POPHAM, Sir Stephen (c.1386-1444), of Popham, Hants.

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



Family and Education

b.c.1386, s. and h. of Henry Popham*. ?educ. Winchester c.1394-c.1401. m. (1) c.1417, Margaret, da. of Nicholas Rede of ‘Cherestaunton’, Som., 2da.; (2) prob. by Beatrice, da. of Sir John Bohun (d.1433) of Midhurst, Suss. by his 1st w., 2da. Kntd. by June 1418.1

Offices Held

J.p. Hants 12 Feb. 1422-Oct. 1439, 24 Nov. 1440-d.

Commr. to take musters, Southampton June 1423, Portsdown May 1431, Portsmouth Aug. 1437, Portsdown Mar. 1441; of inquiry, Hants Dec. 1428 (piracy), June 1432 (trespass), July 1433 (piracy), July 1433 (felonies), Jan. 1437 (despoiling of Genoese and Hansards at Southampton), Jan., Mar., Apr. 1442 (piracy); to raise royal loans Mar. 1431, Mar. 1442; of array May 1435, Wilts., Hants Jan. 1436, Hants Mar. 1443; weirs, Southampton and Solent Dec. 1435; to assess taxes, Hants Jan. 1436; of oyer and terminer, Hants, Surr., Suss. Sept. 1440; to distribute tax allowances, Hants Mar. 1442.

Sheriff, Hants 7 Nov. 1427-4 Nov. 1428, 4 Nov. 1440-1, Wilts. 3 Nov. 1434-7 Nov. 1435.


In 1418 Stephen inherited the Popham estates (apart from those which had been settled on his stepmother, Margaret, and his half-brother, John). He was then said to be aged 25, but he may in fact have been about 32, having possibly been one of the two sons of Henry Popham known to have been commoners at Winchester college from about 1394 to about 1401. Stephen’s patrimony, both in Hampshire and Wiltshire, was substantial and worth about £150 a year altogether, though his stepmother lived on until 1448 so that he never obtained the lands she held as her dower at West Dean and East Grimstead (Wiltshire). These had formed part of the estates which his father had inherited from Sir Laurence St. Martin, and Stephen subsequently acknowledged John Roger I’s* title to the other moiety of the St. Martin inheritance, after he acquired it from the Lovells.2

Stephen was knighted, no doubt for military service overseas, even before he came into his inheritance. Both he and his cousin, John Popham†, were among the lances in the retinue which Edward, duke of York, took across the Channel in the summer of 1415 and commanded on the right wing of Henry V’s army at Agincourt, and it is possible that both cousins were knighted on the field. However, Sir Stephen was always to be overshadowed by his kinsman, whose brilliant career as chamberlain to the duke of Bedford in France and chancellor of Anjou and Maine, culminated in his appointment as treasurer of Henry VI’s household. There is no evidence that he himself served again in France under Henry V, although in December 1419 he appeared on the list sent by the Hampshire bench to the Council in response to a request for information about those considered best able to come to the defence of the realm. It was not until after his first Parliament, in 1420, that Popham took part in the local administration of Hampshire and Wiltshire, but he then became very active in this respect, discharging office as sheriff three times in all and as a j.p. for over 20 years. He attended parliamentary elections held at Winchester in the spring of 1421 and in 1422, 1426, 1427, 1429, 1432, 1433, 1435 and 1437. In the meantime, in 1434 he had stood second on the list of gentry of Hampshire who were to swear oaths not to maintain anyone who broke the King’s peace. Popham was associated with at least two members of the Council under Henry VI: Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*, for whom he witnessed conveyances of land, and (Sir) John Stourton II* (afterwards Lord Stourton), who was a guest at his eldest daughter’s wedding at Salisbury. Such connexions no doubt encouraged Sir Stephen to make loans to the Crown: he advanced 100 marks in 1435 and 60 marks in February 1436, the latter to go towards the duke of York’s expedition to France. Nor was his own military service over, for in July 1436 he himself took a contingent across the Channel to Calais, and he may well have been abroad again three years later, in 1439, when he was temporarily removed from the commission of the peace.3

Undoubtedly, Popham’s most important contribution to the war-effort was as a sea captain, and also as a leading exponent of the scheme for naval defence devised by the Commons in 1442, when he himself was one of their number. Having had some experience of dealing with pirates in the Channel, he now whole-heartedly endorsed the proposal for more systematic patrols. After completing indentures on 26 June, he became the chief commander of a force of 565 men which, eventually mustered at Southampton in September, policed the Channel until December, when they were disbanded at Dartmouth. Popham was assigned at the Exchequer nearly £800 for wages, victuals, artillery and munitions, but difficulties over the audit of the accounts dragged on until after his death. He was himself a shipowner, and one of his vessels, the Cokke William, was requisitioned in 1444 for the passage of Margaret of Anjou’s entourage to Southampton.4

Popham died on 12 Nov. 1444. He left no sons, so the estates which had been entailed by his father on the male line passed to his more famous cousin, Sir John Popham of Charford. Other properties had been put in the hands of trustees to hold on behalf of his young daughters: Elizabeth, wife of John Wadham, Margery, another Elizabeth and Alice.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Genealogist (ser. 2), xxviii. 13-15; CCR, 1413-19, p. 475; Winchester Coll. muns. 70, 78; W. Suss. RO, Cowdray ms 4734/5.
  • 2. C138/33/36; C139/131/21; Feudal Aids, v. 239, 244; CFR, xviii. 94-95; CCR, 1422-9, p. 203.
  • 3. E28/97/27, E101/45/2; C219/12/5, 13/1, 4, 5, 14/1, 3-5, 15/1; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 396, 467, 536; PPC, iv. 328; J.S. Roskell, ‘Sir Popham,’ Procs. Hants Field Club, xxi. 38-52; CCR, 1429-35, pp. 43-44, 51, 54-56; 1435-41, pp. 50-52; C1/74/64.
  • 4. E404/58/169-71, 185; E101/53/3, 38, 71/4/911; C76/124 m. 7; CPR, 1441-6, pp. 105, 107, 108, 407; RP, v. 59-60; PPC, v. 190, 193, 196, 198; E28/74/56; Add. 23938, f. 18.
  • 5. C139/121/18; VCH Hants, iii. 21; iv. 521-2; VCH Wilts. vi. 29, 185.