DOYLEY, Sir William (c.1614-77), of Shotesham, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



18 May 1660
1661 - Nov. 1677

Family and Education

b. c.1614, 1st s. of William Doyley of Pond Hall, Hadleigh, Suff. by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Stokes, archdeacon of Norwich 1587-1619. m. 1637, aged 23, Margaret, da. of John Randolfe, yeoman, of Pulham St. Mary Magdalene, Norf., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. fa. 1637, cos. Susan Doyley in Shotesham estate 1640; kntd. 2 July 1641; cr. Bt. 29 July 1663.2

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Norf. 1642, new model ordinance 1645, assessment, Norf. 1645-52, 1657, Jan. 1660-d., Suff. 1657, Aug. 1660-d., Yarmouth Aug. 1660-1, Westminster 1667-d., militia, Norf. 1648, 1659, Mar. 1660; j.p. Norf. 1649-d., col. of militia ft. Apr. 1660-d.; freeman, Yarmouth 1660, Portsmouth 1661; commr. for oyer and terminer, Norfolk circuit July 1660, corporations, Norf. 1662-3; receiver of taxes, London and Mdx. 1671-d., hearth-tax, Surr. and Southwark 1671; commr. for recusants, Norf. 1675.3

Commr. for disbandment Aug. 1660-1, excise appeals Oct. 1660-d., sick and wounded 1664-7, 1672-4, revenue wagons 1665-7, exchange office 1667-70, loyal and indigent officers’ accounts 1671.4


The East Anglian branch of the Doyley family was established about the middle of the 15th century. Doyley, who could expect little from his father, took service in the Swedish army as a young man, and on his return to England married into an obscure local family. In 1641 his position was transformed by the death of an infant cousin, from whom he inherited the Shotesham estate. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was appointed to the commission of array, but in East Anglia he was powerless to assist the royalist cause, and he took refuge in the Netherlands. He obeyed an order from the Long Parliament to return in 1645, serving on the county committee and representing Norfolk under the Protectorate.5

On 23 Jan. 1660 Doyley wrote to Sir Horatio Townshend, leader of the royalist conspirators in Norfolk, undertaking to do anything in his power ‘for the country’s peace, ease of grievances, and settlement of the nation’, and he signed the address for a free Parliament presented to George Monck. Honourably defeated in the county election, with over 2,000 votes, he was returned for Yarmouth on the open franchise, although the corporation would have preferred the regicide Miles Corbet. Seated in the Convention on the merits of the election, he was marked as a friend by Lord Wharton, to be managed by his colleague Sir John Potts. They were asked by their constituents to secure a frigate to guard the Yarmouth herring fleet off Orkney from the Ostend privateers. Doyley was an active Member, with four tellerships, seven recorded speeches, and 44 committees, including the inquiry into unauthorized Anglican publications. In the debate on the indemnity bill he urged that all provisos should be referred to a select committee, and when it was proposed to require the refund of official salaries received during the Interregnum he moved that the judges should be exempted. On 26 July he was teller against a levy of 8d. a head on live cattle imported from Scotland, many of which were fattened on Norfolk pastures. He opposed the bill to enable Sir George Booth to sever the entail on his estates, preferring to reward him for his services to the Restoration with a grant of £10,000. A member of the revenue committee, he complained that Norfolk was extremely over-assessed, and moved for the more equitable method of a national pound rate. On 16 Aug. he was added to the managers of a conference on the poll-tax. It was probably Townshend’s interest with Lord Treasurer Southampton, the lord lieutenant of the county, that obtained for Doyley a seat on the excise appeals board. In his case the post was at first no sinecure, for in this capacity he sought and obtained authority from the Commons for the levy of excise on calico and raw silk. He reported frequently to the House from the army committee, and on 31 Aug. brought in the disbandment bill, subsequently helping to manage a conference. He was also among those to whom the proposed establishment for Dunkirk was committed, and before the adjournment the Commons unanimously accepted his lengthy report on payments due from Parliament for supplies and services. As disbandment got under way during the recess, he asked for the retention of two companies of foot in Yarmouth, which could not be ‘trusted without a guard, as the Anabaptists try to foment differences between the Episcopalians and Presbyterians’. When Parliament reassembled in November, Doyley wrote:

The poll bill falls so strangely short of what was expected that the want of that money hath run us into great debts, which we are now considering how to satisfy. The bill of attainder is almost finished; their lives are spared, their estates confiscated. ... The Queen is suddenly to return with her fair daughter, who is the greatest beauty in the world; but what do I talk of beauties, who, through age and a load of business, such as makes me groan under it, am scarce able to sleep or eat in quiet.

He was among those entrusted with preparing the excise clauses in the bill to abolish the court of wards. He served on the committee for the bill to encourage the fishing industry and acted as teller for making Wednesday a meatless day. When one Member protested that this would cause hardship to travellers, Doyley ‘said jestingly that it was fit (Sir) Samuel Jones and his family should be excepted’. He was teller for authorizing innkeepers to hold wine licences, and against enabling the corporation of London to impose a two months assessment for the militia.6

Doyley was re-elected in 1661 with the support of both Presbyterians and Independents, though he had little sympathy with their beliefs. It was later declared that ‘[Richard] Huntington and his cabal were the only instruments of Sir William Doyley’s being made a burgess’. James Johnson acted as his agent, and he was described as the ‘father’ of the partial conformists in the borough. Wharton again listed him among his friends in the House, and he took no part in the Clarendon Code. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, nevertheless, he was appointed to 198 committees, in six of which he took the chair, and helped to manage three conferences. He made six recorded speeches, carried five bills to the Upper House, and acted as teller in eight divisions. On 14 May he asked the Lords for their concurrence in the printing of the speech from the throne, and was appointed to the committee for the security bill. He took the chair for a Somerset estate bill in which Francis Wyndham was named as principal trustee, and was appointed to the committees to prevent tumultuous petitioning and mischief from Quakers, and to consider the bill of pains and penalties. On 11 July he delivered his last report on disbandment, tabling a summary of the charges and expenses incurred in paying off the navy. He carried the fen drainage bill to the Lords, and after the recess acted as teller with John Birch for an unsuccessful motion to impose a general excise on beer and ale. He reported a bill to penalize the import of adulterated madder, and on 28 Feb. 1662 he was teller against hearing the report of Francis Goodricke on the alnage bill. With Sir Baynham Throckmorton, 2nd Bt., and (Sir) William Lowther he was asked to expedite the lord treasurer’s report on the Forest of Dean, which he tabled on 13 Mar. Eight days later Doyley and Birch were again unsuccessful in an attempt to strengthen the excise, when a bill to regulate frauds and abuses was rejected on second reading.7

Although Doyley acted as commissioner for corporations in Norfolk, he was unable to protect Johnson and his other friends in Yarmouth. He may have obtained his baronetcy in an attempt to compensate for this blow to his local prestige, and he remained attentive both to local needs and to the requirements of the Exchequer. In the 1663 session he acted as teller with Thomas Clifford against a motion to ‘mitigate the rigour of the law as to the strict observation of this Lent and prohibiting the eating of flesh’. He carried up the Wells quay bill, and reported an explanatory bill about arrears of excise. A court dependant in 1664, he was authorized by the House on 29 Apr. to bring in another bill to prevent excise frauds. When a bill to incorporate the suburb of Little Yarmouth was introduced on behalf of (Sir) Robert Paston in the autumn session, Doyley desired that his constituency ‘should have timely notice of it to make their objections’, and with his colleague William Coventry he twice acted as teller against it. They were each rewarded by the corporation with a gift of £25. On 15 Dec. he again failed to secure a reduction in the county assessment. He was sent to thank the Presbyterian conformist Dr Owtram for his sermon on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, and on 9 Feb. 1665 he attended a conference on the Lords’ proviso to the royal aid bill. During the second Dutch war he was given the responsibility, together with (Sir) Henry Vernon and Robert Scawen, of bringing up revenue payments to the Exchequer from the provinces, and he also took charge of the sick and wounded, including prisoners, in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. He complained to Samuel Pepys

of the great neglect of our masters, the great officers of state, about all business, and especially that of money, having now some thousands prisoners, and no money provided almost for the doing of it.

A naval surgeon reported to Joseph Williamson that:

Sir William Doyley has personally visited every sick and hurt person on shore in these quarters, so that 400 are cleared off and none will now be a burden longer than needs be, through orders issued by him, which the several agents are to execute exactly. He is indefatigable in his service, and not a penny is spent that could be saved.

He led the opposition on behalf of the Norfolk farmers to the ban on Irish cattle imports, disingenuously pretending to John Milward in committee that ‘if they might be supplied for one year with cattle out of Ireland, they being at present in want of stock, they would desire no more’. The expense of a large family had by now compelled him to mortgage his whole estate, and the acquisition of a tellership in the Exchequer for his extravagant eldest son must have required further outlay. He went down with a stroke in April 1666, and his colleagues considered his recovery little short of miraculous.8

Doyley probably welcomed the fall of Clarendon, serving on the committee of inquiry into the miscarriages of the war. He also helped to consider the measure to improve government credit by legalizing the transfer of Exchequer bills. On 27 Oct. 1667 he reported an undertaking from the Dutch ambassador that the English prisoners of war in Zeeland would be released immediately, but a month later he formed one of the Commons deputation sent to ask the King to make provision for their speedy relief and enlargement. He was awarded a pension of £300 p.a. for his pains over the revenue, and appointed to the new exchange commission to which was entrusted the general supervision of the processes of tax collection. On 21 Feb. 1668 he was among those ordered to ascertain how much of the revenue voted for the war had actually been applied to that purpose. He managed the bill to authorize the collection of duties by Yarmouth corporation for the upkeep of the port, drawing up trade statistics for use in committee, and acting as teller on the report stage on 26 Mar. 1670. Four days later he carried back to the Lords the bill to enable Anthony Ashley to make a jointure for his wife. He was chairman for the bill promoted by Henry Williams to overturn a decree by the Bedford level commissioners, and carried it up. He also carried the bill to enable the estate of the defaulting tax-official Thomas Harlackenden to be sold. The exchange office was suppressed towards the end of 1670, but Doyley’s name appears on both lists of the court party at this time, and in 1671 he joined the syndicate formed by Lord St. John (Charles Powlett I) to farm the customs.9

During the third Dutch war, Doyley again served as commissioner for the sick and wounded. According to A Seasonable Argument he ‘got £7,000 out of the Dutch prisoners’ allowance and starved many of them to death’; but in fact he was unable to extract from the Treasury the money owing in his constituency for quartering the sick and wounded after the battle of Sole Bay, totalling nearly £1,000, and his experience as hearth-tax receiver for Surrey was disastrous owing to frauds by ‘pretended agents’. When Clifford was exposed as a Papist in 1673, Doyley made a feeble attempt to defend him, and even suggested that there was no danger in his remaining lord treasurer, since ‘the King concerns himself in all things of the Treasury’. He was named on the Paston list, and in 1674 he was among those appointed to consider the charges against Lord Arlington, to bring in a general test bill, and to inquire into the state of Ireland. His affairs were becoming steadily more involved, and in the spring session of 1675 he was obliged to claim privilege for three of his servants. Nevertheless he took the chair for a highways bill, and was named to the committee for appropriating the customs to the use of the navy and for preventing the growth of Popery. Listed among the officials in the House and on the working lists, he received the government whip for the autumn session, and promised (Sir) Joseph Williamson to attend. He was again appointed to the appropriation committee, but denied the contention of Sir Nicholas Carew that the proceedings of the disbandment commissioners in 1660-1 afforded a precedent for paying the revenue for the navy into the chamber of London instead of the Exchequer. During the long recess, he was listed among the government supporters by Sir Richard Wiseman and as a government speaker by Williamson, while Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’. On 9 Sept. 1676 he wrote to Danby that he had ‘sold as much land as I shall receive £4,000 for’, and he was retained on the excise appeals commission. On 12 Mar. 1677 he defended the additional excise and the corn bounty:

The subject has advantage by this additional duty of excise. As to the Act for Exportation of Corn, he appeals whether any man of £5 p.a. gains not by it. The King has deducted out of his customs £80,000 for abatements, according to that Act.

His last important committee was on the bill to ensure the Protestant education of the royal children. During the summer his son was found to have misused his office for private gain, though he contrived to shield himself from the worst consequences by turning King’s evidence against his superior, Sir Robert Howard. Doyley himself was buried at Hadleigh in November 1677, although he was posthumously included in the ‘unanimous club’, doubtless in confusion with his son. His will was never proved, and it was not until 1790 that another member of the family entered Parliament.10

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Excluded.
  • 2. W. D. Bayley, House of D’Oyly, 110, 117-18; Norf. RO, Norfolk consistory court wills, 93 Trotter.
  • 3. Parl. Intell. 9 Apr. 1660; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 74; ii. 206; iii. 567, 1134; Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx), 9; HMC Lothian, 125; Cal. Yarmouth Freemen, 191; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 356; Blomefield, Norf. iii. 405.
  • 4. CJ , viii. 116; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 75,671; iv. 433; v. 197; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 112; 1667, p. 288; 1671, p. 324; l671-2, pp. 94, 241.
  • 5. Bayley, 99; Copinger, Suff. Manors, iii. 160-1; Blomefield, v. 506-7; HMC Portland, i. 149; CJ, ii. 884; iii. 129, 332.
  • 6. HMC Townshend, 23; Address from Gentry of Norf. ed. Rye, 29; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 639-40; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 68, 309; Bowman diary, ff. 43, 50, 104v, 122; CJ, viii. 124, 128, 134, 165-6, 222, 224, 231; HMC 6th Rep. 363; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 68.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 77; 1670, pp. 473-4; 1677-8, p 519; Bayley, 118; CJ, viii. 262, 304, 368, 371.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1666-7, pp. 103, 568; CJ, viii. 437, 511, 531, 578, 592, 594, 598; C. J. Palmer, Hist. Yarmouth, 214; Add. 32094, f. 24; Pepys Diary, 9 Sept. 1665; Milward, 4, 9; Bayley, 119; Evelyn Diary, iii. 433, 448.
  • 9. Milward, 94; CJ, ix. 26, 184, 185, 235; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 611; iii. 1122; C. D. Chandaman, Eng. Pub. Revenue, 182; H. Swinden, Yarmouth, 899.
  • 10. HMC 6th Rep. 374; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 405; Grey, ii. 153, iii. 363; iv. 227; Dering, 149; CJ, ix. 326, 345; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 332; 1677-8, p. 448; Add. 28051, f. 35; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xx), 155.