DORMER, Sir John (1556-1627), of Dorton and Long Crendon, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 18 Oct. 1556,1 1st s. of William Dormer of Thame, Oxon. and Dorton, and Elizabeth, da. of ?Scriven of Calais.2 m. (1) bef. c.1590 Jane (bur. 8 Sept. 1605), da. of John Giffard of Chillington, Staffs., 5s., at least 2da.; (2) Judith, wid. of Sir Arthur Atye* of Kilburn, Mdx., s.p.;3 (3) Oct. 1622, Catherine, da. of Michael Blount† of Mapledurham, Oxon., wid. of Sir John Croke† of Chilton, Bucks., s.p.4 suc. fa. 1563, suc. cos. Sir Michael Dormer 1624. kntd. 23 July 1603.5 d. 10 Mar. 1627.6
The numerous branches of the Dormer family of Buckinghamshire were all descended from Geoffrey Dormer of West Wycombe, a merchant of the Calais Staple buried at Thame in 1503.9 His son, this Member’s grandfather, Sir Michael Dormer, lord mayor of London in 1541, acquired Turville, Dorton and Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire and Great Milton and Ascott in Oxfordshire. Dormer was seven when his father died leaving considerable debts; his wardship was purchased by John Croke† of Chilton.10 Most of the Dormer estates were leased out or ‘conveyed away’ during his minority, but in 1584 he recovered Long Crendon and in 1594 got back Dorton ‘for great sums of money and for good considerations’.11 However, he did not recover Turville until about 1620.12 Various Oxfordshire estates also became his after the death in 1624 of a cousin, Sir Michael Dormer.13
Dormer’s kinsmen, the Dormers of Wing, were a prominent and notorious Catholic family considered to be ‘at the heart of English recusancy’.14 Yet, if Dormer sympathized with their religious views he concealed it; he must have conformed outwardly, as he served as sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1597-8, and was granted the benefit of Lady Curzon’s recusancy in 1611, consisting of two-thirds of the manor of Addington, in Buckinghamshire.15 Except for regular appointments as a subsidy commissioner, he played no part in local government, instead spending his time hunting and performing his duties as verderer of Barnwood Forest.16 In 1608 this involved him in litigation against the son of Sir Anthony Tyringham*, accused of poaching in the royal forest, who in revenge spoiled Dormer’s own park at Dorton.17 Dormer also invested in woods on his own account, bargaining with Sir Jerome Horsey* for a 30-year lease of over 300 acres of coppice in Princes Risborough.18 On occasion he went hunting with his ‘cousin’ Dudley Carleton* and John Chamberlain, in whose correspondence he is periodically mentioned.19 In 1616 he obtained a patent to stock his Dorton estate with deer and all kinds of game.20
Dormer had no direct connection with the borough of Clitheroe, despite his election there in 1604. He may have obtained his seat with the help of Robert, Lord Dormer† of Wing, whose son married a daughter of the Lancashire magnate Sir Richard Molyneux I* of Sefton, or more probably, via his Buckinghamshire neighbour, Sir John Fortescue*, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in whose hands lay the nomination of at least one of Clitheroe’s Members. Once returned, Dormer seems to have played a largely inactive role, though he was appointed to committees covering a diverse range of business. These dealt with bills concerning Lord William Howard’s restitution (15 May 1604), husbandry (25 May), Thomas Throckmorton’s estates (26 May), Henry, Lord Windsor’s estates (21 Mar. 1606), Kent iron mills (11 Mar. 1607), Crown debts (2 May), William Essex’s lands (16 Feb. 1610) and Pole’s lands bill (22 February).21 In 1608, between sittings, Dormer was absent for six months, having obtained a licence to travel to the Spa.22 Re-elected in 1614 for his local constituency of Aylesbury, he made no impression on the records of that brief session. In 1621, he again sat for Aylesbury, and was appointed to committees for the Calthorpe land bill (17 Mar.), Horseman rent bill (20 Mar.) and Francis Verselini’s decree (17 May);23 he was also involved in a private bill, read on 22 Feb., concerning the lands of the late Lord Dormer, of whose will he was an executor.24 This aimed to resolve a long-running land dispute between Lord Dormer and the heirs of the latter’s father-in-law, Anthony Browne†, 1st Viscount Montague, which had resulted in a series of Chancery suits and decrees; however, the bill remained undetermined at the abrupt end of the session, and was re-entered in 1624.25 Dormer was one of those summoned before the Privy Council in 1622 for failing to contribute towards the defence of the Palatinate.26
The last decade of Dormer’s life was spent in almost constant litigation and property disputes with various relatives. As Chamberlain reported to Carleton in 1616, the execution of Lord Dormer’s will was ‘a busy piece of business’, and together with ‘his own affairs and his new-old sickly wife, Sir John hath head and hands full of work’.27 His second wife’s jointure from her first marriage comprised the Middlesex manors of Kilburn and Hampstead, but following the death of her son Robert Atye in around 1617 Dormer was sued for possession of the estate. By 1620 Dormer was also involved in a violent conflict with a neighbour of these properties, Sir Charles Pleydell, the second husband of the younger Atye’s widow, over the pasturage of horses on Hampstead heath.28 In 1623 both Dormer and Sir William Borlase*, joint executors of Lord Dormer’s will, were sued by the latter’s younger sons for keeping the rents of the dissolved monastery of Great Missenden, though Dormer and Borlase retorted that they had done so only in recompense for loans and outstanding debts.29 Late in life Dormer was married for a third time to Catherine, widow of his ‘brother’ Sir John Croke†, his former guardian’s son and heir.
Dormer died on 10 Mar. 1627, and was buried with his first wife in the south transept of Long Crendon church, where in 1620 he had set up a charity worth £30 a year for the maintenance of his monument and for a dinner to be held every three years.30 By his will, dated 31 Dec. 1626, he left his widow a silver chamberpot ‘which is usually used in our chamber’, a diamond jewel plus ‘the hatband of diamonds which she usually weareth, and cost me about £100’, and a ‘plain piece of gold without any stamp upon it, being to be put into the fire for warming of drinks’.31 His estates passed to his eldest son, Sir Robert.32 A distant relative, John Dormer of Lee Grange, was elected for Buckingham in May 1646.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. C142/141/24.
- 2. F.G. Lee, Hist. Thame Church, 510.
- 3. C2/Jas.I/S31/35.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 454.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 122.
- 6. C142/435/112.
- 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 9.
- 8. SP14/31/1, f. 4; C212/22/20, 21, 23.
- 9. M. Maclagan, ‘Fam. of Dormer in Oxon. and Bucks.’, Oxoniensia, xi-xii. 90-101; G. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 118.
- 10. WARD 9/156, unfol.
- 11. C3/241/5; C78/145/6.
- 12. VCH Bucks. iv. 40, 47; H.W. Aldred, Hist. Turville, 29.
- 13. PROB 11/144, f. 184; Her. and Gen. i. 338; G. Baker, Hist. Northants. i. 620.
- 14. P. Croft, ‘The Catholic Gentry, the Earl of Salisbury and the Bts. of 1611’, Conformity and Orthodoxy in Eng. Church ed. P. Lake and M. Questier, 262, 278.
- 15. APC, 1596-7, pp. 438, 449; APC, 1597, p. 43; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 84.
- 16. HMC Hatfield, xxiv. 160; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1623-5, p. 571.
- 17. STAC 8/114/13.
- 18. C78/363/1.
- 19. CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 15; 1598-1601, p. 409; 1601-3, pp. 83, 98; Chamberlain Letters, ed. N.E. McClure, i. 263.
- 20. C66/2126; VCH Bucks. iv. 47.
- 21. CJ, i. 211a, 225b, 980a, 227a, 288a, 351a, 366a, 394b, 398b.
- 22. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 427.
- 23. CJ, i. 559b, 563b, 623b.
- 24. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 77; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 412.
- 25. CJ, i. 724a; C78/205/11; C78/533/3.
- 26. SP14/127/48.
- 27. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 41-2.
- 28. C2/Jas.I/S31/35; STAC 8/116/5.
- 29. C2/Jas.I/D12/51.
- 30. VCH Bucks. iv. 45; Recs. of Bucks. iii. 236.
- 31. PROB 11/151, f. 197.
- 32. C142/435/112; C66/2361; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 25.