Sir Frances Dodington, GBD, and The Village of Dodington

(The following is extracted from "VICISSITUDES OF FAMILIES", Volume I, by Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms, printed in 1883.)

P1easantly situated under the northern ridge of that lofty part of the Quantock range, called Dowesborough Hill from the ancient entrenchment of Dowaborough, Or Daneaborough castle, and overlooking one of the rich valleys of west Somersetshire, and further onward the Bristol Channel and the coasts of Wales, are the little parish and ancient Hall of Dodington.

In the time of Henry II a Norman family acquired by marriage the manor, and assumed the name of Dodeton, or Dodington -- a double inheritance transmitted to its descendants till the commencement of the reign of George III.

Of this family was Sir Francis Dodington, Sheriff of Somersetshire, 6th. Charles I., who, at the commencement of the civil war, was the first to execute the Kings commission of array in that county. He served his sovereign as a colonel in the western army, and for his zeal and fidelity was excepted by name from availing himself of the privileges of the treaty of Uxbridge, and of other subsequent treaties contracted by the parliament with the King. On the submission of the Royalist party, he fled into France and awaited the return of better times.

Meanwhile the gallant cavalier who had fought so bravely, who had been the King’s Commissioner of Array, and Colome1 of the Horse in the West and who formed part of the stately court of the first Charles, had too much spirit and independence to be the pensioner of others. His estate confiscated, his property ruthlessly seized, and his home and country denied him, he determined, in the land of his exile, to trust to his own right hand and to earn his own daily bread. Like the Huguenots of a later period in Eng1and and Ireland, he made available a certain taste he had for mechanics, turned cutler, and set up a shop in Paris, where he followed that useful trade, and gained a livelihood by selling English knives and steel buckles. Possibly he may have thus introduced English cutlery amongst the French who still place great value on that article of manufacture. If that be so, Sir Francis Dodington’s vicissitude may have conferred a lasting benefit on the commerce of his country.

Before the Restoration, he was raised from indigence by the affection of a French widow, whom he married: and after the Restoration he returned to his ancestral property of Dodington.

His grandson, George Dodington, was Secretary to the Earl of Oxford, then Treasurer of the Navy, and was a Lord of the Admiralty in l709. In the previous years, l707 and l708, he had filled the influential office of Private Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and among the Stare Papers of the period preserved in the record tower of Dublin Castle are many of Mr. Dodington’s letters, filled with curious and Interesting details. He died in 1720, without issue, and his estates devolved upon George Bubb, Esq., of Gunvil Eastbury, in Dorsetshire, the son of his sister. On this, Mr. Bubb superadded the name of Dodington. As an instance of the ‘chaffing’ of our ancestors, it has been handed down that on Mr. Bubb complaining "that some people who had double names had both of them too long, and that his first name was too short", a friend replied, Put "Silly" before it, and thus "you will easily remedy the defect".

This Mr. Bubb-Dodington, great grandson of the vendor of buckles, was Ambassador to Spain, had a seat in the House of Commons, and in 1781 was raised to the Peerage as Baron Melcombe of Melcombe Regis; but he is beast known to posterity as the author of a diary, pub1ished with his name after his decease. He died without descendants in l762, at his villa, La Trappe, Hammersmith, and a great portion of his estates passed to the family of Grenville, ancestors of the present Duke of Buckingham.

A story, whether with or without foundation in fact, is current in Somersetshire that, when one of the Dodingtons was making his will, he asked his solicitor if he could recollect any one of the descendants of the Dodingtons that had any claims upon him whom he had omitted to put in the entail. The solicitor answered be could not; whereupon a little boy who was playing in a corner of the room, looking up, exclaimed "Put me in": on which the testator observed "My little fellow, 1 will; but I don’t think it will be of any use to you". This boy, who was one of the Grenville family, eventually succeeded to the Dodington estates. The young gentleman, it seems, would lose nothing for want of asking.

Esther Temple, aunt of Esther Temple, Viscountess Cobham, and Countess Temple, ancestor by her marriage with Richard Grenville, of the Dukes of Buckingham, was wife of John Dodington, eldest son of Sir Francis Dodington, the Sheriff of Somersetshire in time of Charles I; so that the family of Grenville was related to that of Dodington, though not descended from it.

The manor house of Dodington now forms a portion of the extensive Somersetshire possessions of Sir Peregrine Fuller Palmer Acland of Fairfield, Bart. Much of the old mansion, with its early Tudor open roofed hall and painted glass armorial bearings, still exists, and is in the process of judicious repair and restoration by the 1iberal proprietor. In the August of 1888, the Somersetshire Archaeological Society, after partaking of a collation in the great dining room at Fairfie1d, accompanied by its emphatically worthy owner, proceeded about three miles northward to visit the ancient seat of the Dodingtons of Dodington.

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