William Dugdale

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Sir William Dugdale of Blyth Hall in 1656: an etching by Wenceslaus Hollar

Sir William Dugdale (12 September 1605 – 10 February 1686) was an English antiquary and herald. As a scholar he was influential in the development of medieval history as an academic subject.


Dugdale was born at Shustoke, near Coleshill in Warwickshire, where his father, John Dugdale, was steward to the local landowner. As he was born, a swarm of bees flew into the garden, which some considered "a happy presage on the life of the babe".

He was educated at King Henry VIII School, Coventry. In 1623, he married Margaret Huntbach (1607–81), with whom he had nineteen children. In 1625, the year after his father's death, he purchased the manor of Blyth, near Shustoke. During an enclosure dispute with a neighbour a few years later he met the Leicestershire antiquary William Burton, who acted as arbitrator. He became involved in transcribing documents and collecting church notes and met other Midlands antiquaries such as Sir Simon Archer (1581–1662) and Sir Thomas Habington. He began working with Archer on the history of Warwickshire and their research led them to the archives of public records in London. There he met Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir Henry Spelman, Sir Simonds d'Ewes and Sir Edward Dering. Hatton provided him with hospitality in Holborn and became his principal patron.

In 1638, through the influence of his friends Dugdale was created a pursuivant of arms extraordinary by the name of Blanche Lyon, and, in 1639, he was promoted to the office of Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary. The accommodation in the College of Arms and the income from his post enabled him to pursue his research in London.

According to his later account, in 1641 Sir Christopher Hatton, foreseeing the English Civil War and dreading the ruin and spoliation of the Church, commissioned him to make exact drafts of all the monuments in Westminster Abbey and the principal churches in England.

Portrait of Sir William Dugdale by Silvester Harding

In June 1642, he was summoned with the other heralds to attend the king at York. When the war broke out Charles deputed him to summon the castles of Banbury and Warwick to surrender.

He witnessed the Battle of Edgehill, and later returned with a surveyor to make a survey of the battlefield. He arrived in Oxford with the king in November 1642 and he was admitted MA of the University. He worked as a bureaucrat in the royalist capital, especially after December 1643 when Hatton was appointed Comptroller of the Household. In 1644 the king appointed him Chester Herald of Arms in Ordinary.

During his leisure at Oxford he collected material at the Bodleian Library and college libraries for his books. It was during these years that he met Elias Ashmole, who later became his son-in-law. Following the surrender of Oxford in 1646 Dugdale returned to Blyth Hall and compounded for his estates under the terms of the Oxford articles. Hatton, who had opposed the surrender, went into exile in France, where Dugdale visited him in 1648.

He recommenced his antiquarian researches, collaborating with Roger Dodsworth on the Monasticon Anglicanum, the first volume of which was published in 1655. In the following year he published his own Antiquities of Warwickshire, which was soon recognised as a model county history. In this work he was one of the first to consider the significance of stone tools, stating these were "weapons used by the Britons before the art of making arms of brass or iron was known".[1]

At the Restoration Dugdale obtained the office of Norroy King of Arms through the influence of the Earl of Clarendon. In the office of Norroy he undertook heraldic visitations of the counties north of the Trent.

In 1677 he was knighted and promoted to the office of Garter Principal King of Arms, which he held until his death. In his last years he wrote an account of his life at the request of Anthony Wood. He died "in his chair" at Blyth Hall in 1686, aged 80.


He also edited Sir Henry Spelman's Glossarium Archaiologicum (1664) and Concilia (1664), adding his own extensions to the latter. His Life, written by himself up to 1678, with his diary and correspondence, and an index to his manuscript collections, was edited by William Hamper, and published in 1827.


Coat of arms of William Dugdale
A griffin's head & wings or.
Argent, a millrind cross (Cross moline) gules with a roundel gules in the dexter canton.[5]
Pestis Patriae Pigrities ("Sloth is the bane of a country")


The Dugdale Society, a text publication society for Warwickshire, takes its name from William Dugdale.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chris Stringer (2007). Homo britannicus. The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain. London: Penguin. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-14-101813-3.
  2. ^ a b Dugdale, Sir William (1693). "Monasticon Anglicanum". or The History of the Ancient Abbies, and other Monasteries, Hospitals, Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, in England and Wales. With Divers French, Irish, and Scotch Monasteries Formerly relating to England (Translated from the Latin). London: Sam Keble and Hen Rhodes. Retrieved 3 January 2010. Full text at Internet Archives.
  3. ^ "The history of imbanking and drayning of divers fenns and marshes, both in forein parts and in this kingdom, and of the improvements thereby extracted from records, manuscripts, and other authentick testimonies / by William Dugdale". Quod.lib.umich.edu. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Dugdale's Visitation of Yorkshire, with additions". Exeter, W. Pollard & Co. 1899. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  5. ^ Godfrey, Walter H; Wagner, Anthony (1963). "'Garter King of Arms', in Survey of London Monograph 16, College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street (London, 1963), pp. 38-74". british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 November 2018.


External links[edit]

Heraldic offices
Preceded by Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chester Herald of Arms
Succeeded by
Preceded by Norroy King of Arms
Succeeded by
Preceded by Garter King of Arms
Succeeded by