POPHAM, John (1603-1637), of Houndstreet, Som., and Littlecote, Wilts.

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. 1603, 1st s. of Sir Francis Popham* (d. 28 July 1644) of Wellington, Som., and Littlecote, and Anne, da. of John Dudley I† of Stoke Newington, Mdx.; bro. of Alexander†, Edward†.1 educ. Camb. MA 1622;2 m. 21 June 1621 (with £11,500),3 Mary, da. of Sir Sebastian Harvey, alderman and Ironmonger, of London, s.p.4 d. 23 Dec. 1637.5

Offices Held

Commr. swans, Hants, Wilts., Dorset, Som., Devon, Cornw. and I.o.W. 1629;6 j.p. Wilts. 1633-d.;7 commr. oyer and terminer Hants, Wilts., and Dorset 1634-d.;8 ranger, Savernake Forest, Wilts. 1636-d.9

Gent. of privy chamber extraordinary, 1631.10


Little can be discovered of Popham’s life before his marriage in 1621 to Mary, sole daughter of Sir Sebastian Harvey, a former lord mayor of London. Harvey died intestate shortly before the wedding, leaving a fortune reputedly amounting to £60,000. During the following decade Popham and his father were embroiled in a near continuous series of legal suits with Harvey’s widow and her second husband, Sir Thomas Hinton*, who claimed a third of the estate by right of London custom. In 1629 Chancery upheld an earlier court order that Popham should receive a lump sum of £1,500, and his father £10,000, for Mary’s portion. The issue was finally settled in 1631, when Popham secured his entitlement to Harvey’s estates.11

During the 1620s Popham often resided at his father’s house in Houndstreet, five miles west of Bath, and was sufficiently well known there to be elected for Bath in the 1628 Parliament.12 He made little impression upon the records of the House. His only mention in the Commons Journal was on 11 Apr. when, with his father, he was given leave to attend a commission at Newbury.13 After his father settled upon him an estate at Littlecote, Popham was appointed to the Wiltshire bench but does not appear to have regularly attended the sessions.14 His reputation for lavish entertaining was matched only by that of his wife who, according to John Aubrey, ‘scorned but she would live as high as he did; and in her husband’s absence would have all the women of the country thither, and feast them, and make them drunk, as she would be herself’.15 Despite his wife’s wealth, and constant financial support from his father, by 1637 Popham had accumulated debts said to have amounted to £100,000.16 His dissolute lifestyle was renowned among contemporaries. He died, allegedly from excess, on 23 Dec. 1637 at a house in Covent Garden. He was childless, and did not leave a will. In addition to Littlecote, an inquisition post mortem detailed Popham’s remaining landholdings in Lincolnshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and London.17 He was succeeded by his brother, Alexander, who sat for Bath in the Short and Long Parliaments; a younger brother, Edward, was elected for Minehead in 1645.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. F.W. Popham, A West Country Fam. 58; CSP Dom. 1644, p. 382.
  • 2. Al. Cant.
  • 3. C2/Chas.I/H59/64.
  • 4. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 124-5; J. Burke, Commoners, ii. 198; J. Nicholl, Co. of Ironmongers, 191.
  • 5. C115/108/8621; C142/566/16.
  • 6. C181/4, f. 2v.
  • 7. C231/5, f. 123.
  • 8. C181/4, ff. 169, 185, 194; 181/5, ff. 6, 73v.
  • 9. Wardens of Savernake Forest ed. C.S.C. Brudenell-Bruce, 181.
  • 10. LC5/132, f. 230.
  • 11. C2/Chas.I/H59/64; 2/Chas.I/H50/23; SP16/196/22; C78/274/4; 78/364/4.
  • 12. C2/Chas.I/P63/62.
  • 13. CD 1628, ii. 411.
  • 14. Wilts. RO, A1/150/5, 6.
  • 15. J. Aubrey, Brief Lives ed. A. Clark, ii. 159.
  • 16. SP16/311/66.
  • 17. C142/566/16; 142/569/133.