Gene Surfing

Adventures in Family History


Farmer BullshotElizabeth Codrington was the elder daughter of Richard Codrington of Dodington in Gloucestershire and had – shall we say – an interesting life.

Richard was a member of the junior branch of the Codrington family, descended from Thomas, the youngest son of John Codrington of Agincourt. He married Joyce, the daughter of John Borlase, Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, of Little Marlow, and several of their children were born there. The family home, however, was in Dodington in Gloucestershire and this is where Elizabeth was born about 1595.

There are many similarities between the two branches of the Codrington family at the time. Richard was born in 1560 and died in 1613, leaving a large family. Robert Codrington was a distant cousin from the senior branch, about the same age and his family lived at nearby Didmarton. With his wife Anne Stubbes they also had a large family – many of them having the same names as the family of Richard and Joyce.

This has partly contributed to the confusion between the families, especially as Christopher Codrington, the great grand-son of Robert, purchased Dodington from Samuel Codrington of the junior branch of the family in about 1700 with the profits from his sugar plantations. page

Robert died in 1618, just a few years after his cousin Richard, and both of them left a significant amount of money in their wills to their sons, for their education, and to their daughters for their marriages.

Richard, justice of the peace for Gloucestershire, left about £400 [about £50,000] to each of his sons for the …

“ … maintenance and lyvliehood and educacion in Learninge, both at the Universities and elsewhere … “

And it is this legacy that seems to have been the cause of some problems for both his sons and daughters.

Richard and Robert

After Samuel the two eldest sons of Richard and Joyce, were Richard and Robert and both attended Oxford university. It was Robert from this family that has been incorrectly attributed to the Didmarton family of Robert and Anne, and this is discussed elsewhere in more detail. page

The change of ownership of the Dodington property between the two branches of the family and an incorrect entry in the Oxford records [suggesting the parentage of Robert] have lead to this confusion, but I have little doubt that it was this Robert who attended Oxford, moved to Norfolk and became a writer, translator and poet.

Richard attended Pembroke College and Robert was at Magdalen but both may have lodged with John Browne and his wife Mihill, who lived in Oxford by means of …

“the selling of tobacco and the keeping of a tippling house.”

In a court case, brought by the brothers, the Brownes are accused of seducing the two boys into:

“loose and inordinate courses causing them to spend and consume their whole portions [of their inheritance].” 

Robert was “utterly ruinated” and was, at one point, imprisoned in the “Counter of London”, by Browne.

In these proceedings Joyce is named as the mother of these two, and Elizabeth Codrington as their sister.

Elizabeth – described as a gentlewoman – was involved by pledging bonds to get her brothers out of debt, in order that their mother did not get to know of the affair, but the Brownes also tried to get their hands on her inheritance as well.

A few years before this, however, it was Elizabeth who’s inheritance – due on her marriage – got her into trouble.


Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Richard and Joyce, had been “appoynted a porcion to a great value” following the death of her father [in 1613].

This was £500, the equivalent of about £70,000 today.

There are several documents in the National Archives relating to Elizabeth:

Subject: Kidnapping Elizabeth Codrington, daughter of Richard Codrington esq. deceased, the said John Rodman’s master and attempt to marry her at Malmesbury church.

These charges were made by Elizabeth’s mother, Joyce [through Sir Henry Yelverton, the Attorney General], against John Rodman on Tuesday, 21 October 1617 in the star chamber.

There are several defendants in this case:

John Rodman, son of Hugh Rodman of Alston, blacksmith, Richard Hayes, a ‘reputed minister’, William Bruton, Thomas Bushopp, William Cary, Thomas Gilman, husbandman.

The Bill of Complaint starts with a VERY long sentence describing John Rodman and the events that occurred, from the point of view of Joyce.

I have tried to break this down into manageable chunks:

John Rodman is identified as a serving man, the son of Hugh Rodman of Alliston [probably Alveston] in Gloucestershire, a blacksmith  and a very poore man.

For three of four years John had served Richard Codrington at Dodington as a horse-keeper and coachman and following the death of Richard continued to be employed by his widow, Joyce;

“havinge an especiall opinion confidence and trust in the honesty & fidelity of the said John Rodman”.

After about three years, however, John was dismissed for “incontinent discources” regarding love-potions and in particular:

“how farre a man might prevaile in getting of woemens good wills to yield to unlawful affections thereby and that he could make any woman, by such means, to come after him.”

This sounds simply like a bit of male bravado – but things went further than this.

At the beginning of February 1617 the said John Rodman was planning how he might get the said Elizabeth Codrington into his possession and so at his pleasure intermarry with her.

He and William Bruton of Titherington gathered a motley cast of characters in order to execute his plans.

Richard Hayes a reputed minister.

“one which hath used to marry sundry evill and disordered persons together without any licence or Bannes in such behalfe and is a Common agent in Clandestyne marriage”

William Cary the son in Law of the said Richard Hayes

Thomas Gylman of Malmsbury.

“who hath bene often in prison for suspicion of Felonies supposed to be done by him”

Phillip Hyott the wife[?] of Francis Hyott and one Elizabeth Hopkins

“beinge all persons of base quality and lewd life and diverse other persons yet unknowne”.

The conclusion of their conspiracy was that:

… the said Elizabeth should be somtyme at night trayned forth of her mothers howse at Dodington afore said by some devise or other and beinge soe trayned and by sleight gott abroade, they the said John Rodman Will[ia]m Bruton and Thomas Bushopp should in the night when theire practisse could not be discovered, take and Carry awaye the said Elizabeth Codrington from Dodington aforesaid unto Malmsbury aforesaid and there cause the said John Rodman and Elizabeth to be marryed together.

The plan was carried out on 4th February at about 9 o’clock at night.

Joyce accuses unknown conspirators, by “false and cunning pretences”, of taking Elizabeth from the house without her “hatte maske or gloves safegard or any other thing fit for riding.”

The said John Rodman and Will[ia]m Bruton lyinge there ready p[re]pared for the purpose rushed both out of a grove in Dodington aforesaid called the Alders and laid handes upon her the said Elizabeth Codrington and by Force and stronge hand contrary to the intent and much entreaty of the said Elizabeth Codrington did one by one arme and the other by the other arme take and leade awaye the said Elizabeth Codrington over the Feilde.

They met up with Thomas Bishopp who was waiting with horses and Elizabeth was lifted onto a horse behind John Rodman and taken to Malmsbury ten miles from Dodington.

Joyce says that Elizabeth did not cry out as she feared she would be murdered or evily used by the conspirators.

The group gained entry to the church at Malmesbury by “ryott and disorder” in the middle of the night and there – by great threats and menaces – endeavour to constrain Elizabeth and marry her to John Rodman.

Fearing that they had been discovered they left Malmsbury and carried Elizabeth to Cricklade in Wiltshire about eight miles away

But a warrant had been issued and the conspirators were captured and brought before Sir John Hungerford, Justice of the Peace for Wiltshire page and, upon the entreaty of Elizabeth she was delivered from the conspirators and admitted to go home to her mother.


On discovering her daughter was missing Joyce caused the groves and fields to be searched and when Elizabeth could not be found had fallen into “extasyes and expressions of sorrow and grief and had been much impaired in her health since”.

John Rodman William Bruton and Thomas Bishopp were indicted for:

Felonious takinge awaye the said Elizabeth Codrington against her will unlawfully contrary to a Statute in that behalf made in the third yere of the Raigne of Kinge Henry the Seaventh late Kinge of England [1488]

But they were found not guilty and this court proceeding is actually an appeal against that decision.

John Rodman William Bruton and Thomas Bushopp then and there by due and lawful Course of proceeding were found by the Jury not guilty of the said Felony …

Joyce seems to have been concerned about reputations and keeping servants in their place.

But never the less for as much as all the said Conspiracies, combinations, practises and misdemeanours were all committed, perpetrated and done since your Highness’ most gracious general & free pardon and every other pardon which pardons …

… such haughty and lewd practises are much against the peace, quiet & good government of this, your highness’ realm, and was in the said John Rodman contrary to the fidelity of an ancient servant and doe tend as well to the utter heaviness, disparagement and disgrace of the kindred and friends of the said Elizabeth Codrington, they being of great worship and of very ancient descent of gentry, as also to the very evil example and emboldening of servants and others of base quality to attempt the like upon their Masters children and the children of others of great dignity and worth if punishment be not inflicted upon the said malefactors.

The defendants were acquitted under the statute of 3 Henry VII [c. 2, Abduction of women]

But there are two sides to every story and that of John Rodman is, as you would expect, contrary to what Joyce has indicated.

It is true that he this defendant was a servant in the house to Richard Codrington, late of Doddington in the County of Gloucester esquire, whilst he lived,  and that the said Richard about two years since died leaving behind him – amongst divers other children – a daughter called Elizabeth then of the age of nineteen or twenty years, and left unto her a portion [inheritance] of five hundred pounds or thereabouts.

Richard’s widow, Joyce, continued to employ John and during this period he became familiar with Elizabeth, aged about twenty, and that their long familiarity was such that she was enforced to require his care and she desired him to carry her away and marry her.

Joyce found out about this and dismissed John but Elizabeth continued to write letters to him entreating him to fetch her away and arranged to meet with John so they could be married.

William Bruton and Thomas Bishopp say that the defendant Rodman acquainted them that he was to ryde to fetche home a wief & intreated them to accompany him tellinge them that she was a woeman of yeares and discretion and appointed him that night to Fetche her And they accompanied him to or near the place appointed wheare they met.

They then went to Malmsbury church in Wiltshire where Rodman and Elizabeth were married together.

After this the defendants were pursued to Cricklade by the means of the said Joyce and were taken before Sir John Hungerford, justice of the peace for Wiltshire, where Elizabeth acknowledged her own desires in regard to John Rodman.

Despite this admission by Elizabeth, John Rodman was imprisoned for six months before being found not guilty at his trial.

So what is the truth of the matter?

If Elizabeth had planned to run away and marry John Rodman, then surely she would have dressed for February weather?

This indicates that she may well have been taken from the house (by persons unknown) as suggested by Joyce and did not have any part in the plan – or had decided not to take part but John went ahead anyway.

On the other hand Elizabeth did indicate that she was part of the plan to marry John Rodman before Sir John Hungerford and there is no evidence of anyone else involved in actually taking her from the house.

However unwisely perhaps she did want to marry John Rodman – or at least thought that she did? Maybe John was not simply trying get his hands on her inheritance, although that would have been a bonus.

The evidence from the defendants indicate that the marriage did actually happen, but perhaps it was declared invalid?

Farmer BullshotI am not sure what happened to Elizabeth. According to the History of Antigua one Elizabeth married William Bucke in 1636 when she would have been 40 but perhaps this is to another Elizabeth?

There is also a record of a marriage between Elizabeth and Samuel Stokes but this record should be for her younger sister Isabella.

If Elizabeth had been officially married to John Rodman then any further marriage record would reflected this and I cannot find a record of Elizabeth Rodman.

There is a record of a will dated 1688 for Elizabeth Codrington 93.

I had attributed this to another Elizabeth who died in 1687 but perhaps this was for this Elizabeth as the 93 matches with her age?

In this case she lead a long, but perhaps not so happy, life at Dodington.

Chris Sidney 2015

3 responses to “Kidnapped

  1. CM. Codrington July 24, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    hello Chris, This is an interesting one…thanks for posting it is most entertaining alas poor Elizabeth…


  2. Jemima June 21, 2019 at 10:28 am

    This is such an interesting site, I’m loving digging through history. Are you a Codrington as well? I’m a Cod from the Wroughton, Wilts set. I’m trying to trace back and learn more about our family so stumbling across this blog has been a real treat! x


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