People: Farington, William







Approx Year of Birth




Marital Status


Spouse Name

Ann Talbot

Occupation Status



Yes - steward/comptroller to earls of Derby


William Farington of Worden was the 4th son of Sir Henry Farington of Farington and Worden by his second wife. He was educated at Oxford and the Middle Temple, later becoming comptroller to the household of three earls of Derby. His accounts and records, edited by Canon Raines, show him as ‘an industrious, intelligent and well-informed lawyer’ and the earls of Derby ‘entertained  so high an opinion of his capacity and habits of business that he was consulted by them on occasions of the greatest importance’.

He was appointed to the Commission of the Peace for Lancashire at the age of 21 and took an active role in local administration, acting as arbitrator in various disputes. He also acted as Deputy Lieutenant of the county.

In 1559 he married Anne Talbot, whose father had bequeathed to her the lease of the parsonage of Blackburn. Judging from the number of suits in the consistory court, William Farington set about a systematic attempt to overturn a number of longstanding tithe composition agreements made by the parishioners of Blackburn (such an agreement was known as a ‘modus’) in favour of the more lucrative tax of one tenth of produce.

William Farington acquired his arms by patent in 1560, thus becoming ‘armigerous’ and entitled to be addressed as ‘esquire’.

The earls of Derby entertained groups of players (whom Farington barely tolerated) at their houses at Lathom and New Park It is possible that Shakespeare met him during one of these visits and he may be prototype of Malvolio in Twelfth Night – a vain, pompous, humourless and overbearing steward with social aspirations.

He died in 1610.


F. R. Raines, (ed.), The Stanley Papers, Part II: The Derby household books; comprising an account of the household regulations and expenses of Edward and Henry, third and fourth Earls of Derby; together with a diary containing the names of the guests who visited the latter Earl at his houses in Lancashire, by William ffarington, Esquire, the Comptroller [1561–90],  (Chetham Society, old series, 31, 1853).

F. R. Raines, (ed.), The Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1613, by Richard St George, Esq., Norroy King of Arms, (Chetham Society, old series, 82, 1871).

Alwin Thaler, ‘The Original Malvolio?’,  The Shakespeare Association Bulletin, vol.7, no. 2 (April, 1932), pp. 57-71.

D. J. Wilkinson, ‘The Commission of the Peace in Lancashire, 1603-1642’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 132, (1982), pp. 41-66.

Notes from Lancashire Record Office on the records of the family of Farington of Worden:



EDC 5/1566/3 – plaintiff
EDC 5/1566/4 – plaintiff
EDC 5/1566/5 – plaintiff


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