Thomas Dowdall (judge)

Thomas Dowdall (or Dowedall) (died c. 1492) was an Irish barrister and judge who held the office of Master of the Rolls in Ireland.

Dovedale, Derbyshire

He was born in County Louth, son of Sir Robert Dowdall, who was for many years Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas, and his wife Anne Wogan. The Dowdall (or Dovedale) family came to Ireland from Dovedale in Derbyshire in the thirteenth century. Sir Thomas Dowdall, who married c.1450 Elizabeth Holywood, daughter of Sir Robert Holywood of Artane, and mother through her previous husband James Nugent of Richard, 2nd Baron Delvin, was probably a close relative of the judge. Elizabeth Hollywood's third husband was Peter Trevers, Dowdall's predecessor as Master of the Rolls, an example of how small the world of the Anglo-Irish ruling class was in that era.

He was studying law at Lincoln's Inn in 1459. He returned to Ireland and was made Serjeant-at-law (Ireland) in 1462: he was confirmed in office by Parliament in December 1469. In 1471 he was described as a "counter" (this was apparently an office in the Exchequer of Ireland) and later that year he was appointed Master of the Rolls. In 1478 he was a party to the royal charter setting up the Dublin Baker's Guild (or the Guild of St. Clement and St Anne). He was summoned to England on official business in 1479.

Like the great majority of the Anglo-Irish gentry and the High Court judges, he made the mistake of supporting the claims of the pretender Lambert Simnel in 1487 to be the rightful King of England. Simnel's cause was crushed at the Battle of Stoke Field. The victorious King Henry VII was prepared to be magnanimous to the defeated rebels and Dowdall and his judicial colleagues received a royal pardon. He probably died in 1492.

James Dowdall, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland 1583–84, was a descendant of Thomas.


  • Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926
  • A Calendar of Irish Chancery Rolls c.1244-1509
  • Hart, A.R. History of the King's Serjeants-at-law in Ireland Four Courts Press Dublin 2000