DIGONS, John (1500/1-85), of Chichester, Suss.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 1500/1. m. at least 1s.1
Constable, Chichester by 1535, steward of St. George’s guild 1543, mayor 1548-9, 1556-7, 1567-8, alderman by 1567.2
The John Digons who died an alderman of Chichester in 1585 was a widower with several grandchildren and a son who outlived him by only ten years: he was thus probably old enough to have begun his civic career as constable in 1535. If so, nothing is known of his parentage and the long history of the Digons family at Chichester begins with him.3
It was presumably as constable that Digons detained goods belonging to Robert Bowyer I and John Kirkham, who sued him for it in the city court in 1535, and it was certainly his actions in that capacity which five years later involved him in a case before the court of requests. One William Hodgeson then accused Digons and others of evicting him from his house in Chichester and seizing £79 left in his trust as administrator of a deceased cleric with the intention of using it for their own purposes: as Hodgeson also named the mayor, John Castleman, the affair perhaps contributed to the dispute over the mayoral election for the following year. Digons was himself mayor in May 1549 when, following the dissolution of the chantries, the lands of the guild of St. George were sold to the city for £100.4
Digons’s election to the Parliament of November 1554 with Walter Roynon, who also lived in Chichester, marked a reassertion of the city’s electoral independence, for the men returned to the three preceding Parliaments had all been nominees of the 12th Earl of Arundel. The change was clearly prompted by the Queen’s circular letter asking for Members who were conservative in religion and, if possible, resident in the boroughs which they represented, and it had its counterpart at Arundel, the earl’s own borough.
Digons’s occupation has not been established, but that he prospered in it is shown by the total of £285 at which his goods were valued at his death. When he made his will in March 1585 he had many relations living in and around the city. He made many small charitable bequests, to the cathedral for the repair of St. Martin’s church, to the poor of St. James’s hospital and at Midhurst, to the brothers and sisters of St. Mary’s house and to 120 poor householders in the city. He left sums for the ministers, the verger and the choristers of the cathedral and for a sermon and a banquet for his fellow aldermen. The greater part of his goods he left to his son and namesake, who was his executor; his overseers were alderman Thomas Adams, John Cooke and Robert Whitfield. Digons was buried in the cathedral, as he had asked to be, on 11 Nov. 1585, beside his wife who had died three years earlier.5