and did us very much good’.36 On the other hand, any reward that Dackombe received from Salisbury was clearly well earned, as it cannot have been easy to reduce the earl’s finances to an orderly condition. On one occasion in 1611 Dackombe had written to his master in exasperation: ‘I beseech your lordship to forbear building’.37 It was a task from which he was not freed even by Salisbury’s death in 1612, for by the terms of the latter’s will he was appointed one of the executors. As late as December 1617 Dackombe was involved in selling lands of his former master.38

Shortly after Salisbury’s death, Dackombe was appointed surveyor-general to the young Prince Charles, which post he may have held until November 1617, when Charles conferred letters patent on Sir Richard Smythe*.39 At about the same time, Dackombe hitched his fortunes to those of the rising favourite at Court, Robert Carr, Viscount Rochester, in August 1613 encouraging him to purchase Sherborne manor, which lay adjacent to Templecombe. In the following October he was contracted to supply the royal Household with Rhenish and Gascony wines for 21 years on Rochester’s behalf.40 Most of the profits from this contract probably found their way into the favourite’s pocket, which may explain why the king awarded Dackombe an annual pension of £100 in December 1613 and a free gift of £140 four months later.41 Dackombe held the wine contract for the rest of his life, but following the conviction of Rochester, now earl of Somerset, his rights were challenged in the Exchequer by the duke of Lennox, and shortly after Dackombe’s death Lennox gained control of it for himself.42 Dackombe perhaps over-estimated his influence with Somerset, for after his decease Chancery heard how Dackombe had promised to secure Somerset’s intervention with the king on behalf of Sir Thomas Shirley II*, whose lands had been confiscated, but ‘the endeavours of the said Sir John Dackombe did not take so good effect as he [Shirley] expected and was promised’.43

The only member of his immediate family ever to sit in Parliament, Dackombe was returned for Corfe Castle in 1614, doubtless with the assistance of his distant kinsman Edward Dackombe*. An almost wholly inactive Member of the Addled Parliament, he was named to a single committee, to reverse a Chancery decree (18 May). He also gave just one speech, which was delivered on the day of the dissolution. Only one diarist is known to have recorded it, and the sense is not entirely clear, but he pointed out how far the king had gone towards redressing the grievances of the House. James, he said, had ‘settled the business of the Wards with great ease and comfort of the subject’. So far as impositions were concerned, he seems to have reminded Members that James had promised not to introduce any fresh impositions and that he would re-submit the question of the legality of all existing duties to the judges on a writ of error in exchange for a vote of supply. Dackombe apparently ended his speech with a warning, as he reminded the House of James’s ‘power to match his son so as he shall not [blank]’. It seems likely that the last word of this sentence is ‘want’, in which case Dackombe was saying that unless the Commons voted the king supply, James would marry off his son to the highest bidder to solve his financial difficulties.44

Dackombe’s speech in favour of supply probably needs to be seen in the context of his ambition for high office. Soon after the dissolution it seemed that he might attain a senior post for, as a ‘necessary implement’, he was regarded by Chamberlain as a leading candidate for the chancellorship of the Exchequer when Sir Julius Caesar* became master of the Rolls in October 1614. However, he was passed over for the veteran courtier Sir Fulke Greville*, even though he had begun to play the part of a great man, ‘settling himself at Wanstead for his own mansion and hiring a very fair house not far from Whitehall’.45 Around the same time he was also in the running for the chancellorship of the duchy, and in 1615 he secured this post in reversion to the aged Sir Thomas Parry*, ‘which is a great step from that he was some years ago’.46 However, on Parry’s death in May 1616, the entire Privy Council, whose preferred candidate was Sir Ralph Winwood*, sought to nullify Dackombe’s grant by claiming that reversions to judicial places were illegal. The Council further argued that the newly knighted Dackombe was an unsuitable successor to Parry because of his ‘meanness’, evidenced in ‘divers frauds and foul dealings’ concerning the pardon which had been proposed for Somerset the previous year. As a result of this opposition, Dackombe was prevented from taking up his office for five or six days. Although saved from humiliation by Sir George Villiers and the prince, who ‘betted on his side’,47 Dackombe was not subsequently admitted to the Council like his predecessor.

Dackombe was an energetic administrator and an affable and considerate employer to his kinsman Edward Nicholas*, whom he introduced into the public service. His career was cut short by a ‘lethargy’, of which he died on 27 Jan. 1618.48 He was buried at Templecombe the following month.49 According to Nicholas he left debts and legacies totalling £11,789, with a further £1,500 likely to arise from the expenses of his sickness and funeral. By contrast Nicholas estimated that, allowing for the sale of various lands, Dackombe’s goods (worth £600) and pension from the silk farm (worth £1,000 a year) there would still be a deficit of £1,074.50 In fact this was a conservative estimate, for in 1620 the executors stated that Dackombe’s debts actually amounted to £15,000, of which sum they had succeeded in repaying just £8,000.51 Dackombe’s son evidently escaped wardship because an obliging Somerset jury found no tenure-in-chief.52

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Hatfield House, Petition 2151. We are grateful for this ref., and for assistance in dating the petition, to Mrs. Doreen Williams and Mr. Geoffrey Mann. In 1603 Dackombe claimed he was 30: C24/304/30.
  • 2. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 35; C3/55/42, ex inf. Mrs. Doreen Williams and Mr. Geoffrey Mann.
  • 3. Som. and Dorset N and Q, i. 109; v. 133; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 742; C3/333/6; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 133.
  • 4. Collectanea ed. T.F. Palmer (Som. Rec. Soc. xliii), 228.
  • 5. WARD 9/275.
  • 6. Sales of Wards ed. M.J. Hawkins (Som. Rec. Soc. lxvii), p. xix.
  • 7. HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 106.
  • 8. VCH Hants, iv. 541.
  • 9. E315/310, f. 59.
  • 10. DL5/24, pp. 879-80.
  • 11. C181/2, f. 200.
  • 12. APC, 1615-16, p. 122.
  • 13. C231/4, ff. 3, 55.
  • 14. DCO, ‘Letters and Warrants 1615-19’, f. 18.
  • 15. HMC Hatfield, xii. 508; xxi. 371.
  • 16. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 11, ex inf. Mrs. Doreen Williams and Mr. Geoffrey Mann.
  • 17. C66/2007/7; Bodl. Rawl. Essex 29, title page.
  • 18. C66/2109/2; G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean Phoenix’, in Estates of the Eng. Crown ed. R.W. Hoyle, 275.
  • 19. Haslam, 276.
  • 20. APC, 1613-14, p. 313; 1615-16, p. 630.
  • 21. Chamberlain Letters, i. 500; Cott. Julius C.III, ff. 131-2.
  • 22. DCO, ‘Letters and Warrants 1615-19’, ff. 5-6.
  • 23. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 1.
  • 24. Dorset Muster Rolls ed. T.L. Stoate, 97; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 35.
  • 25. HMC Hatfield, vii. 166.
  • 26. Ibid. xii. 508.
  • 27. Ibid. xxi. 312-13.
  • 28. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1603-25, p. 537; C66/1877/13.
  • 29. SP14/95/59.
  • 30. PROB 11/115, ff. 276-7. But see also C54/2046, unnumbered indenture, 4 June 1610.
  • 31. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 1.
  • 32. Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton ed. L. Pearsall Smith, ii. 488.
  • 33. PROB 11/119, ff. 392-3.
  • 34. Chamberlain Letters, i. 362-3.
  • 35. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 1.
  • 36. M. Gray, ‘Exchequer officials’, in Estates of the Eng. Crown ed. Hoyle, 120.
  • 37. L. Stone, Fam. and Fortune, 31-2.
  • 38. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 11; C54/2352/27. See also C54/2275/28; 54/2229/50; 54/2345/12.
  • 39. SC6/Jas.I/1680, unfol.
  • 40. Berks. RO, D/EN F44/4; C54/2162/2; E124/25, f. 100; Eg. 2978, ff. 315-16; C66/1981/14.
  • 41. C66/1980/14; E403/2603, f. 11v; E403/2733, f. 175v.
  • 42. Univ. of London, Goldsmiths’ ms 195, i. f. 323; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 91; Reps. of Sir George Croke (1669), ii. 512-13.
  • 43. C2/Jas.I/D3/42.
  • 44. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 280, 436.
  • 45. Chamberlain Letters, i. 564.
  • 46. Ibid. 602; HMC Downshire, v. 22.
  • 47. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 7-8.
  • 48. Ibid. 333; CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 400, 602.
  • 49. Som. and Dorset N and Q, v. 91.
  • 50. SP14/95/59. See also SP16/95/53, 60.
  • 51. C78/142/2. See also C78/225/1.
  • 52. C142/372/159.