The following story is taken from Arthur Mee's Worcestershire (1838). It was reprinted recently in the Vale Magazine and presents us with a problem.
The fall of the House of Dingley
IN Cropthorne's St Michael's Church there are two intriguing
the once renowned Dingley family. The Dingley's were landowners and, for 400
years, lived in the neighbouring village of Charlton. Legend tells that they
were a family of smugglers and that contraband smuggled into Bristol was
brought up the River Severn to Tewkesbury and overland to Charlton Manor.
Today the imposing effigy of Francis Dingley (died 1624) rests, in armour,
along with his wife of 50 years. Nearby is a monument to his grandson Edward
and his wife Joyce, whose jealous and feuding sons led to the downfall of
the family. Maureen Butler sought out the story.
FRANCIS Dingley was a magistrate and once suffered the
indignity of his own
son being brought before him to keep the peace. Later Evesham Town Council
forbade Dingley and his children from ever holding office again. But worse
was to come.
Another monument in the church shows the two kneeling figures of Edward
Dingley (Francisı grandson and successor as head of the family) and his wife
Joyce. On the monument are figures of their four sons and three daughters.
The family inheritance passed to their third son, Edward, and on, through
his daughter, Eleanor, to Edward Goodyear whom she married as a girl of 15.
It was the beginning of the end. Eleanor (the grand daughter of the kneeling
figures) had three sons. One was killed in a duel, another was called John,
the third, Samuel. These two boys were forever bitter rivals. They
quarrelled over the family estate and quarrelled over who should be Mayor of
Evesham, eventually both managing to get themselves elected in the same
One Sunday the brothers arrived at church, each with their own procession of
followers. John got to the mayorıs seat first and Samuel ordered his servant
to oust him. Humiliated, John went to sit elsewhere.
The brothers met again at their father's deathbed, still quarrelling
furiously over his estate. John managed to slip away leaving his brother in
a brooding rage.
The climax came soon afterwards at Bristol. Samuel was in command of the
warship Ruby, at anchor close-by, and John happened to go to Bristol too.
Samuel was waiting for his chance.
A mutual friend invited the brothers for dinner. As they left the house, a
party of drunken sailors from the man-o-war seized John, bound him and took
him on board. Next morning two of the crew strangled him in cold blood, for
all his cries of Twenty guineas, twenty guineas! if they would spare him,
while Samuel stood on guard by the door with drawn sword.
The country was roused to horror at the murder and Samuel and the two
sailors were condemned to death. His wife pleaded with the king in vain, and
Samuel was executed on a hill near Bristol. The body of John was laid to
rest in Cropthorne churchyard without a memorial.
The murderer left behind him two sons; one died a madman the other,
eccentric and irresponsible, became one of the Poor Knights of Windsor and
died without marrying.
So ended the house of Dingley, with a Cain and Abel and a poor eccentric.
From Arthur Mee's Worcestershire 1938.
And now the problem. The Mayoral Boards, hanging in Evesham's
Council Chamber do not list the name of Dingley! A Mystery?