HOPTON, Owen (c.1519-95), of Yoxford and Blythburgh, Suff. and of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1519, s. of Sir Arthur Hopton of Cockfield Hall, Yoxford by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of Sir Davy Owen of Cowdray, Suss.; bro. of Robert. m. Aug. 1542, Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Edward Echingham, 3s. inc. Arthur 2da. suc. fa. 1555. Kntd. 1561.1

Offices Held

J.p. Suff. 1554, q. by 1562; sheriff, Norf and Suff. 1564-5; commr. musters, Suff. by 1569; j.p.q. Mdx. 1569; lt. of the Tower 1570-90.


By the time of his appointment as lieutenant of the Tower, Hopton had already had some experience of state prisoners, Lady Catherine Grey having been in his custody in October 1567. His period of office extended from the Ridolfi conspiracy until after the Armada. It was a task requiring vigilance and repeated consultations with the Privy Council and others in authority; and it involved, particularly in the 1580s, the supervision of examinations under torture. He repeatedly petitioned the Council for the release of some of his captives, mentioning, however, that they owed him money for their keep. His daughter Cicely befriended a number of prisoners, acting as intermediary between them and inmates of the Marshalsea; and it was with her help that the 13th Earl of Arundel arranged to attend secret celebrations of the Mass within the Tower. In March 1588 it was reported to the Earl of Leicester that many of Hopton’s subordinates were ‘tainted with popery’, and that some were acting as emissaries from the Earl of Arundel to persons outside. Indeed, three years earlier it had been suggested that Hopton should be replaced by Sir Dru Drury, who, in fact, became lieutenant in 1595. It is difficult to assess Hopton’s religious position. Aylmer, bishop of London, commended his zeal. As a member of the High Commission in 1589 he signed the order forbidding the entertaining of unlicensed preachers and the holding of conventicles, but some years earlier he had allowed Andrew Melville, the Scottish puritan exile, to preach and form a congregation in the Tower church, an exempt jurisdictions.2

His office at the Tower involved a host of subordinate duties: for instance, the care of the armoury and munitions, the maintenance of order within the adjoining liberties, the safeguard of these liberties against encroachment by the city authorities, and conducting guided tours for foreigners. Hopton often experienced difficulty in recovering from prisoners the cost of their diets: in the case of the Earl of Southampton, for instance, he had to ask for the intervention of the Privy Council. Writing to Burghley in 1588 and acknowledging that he owed the office to him, Hopton touched on a number of expenses he had borne himself. By the summer of 1589 he had been compelled to borrow £600 through his son Arthur, and even after financial embarrassment had led him to resign the office in the summer of 1590, he was still attempting to recover outstanding sums. In March 1591 the Privy Council took measures to restrain his creditors from seeking ‘extremities’ against him.3

After sitting in four Parliaments as a knight of the shire Hopton was returned for Arundel by one of his prisoners, the 13th Earl of Arundel. Hopton’s committees in 1571 concerned church attendance (6 Apr., 19 May), griefs and petitions (7 Apr.), Catholic priests (1 May) and navigation (8 May). He made three recorded speeches, the subject of the first (5 Apr.) remaining obscure from the report in the anonymous journal. The next day he spoke on church attendance, and on 10 Apr. he urged the appointment of a commissioner of petitions. In 1572 he served on committees dealing with Mary Queen of Scots (12 May), weights and measures (23 May) and the corn bill (24 May). He spoke (23 May) urging that when corn was distributed to the poor it should be measured in ‘the greatest bushels heretofore used’. On 30 May he spoke in favour of excluding minstrels from the vagabonds bill. On 8 Feb. 1576 he was appointed to examine Peter Wentworth, and on 16 Feb. to examine Edward Smalley, in the