COPPLESTONE, John (d.1458), of Copplestone in Colebrooke, Devon.

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



Dec. 1421

Family and Education

s. and h. of John Copplestone (d.?1433) of Copplestone, ?by Katherine, da. and h. of John Graas of Tengrace. m. Elizabeth (1412-19 June 1457), da. of John Hawley II*, and sis. and h. of Nicholas Hawley of Dartmouth, 3s.1

Offices Held

Steward of the estates of Bp. Stafford of Exeter, Devon 24 Sept. 1417-c.1419; jt. keeper of the temporalities of the bpric. Sept. 1419-Mich. 1420; steward of Bp. Lacy’s estates, Devon c.1420-aft. 1440.

Escheator, Devon and Cornw. 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419, 20 May 1422-13 Nov. 1423, 24 Jan.-17 Dec. 1426.

J.p. Devon 12 Feb. 1422-Nov. 1451, Dec. 1453-d.

Commr. of oyer and terminer, Devon, Som., Dorset, Wilts., Hants May 1422, Cornw. Oct. 1431, July, Oct. 1432, Devon July, Sept. 1439, Cornw. Sept. 1451; to raise loans, Devon, Cornw. Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Feb. 1434, Devon Nov. 1440, Aug. 1442, Sept. 1449; of inquiry Aug. 1431, Dec. 1431 (q.), June 1432 (q.), Devon, Cornw. June, July, Aug. 1432 (piracy), Cornw. Nov. 1432 (q. suicide of Edward Burnebury*), Devon June, Sept. 1433 (piracy), Feb. 1434 (escape of prisoners), Apr. 1434, July, Sept. 1435 (piracy), Devon, Cornw. Feb. 1438 (desertion of mariners), July 1439 (Sir John Dynham’s will), Devon, Cornw. Feb., June 1440, Cornw. Jan. 1443, Devon Jan., Apr. 1444 (piracy), May 1444 (assaults), Devon, Cornw. June 1444, Devon Nov. 1446 (piracy), Devon, Cornw. July 1449 (estates of John de Campo Arnulphi), Devon June 1452, Devon, Cornw. Aug., Dec. 1455, Apr. 1456 (piracy); to assess a grant, Devon Apr. 1431; of gaol delivery, Exeter May, June 1432, Mar., May 1454; arrest, Devon Feb. 1433; array July 1433, Jan. 1436, Mar. 1443, Sept. 1457; to hold an assession court, duchy of Cornw. July 1434; distribute tax allowances, Devon Jan. 1436, Apr. 1440; treat for payment of subsidies Feb. 1441; assign archers Dec. 1457.

Jt. receiver-general of the duchy of Cornw., jt. steward of duchy estates, Devon, and jt. warden of the stannaries, Devon 28 May 1422-10 Feb. 1423.

Steward of the estates of the earldom of Devon 3 July 1422-Feb. 1423; jt. steward Feb. 1423-c.1435.

Tax collector, Devon Aug. 1450.


A 10th-century granite boundary stone gave its name, ‘copelan stan’, to an estate on which the Copplestone family was settled by the time of Henry II. Most of this Member’s career falls outside the period under review, but clearly the foundations of his later prominence were laid in Henry V’s reign. Copplestone’s father, a busy lawyer, had been a figure of some importance as receiver of the estates of the duchy of Cornwall in Devon and Cornwall from November 1398 until August 1399.2The careers of father and son overlap, for the father, who was still living in 1429, did not die until about 1433. It is clear, however, that the younger John Copplestone was active at least as early as 1413, when he was a feoffee of lands in Devon, and from then on he also received an annual fee of £1 from the city of Exeter, presumably for his advice on legal matters. John followed in his father’s footsteps not only in his choice of profession, but also in his lifelong connexion with the bishop of Exeter and the canons of the cathedral close. In his will, proved in 1416, Thomas Barton, canon of Exeter, left him his ‘long silver cup, standing on three lions, with a cover enamelled on the knob’, which had been bequeathed to him by Alexander Merle†, and hoped that ‘he would stand by his executors and assist and protect them in every way in his power’. A year later, he became steward of the bishop’s estates in Devon, probably taking over directly from his father who had held the post from before 1407 and until after 1413. Copplestone was apparently still in office when Bishop Stafford died in September 1419, for Stafford named him as an executor of his will. His appointment as one of the keepers of the temporalities during the vacancy which ended on Lacy’s appointment in July 1420, was normal practice. A term of office as escheator of Devon and Cornwall and Membership of Parliament brought him a wider experience which culminated in a short term as joint receiver and steward of the estates of the duchy of Cornwall in Devon. He retained his links with the duchy after leaving office in February 1423, and was later named by a successor in the duchy stewardship in Cornwall, (Sir) John Arundell I* of Lanherne, as both a feoffee of his estates and an executor of his will. In 1434 he acted as an assessioner of the duchy estates.3

Copplestone’s ability as a lawyer brought him connexions with several leading landowners of the West Country. The most important resulted in a long involvement with the affairs of the Courtenays, with whom he was acquainted as early as 1413. His father had for many years been a friend of Thomas Raymond*, recorder of Exeter and legal counsellor to Edward Courtenay, earl of Devon; but it was Copplestone junior to whom, in 1418, Raymond bequeathed the reversion of his house in Exeter (after the death of his widow) and whom, in association with Thomas Norris II* (another member of the Courtenay circle), he appointed as an executor. On the death of Hugh, earl of Devon, in 1422 and when he was holding office in the duchy of Cornwall, Copplestone was appointed by the Crown as steward of the estates of the earldom during the minority of the heir, and on the same day, 3 July, he and Walter Colles, clerk, were instructed to ‘demise and approve and compute’ the lands and receive the rents and other income for the Crown. Four days later he and Sir Hugh Luttrell*, the young earl’s kinsman, became official keepers of the earl’s warrens, chaces and parks. Earl Thomas received livery of his lands in February 1423, although still a minor, and presumably as a result of the change Copplestone was joined as steward by another up-and-coming Devonshire lawyer, Nicholas Radford*. Courtenay did not yet have full control of his inheritance, and as late as July 1428 Copplestone was paid £10 by the Exchequer for his services as approver. He remained close to the Courtenays for several years after the earl attained his majority in 1435, later acting as a feoffee of his estates and as his receiver-general. (Surviving accounts show that he was discharging the latter office in 1439-40, and there seems little doubt that he served the earl in this capacity for several years.) Copplestone was also in the service of the earl’s aunt, Elizabeth, Lady Harington, and when she stayed at Sir Hugh Luttrell’s castle of Dunster early in 1423 it was he who paid Luttrell’s steward for her household’s board. Meanwhile, Copplestone had retained his connexion with the bishopric of Exeter when Lacy succeeded Stafford, and, indeed, he remained steward of the bishop’s estates in Devon, definitely until 1440 and most likely right up to Lacy’s death in 1455. For many years after 1428 Copplestone was involved in the long drawn-out disputes between the dean and chapter of the cathedral and the city of Exeter, acting as an arbitrator or conducting negotiations between the parties. One such dispute between the bishop and the city went on until 1448, with Copplestone appearing as Lacy’s ‘counseill’ and Nicholas Radford representing the city. In 1447 Bishop Lacy had permitted Copplestone’s wife to eat dairy produce and meat during Lent because of a bodily infirmity, and a close relationship between him and the bishop is further suggested by the licence granted in June 1448 to husband and wife and also John Trevelyan†, ‘who with others have long sustained a chaplain ... in the collegiate church of Holy Cross, Crediton’, authorizing them to found a guild there in honour of St. Mary. In February 1452 Lacy wrote to Copplestone as his ‘right singuler trusty frende’, strongly advising him not to take part in gatherings against the King, and asking him to pass on the message to his tenants at Crediton and to exhort those already gathered at Tiverton to return home to avoid bloodshed.4 Copplestone evidently heeded the warning: unlike his ill-fated colleague, Radford, and despite his links with the Courtenays, he apparently played no part in the growing feud between the earl of Devon and Lord Bonville.

Copplestone’s status may be gauged from his frequent appointments as custodian of estates in Devon and elsewhere during minorities. He temporarily held the estates of Richard Champernowne in 1420, of Elizabeth Neville, sister and coheir of the earl of Kent, in 1423, of the Fitzwaryn coheirs in 1431, of Elizabeth, Lady Botreaux, in 1433, of John Arundell II* of Bideford in 1435, of the Luttrell heir in 1437 and of Sir William Bodrugan* in 1442. One of the leading county figures sworn to keep the peace in May 1434, he was present at no fewer than 19 parliamentary elections held between 1420 and 1455. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Copplestone did not owe his prominence in the shire to landed wealth, though members of his family were fairly substantial landowners with property in Colyton, Bickington, Oldridge and Sigford, Devon, and holdings in Somerset besides their estate at Copplestone itself; and they were also patrons of the churches of Little Torrington, Nymet Rowland and Cheriton Fitzpaine. But it was not until 1443 that Copplestone came into possession through his wife of more substantial estates in Devon and Cornwall, following the death of Nicholas Hawley, his wife’s brother.5

In 1451 Copplestone was party to the foundation of a chantry in Luppit, Devon, where prayers were to be said for him and his wife as well as for the principal founder, Elizabeth, widow of Sir Thomas Carew. It is quite likely that he was one of those executors of Bishop Lacy’s will (the names are not known) who, in 1455, were said to be too old to journey to the court of the archbishop of Canterbury to arrange for probate. His own will was dated 18 Oct. 1458. He wished to be buried in St. Katherine’s aisle in Colebrook church, an aisle which his executors were instructed to rebuild to match the other. The graves of himself and his wife, who had died only a few months before, were to be covered with a marble slab, and the aisle, when complete, was to be furnished with service books, plate and vestments. Philip, Copplestone’s eldest son, was given a small property in Exeter and other gifts on condition that he helped the executors. The two younger sons, John and Walter, had a robe each. The testator directed that his familia should remain at Copplestone until Epiphany, suggesting that he was expecting to die soon; and he did in fact die only three days later (21 Oct.). His will was not proved until December 1459.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 224; PCC 18 Stokton; H. Rogers, Sepulchral Effigies, Devon, 138. His mother may have been Alice, to whom John Copplestone senior was married bef. 1384 (Reg. Brantingham ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 557).
  • 2. CAD, iii. D1062; W. Hoskins, Devon, 372; SC6/813/17.
  • 3. C219/10/4, 11/1; CCR, 1413-19, p. 95; Reg. Stafford ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 69, 413; CPR, 1429-36, p. 347; Exeter City RO, receiver’s acct. 1-2 Hen. V; Reg. Lacy (Canterbury and York Soc. lxiii), 21; Reg. Chichele, ii. 157, 159.
  • 4. Reg. Stafford, 420; SC6/1118/7; H.C. Maxwell Lyte, Dunster and its Lords, 128; M.E. Curtis, City v. Cathedral Authorities (Hist. Exeter Research Group Mono. v), 23, 65; Letters and Pprs. Shillingford (Cam. Soc. n.s. ii), 45, 70, 148; CPR, 1416-22, p. 439; 1422-9, pp. 18, 46; 1429-36, pp. 497, 602; 1441-6, p. 54; 1446-52, pp. 162-3; CFR, xiv. 438-9; xv. 27; xvii. 208, 211; Issues, ed. Devon, 401; CP, iv. 326; Add. Roll 64324; Reg. Lacy (Canterbury and York Soc. lxi), 379; ibid. (lxii), 137.
  • 5. SC6/828/6; C219/12/4, 5, 13/1-5, 14/1-4, 15/1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 16/1-3; CFR, xiv. 330; xv. 47; xvi. 25, 45-46, 95-96, 141, 158-9; xvii. 4, 208, 211, 231, 255-6, 261-2; Feudal Aids, i. 442, 480, 484-5; CPR, 1422-9, p. 497; 1441-6, p. 54; Reg. Stafford, 154, 191; Reg. Lacy (Canterbury and York Soc. lx), 82, 233, 361.
  • 6. PCC 18 Stokton: CFR, xix. 211; C139/174/42; Reg. Lacy (Canterbury and York Soc. lxii), 389-90; Reg. Bourgchier (ibid. liv), 175-6.