DIGGES, Richard (c.1564-1634), of Marlborough, Wilts. and Lincoln's Inn, London; later of Serjeants' Inn, Chancery Lane, London
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Family and Education
b. c.1564, 2nd s. of John Digges (d. by 1587)1 of Pirton, Wilts. and Elizabeth, da. of one Noddall of Yorks.2 educ. Oxf. BA 1579; New Inn; L. Inn 1581, called 1588.3 m. (1) by 1587,4 (with £200),5 Margaret (d. 30 Jan. 1608), da. of Richard Gore of Aldrington, Wilts., 1s. 2da.;6 (2) Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Waldron of Little Hinton, Wilts., wid. of Richard Goddard (d.1614) of Ogbourne St. Andrew, Wilts.7 s.p.8 bur. 26 Jan. 1634.9 sig. Richard Digges.
Commr. survey Cholsey manor, Worcs. 1590;10 freeman, Marlborough 1597-d., subsidy assessor 1599-1604,11 mayor 1608;12 j.p. Wilts. by 1614-d.,13 Marlborough 1615-d.;14 commr. charitable uses, Marlborough 1614,15 Wilts. 1614, 1629.16
Digges’s family was originally from Kent, but in the early sixteenth century settled in Pirton, just outside Marlborough; Digges himself was distantly related to Sir Dudley Digges*.20 Educated at Oxford and Lincoln’s Inn, Digges was called to the bar in 1588 and became an active administrator of the Inn’s affairs. In 1624, after leaving the Inn, he was honoured by having his coat of arms set up in the west window of the chapel.21 Digges also dedicated himself to the service of Marlborough, where he owned property from at least 1591.22 In 1597 he was appointed recorder on a salary of 40s. a year, and he served briefly as mayor following the death of the incumbent in 1608. His two marriages may have consolidated his position among the local gentry, but brought him little in the way of landed property; neighbouring Upper Upham manor, which he held from 1614, was probably part of his second wife’s jointure. Nevertheless, with the profits of his private legal practice he leased a parcel of Wootton Bassett manor, Wiltshire, and in 1603 purchased Gore manor, in neighbouring Market Lavington. By 1610 he was able to secure £500 for his daughter’s marriage portion, while his property in Marlborough alone was valued for the subsidy at £8 in 1610, rising to £14 in 1629, the highest in the town.23
Digges’s involvement with Marlborough’s administration explains his election for the borough to nine successive Parliaments. He received wages on an ad hoc basis to cover his parliamentary expenses and extra services he performed whilst in London, for example securing the renewal of the town’s charter in 1609.24 In the first Jacobean Parliament his committee appointments included bills concerned with legal matters such as the relief of litigants whose adversaries had secured release from prison through parliamentary privilege (added 26 Apr. 1604), the confirmation of letters patent (5 July), and the issue of warrants of attorney (29 Mar. 1610).25 On 22 May 1604 he returned from committee the bill to strengthen the authority of the London Watermen’s Company although he had not been named to the committee himself, and he was further appointed to consider a measure relating to the manufacture of starch (20 June 1604).26 Two of his appointments dealt with bills to authorize the sale of the Wiltshire estates of Thomas Mompesson and John Pleydell to settle their debts (1 Apr. and 20 Nov. 1606; 14 June 1610).27
In the third session, which was dominated by debates concerning the proposed Union with Scotland, Digges was named to prepare for a conference with the Lords touching the repeal of the hostile laws between the two kingdoms and the implications of the Union for commerce (11 Dec. 1606). He had already been involved behind the scenes following a committee of the whole House chaired by his colleague, Lawrence Hyde I, on 1 Dec.; Hyde’s report of 5 Dec. on Anglo-Scottish shipping was supplemented four days later by Digges, who provided a detailed survey of existing shipping legislation and its implications for the Union.28 After the Christmas recess Digges reported the names of Members chosen for a conference with the Lords regarding Scottish naturalization (24 Feb. 1607). Digges himself was not among them, and he evidently left Westminster soon afterwards, for a week later Speaker Phelips ordered him and other lawyers on the Western circuit to return to the House.29 His appointments in 1610 included bills aimed to prevent elopement (6 May 1610), and enforce recusancy laws (8 May 1610); however, he seems to have made no further speeches and left no trace upon the sparse records of the fifth session.30
During the 1614 Parliament Digges’ only recorded activity, on 17 May, was to propose the establishment of county repositories for the records of clerks of the peace, a measure in which he had a professional interest.31 Returning to Westminster in 1621, he was one of the lawyers appointed to advise William Hakewill* regarding grants of concealments and precedents (7 Mar. 1621). Added to the committee hearing evidence regarding the abuses of the warden of the Fleet (3 Mar.), he was also named to bill committees concerning chantries, electoral reform and the exactions of proctors (10, 21, 22 Mar.), and reported from a private bill committee concerning the sale of the Wiltshire lands of the debtor Sir Thomas Redferne (27 April).32 When Digges was appointed a serjeant-at-law in 1623 he was sponsored by Thomas Howard*, Viscount Andover, then resident at Charlton, about ten miles south of Marlborough, and the latter’s brother-in-law, Viscount Wallingford (William Knollys†).33 In the 1624 Parliament Digges handled the reintroduced Redferne land bill, which he reported on 27 Apr., and was named to committees for two other estate bills. He was also nominated to help consider a measure to reclaim marshland at Plumstead, in north Kent, perhaps reflecting his ties with the Digges family of that county (10 April).34 His additional appointments were for bills against holding secret offices (8 Mar.), continuance of statutes (13 Mar), reversing outlawries (12 Apr.), and nullifying a Chancery decree made against Sir John Ryves (21 April).35
Digges remained Marlborough’s recorder and continued to represent the borough in the first three Parliaments of Charles’s reign, but is mentioned only briefly in the parliamentary records. On 21 June 1625 he was one of four Members appointed to draw up a bill against pressing soldiers, and in 1629 he successfully claimed parliamentary privilege in a suit brought against him by (Sir) Arnold Herbert* (24, 27, 30 January).36 In the last years of his life Digges fell on hard times, and was said to have ‘become poor through improvidence’.37 He was buried at Marlborough church on 26 Jan. 1634.38 No will, i.p.m. or administration has been found for him, and no other member of the family served in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Henry Lancaster
- 1. SP46/29, f. 180; E310/26/156/25.
- 2. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 47.
- 3. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 12.
- 4. F. Brown, Som. Wills (ser. 3), p. 7.
- 5. PROB 11/67, f. 88.
- 6. J. Aubrey and J. Jackson, Wilts. Collections, 155; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 2), i. 37.
- 7. Vis. Wilts. 66.
- 8. PROB 11/91, f. 93; Vis. Wilts. 66.
- 9. Wilts. RO, 1050/15.
- 10. Lansd. 65, f. 170.
- 11. Wilts. RO, G22/1/205/2, f. 30; G22/1/107, ff. 30, 31, 35-6, 38-9.
- 12. Ibid. G22/1/205/2, f. 42v.
- 13. Ibid. A1/150/5; C66/1988; SP16/212, f. 67v.
- 14. Wilts. RO, G22/1/20, ff. 12, 129.
- 15. Ibid. G22/1/205/2, f. 49v.
- 16. C93/5/20; Add. 34566, f. 132.
- 17. LI Black Bks. ii. 42, 95, 99, 110, 114, 189, 197, 208, 245, 259.
- 18. Wilts. RO, G22/1/205/2, ff. 28v, 75v, passim.
- 19. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 509.
- 20. Add. 5520, ff. 140, 142.
- 21. LI Black Bks. ii. 142, 201, 224, 243, 450.
- 22. Wilts. RO, G22/1/107, f. 20.
- 23. Ibid. G22/205/2, f. 28v; E179/199/369; 179/199/400; E310/26/156/25; VCH Wilts. x. 92; xii. 75; C2/Chas.I/D23/8.
- 24. Wilts. RO, G22/1/205/2, ff. 43v, 58, 59v; Marlborough Mun. Recs.; Chamberlains’ Accts. ed. B.H. Cunnington, 9-11; A. Stedman, Marlborough and the Upper Kennet Country, 125, 128, 134.
- 25. CJ, i. 185a, 252b, 416b.
- 26. Ibid. 222a, 243b.
- 27. Ibid. 291b, 325a, 438b.
- 28. Ibid. 329b.
- 29. Ibid. 340a, 346b.
- 30. Ibid. 426a.
- 31. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 267.
- 32. CJ, i. 536b, 543b, 548a, 567a, 568b, 593b.
- 33. Baker, 437.
- 34. CJ, i. 683b, 688a, 775a, 689a, 762a; HLRO, main pprs. 20 May 1624.
- 35. CJ, i. 679b, 736b, 763a, 772a.
- 36. Procs. 1625, p. 282; CJ, i. 922a, 923a, 924b.
- 37. Diary of Sir Richard Hutton 1614-39 ed. W.R. Prest (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. ix), 96.
- 38. Wilts. RO, G22/1/20, f. 125.