BAMPFYLDE, Sir Coplestone, 2nd Bt. (c.1633-92), of Poltimore, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. c.1633, 1st s. of Sir John Bampfield, 1st Bt., of Poltimore by Gertrude, da. and coh. of Amyas Coplestone of Warley. educ. Corpus, Oxf. 1651. m. (1) 16 Nov. 1655, Margaret, da. of John Bulkeley of Nether Burgate, Hants, 2s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) lic. 21 Oct. 1674, Jane, da. of Sir Courtenay Pole, 2nd Bt., of Shute, Devon, s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. and in Warley estate 24 Apr. 1650, gdfa. in Poltimore estate c.1650.1
J.p. Devon 1656-July 1688, Oct. 1688-?d., Tiverton 1680-1, South Molton 1684-Oct. 1688; commr. for assessment, Devon 1657, Jan. 1660-80, 1689-90, militia Mar. 1660, col. of militia ft. Apr. 1660-c.1685, oyer and terminer, Western circuit July 1660; sheriff, Devon Nov. 1660-1, dep. lt. 1661-c.1687, commr. for corporations 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662, recusants 1675, inquiry into customs frauds, Lyme Regis 1678; freeman, Plymouth 1684; j.p. and alderman, Tiverton 1684-7.2
Bampfylde’s ancestors acquired Poltimore in the reign of Edward I, and one of them sat for Devon in 1429. His father, a timorous Parliamentarian, abstained from the House after Pride’s Purge, and two of his uncles were nonconformists. But with regard to Bampfylde (as he chose to spell his name) we are assured that ‘as he always lived in the profession, so he died in the communion of the Church of England’. He took a prominent part in the Devon petition for a free Parliament in February 1660, and to avoid arrest went into hiding in the home of John Drake. On the return of the secluded Members, Bampfylde and Sir William Courtenay
raised each a gallant troop of about 120 gentlemen (most of them persons of quality and estate), in the head of which they rode themselves, securing some and disarming others. They brought all the disaffected in those parts into a due subjection to the Government in a little time.
He had earned nomination as knight of the Royal Oak, for which his estate was reckoned at £1,900 p.a. As sheriff at the general election of 1661 he appeared with so formidable a troop of retainers that an order was made limiting future sheriffs to 40 followers. He told the electors
I hope you all desire as well as myself to be represented in Parliament as loyal subjects and good Christians. It concerns us all therefore to choose such as are and always have been such.
He seems to have had an efficient publicity organization at his command, for his speech was printed in Mercurius Publicus. In the following year, hearing reports of an intended rising at Exeter, he swooped down on the city from his seat at Poltimore, ransacked the guildhall for arms and garrisoned the castle, again to the applause of royalist newsmen.3
On the withdrawal of the original court candidate in 1671, Bampfylde stood successfully for the county in the Church interest. He was moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament, serving on 30 committees, the most important being on the corruption of Members and the prevention of the growth of Popery. He was teller with his county colleague, (Sir) John Rolle, against the bill for the trial of peers on 23 Feb. 1674, but he made no speeches. When present, he usually voted with the Court; in 1675 his father-in-law Pole promised to make sure of him, and Edward Seymour was also to be asked to influence him. An opposition satirist described him as much addicted to tippling, and alleged that he had been presented to the King by his pretended wife, Betty Roberts, in Pall Mall; while Shaftesbury marked him as ‘thrice vile’.4
Bampfylde, a safe Tory by 1678, found the atmosphere of the Popish Plot so oppressive that he was ordered to be sent for as a defaulter. He stood again for the county in the ensuing general election, but was sacrificed by his ‘trimming’ colleague Seymour in an electoral bargain with Courtenay. He helped to present the loyal address from Devon in 1681, accepting the King’s reasons for dissolving Parliament, and he was ordered to examine Courtenay in 1683 about his knowledge of the Rye House Plot. He regained the county seat in 1685, and was listed by Danby among the Opposition in James II’s Parliament. He was appointed only to one private bill committee. His replies to the questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws followed the standard negative set by Sir Edward Seymour; and shortly afterwards ‘he, with a great many other loyal gentlemen, had the honour of being turned out’ of the lieutenancy and the commission of the peace.5
Bampfylde excused himself from attending William of Orange at Exeter in 1688 on the grounds of ill-health, but he sent his son to
congratulate his arrival, as one come to preserve our laws and religion, and maintain the established government. But when at length he apprehended that matters were carried beyond all imaginations, fearing a change would be made in the fundamental constitution of the government, he so far declared against these proceedings as to refuse payment of any new-made rates and taxes, and the collectors were enforced to levy them by distress against his goods.
Nevertheless he seems to have remained a j.p. He died of gout on 9 Feb. 1692, and was buried at Poltimore. On his deathbed he enjoined his family ‘that they should always continue faithful to the religion of the Established Church of England, and be sure to pay their allegiance to the right heirs of the Crown’. Well over six feet tall, strongly built and handsome, with ‘a ready wit and a good judgment’, he had lived for many years beyond his income,
always keeping about him a great retinue and a noble equipage. He was further (what is the badge of a true gentleman) of a courteous, obliging carriage to all, but very condescending to his inferiors, willing to befriend and gratify them, if in any thing they applied themselves unto him. ... In a word, he was every way a gallant gentleman, and was the honour of his time and our country.
His grandson, the 3rd baronet, was a Jacobite who sat for Exeter and Devon from 1710 till his death in 1727.
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
This biography is based on J. Prince, Worthies of Devon, (published 1701).