DIXWELL, Basil (1585-1642), of Terlingham, Folkestone, Kent; formerly of Canterbury, Kent; later of Broome Park, Barham, Kent
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Family and Education
b. 27 Dec. 1585,1 4th s. of Charles Dixwell (d.1591) of Coton Hall, Warws. and Abigail, da. of Henry Herdson, ropemaker, of London. unm.2 suc. uncle John Herdson in Terlingham estate 1622; kntd. 18 Feb. 1628; cr. bt. 18 Feb. 1628.3 d. 28 Dec. 1642.
Dixwell came from a minor Warwickshire gentry family which originated in Hertfordshire. His grandfather, a sitting tenant, bought Coton Hall on the Leicestershire border in 1551.8 Dixwell himself was the godson of Basil Feilding*.9 As the youngest of his family he was not afforded an education at university or the inns of court, and on his father’s death in 1591 he was granted an annuity of just £6 13s. 4d.10 However, in June 1620 (at which time he was living in Canterbury) he had the good fortune to be adopted by his maternal uncle as heir to an estate near Folkestone worth £2,500 a year and £30,000 in money.11 In 1623, shortly after he entered into this substantial inheritance, he was granted a pass to travel abroad for three years. The following year, presumably while absent, he put out feelers through Sir John Hippisley* for a baronetcy, but without success.12
In 1626 Dixwell, whose manor of Folkestone lay next door, was elected for Hythe and took the oath of a freeman, whereupon he ‘gave liberty to all the inhabitants of this town at all times hereafter to carry and recarry, go and return over his land called the Slip at the east end of the town ... without paying anything for the same’.13 He made no speeches in the second Caroline Parliament, and was appointed only to the committee to consider the motion of Sir Dudley Digges* on 14 Mar. 1626 for a privately financed war at sea.14 However, he was noted, ‘in respect of his quotidian new suits of apparell, to be the bravest man in the House of Commons’.15 His shrievalty, which began in the autumn of 1626, was likewise marked by its great splendour.16
Following the dissolution Dixwell, one of the richest men in Kent, was required to contribute £500 towards a Privy Seal loan.17 Shortly thereafter his title to a narrow, two-mile strip of wasteland situated three or four miles from his manor of Folkestone was challenged by the Crown. A commission of inquiry led by Sir George Newman* found, in April 1627, that the land, known as Swinfield Minies, properly belonged to the king.18 However, a second inquiry, headed by Sir Thomas Wilsford*, one year later heard that the earlier investigation had been so partial that Newman had not only refused to admit written evidence proving Dixwell’s title but had advised the members of the jury ‘that if they did find the said parcel of land ... for His Majesty it would be the better for them all for that they might buy parcels of the said Minies that did lie before their gates or houses’.19 The final outcome of the inquiry is unknown, but witness statements were still being taken as late as May 1628.20
In May 1627 Hippisley renewed Dixwell’s application for a baronetcy, which was conferred nine months later. As the godson of Buckingham’s kinsman by marriage, Basil Feilding, Dixwell was excused the usual fee.21 Dixwell was not returned at the 1628 election, but was replaced by (Sir) Edward Scott*. Sometime between July 1629 and July 1630 he was removed from the commission of the peace. As a consequence of a minor traffic accident in Moorgate in 1632, he was involved in a brawl with ‘a drunken fellow in his doublet and hose out of an alehouse’, whose head he broke with his sword. Unfortunately for Dixwell, the man died under the surgeon’s hands, and it was expected that ‘it will cost him many thousands of pounds ere he get clear of the business’. However, his fortune was not seriously impaired, as one month later he received a royal pardon.22 Between 1635 and 1638 Dixwell built Broome Park, Barham, situated midway between Folkestone and Canterbury, at a cost of £8,000.23 At around the same time he also had his portrait painted by Van Dyck.24 He is unlikely to have stood for re-election to Parliament in 1640, and died intestate at Folkestone on 28 Dec. 1642, the day after his 57th birthday. He was buried at Barham on 12 Jan. 1643.25 His nephew Mark, who succeeded to the property, survived him for just over a year.26 During the Civil War and Interregnum the head of the family was another nephew, John Dixwell†, recruiter for Devon in the Long Parliament, regicide, and knight of the shire under the Protectorate. The baronetcy was revived after the Restoration, and Dixwell’s great-nephew sat for Dover in the Revolution Convention as a Whig.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush
- 1. The Gen. n.s. viii. 102.
- 2. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 297; Dugdale, Warws. 17; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix), 96; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 3), i. 23.
- 3. CB; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 194.
- 4. Cal. of the Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 59; Cal. of Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 87, 113.
- 5. G. Wilks, The Barons of the Cinque Ports, and the Parliamentary Representation of Hythe, 73.
- 6. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 69.
- 7. C181/3, f. 247; 181/4, f. 48; 181/5, f. 131v; Northants. RO, FH133.
- 8. Add. 24120, f. 250; VCH Warws. vi. 63.
- 9. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 186.