Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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DOLBEN ( DOULBEN , DOULBIN , or DAULBIN ) , of Segrwyd, Denbs. , etc.

This family, probably not of Welsh origin and appearing in early records as ‘ Doulben ,’ first settled in Denbighshire after Henry VII 's grant of Segrwyd to ROBERT DOLBEN for his services against the Cornish rebels at Blackheath ( 1497 ). His grandson and namesake became recorder and steward of Denbigh , and others of the family entered trade there, supplying the borough with a succession of common councillors and civic officials .

DAVID DOLBEN ( 1581 - 1633 ), bishop of Bangor ,

was a son of Robert Wyn Dolben (great-grandson of the first Robert Dolben above) and of Jane , daughter of Owen ap Reinallt of Glyn Llugwy . He entered S. John's College , Cambridge , in 1602 , holding one of the scholarships founded by Dr. John Gwyn (d. 1574 ) , and graduated B.A. 1606 , M.A. 1609 , and D.D. 1626 . Ordained by George Abbot , bishop of London , in 1607 , he became successively vicar of Hackney ( 1619 ) and Llangernyw ( 1621 ), and prebendary of S. Asaph ( 1626 ), and was elected a capital burgess of Denbigh in 1627 . On the death of Lewis Bayly , he was elected to the vacant see of Bangor , receiving consecration at the hands of Abbot , now archbishop of Canterbury ( March 1632 ), and resigning his living of Llangernyw . He was a firm administrator , refusing to let family influence stand in the way of ecclesiastical discipline, but he was taken ill in May 1633 , resigned his other preferments, and in the following Nov. d. at Bangor House , the London residence of the bishops of Bangor in Shoe Lane , Holborn . He was buried in his old church of Hackney , where he is commemorated by a monumental inscription (text in Browne Willis , Bangor , 112). Anthony Wood describes him as ‘learned,’ but no work of his has survived save some undergraduate verses in memory of a fellow-student, Sir Edward Lewkner (d. 1605 ), a connection of Sir Richard Lewkner the Welsh judge and Pembrokeshire magistrate ( Williams , Welsh Judges , 33; Venn , Alumni Cantab. , I, iii, 82). The bequest to his college of funds for the purchase of some 300 Hebrew books does, however, suggest scholarly tastes. Williams gives no authority for his statement ( Ancient and Modern Denbigh , 206) that Dolben was ‘an able Welsh scholar and preacher .’ The claim that Edmund Griffith , dean of Bangor , was Dolben 's own nominee for succession to the see was disputed in his day ( Cal. S.P. Dom. , 1633-4 , 318).

The bishop left no children, but his brother JOHN DOLBEN (of Caeau Gwynion ) became through his daughter Emma (m. Rev. Hugh Williams of Llantrisant ) the grandfather of Sir William Williams the Speaker ( 1634 - 1700 ) . Another brother, WILLIAM DOLBEN (d. 1643 ), after receiving a pardon from Charles I in 1625 for crimes of violence, was dismissed from the county bench and the aldermanship of Denbigh as a ‘ common barrator ’ in 1638 , when complaints were also made of him to Laud by his vicar ; but he was once more reinstated and served as sheriff in 1639 ( N.L.W. Llewenny MSS. 3 (33, 48, 65, 146), 40 (4) , N.L.W. MS. 1600 (250, 256) ). William 's eldest son JOHN DOLBEN (d. 1662 ), who succeeded to the estate, was a lieut.-colonel in Charles 's army, helped to defend Denbigh castle , and was fined (at one-tenth) £107 by Parliament in 1647 . In Sept. 1659 he took part in Booth's rebellion and helped to hold Chirk castle for Charles II . Two other members of the family took part in the attempt to surprise Denbigh and Ruthin castles for the king in May and July, 1648 , and another manufactured saltpetre for the county Royalist forces under authority of the local commissioners of array ( Cal. Cttee. for Compounding , iii, 1718; Camb. Quart. Mag. , i, 72; Hist. MSS. Com. , Portland , i, 475-6; C.J. , vii, 791). JOHN DOLBEN (d. 1709 ), son of the Royalist colonel , was in 1684 one of a commission of ten on concealed Crown lands in Denbighshire ( Cal. Treasury Books , vii, 1132). With him the direct male line died out, the estate passing through his daughter to her husband John Mostyn , great-grandson of Sir Roger Mostyn (d. 1642 — see the article Mostyn of Mostyn ) and pioneer of the broadcloth industry at Denbigh ( 1749- c. 1770 ).

Other branches of the family remained prominent in local society and politics until the 18th cent. , some members holding minor office under the revived Council of Wales after the Restoration ( Cal. S.P. Dom. , 1660-1 (104), 1667 (139); Cal. Treas. Books , iv, 751, vi, 534, vii, 543, ix, 1845 ), others playing their part in the civic life of Ruthin ( W. M. Myddelton , Chirk Castle Accounts, 1666-1753 ; N.L.W. Brogyntyn MSS., letter 100 ); while DAVID DOLBEN ( c. 1686 - c. 1749 ), son of Hugh Dolben of Llangynhafal , after education at Ruthin and at Magdalene , Cambridge , held several Denbighshire livings and became a canon of Bangor ( A. I. Pryce , Diocese of Bangor Through Three Centuries , 18, 21, 27-8). But the most prominent members of the family after the bishop of Bangor 's death sprang from a branch which had migrated to Pembrokeshire . The founder of this branch was JOHN DOLBEN , merchant , of Haverfordwest , whose precise relationship to the parent stock is uncertain, but who m. Alice , daughter of Richard Myddelton of Denbigh and sister of Sir Hugh Myddelton . His son WILLIAM DOLBEN ( 1588 - 1631 ), successively vicar of Stackpool Elidyr, Pembs. ( 1616 ), Lawrenny, Pembs. ( 1620 ), rector of Llanynys, Denbs. ( 1623 ), and of Stanwick and Benefield, Northants. ( 1623 ), m. Elizabeth , daughter of captain Hugh Williams of Wig , a soldier of fortune ( A.P.C. , 1621-3 , 368), and of Elizabeth , sister of archbishop John Williams . Through the influence of his wife's uncle (then bishop of Lincoln ) he was made prebendary of Caistor ( 1629 ), and just before his death he is said to have been named for a Welsh bishopric, but this cannot have been Bangor (as suggested in D.N.B. ), since the see was not vacant till a month after he died. His Puritan sympathies (exceptional in the family) appear in his bequest of £20 towards the ‘lectures’ established in 1630 at Haverfordwest under the will of his cousin William Myddelton , merchant , of London ( Report on Charities , no. 28, 1834 , 726; N.L.W. Haverfordwest MS. 390a ). His two sons, John Dolben , archbishop of York , and Sir William Dolben , judge , together with many eminent descendants of the former, are the subjects of full-length articles in D.N.B. ; the information which follows is concerned in the main with their Welsh connections.

JOHN DOLBEN ( 1625 - 1686 ), archbishop of York ,

was born at Stanwick and admitted king's scholar at Westminster on the nomination of his great-uncle archbishop John Williams , and in 1640 to Christ Church , Oxford , where his studies were interrupted by war service on the Royalist side ( 1642-6 ). He was accordingly deprived by the Parliamentary visitors ( 1648 ) and took refuge ( c. 1653-5 ) at Gwydir , Llanrwst , where his mother's sister Grace and her husband Sir Owen Wynn (see under Wynn of Gwydir ) employed him as agent and his kinsman Sir Thomas Myddelton the Roundhead general lent him money. Secretly ordained at Oxford in 1656 , he obtained preferment after the Restoration , becoming dean of Westminster ( 1662 ), bishop of Rochester ( 1666 ), and archbishop of York ( 1683 ). He had a high reputation as preacher and administrator , but Anthony Wood ( Athen. Oxon. , ii, 683) credits him with more of the ‘boldness and confidence’ than of the scholarship of his great-uncle and predecessor at Westminster and York , John Williams . Politically incorruptible, he was a pillar of the Anglican Toryism represented by Clarendon and Danby , and played a great part in the re-establishment of the Church after the troubles of the interregnum. He remained a lifelong correspondent of lady Grace Wynn , who with her neighbours invoked from time to time his intervention in local diocesan disputes or on behalf of local place-hunters; but the Welsh connection was not maintained by his descendants.

Sir WILLIAM DOLBEN (d. 1696 ),

the archbishop 's younger brother, was admitted to the Inner Temple ( 1648 ), called to the Bar ( 1655 ), and became secretary to Edward Montagu , 2nd earl of Manchester , the former Roundhead general who became lord chamberlain after the Restoration . As such he was subject to many importunities from Welsh place-seekers, and he is said to have procured in the courts a decree for the restitution to his fellowship of Michael Roberts (d. 1679 ) , ex-principal of Jesus College , Oxford . In Feb. 1676 he was elected (on the recommendation of the Crown ) recorder of London , over the head of Sir George Jeffreys , and as king's sergeant ( 1677 ) he opened the Crown case against Philip , 7th earl of Pembroke (see under Herbert of Pembroke ) on a charge of manslaughter ( 1678 ). Becoming puisne judge of King's Bench ( Oct. 1678 ), he was concerned in many important political trials, including those arising out of the ‘ popish plot ,’ in which he gained a high reputation for learning and integrity, but was deemed ‘peevish’ and arrogant. Politically he shared his brother's views, but he was primarily a lawyer , and it was legal doubts about the king's policy toward municipal corporations that cost him his judgeship ( 1683 ), to which he was restored after the revolution ( 1689 ). From his call to the Bar till his elevation to the bench he was legal agent in London to the Gwydir family , on terms of friendly correspondence with lady Grace Wynn , and jealous of any encroachments into this field on the part of his brother the archbishop . He served John Hacket as intermediary in his search for Welsh material for his projected life of his patroness's uncle, archbishop John Williams ( 1660 ).


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , and sources therein cited;
  • The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1938 (178-84, 219-24), 1948-9 (79-80 ), and sources therein cited;
  • J. E. Griffith , Pedigrees of Anglesey and Carnarvonshire Families (1914) , 160, 182, 186-7, 194, 285;
  • J. Williams , Ancient and modern Denbigh a descriptive history of the castle, borough and liberties with sketches of the lives, character and exploits of the feudal lords (Denbigh, 1856) , chapters xiii, xxv;
  • The Records of Denbigh and its Lordship bearing upon the general history of the county of Denbigh since the conquest of Wales ; illustrated with many gems of Welsh mediæval poetry never before published (1770) , chapter xiii;
  • Venn , Alumni Cantabrigienses , I, ii, 53;
  • Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series , 1631-4, 1637-8, 1661-93 ;
  • Calendar of Wynn (of Gwydir) Papers, 1515–1690, in the National Library of Wales and elsewhere (1926) ;
  • W. M. Myddelton , Chirk Castle Accounts, A.D. 1605-1666 (St. Albans, 1908) , i, ii;
  • Calendar of Treasury Books , iii-x;
  • NLW MS 1600 (423);
  • N.L.W. Llewenny Manuscripts at the National Library of Wales) , Plymouth deeds at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth .


Emeritus Professor Arthur Herbert Dodd, M.A., (1891-1975), Bangor

Published date: 1959