HOPKINS, Sampson (by 1564-1623), of Earl Street, Coventry, Warws.

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

b. by 1564, 3rd s. of Nicholas Hopkins (admon. 29 Jan. 1566) of Coventry, draper, and his w. Eleanor.1 educ. appr. draper, Coventry c.1578.2 m. (1) Katherine, da. of one Smart of Essex,3 3s. 3da.; (2) 10 Aug. 1609, Jane, da. of Richard Butts of Ham Court, Chertsey, Surr. and wid. of Robert Aylwin (admon. 21 July 1607) of Treford, Suss., 2s. 2da.4 d. 22 Jan. 1623.5 sig. Sampson Hopkins.

Offices Held

Freeman, Drapers’ Co., Coventry 1587, warden 1594, 1596, master 1599, 1610, asst. 1607-at least 1610.6

Collector subsidy, Coventry ?1598, 1602, 1606-7, commr. 1610,7 sheriff 1598-9,8 alnager, Leics., Staffs., Warws. 1602-8, Coventry 1602-d.,9 member, gt. council, Coventry 1603-d., mayor 1609-10, alderman 1614-d., j.p. 1621-d.10


Hopkins belonged to a family resident in Coventry from at least the mid-fifteenth century. His father, Nicholas, a draper, served as one of the city’s sheriffs in 1562-3.11 Following his death about two years later, his widow married Ralph Joyner, another Coventry draper, who was presumably responsible for Hopkins’ apprenticeship in the same trade. Although his two elder brothers appear to have died young, Hopkins inherited only £50 from his father, and an equivalent sum from Joyner in 1588. However, his mother left him three houses in Coventry when she died in about 1594, and he was sufficiently affluent by 1598 that he spent £550 on further properties in the city, including the Earl Street mansion where he himself lived.12 In the next year he served as master of the Coventry Drapers’ Company for the first time, and in 1602 obtained a grant of the alnage farm for Coventry, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire, a role which entitled him to monitor standards of cloth production. His growing prominence was confirmed a year later by his admission to Coventry’s great council. When Princess Elizabeth visited the city in 1605 she stayed at his house, and presented him with a silver-gilt cup.13 By 1609, when he became mayor, he was visiting London on the city’s behalf, and loaning money to facilitate the great council’s business there.14 Although a national reorganization of the alnage farm obliged him in 1608 to relinquish his responsibilities as alnager outside Coventry, he continued to prosper as a merchant. In about 1610 he entered into partnership with his nephew Isaac Walden*, and shortly afterwards they began buying up partially finished Coventry cloth in bulk. Their trading network at this time embraced London, Suffolk, Chester and Manchester, besides the areas where Hopkins had operated as alnager.15

Elected to represent Coventry in the 1614 Parliament, Hopkins received wages of 4s. a day. He made one recorded speech, during the attack on Bishop Neile of Lincoln on 27 May, drawing on his local knowledge to confirm that Neile, while occupying the see of Coventry and Lichfield, had burdened his clergy with taxes and discouraged sermons.16 Within weeks of returning from Westminster, Hopkins was appointed an alderman, initially for Smithford Street ward, but transferring to Earl Street ward in 1619 to replace the late Henry Breres*. During the latter years of this decade he continued to travel to London regularly on behalf of his colleagues, and also lent the great council over £300. These services stood him in good stead when a long-running dispute with another alderman, Matthew Collins, came to a head in 1617, and the council not only backed Hopkins but stripped Collins of his offices for three years for refusing to accept its verdict.17 Meanwhile, his trading concerns developed apace. By about 1615 Hopkins and Walden had formed a new partnership with three of the former’s London-based kinsmen, in order to export cloth via the capital to Hamburg. Although this venture folded by 1620, it appears to have been lucrative in the short term. Around this time Hopkins also started buying up large quantities of partially finished cloth outside Coventry, principally in Gloucestershire.18

Hopkins again sat for Coventry in the 1621 Parliament, and initially received much higher wages of around 5s. 6d. a day, though the rate fell to 5s. after the Easter recess. He was also refunded 4s. ‘for the return of the writ for the citizens of the Parliament’, presumably a fee paid to the clerk of the Crown. He was not recorded personally as contributing to proceedings in the House, but he was entitled as a Coventry Member to attend bill committees concerned with the trade in Welsh cloth, and wool carding (2 and 10 March).19 Hopkins and his fellow Member, Henry Sewall, spent much of their time during the first sitting successfully negotiating the grant of a new city charter, and the great council rewarded them in July 1621 by adding them to the quorum of the Coventry bench. Hopkins borrowed £200 in London towards the costs of the charter, but although promised a full discharge of this debt by the Council, he was ultimately left £100 out of pocket.20

The winding up of the Hamburg venture seems not to have unduly damaged Hopkins’ financial base. Entering into a final partnership with Walden and two other relatives, he contributed £4,340 to a joint stock, on which he made a profit of £1,000 by late 1622.21 However, his practice of bringing large amounts of Gloucestershire cloth to Coventry for finishing made him deeply unpopular with local weavers. In about May 1622, the city’s clothiers complained to the Privy Council that Hopkins and his partners were breaching government regulations for cloth manufacture in Coventry, by passing off Gloucestershire cloth as being locally produced. Moreover, Hopkins was abusing his position as alnager to cover up this practice. A subsequent inquiry broadly upheld these complaints, but no action seems to have been taken against the offenders.22

Either on account of this investigation, or more likely through ill health, Hopkins ceased to attend the great council in August 1622. On 10 Jan. 1623 he made up his accounts, assessing his personal estate at nearly £15,000, a figure which may not have included his plate and the joint stock. He died less than two weeks later.23 In his will, dated 5 June 1621, he requested burial in the Drapers’ Chapel in St. Michael’s, Coventry. His bequests were appropriately lavish: £2,000 was left to his wife, and over £6,000 in total to his children, in addition to plate and household stuff. Other personal legacies ran to more than £300, while he assigned 40s. rings to 50 more relatives and friends. Nearly £250 was set aside for charitable purposes, including, somewhat cynically, £100 to benefit Coventry clothiers. The will was proved by his eldest son, William, in May 1623. A younger son, Richard, sat for Coventry in the 1660 Convention.24

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. PROB 11/48, f. 277r-v.
  • 2. Calculated from date of freedom; Coventry drapers served 9-y. apprenticeships: Coventry Archives, PA/99/1; PA/154/2, f. 110.
  • 3. Vis. Staffs. 1614 and 1663-4 ed. H.S. Grazebrook, 180 (children’s details in ped. are inaccurate).
  • 4. Reg. St. Mary Aldermanbury, London (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxi), 83; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 178-9; PROB 11/110, f. 121r-v; 11/141, f. 375r-v.
  • 5. Vis. Staffs. 180.
  • 6. Coventry Archives, PA/154/2, ff. 110, 120, 124, 130, 156; C66/1750.
  • 7. E179/193/245, 278; E401/2400, 2407.
  • 8. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 178.
  • 9. Coventry Archives, PA/468/2/2/1/1-3, 5.
  • 10. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 150v, 174, 203, 244, 251v.
  • 11. Coventry Leet Bk. ed. M.D. Harris, i. 165, 391; List of Sheriffs, 178.
  • 12. PROB 11/48, f. 277v; 11/72, ff. 205v-6; 11/85, ff. 22-3; Coventry Archives, PA/194/2/6, 11.
  • 13. B. Poole, Coventry: its History and Antiqs. 404; PROB 11/141, f. 375.
  • 14. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 92-3, 97.
  • 15. Coventry Archives, PA/468/2/2/1/2-3; C2/Jas.I/H18/66; 2/Chas.I/W39/53; PROB 11/141, f. 379.
  • 16. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 365, 371, 374-5; Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, p. 114.
  • 17. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 207v, 220v-2, 230, 234v; BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 133, 138, 140, 145, 148, 151-2, 155, 159, 160.
  • 18. C2/Chas.I/W53/52; PROB 11/141, ff. 375v, 377; Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/31.
  • 19. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 181, 191; CJ, i. 534b, 548a.
  • 20. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 244-5; BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 186, 191, 198, 208.
  • 21. C2/Jas.I/H18/66.
  • 22. Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/2-3, 7, 26.
  • 23. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, f. 251v; C2/Jas.I/H18/66.
  • 24. PROB 11/141, ff. 375-9v.