Siege Musings - Archbishop Dolben

On the South Quire Aisle in York Minster is an imposing monument to a former Archbishop of York, John Dolben (1624-86). Previously Dean of Westminster Abbey and Bishop of Rochester, he took up the See of York for only three years before dying of smallpox.

For Civil War historians however, he is known for having fought at the Battle of Marston Moor and defended York during the Siege; according to his monument 'he bore the standard at the Battle of Marston; in the defence of York he was dangerously wounded, and then consecrated with his blood the place where he was then to die' (Drake, Eboracum). He was apparently wounded in both the battle (musket-ball injury to the shoulder) and the Siege (thigh bone). More intriguing in the context of our CD Music for Troubled Times, is that Dolben had travelled as part of the Royalist Arrmy to York from Oxford, where he had been studying at Christ Church. It is entirely conjecture but not beyond the realms of possibility to suggest Dolben may have known William Lawes - whose psalm settings performed in York Minster during the Siege are the focus of our recording. But the men had much in common - loyalty to the king, and a rather head-strong temperament in battle (Lawes was killed in battle at Chester in September1645) - and perhaps in 1644 the two men journeyed to York together.

It is worth noting that John Dolben's son Gilbert had musical connections; he was one of the stewards of the Musical Society to which Purcell's Welcome to all the pleasures is dedicated, and was a vice-president of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy. His grandson, also called John, studied at Christ Church under Dean Aldrich, a very able musician. John became a sub-dean at the Chapel Royal and was responsible for organising services that included music by Handel and William Croft.


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