DOTTYN, Walter (c.1554-1635), of Totnes, Devon

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.1554.1 m. 10 Oct. 1580, Agnes Blackler (d.1592), 1s. d.v.p. bur. 4 Aug. 1635.2 sig. Walter Dotin.

Offices Held

Warden of Magdalene almshouses, Totnes 1590,3 ‘master’, Totnes by 1601-at least 1630,4 mayor 1601-2, 1617-18.5

Member, Span. Co. 1604,6 French Co. 1611.7


Dottyn’s origins are obscure. A leading Totnes merchant for much of his life, he was prosperous enough by 1587-8 to lend money to fellow townsfolk, and to help fit out two vessels for service against the Spanish Armada.8 During his first term as mayor he presided over Totnes’ 1601 parliamentary election, at which the borough rejected a nomination from its recorder, Sir George Carey†, and instead returned two local merchants. Six months later it also fell to him to petition Sir Robert Cecil† to take action over the disruption to trade caused by Spanish and Dunkirker privateers.9 Around the same time, Dottyn was drawn into Totnes’ corporation’s battle to retain control of the lands and administration of the Magdalene almshouses, of which he was a former warden. The corporation’s rights had been upheld by the Court of Requests, but in April 1602 the court was informed that the status quo had been challenged again at the Devon assizes, ‘in the presence and hearing of Walter Dottyn, now mayor’.10

Elected to Parliament for Totnes in 1604, Dottyn did not contribute directly to the first session’s proceedings. However, on 7 May, during preparations for a conference on the Commons’ petition against purveyance, he was cited as a local witness who ‘could make more pregnant proof for the several articles, and might most aptly speak unto them’. During the second session, Dottyn and his fellow Totnes Member, Christopher Brooking, may have sought to resolve the Magdalene almshouses problem by legislation. A bill ‘for the confirmation of the lands and tenements heretofore granted, devised, or conveyed to several corporations, for charitable, godly, and good uses’ received its first reading on 4 Mar. 1606, but the House promptly ordered that it be redrafted. On 19 Mar. both Dottyn and Brooking were named to the committee for the revised bill, but the measure was reported on 23 May as ‘fit to sleep’. In the 1606-7 session, Dottyn was added to the committee for the bill to restrain the use of leather made of horsehide or pigskin (2 July), but he left no further trace on the Parliament’s proceedings.11

By 1611 Dottyn had clearly begun to convert his mercantile profits into real estate, as he was assessed for subsidy that year at £7 in land. Nevertheless, he was still actively trading four years later, exporting Devon cloth to France, and also importing paper from Rouen.12 In 1619 he was appointed overseer of the will of his brother Richard. He had recently completed a second term as mayor, and apparently remained an active member of Totnes’ corporation for at least another decade. Dottyn was buried in the local parish church in August 1635. No will or grant of administration has been found. No other members of his family are known to have sat in Parliament.13

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Aged c.65 in 1619: REQ 2/417/118.
  • 2. Devon RO, Totnes par. reg.
  • 3. Devon RO, 1579A-O/5/45.
  • 4. Ibid. 1579A-O/5/32.
  • 5. E. Windeatt, ‘Totnes Mayors’, Western Antiquary, x. 123, 149.
  • 6. Span. Co. ed. P. Croft (London Rec. Soc. ix), 99.
  • 7. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 282.
  • 8. C2/Jas.I/S20/38; Windeatt, 3.
  • 9. Windeatt, 123-4; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 546-7; HMC Hatfield, xii. 71.
  • 10. Devon RO, 1579A-O/10/20-1, 23a.
  • 11. CJ, i. 202a, 277a, 287a, 312a, 389b.
  • 12. E179/101/450; E190/942/12.
  • 13. PROB 11/133, f. 255; Devon RO, 1579A-O/5/32; Totnes par. reg.