(Probably Roger Digges c1375)
The Theodelitus and
Topographical Instrument of Leonard Digges
Described by his son Thomas
1927 reprint -
Old Ashmolean Reprints IV
The Digges family was closely associated with Barham from
13th to 17th Centuries. The first record tells of John
who resided at Digges Place in the reign of Henry II.
In the 14th Century Pope John XXII directed the Abbot
of St Augustine's to provide a benefice for John Digges of Barham
"...a clerk whom he has found sufficiently
literate." John Digges was Rector of Bishopsbourne and
was buried in Barham Church in 1379.
John's brother Roger was an important person in Kent -
and the person making the application to the Pope. He was
Alderman of Newingate and MP for Canterbury in 1355, 1357 and 1360 and
for Kent in 1366. He died in 1375 and is buried with his
wife in the North Transept of Barham Church - the brass rubbing being
Another John Digges was Sheriff in 1496 and was also
buried in Barham Church in the Chapel of Our Lady in 1502.
John left to James, his son, "...all my lands, tenements, meadows
and pastures in the parishes of Barham, Kingston, Coldred, the City of
Canterbury and the town of Sandwich."
James Digges was Sheriff in 1511. He died
in 1535 and is also buried in the North Transept of Barham
Church. He left 20d for the prisoners of Canterbury Castle
and 20d for the prisoners of Westgate in Canterbury. He
bequeathed the Manor of Outelmstone, including Digges Place to his
grandson William Digges and the Manor of Broome to his youngest son
- 1559) was a well-known mathematician and surveyor,
credited with the inventions of the theodolite
and telescope, and a great populariser of science
through his publications. The first
was A General Prognostication published in 1553,
which became a best-seller as it contained a perpetual
calendar, collections of weather lore and a wealth of
Leonard took part in an unsuccessful rebellion led by
the Protestant Sir Thomas Wyatt against England's new
Catholic Queen Mary who took over the throne in 1553
from her father Henry VIII. Digges was condemned to
death, but escaped capital punishment, instead
forfeiting all his estates.
had a son, Thomas, and together they are credited with
independently inventing the reflecting, and probably the
refracting telescope as part of his need to see
accurately over long distances during his surveying
works. In the preface to 1571 Pantometria, (a
book on measurement, partially based on his father's
notes and observations).
(1546 – August 24, 1595) lauded his father's
accomplishments. Some of the praise of son for father
appears to be extravagant exaggeration, while other
claims appear more credible. On the fifth page of the
Preface, Thomas Digges provides a remarkable account of
his father's accomplishments:
mind aided with this science of Geometrical mensurations,
found out the quantities, distances, courses, and
strange intricate miraculous motions of these
resplendent heavenly Globes of Sun, Moon, Planets and
Stares fixed, leaving the rules and precepts thereof to
his posterity. Archimedes also (as some suppose) with a
glass framed by revolution of a section Parabolicall,
fired the Roman navy in the sea coming to the siege of
Syracuse. But to leave these celestial causes and things
done of antiquity long ago, my father by his continual
painful [painstaking] practices, assisted with
demonstrations Mathematical, was able, and sundry times
hath by proportional Glasses duly situate in convenient
angles, not only discovered things far off, read
letters, numbered pieces of money with the very coin and
superscription thereof, cast by some of his friends of
purpose upon downs in open fields, but also seven miles
off declared what hath been done at that instant in
In a way, his son
Thomas followed in his footsteps and was a pivotal player in the
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.
Thomas Digges was the
father of Sir Dudley Digges (1583-1639), politician and stateman, and
Leonard Digges (1588-1635), poet.
Sir Dudley Digges (Digges
Court, Barham, Kent, 19 May ca 1583–18 March 1639), was elected to the
Parliament of 1614 and that of 1621, and also a "Virginia adventurer,"
an investor who ventured his capital in the Virginia Company of London.
Among the "planters," who emigrated in the 1640s, was Digges's son
Edward, who became Governor of Virginia.
The Digges held the Manor of
Outelmstone with Digges Place until the middle of Elizabeth I's reign
when the Manor and Digges Place were alienated to Captain Halsey of
The Manor of Broome was sold to Sir Basil Dixwell
early in the 17th century thus ending the family's association with the