A 16th Century Motcombe Dispute
by Geoffrey Mann

The following information was found 1n "The Greenwood Tree" the publication of  The Somerset and Dorset Family History Society

The Parish of Motcombe, the subject of a recent spotlight (Greenwod Tree November 2008) can claim an interesting 16th Century son. Richard DACKOMBE of Motcombe had a son John who rose from his relatively humble origins to become steward and secretary to Robert Cecil, was elected MP for Corfe Castle, knighted by James I and appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Richard acquired his land in Morcombe when he married Alice MONNTIER (Mountier) in 1567. However his right to the and was challenged in Chancery. Such disputes can be a genealogical godmine, since the protagonist usually describe the inheritance leading to their cl;aim. This dispute reached Chancery in 1571 nearly100 years before the earliest Motcombe register. The complainants were yeoman John DEVERALL of Whytchurch, Somerset, and husbandman John BROWNE of Motcombe. They claimed the lands were originally in the possession William Monntier late of Motcombe who let them to William BARON deceased who bequeathed the to his wife Grace and son William. Grace then married John DEVERALL about 5 years later and they let the lands to William BROWNE father of complainant John.

The defendants Richard DACKOMBE abd John COMPTON agreed only that the lands were originally un the possession of William Monntier. They claimed Monntier conveyed the premises to Alice, one of his daughters. About 4 years after she married Richard DAKHAM (sic) and let the lands to John COMPTON.

Thus this dispute provides dated genealogical information for the BROWNE, BARON, MONNTIER and DACKOMBE families of Motcombe. The lands may have been Wormeswell and Vowells as Richard's son possessed these properties in 1618. Their location is unknown. The outcome of the dispute is also unknown as settlements are not filed with the complaint and are hard to find, but the Gillingham Court roll of 1567 agrees with Richard DACKOMBE's story. Hazarding a guess, the BROWNE family were actually occupying the land until Richard came along and found (or knew!) that his wife Alice had the right to it, and so turned out poor John BROWNE.

If this is correct, Richard's eldest son John profited from his father's example. John was born c1570 and married widow Melior MOHUN, formerly PITT about 1592. After training as a lawyer in Middle Temple he was employed by Robert Cecil, secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth and James I. He rose in Cecil's employment, becoming secretary, steward and financial adviser. His skills lay in land deals, the investments of the age, land being purchased for income and capital appreciation. No doubt, one wayof increasing the land's value was by racking up the rent perhaps to the detriment of folk who actually worked the land.

When Cecil employed DACKOMBE, Cecil's finances were in a dreadful state because of his passion for building. At the beginning of the 17th century he was building Cranbourne in Dorset, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, Salisbury House in the Strand and the New Exchange - the supermarket of its time - also in the Strand. In 1601-2 he spent 30,000 (equivalent 3 million today) on land, partly to consolidate his position at Cranborne including the Borough and three Cranbourne manors, and the manors of Berwick St John, Bollesborough, Dameron and Rushton.

Cecil was still building ten years later when John DACKOMBE wrote: "I beseech your Lordship to forbear building". He had spent the equivalent of 6 million pounds in five years, most of it on Hatfield House. But John succeeded in balancing his books. In his will Cecil recommended John to his son: "in mine own estate I have been overthrown by large expense and lack of care if he had not been". (Did Cecil really say this - remembering that John penned the will himself under dictation fro Cecil on his sick bed?).

John DACKOMBE also set about building his own fortune. After Cecil's death, he wrote to Cecil's son, the Earl of Salisbury, to defend himself against slander. He claimed to have gained Cecil's estate of 35,000, and added: "I was not ignorant how to augment myne owne estate that  knew how to advantage their Lordships so much". John was knighted by James I in June 1616 and appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which was a  be cvlucrative post; money could be made in ways that would now be considered corrupt, but were normal at the time. But before he could enjoy the fruits of his ambition, John was taken ill and died of a "lethargy or drowsy disease" in January 1618 aged 48.

At his death he held Wormeswell and Vowells in Motcombe, Moones Part of Hendstridge Somerset, Combe Farm in Abbotscombe, lands in Okeden, Madistone College in Kent, the Rectory of Colbyin Lincoln, lands in Thirsk and elsewhere in York, copyhold land in West Ham, lands in Pawlesbury, tenements in the Savoy, lands in Derby, and the manors of Templecombe, Abbascombe, Endeston, Henstridge, Whitchurch and Horton Ferrers in Somerset and Wilts. Not for the lad from Motcombe, whose father Richard was assessed for a mere 2 of land in the Tudor subsidy of 1594.

Richard's lands in Motcombe were granted away in January 1605 probably because of his death aged about 65. He had two other sone, William and Nicholas, and four daughters, Joan (m PENNEY) Frances (m YONGE) Dorothy (m ESTMONT) and Amy (m DIRDOE). Nicholas married Melior MOHUN/MOONE, the daughter of Sir John's wife by her first marriage - a complicated relationship.

With the death of Sir John, the family fortunes wained as quickly as they had grown. He had borrowed money to pay for his deals and owed eight thousand pounds at death. His brothers Nicholas and William were soon in financial difficulty and William died in the Fleet prison for debt.

The Dackombe families of Steepleton and of Corfe Castle are well documented. But the branch to which Richard of Motcombe belonged is not. 16th Century or earlier DACKOMBE/DACKHAM references would be welcomed. An article in Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset, March 1995 describes Sir John's career and what I then knew of his origins. Since then, the relationship of the various families have been further clarified. Details on my website www.btinternet.com/~surrey.hypno/Genealogy and the  subject of a future article.

Dr Geoffrey Mann
Bay Trees, Burnhams Rd
Little Bookham, Surrey KT23 3AU

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