DONNING, John (b.c.1530), of Chichester and Rye, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. c.1530, s. and h. of Ralph Donning, physician of Chichester by Anne, da. and h. of William Huntlowe ?of Dorset.
Customer, Rye by 1565, mayor 1567-8, 1570-1, 1571-2, 1573-4, brodhull rep. 1572; bailiff to Yarmouth 1573.1
Elected to Parliament for Rye during his second mayoralty, Donning sat on the committee of a navigation bill (8 May). Religious persecution in France in the early 1570s caused a wave of immigration through the port of Rye. These people were Donning’s especial concern, both as mayor and customer. In October 1571 the Privy Council commissioned him to carry out a survey of immigrants in Rye and, in response to a similar request made just over a year later, he sent Burghley a report on 641 people who had landed there after the St. Bartholomew’s day massacre. Soon after the Queen’s visit in August 1573, a dispute arose over £200 given to the town by a French merchant. As mayor, Donning opposed the claims not only of the lord warden but of the Privy Council, who insisted that as a ‘ransom’ the money belonged to the Crown. Rye maintained that it was simply a gift. It may have been in connexion with this matter that in June 1574 Donning and other jurats were served with a subpoena to appear before the court of King’s bench. This they declared to be an infringement of their liberties, and wrote to the other Ports asking their opinion. Winchelsea suggested answering the summons, accompanied by counsel, and offered to help towards the legal costs. Rye seems finally to have been allowed to keep the money, since Donning argued that the sea had done £140 worth of damage there recently, preparations for the Queen’s visit having caused workmen to be withdrawn from strengthening the groynes.
Perhaps because of his activities outside Rye on the town’s behalf, Donning left much of the internal administration to deputies. In January 1576, shortly before Rye’s two MPs were to seek parliamentary help for the improvement of the harbour, the corporation ordered that a letter should be ‘written to Mr. Donning to request his aid in furthering the said cause’. The last reference found to him is dated 21 Nov. 1578, in a letter from Rye to the mayor of La Rochelle trying to collect a debt owed him by one ‘Charles de la Mason of Rochelle’.2