CULPEPER (COLEPEPPER), Thomas (1575-1662), of Greenway Court, Hollingbourne, Kent and the Middle Temple, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

bap. 8 Dec. 1575,1 3rd s. of Francis Culpeper (d.1591) of Greenway Court, being o.s. with 2nd w. Joan, da. of John Pordage of Rodmersham, Kent, wid. of William Stede of Harrietsham, Kent.2 educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. 1591; M. Temple 1594; MA Camb. 1636.3 m. 1600, Elizabeth (d. 27 Oct. 1638),4 da. and h. of John Cheney of Guestling, Suss., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 8da. (4 d.v.p.).5 kntd. 23 Sept. 1619.6 bur. 27 Jan. 1662.7 sig. Tho[mas] Culpeper.

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Kent and Suss. 1611, 1622, 1625-32, 1637-40;8 capt. militia ft. Kent by 1621-at least 1625;9 commr. array, Kent 1642.10

Member, N.W. Passage Co. 1612.11

Gent. of privy chamber, extraordinary 1635-at least 1641.12


The Culpepers first appeared in the Medway valley in the thirteenth century, and supplied a knight of the shire for Kent in 1361. ‘Men of blood and iron’, or in less picturesque language, soldiers and ironmasters, they ‘spread themselves in different branches over the whole face of the county’, and across the border into Sussex. Culpeper, although a younger son, inherited his father’s favoured seat at Greenway Court in 1591. He retained chambers at the Middle Temple until 1627, though he was never called to the bar, and shared with Sir Dudley Digges* an interest in the North-West Passage Company. More advisedly, sometime after 1612 he purchased a lease of ‘all post-fines and issues of greenwax of the duchy of Lancaster within certain counties’ from the executors of Sir Roger Aston*.13

In 1614 Culpeper was returned for Chippenham in a contested election, on the recommendation of his neighbour Sir Francis Fane*.14 He had little impact on the Addled Parliament, being appointed only to consider the bill for the repeal or continuance of expiring statutes (8 Apr.), and to attend the king to explain the suspension of business in the House over the Bishop Neile affair (28 May).15 He is not known to have sought election to the next Parliament, to which he presented his Tract against Usury in support of the unsuccessful bill to lower the rate of interest to eight per cent: ‘Ten in the hundred doth bite the landed men, doth bite the poor, doth bite trade, doth bite the king in his customs, doth bite the fruits of the land, and most of all the land itself!’ The bill was reintroduced in 1624, and passed as a temporary measure, probably with Digges’s support.16

Culpeper was returned to the 1628-9 Parliament for Tewkesbury, presumably on the recommendation of Digges, who had represented the borough since its enfranchisement in 1610. His own connections in the neighbourhood included the marriages of two of his first cousins to Sir Samuel* and Sir William Sandys.17 During the first session he was ordered to examine billeting abuses in Surrey, and was added to the committee for the bill to make the Medway navigable from Maidstone to Penshurst (28 Mar. and 19 May). The Usury Act was made permanent, apparently without Culpeper’s active involvement, although he was presumably among those noted on 21 June as favouring an even greater reduction in the rate of interest. His only committee appointment during the second session was for the bill to confirm the plantation of Somers Island (Bermuda), a matter of considerable interest to Digges (10 February).18

In 1632 Culpeper purchased Leeds Castle, Kent from the heirs of Sir John Smythe II*, and settled it on his sons.19 He joined the Court at Oxford during the Civil War, ‘being an officer of the king’s revenue’, presumably as lessee of the duchy greenwax. His second cousin and son-in-law, Sir John Colepeper†, was one of the king’s most trusted councillors, but his own son Sir Cheney supported Parliament and served on the sequestrations committee in Kent after 1648. Culpeper compounded for his delinquency on his encumbered estate at £844. He was nonetheless able to invest £1,000 on inning 200 acres in Dengemarsh between 1647 and 1649.20 Briefly imprisoned in 1651, he lived quietly until the Restoration. He then ‘resumed his design of further abatement of interest, but my Lord Colepeper dying ... he soon gave it over’.21 Culpeper died in January 1662, ‘leaving then behind him the character of a good man’, and he was buried at Hollingbourne, where he had earlier built a chapel to house his wife’s tomb. He had appointed his younger son and namesake as his executor, but his real estate was by then ‘mortgaged to the brim’ and he had ‘above £6,000 personal debts’. No later member of this branch of the family sat in Parliament.22

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. F. Harrison, Proprietors of Northern Neck, 55.
  • 2. Suss. Arch. Colls. xlvii. 72.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Harrison, 57.
  • 5. Suss. Arch. Colls. xlvii. 72.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 174.
  • 7. Harrison, 56.
  • 8. C181/2, f. 151; 181/3, ff. 52v, 166; 181/4, f. 106v; 181/5, ff. 69v, 167v.
  • 9. HMC Finch, i. 42; HMC Cowper, i. 212.
  • 10. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 11. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 239.
  • 12. LC5/134, p. 35; LC3/1 (unfol.).
  • 13. E. Hasted, Kent, iv. 436; Gent. Mag. v. 360-1; MTR, 722; T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 275; SP29/142/57.
  • 14. Chippenham Bor. Recs. ed. F.H. Goldney, 327.
  • 15. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 36, 377.
  • 16. T. Culpeper, Tract against Usurie (1621), p. 18; C. Russell, PEP, 41, 98, 193-4.
  • 17. E.S. Sandys, Hist. of Sandys Fam. ii. ped. C.
  • 18. CD 1628, ii. 168; iii. 463; iv. 413; CJ, i. 928a.
  • 19. Harrison, 56, 113; N and Q, ccv. 414.
  • 20. CCC, 1235; A.M. Everitt, Community of Kent, 274; CCAM, 65; C.W. Chalklin, Seventeenth-Cent. Kent, 14.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1651, p. 200; Gent. Mag. lxvii. 477.
  • 22. Ath. Ox. iii. 533; J. Newman, E. Kent, 351; PROB 11/307, f. 124; N and Q, ccv. 414.