DUDLEY, Sir William, 1st Bt. (c.1607-70), of Clopton, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1607, 3rd s. of Edward Dudley of Clopton by Elizabeth, da. of Robert Wood of Lambley, Notts. m. (1) Hester, da. of Edward de Pleurs of Westminster, s.p.; (2) 11 Sept. 1651, Jane, da. of Sir Roger Smith of Edmondthorpe, Leics., s.p.; (3) Mary, da. and h. of Paul Pindar of Bishopsgate, London, 2s. 1da. suc. bro. 1641; cr. Bt. 1 Aug. 1660.1
Member, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1630, Hon. Artillery Co. 1635; commr. of array, Northants. 1642; alderman, London July-Aug. 1651, commr. for assessment, Northants. 1657, Jun. 1660, 1661-9; j.p. Northants. July 1660-5, 1670-d., Hunts. 1661-5; sheriff, Northants. Nov. 1660-1; commr. for complaints, Bedford level 1663.2
Dudley’s ancestors had held land in Clopton astride the Huntingdonshire border since 1395, but had never entered Parliament. As one of six brothers he was expected to carve out a career for himself, and to that end was apprenticed to a London Merchant Taylor in 1623. On his master’s death seven years later he took over the business and traded at the sign of the Black Raven in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Among his customers was Thomas Wentworth, the chronically impecunious son of the 1st Earl of Cleveland, who bought ‘divers parcels of cloth at hard and dear rates’ and found himself dunned before the Privy Council when he failed to pay. Such persistence brought its own reward, and Dudley was already a wealthy man, reckoned in the second class of London citizens, when he succeeded to the family estate. During the Civil War, he was alleged to have escorted the plate sent to the King from the Cambridge colleges, and he was certainly present, with all his tenants, when the commission of array was read at Kettering in 1642. Later he claimed to have acted only under constraint; it was suggested ‘that he might have took his horse and rid away, to which he replied not, but hummed’. His youngest brother Gamaliel fought for the King in both wars, and was knighted. Repeated attempts by the informers to have Dudley classified as a delinquent all failed, thanks to mysteriously glowing certificates in his favour from the Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire committees. His first wife he appears to have obtained by abducting her from the custody of her grand-parents; the Council of State reversed its decision twice, eventually ordering him to return her, but presumably the marriage had already been consummated. He fined for alderman in 1651, and in the following year was elected master of his Company, though he had never taken livery or held any other office, but again he preferred to fine off.3
At the Restoration Dudley was created a baronet and pricked sheriff of Northamptonshire, in which capacity he supervised the general election of 1661, and prevented the Presbyterian Richard Knightley from regaining his seat. After his defeat by Sir James Langham in 1662, he seems to have been responsible for purging the Northampton corporation of dissenters and modifying the charter. On petition, Langham’s election was declared void, and Dudley, with the support of the mayor and ‘the loyal party’, defeated Christopher Hatton. He was unseated a month later without having taken any ascertainable part in the business of the House. Presumably it was the Montagus who procured Dudley’s removal from the commission of the peace in 1665. When he was taken seriously ill in 1667 he expressed himself anxious to be reconciled with Lord Montagu, but he was not restored until shortly before his death on 18 Sept. 1670. On the memorial erected by his widow at Clapton he was said to be 73 years of age, probably a mistake for 63. His son Matthew, after contesting Higham Ferrers in 1685, sat for Northampton as a Whig from 1702 to 1705.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 86; PCC 187 Twine; CSP Dom. 1649-50, p. 475; St. Clement Eastcheap (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxvii), 92; Bridges, Northants. ii. 372.
- 2. Information from Col. G. F. H. Archer, clerk of the Merchant Taylors’ Co.; Ancient Vellum Bk. of Hon. Artillery Co. ed. Raikes, 50.
- 3. Bridges, 369; Inhabitants of London ed. Dale, 65; CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 171, 1649-50, pp. 428, 429, 433, 475; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 2), ii. 71; information from Col. Archer; SP19/112/119-20.
- 4. Diary of Thomas Isham, 12-13; Add. 29551, ff. 8, 12, 18; CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 204, 223, 603; HMC Buccleuch, i. 316.