Sir John Popham, Knight, Lord Chief Justice 1 2 3
- Born: Abt 1531, Huntworth, Somerset, England 1 3
- Marriage: Amy Games about 1560 in Somerset, England 1 2
- Died: Jun 23, 1607, Wellington, Somerset, England about age 76 1 3
- Buried: Wellington Parish Church, Somerset, England 3
The Visitation of Somerset, 1623: 2nd son. Sir John Popham Knt. a privie counsellor & attorney general to Q. Eliz. and K. James and Ld Cheife Justice of England. m. Amy or Anne daughter and heir of Hugh Adams al's Games of Glamorganshire.
Notable Owners of Heymock Castle:
Lord Chief Justice Sir John Popham
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Sir John Popham (Lord Chief Justice) bought the major part of the Manor. Although he disposed of part, the inquisition held after his death found that when he died, he possessed the whole hundred of Hemyock and the nearby Manor of Madford as well as two other estates elsewhere in the parish.
As Lord Chief Justice, he sentenced to death:
Sir Walter Raleigh.
Mary Queen of Scots.
"It is best for man not to seek to climb too high, lest he fall."
[Lat., In medio spatio mediocria firma locantur.]
- free rendering of the Latin in sentencing Raleigh to death, quoting Nicholas Bacon
"Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot!"
Each year, firework parties are still held throughout the UK to celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes and the defeat of the "Gunpowder Plot" on 5th November 1605.
(Note. The original licence to crenellate Hemyock Castle had been granted on 5th November 1380.)
Sir John Popham's Grisly Fate
According to local legend, Sir John is reputed to have been rewarded for his controversial life by being thrown from his horse into Popham's Pit, a deep local dell, dying horribly and descending to Hell.
He is named on his wife's grave stone in the nearby Wellington Church. However, according to legend, his body does not lie there: Every New Year's Eve his ghost is supposed to emerge from Popham's Pit and take one cock's step nearer to the grave. Until he has reached it, legend says that his soul will not Rest in Peace.
1. Hemyock Castle: A Brief History
By the 1200s Hemyock had a moated fortified manor house, where the Hidons and then Dynhams lived as Medieval Lords of the Manor.
Then in 1380, King Richard II granted permission to Sir William and Lady Margaret Asthorpe (née Dynham) to convert this into a castle. They built a typical Medieval Castle with a thick curtain wall enclosing the manor house and other buildings on a rectangular site of almost an acre. It had a massive fortified Gate house with 40 foot towers, and seven other mural towers.
The 14th century was the heyday of the site as a castle. The Asthorpes left no heirs, so after their deaths, Hemyock Castle reverted to the ownership of her family; the powerful West country Dynhams. Sir John Dynham saved the lives of King Edward IV and Warwick the Kingmaker during the Wars of the Roses. He was rewarded with a Barony and high Government office.
By Tudor and Stuart times, Hemyock and Hemyock Castle had passed to the Popham family. Sir John Popham, (of Popham's Pit) as Lord Chief Justice, was responsible for sentencing Guy Fawkes to be burnt at the stake, and also for sentencing both Mary Queen of Scots and Sir Walter Raleigh to be executed.
In the Civil War, the Pophams supported Parliament against King Charles I. Hemyock Castle was garrisoned and used as a prison for Royalist prisoners. In 1644 it was besieged and captured by the Royalists. Later, it was recaptured by Parliament.
When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he ordered that it be slighted so that it could never again be held against him. The towers and walls were battered, the ancient manor house became a farm house, and stone from the damaged walls was taken to build local farm buildings and cottages. The old castle buildings and fortifications were adapted for farm animals.
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:
POPHAM, SIR JOHN (c. 1531-1607), English judge, was born at Huntworth, in Somerset, about 1531. He was educated at Balliol College,Oxford, and called to the bar at the Middle Temple. Concerning his early life little is known, but he was probably a member of the parliament of 1558. He was recorder of Bristol, and represented that city in parliament in 1571 and from 1572 to 1583. He was elected Speaker in 1580, and in 1581 became attorney-general, a post which he occupied until his appointment as lord chief justice in 1592. He presided at the trials of Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes. Towards the end of his life Popham took a great interest in colonization, and was instrumental in procuring patents for the London and Plymouth companies for the colonization of Virginia. Popham was an advocate, too, of transportation abroad as a means of punishing rogues and vagabonds. His experiment in that direction, the Popham colony, an expedition under the leadership of his brother [RS: actually his nephew] George (c. 1550-1608), had, however, but a brief career in its settlement (1607) on the Kennebec river. Popham died on the loth of June 1607, and was buried at Wellington, Somerset.
Popham Colony: A Slice of Time:
In the same year in which Jamestown was colonized in Virginia, the Plymouth Company made their first attempt to establish an English colony in New England. On August 19, 1607, 120 colonists and sailors led by George Popham (aboard the Gift of God) and Raleigh Gilbert of the Mary and John went ashore at the mouth of the Kennebec River at Sabino Point in what is now Phippsburg. At the time the Kennebec was known as the Sagadahoc, and the little colony is also frequently referred to by that name. The colonists, however, named their settlement Popham after Sir John Popham, George's uncle and Popham Colony's chief patron. Then they made an ambitious start at building a church, an earth and stone fort and 50 houses. Colonist John Hunt left a remarkable diagram of Fort St. George showing the placement of these buildings. Although modern archaeology has proved this map to be accurate, it was made only seven weeks after the colonists landed and so can hardly be considered a picture of the completed facility but rather the colony as planned and begun. It is the only map or diagram of an initial English colonization effort available to modern historians.
Before the end of December both ships returned to England leaving only 45 colonists behind. However the colonists were not without transportation. During their stay, they constructed the first ship built in Maine, a 50' pinnace called the Virginia of Sagadahoc. Some explorations of the area were made in the pinnace, including a trip up the Kennebec and perhaps to far away Jamestown.
Otherwise, things did not go well. Popham was an ineffectual leader; Gilbert was hotheaded and an unwise decision maker. The colonists were quarrelsome and not inclined to work nearly as hard as the circumstances required. Some historians have attributed the colonists' bad behavior to their previous residences in England's gaols; others say that modeling the colony's structure on the feudal system did little to encourage diligence or hard work. Absolutely nobody was prepared for a winter that was so early and severe. In February Popham, who was at least 50 or 60 years old and possibly as old as 78, died; Gilbert, "desirous of supremacy and rule" but otherwise unfitted to the task, took over.
Trade with the natives was limited, and relations were strained. Early meetings with the Pemequids involved the trading of hostages to ensure good behavior. Gilbert had a scuffle with the tribes up the Kennebec. At some point trade commenced at the fort, but by late winter, things were out of hand. The story is unclear but it seems to involve some kind of sporting event, perhaps a tug of war, using a cannon. The Indians were on the wrong end, and the cannon was fired. Chaos reigned for a bit. Some of the colonists fled; a cask of gunpowder was broken open and another explosion occurred. In the end, the storehouse and some of the other buildings burned down. Definitely not a high point in Native American/ Colonial relations.
Conditions did not improve until spring and the return of the first ships with supplies. The colonists rallied somewhat during the summer. But then, a third ship arrived in September with news that Sir John Popham was dead. Raleigh Gilbert's brother had also died leaving the colony's leader as his heir. Gilbert immediately planned to return to England to claim his inheritance. The colonists determined to abandon all their efforts. They dismantled as much of the property as possible, loaded anything of value onto the three ships and the Virginia and sailed back to England. Despite hardship and bad luck, the colony seems to have failed due to lack of leadership more than anything else.
And what became of the Virginia? We don't really know, but here are two possibilities. In 1609, the third supply fleet left
Barbara Bryam Milman:
Addi & William B. Bartholomew:They list title of Sir and birth date as 1523.
Sharon Newell: Popham was Chief Justice of Somerset. He was Chief Justice of the King's Bench and was a patron for the earliest settlement in Jamestown, Virginia.
Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony By Lee Miller, Penguin Books 2002
Page 210: At the end of the day the verdict comes in: Raleigh will die. This would never have happened, Lord Chief Justice Sir John Popham thundered at him, "if you had...not suffered your own wit to have entrapped yourself....It is best for man not to seek to climb too high lest he fall....You have been taxed by the world with the defence of the most heathenish, blasphemous, atheistical, and profane opinions, a too eager ambition and a corrupt covetousness."
Page 212: "Raleigh's Virginia title is up for grabs. Chief Justice Popham---the very man who condemned Raleigh to death---forms a company of gentlement and merchants to exploit his claim. Supporting him is Raleigh's old friend turned enemy, Sir Robert Cecil, and Attorney-General Sir Edward Coie. January 1606. The London Company charter is granted." 3 2 4
Noted events in his life were:
Residence: Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, Cullompton, Devon, England. 1
Politics: Speaker of the House of Commons, 1581.
Occupation: Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's (later King's) Bench, 1592.
Mentioned: Will of William Symes, Jun 4, 1597, Poundisford, Pitminster Parish, Somerset, England. 5 6 To my s. John Symes £2000 according to the covenants betw. me & Sir John Popham, Knt., Chief Justice, & Tho. Horner, Esq.
Politics: Parliament, 1586, Somerset, England.
Politics: Parliament, 1587, Somerset, England.
Will, Sep 12, 1604.
Probate, Jun 17, 1608.
John married Amy Games, daughter of Robert Games, of Castleton and Unknown, about 1560 in Somerset, England.1 2 (Amy Games was born in Glamorgan, Wales,1 died before 1604 in Wellington, Somerset, England 1 3 and was buried in Wellington Parish Church, Somerset, England.)