CHAMPERNON (CHAMBERLAIN, CHAMBORNE), Sir Arthur (by 1524-78), of Modbury and Dartington, Devon.

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




Family and Education

b. by 1524, 2nd s. of Sir Philip Champernon of Modbury by Catherine, da. of Sir Edmund Carew of Mohun’s Ottery. m. by 1547, Mary, da. of Henry Norris of Bray, Berks., wid. of (Sir) George Carew (d. 19 July 1545) of Mohun’s Ottery, 5s. 1da. Kntd. 10 Nov. 1549.2

Offices Held

Commr. relief, Devon 1550, eccles. causes Cornw. 1559, musters, Devon 1573; j.p. 1555-d.; sheriff 1559-60; v.-adm. Devon by 1563, Monmouth by 1573.3


It was probably about the time of his father’s death in 1545 that Arthur Champernon entered the service of the crown: his uncle (Sir) Gawain Carew and his brother-in-law (Sir) Anthony Denny were in the royal household. In August 1545 he was employed to ride on council business from Cowdray to Exeter and a year later Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, praised his service in the neighbourhood of Boulogne, for which he received £40 towards his expenses.4

As a younger son Champernon had received from his father only the leases of some property in Plympton and Ugborough and the family’s tinworks, but his marriage to the widow of Sir George Carew (for which he was given official encouragement) brought him her jointure consisting of the manor of Stoke Fleming and the borough of Southtown Dartmouth, together worth £65 a year. He was to augment his estate, which at his death was worth over £100 a year, by skilful manipulation of the land market. He was also the head of the family during the minority of the heir, his nephew Henry Champernon. For his part in the suppression of the western rebellion of 1549 he shared with John Chichester a grant of the iron fittings of dismantled Devon church bells. The knighthood which came to him in the following November was probably also a reward, this time from John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, for the attitude of his kinsmen towards the overthrow of the Protector Somerset, whom they had previously supported.5

The death of Sir James Wilford in November 1550 created the vacancy at Barnstaple which Champernon filled during the fourth session of Edward VI’s first Parliament. The election of 1547 there appears to have been controlled by the government and the by-election was probably influenced by the sheriff John Chichester, a friend of Champernon’s, with Sir Gawain Carew and Sir Peter Carew, themselves both Members of this Parliament, lending their support. While Champernon was a Member for Barnstaple he and his wife received from the mayor and aldermen the gift of a gallon of sack and a box of marmalade. He was not, however, to be returned there again, presumably because Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, who wielded great influence in the borough, preferred men dependent upon him.6

At the succession crisis of 1553 Champernon supported Sir Peter Carew’s proclamation of Queen Mary at Dartmouth and helped to rally support for her in Devon: for these efforts he received a letter of thanks. His enthusiasm for the new regime was severely tested both by its decision to restore Catholicism and by the prospect of the Spanish marriage, and when the Carews became involved in the movement planned by Sir Thomas Wyatt II he joined them, albeit reluctantly. When he visited Sir Peter Carew at Mohun’s Ottery on 21 Jan. 1554 he was so alarmed at what was afoot that he came away determined to break with it. His withdrawal dispelled what little resolution remained: Sir Peter Carew fled abroad, and Champernon and Sir Gawain Carew let themselves be arrested by Sir John St. Leger, Champernon ‘tendering his service as a loyal subject’. He remained in custody until 6 May when he was granted a licence to repair home to set his affairs in order before returning to sea. The government chose to trust his loyalty, intervened on his behalf in a dispute which he had with Dartmouth and in 1555 employed him in confidential business at Calais.7

His share in the abortive rising of 1554 was not to be the end of Champernon’s opposition. Returned with Sir William Courtenay II to the Parliament of 1555 for Plympton Erle, he attended the meetings at which the parliamentary opposition discussed its tactics and he voted against a government bill. His actions both within and outside the House may have cost Champernon a brief spell of imprisonment, as in the case of some others, but a legal case was wanting even against the ringleader Sir Anthony Kingston, and the government soon released all the offenders. In the Dudley conspiracy of the following year Champernon may have had no part, but he was taken up on suspicion; on 14 May he was bound by recognizance to appear daily before one of the clerks of the Council, a sentence commuted on 7 July to permission to return to Devon on 20 days’ notice to reappear. For the rest of the reign he remained suspect and was given no appointment. He served on the French expedition of 1557 but may have returned before the battle of St. Quentin.8

These activities, together with his marriage into the Norris family and perhaps also his relationship to a member of Princess Elizabeth’s household, Catherine Blount, widow of his brother John and wife of Sir Maurice Berkeley, ensured his return to favour in the new reign. He sat in Elizabeth’s first two Parliaments and was pricked sheriff of Devon in the autumn of 1559, but much of his later employment was as a naval or military commander, in which respect his career bears some resemblance to that of his brother-in-law (Sir) Henry Norris, later Lord Norris of Rycote. He died on 1 Apr. 1578.9


Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference, LP Hen. VIII, xix. Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 53; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 162-3.
  • 3. CPR, 1553, p. 352; J. C. Roberts, ‘Parlty. Rep. Devon and Dorset 1559-1601’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1958), 319; SP12/29/23; APC, vii. 209; HMC Exeter, 376; EHR, xxiii. 740; Lansd. 56, f. 168 seq.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi.
  • 5. Ibid. xix, xxi; CPR, 1549-51, p. 318; PCC 3 Alen; C142/180/25; J. E. Kew, ‘Land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 289-90, 296-7.
  • 6. T. Wainwright, Barnstaple Recs. ii. 121.
  • 7. Archaelogia, xxvii. 120; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 57, 59; APC, v. 18, 117; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 42; HMC Exeter, 367; D. M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 37-41, 105-6.
  • 8. SP11/8/35; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2; NRA 4154, p. 156; APC, v. 304, 373; HMC Foljambe, 5-7.
  • 9. A. Croke, Croke Fam. ii. 206; Strype, Grindal, 5; C142/180/25.