CAPLYN, John (by 1516-68/70), of Southampton.

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



Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1516, s. of Richard Caplyn of Southampton; bro. of Nicholas. m. Margery, 4s. inc. John 3da.2

Offices Held

Dep. to Sir Wymond Carew (dep. receiver-gen., duchy of Cornw.) by Dec. 1537-49; clerk of tin coinage, Cornw. by 1542; bailiff, Breamore, Hants 1544-5; jt. (with Ralph Couche I) bailiff, lands of Glasney toll. coll., Cornw. by 1547; dep. particular receiver for Queen Catherine Parr by 1547, Devon and Cornw.; steward, Southampton 1547-8, water bailiff 1548-9, ct. bailiff 1549-50, sheriff 1550-1, mayor 1552-4; dep. receiver-gen., duchy of Cornw. 1549-54/56; commr. assessionable manors, duchy of Cornw. 1553.3


John Caplyn came of a family of Southampton merchants with a tradition of civic service. The prosperity of Southampton was in decline and when he was admitted to its freedom on 18 Dec. 1537 he was instructed to encourage the shippers of Cornish tin to use the port. This was not an unreasonable demand for as the servant of a prominent official in Cornwall he was in a position of influence, and he may already have held an administrative post connected with the tin trade. As a merchant himself Caplyn had an interest in the trade, and on one occasion in the closing years of Henry VIII’s reign a purchase made by him was referred to the stannary court at Blackmoor. During the 1540s he was frequently in Cornwall on official, as well as private, business, and his service under Wymond Carew was evidently acknowledged by his recommendation to Queen Catherine Parr. On Carew’s death he succeeded him as deputy receiver-general in the duchy, and in this capacity he was associated successively with Sir Thomas Arundell, (Sir) Henry Gates, Sir Edward Waldegrave and John Cosworth.4

In the course of his work Caplyn became a friend of Henry Chiverton and a regular visitor to his house in Bodmin. They were returned together for Bodmin to Edward VI’s first Parliament, Chiverton in the senior place, but when Chiverton was elected knight of the shire for Cornwall to the second Parliament of the reign Caplyn took precedence at Bodmin over his new partner Ralph Cholmley. Caplyn was perhaps recommended to the electors on this occasion by Gates, an adherent of the Duke of Northumberland, under whose aegis the Parliament had been summoned, but the link may have proved detrimental to his career as he lost his duchy appointment early in Mary’s reign.5

Despite his official commitments in Cornwall, Caplyn was able to devote much of his time to the affairs of Southampton. In 1544 he and another were made responsible for the defence of part of the town walls. Within the next ten years he held its chief offices in turn, and on the foundation of its grammar school he was appointed one of the governors. Although apparently a leading figure there, he did not sit in Parliament for Southampton until the accession of Elizabeth; the delay probably had no religious implication, for in the 1550s the town’s recorder usually exercised his right to one of its seats and Caplyn’s own mayoralty at the beginning of Mary’s reign may have precluded him from election then. He made his will on 20 Oct. 1568, providing for his wife and children, and died within the following 18 months, his will being proved on 22 Apr. 1570.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. Third Bk. of Remembrance, i (Soton rec. ser. ii), 60, 64-65; PCC 9 Lyon.
  • 3. Third Bk. of Remembrance, ii (Soton rec. ser. iii), 155-6; St.Ch.2/31/161; APC, iii. 233; LP Hen. VIII, xx; Duchy Cornw. RO, index nominum, 45; E315/340, f. 5.
  • 4. C. Platt, Med. Southampton, 220, 223, 265; Third Bk. of Remembrance, i. 60; Duchy Cornw. RO, E6/1, m. 15; 222, receipt attached to m. 6; 230, m. 5v; Harl. 6380, ff. 6v-8; LP Hen. VIII, xix, xx; VCH Hants, iv. 597.
  • 5. St.Ch.5/C27/28.
  • 6. VCH Hants, iii. 503; CPR, 1553, p. 75; PCC 9 Lyon.