POPHAM, John (1532/33-1607), of Wellington, Som. and London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1532/33, 2nd s. of Alexander Popham, and bro. of Edward. educ. Balliol, Oxf.; M. Temple. m. by Jan. 1549, Amy, da. and h. of Hugh Adams of Castleton, Glam., 1s. Francis 6da. Kntd. 1592.1

Offices Held

Autumn reader, M. Temple 1568, Lent 1573, treasurer 1580-8.

Recorder, Bridgwater 1571-2, Bristol 1571-80; j.p.q. Som. 1573/74-d., Mdx. 1583, Bucks., Norf., Wilts. 1594, Beds., Cambs., Hunts., Suff. 1600; serjeant-at-law 1579; solicitor-gen. 1579-81; attorney-gen. 1581-9; 2nd justice, Lancaster 1581-9; j.c.p. 1589-92; l.c.j. KB 1592-d.; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of 1593, 1597, 1601, 1604; custos rot. Som. by 1594; commr. eccles. causes, Salisbury diocese 1599, chancellorship of duchy of Lancaster 1601; PC 1599.2

Speaker of House of Commons 1581.


John Popham married very young, apparently when no more than 17; his wife, who was heir to the manor of Castleton in Glamorganshire, may have been a ward of his father, from whom John was to inherit property in Bridgwater, Somerset. According to Aubrey it was not until he was 30 years old that Popham was persuaded by his wife to concentrate on his legal studies. He had earlier been put out of commons by his inn, where in November 1556 he was restored on paying a fine of 40s.; and it was not until the 1560s that he began that progress which brought him to the top of his chosen profession.3

Popham’s election to the Parliament of 1558 by Lyme Regis may have been the work of his brother-in-law William Pole, who sat for the town in 1545 and who was to become its legal counsellor. Nothing is known of Popham’s role in Mary’s last Parliament although his name is marked with a circle on a copy of the list of its Members in use for the second session: the significance of the circle has yet to be explained.4

After a long and distinguished career under Elizabeth, Popham died on 10 June 1607, and was buried in the church at Wellington. Several portraits of him in middle age survive.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Aged 25 on 15 May 1558, but allegedly 76 at death according to MI, St.Ch.3/9/88; Collinson, Som. ii. 483. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 125; CPR, 1553, p. 326.
  • 2. W. Barrett, Bristol, 115; Dugdale, Chronica Series, 95, 97-98; APC, xxix. 738; LJ, ii. 168, 191, 226, 263; Somerville, Duchy. i. 396-7; C66/1421; SP 13 case no. 11.
  • 3. CPR, 1553, p. 326; Manning, Speakers, 247; C142/108/104; M.T. Recs. i. passim.
  • 4. Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264.
  • 5. Collinson, ii. 483; Cat. Boughton House State Rooms and High Pavilion, 1, 2.