COPLEDYKE, Sir John (c.1356-1408), of Harrington, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Jan. 1397
Jan. 1404

Family and Education

b.c.1356, s. and h. of Sir John Copledyke (d. 1369) of Harrington, prob. by his w. Maud. m. (1) by Aug. 1384, Alice, at least 2s.; (2) by Mar. 1400, Margery (d. 4 Mar. 1427), da. of Sir John Constable of Flamborough, Yorks., wid. of Sir Robert Hawley of Mablethorpe, Lincs. and Ingleton, Yorks., at least 1s. 4da. Kntd. by Easter 1382.1

Offices Held

Commr. to suppress the rebels of 1381, Lincs. Mar., Dec. 1382; of array (Holland) Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Aug., Sept. 1403; oyer and terminer Mar. 1396 (assault at Boston); to proclaim the King’s intention to rule justly May 1402.

Sheriff, Lincs. 7 Nov. 1393-11 Nov. 1394, 22 Aug. 1399-24 Nov. 1400.

J.p. Lincs. (Holland) 16 May 1401-d.

Escheator, Lincs. 9 Nov. 1406-30 Nov. 1407.


Sir John’s ancestors had lived in Lincolnshire for many generations, acquiring over the years the manors of Harrington, Frampton and Coupledyke, as well as land in Coningsby, Algarkirk and Skirbeck. All this property descended to him on his father’s death, in September 1369, although since he was then only about 13 years old his estates and person passed into the custody of Sir William Hawley (the father of Sir Thomas*), who acted as his guardian for the next eight years. His other holdings included the manors of Fordington, Toynton, Freston, Frampton, Stickney and ‘Claynger’, together with extensive appurtenances in the Lincolnshire villages of Hagworthingham, Irby and Kirton; and he was also lord of the manors of Appleton and Whitlingham in Norfolk and Horham in Suffolk. None of the latter are listed in his father’s inquisition post mortem, but some of them clearly formed an additional part of his inheritance; and his wardship was thus of considerable value. Mary, dowager countess of Norfolk, had previously cast a predatory eye upon the young John Copledyke and his estates; and, on the pretext of false rumours of his father’s death, she had seized the boy and kept him with her as a member of her household until she died in, or just before, 1362. Her executors then granted the wardship to Alan Toucester, one of the late countess’s most pressing creditors, and it was not for some years that Sir John Copledyke actually took steps to assert his parental rights. Why he should have waited until 1369 before insisting that his son should be restored to him, especially as he was in England throughout this period, is a mystery, but just a few months before his death he successfully petitioned the Crown for help in recovering the boy, who returned briefly to the family home at Harrington.2

In contrast to his eventful childhood, the next decade of John Copledyke’s life passed quietly enough, although soon after his coming of age he was obliged to go to law to enforce his claim to the advowson of Irby. The case was heard in the Easter term of 1382, by which time he had been knighted. One year later, he and Philip, Lord Darcy, sued out royal letters of protection pending their forthcoming departure overseas; and in February 1384 he was one of the knights retained by the earl of Northumberland for his expedition against the Scots. His military career was, none the less, short-lived. By the following August he had married his first wife, Alice, as the couple then received a licence from the bishop of Lincoln to keep a private oratory in their own home. From this date onwards he was preoccupied almost exclusively with local affairs, being in some demand as a witness to deeds, most notably for Robert Cumberworth*, Sir Thomas Hawley and William, Lord Willoughby of Eresby. Meanwhile, in October 1391, Copledyke went surety for Sir Thomas de la Mare†, who had been bound over in Chancery to keep the peace. He served his first term as sheriff of Lincolnshire not long afterwards, but it was not until 1397 that the county electors chose him to represent them in Parliament. He was returned on this occasion with Sir John Bussy, the Speaker, who had by then achieved considerable power as one of the chief agents of Richard II’s absolutist policies. On 23 May of that year, some three months after the session had ended, Bussy and Copledyke joined together as guarantors of the good conduct of John Skipwith*, another Lincolnshire landowner in whose affairs our Member was to play a prominent part. Yet unlike the unpopular royal favourite, who was executed by Henry of Bolingbroke in July 1399, Copledyke evidently felt a good deal of political sympathy for the Lancastrian cause; and his career prospered both immediately before and after King Richard’s deposition.3

Not only was Copledyke made sheriff of Lincolnshire for a second term in August 1399, but he also obtained a seat on the county bench and was summoned in both August 1401 and 1403 to attend great councils at Westminster. His personal fortunes also improved somewhat at this time as a result of his marriage to Margaret, the widow of Sir Robert Hawley. Thanks, in part, to his previous association with this influential family, and even more to Henry IV’s indulgence in allowing him to marry without the necessary royal licence, he obtained possession, in March 1400, of Margaret’s dower properties in Mablethorpe, Riby and Aylesby in Lincolnshire, and Ingleton and Patrick Brompton in Yorkshire. Although he and his wife experienced some problems at first because of a rival claim advanced by one of Sir Robert’s sisters, Beatrice Rolleston, and were temporarily obliged to relinquish their share of the Hawley estates, a new settlement was made in May 1403, assuring the couple of an annual income well in excess of £17 a year. Just two months earlier they had been granted a papal indult for the use of a portable altar at their manor of Harrington — an award which reflects their important position in the local community. Margaret was the daughter of the influential Yorkshire landowner, Sir John Constable of Flamborough, to whom Copledyke evidently promised an annual rent from his property in Lincolnshire. As his will shows, the necessary arrangements had still not been implemented by 1408, and the task of satisfying his father-in-law fell to his executors.4

That Copledyke was prepared to take up arms on behalf of the Lancastrian regime is clear from royal letters patent of November 1403, restoring to him goods to the value of £100 which had been forfeited as a result of his outlawry on a plea of debt. He had, in fact, been sued by the Lincoln merchant, John Balderton*, for a render of 40 marks, but because of his loyal service in the wars against the Welsh, Henry IV chose to overlook his contempt in ignoring successive writs of summons. Copledyke himself was appearing as plaintiff in another lawsuit at this time, although his adversary proved as skilful in manipulating the law as he himself had done, and the case was abandoned. Perhaps on account of his growing influence, he was much more in evidence as a trustee and mainpernor after 1399, acting in the former capacity for Matilda, the widow of Sir Ralph Cromwell, and for William, Lord Willoughby, who settled a substantial part of his estates upon him. Together with Sir Thomas Hawley, he also became a feoffee-to-uses of John Skipwith (his old friend and colleague in the Parliament of 1406). Skipwith in turn went bail with him for (Sir) John Rochford* in April 1406, and it was probably through the latter connexion that he became a member of the Corpus Christi guild of Boston, which was then very much dominated by the Rochford clan. If the evidence presented in a lawsuit of 1478 is to be believed, the two families were related; and it was in fact by descent from the Rochfords that Sir John’s ancestors had acquired their manor of Appleton. Copledyke again offered securities in Chancery in June 1407, when a group of men from Kirton stood charged with riot and mayhem, this being the last occasion on which he involved himself in legal matters.5

Sir John drew up his will on 8 Apr. 1408, and died within a month. He expressed a wish to be buried in the chancel of Harrington parish church at the north end of the high altar, and he appointed his widow, Margery, his eldest son, John, and a neighbour, John Meres*, as executors. One of the many tasks laid to their charge was that of paying a pilgrim to visit Jerusalem for the good of the testator’s soul. Copledyke had already settled the bulk of his estates upon feoffees, including Sir Thomas Hawley, with whom he maintained particularly close relations after contracting his second marriage. It is doubtful whether his younger son, William, was already betrothed to Hawley’s daughter, Eleanor, but the pair were certainly married by 1419, when Hawley drew up his own will. Sir John was particularly anxious to make provision for his younger children, because his eldest surviving son was a priest (presbyter, bacallarius in decretis), and thus without legitimate heirs of his own body. He left over £306 in marriage portions for his three daughters, and set up a trust worth 40 marks a year to support his youngest boy, Richard, who was then still a child. Although some of his property was to be sold to administer the will, the rest was entailed upon William Copledyke, who eventually succeeded his clergyman brother as lord of Harrington. The widowed Margery Copledyke lived on for over 20 years, a wealthy woman in possession of two dowers.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Cobbledyke, Copeldike, Copildyk, Copyldyke, Copuldiche, Coupildyke, Cuppuldyke.

  • 1. Lincs. Peds. ed. Maddison, 266-7; C139/29/35; Reg. Repingdon (Lincoln Rec. Soc. lvii), 119-25; Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham, XII, f. 289; CIPM, xiii. no. 21; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 72, 137; 1402-5, pp. 66-67; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 140. It is now impossible to tell which of Copledyke’s daughters, if any, were the children of his first marriage, but at least two of his sons were clearly born before 1400.
  • 2. Lincs. Peds. 266-7; CIPM, xiii. no. 21; xiv. no. 148; xvi. no. 388; CCR, 1369-74, pp. 20-21; CAD, iii. A5987, 6000; iv. A373, 8528.
  • 3. E101/40/5; Peds. Plea Rolls, 140; Rot. Franc. et Gasc. ed. Carte, ii. 142; Harl. Ch. 49G 11; Cott. Ch. xxvii. 6; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 171, 181, 499; 1396-9, p. 130; 1399-1402, p. 298; Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham, XII, f. 289.
  • 4. PCC, i. 158, 160; ii. 86; C139/29/35; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 72, 137, 525; 1402-5, pp. 66-67; CPR, 1402-5, p. 12; CPL, v. 567; Reg. Repingdon, 119-25.
  • 5. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 191; 1401-5, pp. 148, 307; CCR, 1402-5, p. 294; 1405-9, pp. 116, 287; 1409-13, pp. 17-18, 20-21; W.O. Massingberd, Ormsby-cum-Ketsby, 74-75; P. Thompson, Boston, 118; Peds. Plea Rolls, 443-4; Lincs. AO, MM1/3/8, 10, 5 ANC 1/1/22, 27.
  • 6. Reg. Repingdon, 119-25; Reg. Chichele, ii. 657; CAD, iii. A5987, 6000; iv. A8373, 8528; C139/29/35. Maddison (loc. cit.) is wrong in stating that William Copledyke married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir John Clifton.