DIGNELEY, Francis (c.1465-1538/39), of Arundel and Downley Park, Singleton, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. c.1465, yr. s. of Robert Digneley of Stanford Dingley, Berks.1
Servant of the earls of Arundel by 1514.2
Francis Digneley came of a Hampshire family which also held land in several adjoining counties and elsewhere. Thomas Digneley, the last male heir to these extensive estates, had succeeded his great-grandfather William in 1487; when he himself died 15 years later, while still in his early 20s, he left a two month-old daughter Elizabeth. He had been a ward of the 9th Earl of Arundel, and his uncle Francis, to whom he bequeathed a gold ring, was presumably the Francis Digneley who in 1514 received on behalf of the 10th Earl a payment of coat and conduct money for the passage of troops through Portsmouth. Whatever military service Francis Digneley saw, he is unlikely to have been the man of that name who both fought at and commemorated in verse the battle of Flodden: this namesake was of Manston, and there was a widespread Digneley or Dyneley family in Yorkshire.3
Francis Digneley’s service to the earls of Arundel did involve him in civil strife and litigation. Employed as a messenger from the earl to the King and Council, he alleged in a Star Chamber suit that, after one such journey to Farnham, he had been attacked by Richard Sandys while on his way back to Downley Park, where the earl had a hunting lodge. On two other occasions Digneley was himself a defendant in the Star Chamber: he was among those accused by Sir David Owen of chasing away men sent to clear a fishpond at Midhurst, and he faced a more serious charge of embracery brought by Sussex justices. At some time between 1515 and 1518 Digneley’s great-niece Elizabeth, then the widow of George Barrett of Belhus in Aveley, Essex, and later the wife of John Baker I, brought a chancery suit against him for possession of the deeds of her inheritance.4
Although he owned land in Hampshire, Digneley evidently settled at Downley Park and thus presumably owed his election at Portsmouth in 1529 to the 11th Earl of Arundel. Portsmouth was amenable to external influence—Digneley’s fellow-Member Geoffrey Lee was a protégé of the Pole family—and in 1513 Arundel’s father had been made responsible for the keeping of the tower and blockhouse there. His Membership of this Parliament probably meant that Digneley also sat in its successor of June 1536 in accordance with the King’s general request to that effect.5
If the Member was the Francis Dyngeley whom his nephew John Dyngeley, when he made his will in July 1537, made joint guardian of his seven children, this is the last reference found to him before he made his own will. This he did on 25 Oct. 1538 at Downley Park, asking to be buried in Singleton church. He left 40s. to Lady Mautravers and his house in Arundel to his ‘good lord and master the Earl of Arundel’ and his heirs for ever. He had already agreed to sell his manor of Stratfield Turgis, in Hampshire, to Sir William Paulet for 500 marks, but after his death, late in 1538 or early in 1539 (the will being proved on 13 Feb. 1539), Sir William Uvedale of More Critchell, Dorset, disputed his right to do so, alleging that he had enfeoffed John Bassett I and Thomas Anton in the manor, the revenues of which were then set aside for the repayment of a debt originally due from Digneley to Uvedale’s father. Bassett, who was one of the executors of Digneley’s will, refused payment to Uvedale who, however, won his case, gained possession of the manor and then himself sold it to Paulet in 1539.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Patricia Hyde
- 1. Date of birth estimated from that of e. bro. Edward, b. c.1460, C. C. Brookes, Steeple Aston and Middle Aston, Oxon. 191; PCC 9 Blamyr; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiv), 548.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, i.
- 3. VCH Berks. iv. III; VCH Hants, iv. 271; Brookes, 194-7; PCC 9 Blamyr; CIPM Hen. VII, i. 280, 715; ii. 256, 578-80, 670; LP Hen. VIII, i; Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 122, 297-8, 301.
- 4. St.Ch.2/13/241, 18/172, 24/336; C1/391/47; Vis. Essex, 548.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, i; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 166.
- 6. PCC 1, 25 Dyngeley; C1/1080/22; VCH Hants, iv. 64.