PLUMLEIGH, William (-d.1648), of Dartmouth, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

st s. of William Plumleigh of Dartmouth and Joan, da. of Allen Page of Totnes, Devon. m. (1) by 1601, Joan, da. of Thomas Spurway of Exminster, Devon, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) lic. 20 Jan. 1626, Ann Cockney of Dartmouth, 2da.; (3) Katherine. admon. 28 Oct. 1648.1 sig. Will[iam] Plumleigh.

Offices Held

Recvr. Dartmouth 1610-11,2 mayor 1617-18, 1625-6, 1632-3, 1641-2.3


Plumleigh belonged to a merchant family which rose to prominence in Dartmouth in the second half of the sixteenth century. Like many of his kinsmen, he profited from the town’s lucrative trade with Newfoundland, France and Spain.4 In 1613 he began lending money to the corporation, and three years later he travelled to London on municipal business with his future colleague William Nyell. He served as mayor for the first time in 1617-18.5 Plumleigh’s status as a gentleman was accepted by the heralds during the 1620 Devon visitation, and his subsidy rating of £6 in the following year was one of the town’s highest.6

In 1624 Plumleigh was elected to represent Dartmouth in the Commons. His return was apparently unopposed, though he may have been viewed as a temporary replacement for the borough’s regular choice, Roger Mathew, who was currently the mayor, and therefore ineligible to stand. In marked contrast to his colleague Nyell, Plumleigh is not known to have contributed to the Commons’ debates, nor did he attract any personal nominations. However, he did attend the committees for the bills to enfranchise county Durham, and to reform corrupt customs officials. The latter issue was of particular concern in Dartmouth, and he and Nyell were both regular faces at the relevant committee. Plumleigh probably helped to procure for the town its lengthy copy of the trade grievances presented by the Commons to the king, many of which reflected Dartmouth’s complaints. He was paid £30, at 5s. a day ‘for his expenses at the Parliament’.7

In 1625 Plumleigh was replaced in the Commons by a country gentleman, John Upton. Later that year he was again chosen as mayor, in which capacity he presided over the 1626 parliamentary election. On the day before the vote, the corporation passed a new by-law which aimed to reinforce the custom of electing only townsmen. However, this move failed to prevent the freemen from again choosing Upton.8 During this mayoralty Plumleigh complained to the government about the soldiers billeted in Dartmouth after the Cadiz expedition, and local merchants’ losses at the hands of the Sallee pirates, two issues which were also raised on the borough’s behalf in the 1626 Parliament.9 In February 1626 Plumleigh was accused of obstructing the impressment of seamen, but he also sought to profit from the war with Spain, obtaining letters of marque later that year for a ship which he jointly owned.10 He was listed as owner of three other vessels in (Sir) James Bagg II’s* 1626 survey of Devon shipping.11

Plumleigh’s cousin Richard was attacked during the 1628 Parliament as a Catholic convert, but he himself contributed generously to the rebuilding of St. Saviour’s church in 1631.12 His final mayoral term coincided with the outbreak of the Civil War, and he presumably backed Roger Mathew’s efforts to obtain an order from Parliament that the mayor should also act as Dartmouth’s military governor. Three of his family’s ships were employed in the town’s defence while it was a parliamentarian garrison in 1643.13 Plumleigh made his will on 9 Nov. 1647, bequeathing £150 to his wife, and £450 to a widowed daughter and her children. His date of death has not been established, but the will was proved 11 months later. No other members of the family sat in Parliament.14

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 595; Exeter Diocese Mar. Lics. ed. J.L. Vivian, 90; PROB 11/205, ff. 320-1.
  • 2. Devon RO, DD61805.
  • 3. Dartmouth Corporation, Provisional List of Mayors.
  • 4. Vivian, 595; P. Russell, Dartmouth, 108; E190/938/14; 190/942/12; 190/944/2.
  • 5. Devon RO, DD61862, 61908.
  • 6. Vivian, 595; Devon RO, DD61621.
  • 7. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 211, 218; Devon RO, DD61944, 62109.
  • 8. Devon RO, SM2004, f. 7.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 214, 320; Procs. 1626, ii. 132, 298.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 257; 1628-9, p. 291.
  • 11. Early Stuart Mariners and Shipping ed. T. Gray (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xxxiii), 96.
  • 12. Vivian, 595; CD 1628, iv. 201; Russell, 102.
  • 13. Russell, 109-10.
  • 14. PROB 11/205, ff. 320-1.