John Hampden

John Hampden (ca. 1594 – 24 June 1643) of Hampden House in the parish of Great Hampden in Buckinghamshire, England, was one of the leading Parliamentarians involved in challenging the authority of King Charles I and became a national figure when he stood trial in 1637 for his refusal to be taxed for ship money. He was one of the Five Members whose attempted unconstitutional arrest by King Charles I in the House of Commons in 1642 sparked the English Civil War.

Hampden died of wounds received at the Battle of Chalgrove Field during the Civil War and was considered a great patriot. A statue of Hampden was selected by the Victorians as a symbol at the entrance to the Central Lobby in the Palace of Westminster as the noblest type of the parliamentary opposition, sword at his side, ready to defend the rights of Parliament. As one of the Five Members, Hampden is commemorated at the State Opening of Parliament by the British monarch each year when the doors of the Commons Chamber are slammed in the face of Black Rod, the monarch's messenger, symbolising the rights of Parliament and its independence from the monarch.


He was probably born in London in 1594,[3] the eldest son of William Hampden (1570-1597), of Hampden House, Great Hampden, Buckinghamshire, the son of Griffith Hampden and Anne Cave and descendant of a very ancient family of that county, said to have been established there before the Norman conquest. His mother was Elizabeth Williams, second daughter of Sir Henry Williams (alias Cromwell), and aunt of Oliver Cromwell.

Early life

By his father's death in 1597, when he was still aged about 3, he became the owner of a large estate and a ward of the crown. His childhood was passed in the care of his mother.[4] He was educated as a boarder at Lord Williams's School in Thame, as is evident from a passage of Anthony Wood's Memoirs in which he alludes to the master of the school as having been always acquainted with and obliged to the families of the Ingoldsbys and Hampdens in Buckinghamshire, and other puritanical and factious families in the said county, who while young had been mostly bred in the said school of Thame, and had sojourned either with the vicar or the master.[4]

On 30 March 1610 he matriculated as a commoner at Magdalen College, Oxford. Clarendon in The History of the Rebellion, said he was known to be 'wise ... and of great parts.' He also paints a brief picture of Hampden as a youth, 'he indulged to himself all the licence in sports and exercises and company, which was used by men of the most jolly conversation'.[4] In 1613 he was admitted as a law student to the Inner Temple.


English Parliament

Hampden first sat in Parliament for the borough of Grampound, Cornwall in 1621. Later, he represented Wendover in the first three parliaments of Charles I. In April 1640 he was elected MP for Buckinghamshire in the Short Parliament and was re-elected MP for Buckinghamshire for the Long Parliament in November 1640.[5] He sat until his death in 1643.

In the early days of his parliamentary career, he was content to be overshadowed by John Eliot, as in its later days he was content to be overshadowed by John Pym and to be commanded by the Earl of Essex.

In the opinion of Macaulay it was Hampden, and not Eliot or Pym, who was the central figure at the start of the English Revolution. It is Hampden whose statue, rather than that of Eliot or Pym, was selected by the Victorians as a symbol at the entrance to the Central Lobby in the Palace of Westminster as the noblest type of the parliamentary opposition, sword at his side, ready to defend Parliament's rights and privileges by any means necessary. His statue stands opposite to that of the Earl of Clarendon in his Lord Chancellor's robes, a symbol of the respect for the law and monarch.[6]

Views on ship money

Something of Hampden's fame no doubt is owing to the position which he took up as the opponent of ship money.[7] But it is hardly possible that even resistance to ship money would have so distinguished him but for the mingled massiveness and modesty of his character, his dislike of all pretences in himself or others, his brave contempt of danger, and his charitable readiness to shield others as far as possible from the evil consequences of their actions. Nor was he wanting in that skill which enabled him to influence men towards the ends at which he aimed, and which was spoken of as subtlety by those who disliked his ends.

Committee work

During these first parliaments Hampden did not, so far as we know, speak in public debate, but he was increasingly employed in committee work, for which he seems to have had a special aptitude. In 1626 he took an active part in the preparation of the charges against Buckingham. In January 1627 he was bound over to answer at the council board for his refusal to pay the forced loan. Later in the year he was committed to the gatehouse, and then sent into confinement in Hampshire, from which he was liberated just before the meeting of the third parliament of the reign, in which he once more rendered useful but unobtrusive assistance to his leaders.

When the breach came in 1629 Hampden was found corresponding with the imprisoned Eliot, discussing with him the prospects of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hampden was one of the persons to whom the Earl of Warwick granted land in Connecticut in what was then referred to as the Saybrook Colony and today as Old Saybrook, Connecticut. While some claim there is no foundation but anecdote that Hampden attempted emigration to the colonies with Cromwell, others assert that Cromwell and other future architects of the English Civil War, including Hampden, may have been close to moving to America in the 1630s. The author Kevin Phillips points out that, "Even in the 1770s, residents of Old Saybrook still talked about which prominent Parliamentarian was to have had which town lot."[8]

It was not until 1637, however, that his resistance to the payment of ship money gained him wide fame. Seven out of the twelve judges sided against him, but the connection between the rights of property and the parliamentary system became firmly established in the popular mind. The tax had been justified, says Clarendon, who expresses his admiration at Hampden's "rare temper and modesty" at this crisis, "upon such grounds and reasons as every standerby was able to swear was not law" (Hist. i. 150, vii. 82).

Short Parliament

In the Short Parliament that started on 13 April 1640, Hampden stood forth amongst the leaders. He guided the House in the debate on 4 May in its opposition to the grant of twelve subsidies in return for the surrender of ship money. Parliament was dissolved the next day, and on 6 May an unsuccessful search was made among the papers of Hampden and of other chiefs of the party to discover incriminating correspondence with the Scots. During the eventful months which followed, when Strafford was striving in vain to force England, in spite of its visible reluctance, to support the king in his Scottish war, rumour has much to tell of Hampden's activity in rousing opposition. It is likely enough that the rumour is in the main true, but we are not possessed of any satisfactory evidence on the subject.

Long Parliament

In the Long Parliament, though Hampden was by no means a frequent speaker, it is possible to trace his course with sufficient distinctness. His power consisted in his personal influence, and as a debater rather than as an orator. "He was not a man of many words," says Clarendon, "and rarely began the discourse or made the first entrance upon any business that was assumed, but a very weighty speaker, and after he had heard a full debate and observed how the House was likely to be inclined, took up the argument and shortly and clearly and craftily so stated it that he commonly conducted it to the conclusion he desired; and if he found he could not do that, he never was without the dexterity to divert the debate to another time, and to prevent the determining anything in the negative which might prove inconvenient in the future" (Hist. iii. 31). Unwearied in attendance upon committees, he was in all things ready to second Pym, whom he plainly regarded as his leader.

Hampden was one of the eight managers of Strafford's prosecution. Like Pym, he was in favour of the more legal and regular procedure by impeachment rather than by attainder, which at the later stage was supported by the majority of the Commons; and through his influence a compromise was effected by which, while an attainder was subsequently adopted, Strafford's counsel were heard as in the case of an impeachment, and thus a serious breach between the two Houses, which threatened to cause the breakdown of the whole proceedings, was averted.

Debate on episcopacy

There was another point on which there was no agreement. A large minority wished to retain episcopacy, and to keep the Book of Common Prayer unaltered, whilst the majority were at least willing to consider the question of abolishing the one and modifying the other. On this subject the parties which ultimately divided the House and the country itself were fully formed as early as 8 February 1641. It is enough to say that Hampden fully shared in the counsels of the opponents of episcopacy. It is not that he was a theoretical Presbyterian, but the bishops had been in his days so fully engaged in the imposition of ceremonies regarded by the Puritans as verging on Papacy that it was difficult, if not impossible, to dissociate them from the cause in which they were embarked. Closely connected with Hampden's distrust of the bishops was his distrust of monarchy as it then existed. The dispute about the church therefore soon attained the form of an attack upon monarchy, and, when the majority of the House of Lords arrayed itself on the side of episcopacy and the Prayer Book, of an attack upon the House of Lords as well.

No serious importance therefore can be attached to the offers of advancement made from time to time to Hampden and his friends. Charles would gladly have given them office if they had been ready to desert their principles. Every day Hampden's conviction grew stronger that Charles would never surrender a position which he had taken up. In August 1641 Hampden was one of the four commissioners who attended Charles in Scotland, and the king's conduct there, connected with such events as the "Incident", must have proved to a man far less sagacious than Hampden that the time for compromise had gone by. He was therefore a warm supporter of the Grand Remonstrance, and was marked out as one of the five impeached members, known thenceforth in history as the Five Members (the others being John Pym, Arthur Haselrig, Denzil Holles and William Strode) whose attempted arrest brought at last the opposing parties into open collision. In the angry scene which arose on the proposal to print the Grand Remonstrance, it was Hampden's personal intervention which prevented an actual conflict, and it was after the impeachment had been attempted that Hampden laid down the two conditions under which resistance to the king became the duty of a good subject. Those conditions were:

  • an attack upon religion and
  • an attack upon the fundamental laws.

There can be no doubt that Hampden fully believed that both those conditions were fulfilled at the opening of 1642.

English Civil War

When the English Civil War began, Hampden was appointed a member of the committee for safety, levied a regiment of Buckinghamshire men for the parliamentary cause, and in his capacity of deputy-lieutenant carried out the parliamentary Militia Ordinance in the county. In the earlier operations of the war he bore himself gallantly and well. He took no actual part in the Battle of Edgehill (23 October 1642). His troops in the rear, however, arrested Prince Rupert of the Rhine's charge at Kineton, and he urged Essex to renew the attack here, and also after the disaster at Brentford. In the spring of 1643, Hampden's regiment took part in the siege of Reading, which surrendered on 27 April. Although Essex intended to advance on the King's headquarters at Oxford, he remained at Reading because of widespread sickness in the army, a shortage of cavalry and to await a paymaster with funds to pay his troops. In early June 1643 he moved his army to Thame making his headquarters there on 10 June.

But it is not on his skill as a regimental officer that Hampden's fame rests. In war as in peace his distinction lay in his power of disentangling the essential part from the non-essential. In the previous constitutional struggle he had seen that the one thing necessary was to establish the supremacy of the House of Commons. In the military struggle which followed he saw, as Cromwell saw afterwards, that the one thing necessary was to beat the enemy. He protested at once against Essex's hesitations and compromises. In the formation of the confederacy of the six associated counties, which was to supply a basis for Cromwell's operations, he took an active part. His influence was felt alike in parliament and in the field but he was not in supreme command, and he had none of that impatience which often leads able men to fail in the execution of orders of which they disapprove.


On the night of 17 June 1643, Prince Rupert sortied on a raid out of Oxford to capture the Parliamentarian army's paymaster, but while that failed, did succeed the next morning in overwhelming two of Essex's small garrison outposts at Postcombe and Chinnor. Hampden rode as a volunteer with 1,100 cavalry and dragoons commanded by Sir Philip Stapleton in pursuit of Rupert, with the intention of delaying him long enough for a larger force from Essex's main army to cut off his retreat. Rupert halted his own cavalry at Chalgrove to ambush the pursuit and allow 800 less mobile troops to escape via the ford of the River Thame at Chiselhampton. During the ensuing Battle of Chalgrove Field, Hampden was mortally wounded (some sources claim in the shoulder by two carbine balls, others by fragments from his own pistol exploding[9]) which shattered the bone and forced him to leave the field. He reached Thame, and his headquarters in the house of Ezekiel Browne (which became the Greyhound Inn).[4][10] He survived six days, and died on 24 June.[11]

In the 1976 biography of Hampden written by Prof. John Adair,[12] he concludes that it is most likely that Hampden died from an exploding pistol. Frederick George Lee in his book The History, description and antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame in the county and diocese of Oxford (and available to view at the UK's National Archives or in the Royal Collection) lays out a version of this story.[13]

This account of his death was given by Sir Robert Pye his son-in-law..."That in the action of Chalgrove Field, his pistol burst and shattered his hand in a terrible manner. He, however, rode off and got to his quarters but finding the wound mortal he sent for Sir Robert Pye then a colonel in the Parliamentary army – and who had married his eldest daughter – and told him that he looked on him in some degree accessory to his death as the pistols were present from him. Sir Robert assured him that he bought them in Paris from an eminent maker and proved them himself. It appeared on examining the other pistol that it was loaded to the muzzle with several supernumerary charges, owning to the carelessness of a servant. He was ordered to see that the pistols were loaded every morning which he did but without drawing the former charge." An exhumation of Hampden's body in 1828 showed that there was no damage to the shoulder but his 'right hand was shattered by the bursting of his pistol, and death probably ensued from lockjaw arising out of extensive injury to the nervous system'.[14]

It is also worth noting the following: – in the book John Hampden by Frank Hansford-Miller published in 1976, it noted that his death was the result 'from the exploding of his own pistol in his own hand.'[15] There has also been a scholarly analysis by the archivists at Hampden's school, Thame Grammar, who also conclude that he died accidentally from his own hand.[16]

Hampden's death so early in the war was a severe blow to the Parliamentarians. During the preceding winter, Hampden had associated himself with John Pym's "Middle Group" in Parliament, which opposed any peace moves to the King except on favorable terms. At the same time he had worked to moderate the militancy of the parliamentary "War Party". Although Hampden was privately critical of Essex for not aggressively attacking after avoiding defeat at Edgehill and the standoff at Turnham Green, he remained publicly loyal and helped Essex resist the criticisms of the War Party. His death took with it a key link between the factions. Hearing of his death, the Member of Parliament Anthony Nicholl pronounced: "Never Kingdom received a greater loss in one subject, never a man a truer and faithful friend."[17]

An obelisk was erected in 1843 on the site of the skirmish by Lord Nugent.[18]

Death Take Two

The sentiment of events contained in ‘Death’ above are mainly a product of Victorian gentlemen conversing by letter and magazines with their opinions. The Victorian view has been vigorously debated to the present day. The argument of whether the encounter at Chalgrove was a skirmish, as favoured by English Heritage’s 1995 Battlefield Register, or a battle has created fertile ground for opinion and myths to be given another airing. The interpretation of documents contemporary, Victorian or modern has been subject to an abdication of the fact or logical thought. Oxoniensia Vol 80 published ‘The Military and Political Importance of the Battle of Chalgrove 1643’[19] Lester and Lester dispelled the Victorian myths.  Victoria County History has cited this work and hypothesis put forward in the Oxoniensia article have been shown to be correct. Erudite and influential Trusts are clinging to their interpretation of events quoting baseless opinion. Under is a brief history of how these myths and innuendo surrounding them entered the history books.

Prof. John Adair is attributed with writing in his biography, ‘A Life of John Hampden, The Patriot’,[12] of John Hampden's pistol exploding. This statement is without foundation.  On page 236 of 'A Life of John Hampden, The Patriot' Prof. John Adair, writes: "By this time Hampden had suffered his fatal wound. A Cavalier trooper had ridden up and shot him from behind with a double-loaded carbine or pistol. The two balls bit deep into the flesh behind his shoulder blade."

Seventy eight years after John Hampden's death the first instance of the exploding pistol story was published in the appendix of errata to the History of England by Laurence Echard in 1721. The appendix, page 572 has under Oliver Cromwell's interview with the Devil the following. Laurence wrote, ‘As his (Hampden) death was a great surprise, so the manner of it was very uncommon, and generally unknown, as I am assur’d by a great man, (Sir Robert Walpole) who says his death’s Wound proceeded from the Breaking of one his Pistols, which happened to be more than doubly charged.’ The anonymous statement that a servant left multiple charges in the barrel of Hampden's pistol was written by someone without knowledge of blackpowder or gunpowder. Blackpowder is hydroscopic, it absorbs moisture readily and over the two or more days the pistol's steel barrel would be subject to variations of temperature and humidity creating moisture. Moisture turns blackpowder into a sticky mess that would not burn even if thrown on a fire. The purpose of Walpole's story was to slur Hampden's name and reputation whose fame of dying for the cause remained a thorn in the Tory's side.

Lord Nugent (1789–1850) in his bid to become an MP (Nugent was an Irish Lord) used John Hampden's name as an exemplar. Hampden had an honourable death being mortally wounded in the heat of battle. ‘Colonel Hampden was shot in the shoulder with a brace of bullets’ wrote Clarendon on the day of the battle. (The original manuscript in Edward Hyde's (Clarendon's) writing is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England[20]) The supposed teller of the exploding pistol story is reportedly by Hampden's death bed and said to be listening to Sir Robert Pye, the son-in-law, explaining that the pistols were bought from an eminent maker. The story teller is then said to corroborate the claim that Sir Robert Pye inspected the other pistol and found that it ‘was loaded to the top with several supernumerary charges, owing to the negligence of his servant.’ The absurdity of the exploding pistol account can be seen for what it is, a fabrication.

The 5th Earl of Buckinghamshire (1793–1849) was troubled by the continuing slur on the family's name. On learning that the chancel floor of St Mary's Magdalene Church, Great Hampden was soon to be taken up Lord Nugent wrote to the Earl. Nugent suggested that the question of whether John Hampden was shot in the shoulder or that his pistol exploded could be resolved by exhuming the body of the great man. The Earl agreed.

On 21 July 1828 a large crowd came to Great Hampden to witness the exhumation of John Hampden.[21] The operation to exhume him became a fiasco. It was expected that John Hampden's grave was to be found below the black marble memorial to his first wife Elizabeth. The site was empty. Several other coffins were unearthed but each had the name of the occupant clearly stated, none bore the famous name. Yet another tomb was unearthed and this had a nameplate that was so corroded that it crumbled away on being touched. This tomb was taken to be that of John Hampden. The lead lined coffin was cut open by the local plumber and the near intact body exposed and propped up with a spade. The Times published Nugent's account of the gruesome affair. They reported that the bones of the right hand were found in a bag by the side of the exhumed body. Imagine the battle scene, John Hampden's pistol explodes and bits of body and bone are scattered onto the battlefield. Is it reasonable to believe that the battle was stopped to search and collect up John Hampden's bones?

Dr Grace, the Earl's steward, and Mr Norris, a local physician examined the exhumed body. Dr Grace wrote to the Earl 19 August 1828 stating, ‘…Mr Norris examined the arm and shoulder bones, the hand although separated at the wrist was by a fracture wound, or by amputation, in all probability it was done by the action of moving the body from its position. Mr Norris assures me that all the bones and joints of the arm and shoulders were in a perfect state…’ A letter to ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’, Sept 1828 written by a witness to the exhumation stated that the report in ‘The Times’ ‘was extremely incorrect’ and that the tomb was found not as stated by the western window near the tablet erected by Hampden, ‘but under the floor within the communion rails.’ Dr Grace's letter to the Earl 22 July 1828 has, ‘I think it not unlikely that it was Mr William Hampden as the coffin was immediately under the stone bearing his inscription upon it.’ Nugent had exhumed John Hampden's father William. The autopsy of the exhumed body and details of the exhumation is found in ‘The Controversy of John Hampden’s Death’.[21] Rector John Yates, St Mary Magdalene Church, Great Hampden 1663 – 1675 wrote Hampden Magna,[22] a detailed description of each of the tombs in the Chancel and by logical deduction their location. Col John Hampden the Earl of Essex's 2iC the nation's Patriae Pater buried in his own church but in an unmarked and unknown grave. The answer to where he is buried is in Hampden Magna the reason why his tomb is unmarked is being investigated by the writer. Lord Nugent, ‘Some Memorials of John Hampden his Party and his Times’ pub 1832, writes, volume two page 431 that Hampden on the eve of the Battle ‘had lain that night in Watlington’. Nugent states, ‘On the first alarm of Rupert’s irruption’… ‘He (Hampden) instantly mounted’, on his own without his officers or foot regiment to fight 2,000 Royalists. That is Nugent's explanation for John Hampden to be at the battle of Chalgrove without his officers and men?

It is stated in ‘Death’ that ‘Hampden rode as a volunteer with 1,100 cavalry and dragoons commanded by Sir Philip Stapleton in pursuit of Rupert.’ Sir Philip Stapleton had the nightwatch that fateful morning whose task was to direct cavalry and dragoons from the Thame headquarter. On the return of Dundasse's dragoon detachment, estimated to be after 9.30am, they gave their report to Stapleton. They relayed that an hour before Prince Rupert with three regiments of horse and 1,000 troops had overwhelmed Chinnor. That at South Weston 300 Parliamentarians had suffered heavily in a skirmish. Stapleton rode out from Thame with a body of men towards Chalgrove in the hope he may be able to save the day. Around Clare Crossroads, near Golder Hill Stapleton met the troops routing from the battle of Chalgrove; the time being long past 10.00am. The troops’ movements and times are found in Oxoniensia.

‘An obelisk was erected in 1843 on the site of the skirmish by Lord Nugent’ it states in ‘Death’. This statement is without foundation. Rupert stated that the Chalgrove encounter was a ‘fight’, an impromptu battle. The term ‘skirmish’ for the event at Chalgrove evolved in late Victorian times. The Monument is over a mile from where Nugent believed the encounter occurred. John Hampden's Monument was erected at the crossroads of Warpsgrove Lane and the Old Watlington to Oxford Road because Renn Dickson Hampden DD donated the land on which the Monument stands.[23] Nugent had promised his illustrious subscribers that the Monument would be erected on the battlefield close to where Hampden was wounded. Volume two page 432 ‘Some Memorials…’ Nugent wrote, ‘who advancing from Easington and Thame, over Golder Hill,’ … ‘along a hedge-row which still forms the boundary on that side of Chalgrove Field.’ The previous statement is taken from ‘Late Beating Up’[24] page 5 which continues with ‘who (together with those that had before skirmished with our rear) [This is the skirmish that Essex in his Letter confused with the Battle.] drew down to the bottom of a great Close, or pasture: ordering themselves there among trees beyond a great hedge'. (A great hedge is a boundary hedge between parishes. In this instance between Pyrton and Chalgrove and with the other features described places the troops precisely in the landscape.)

Essex’s Letter[25] states that Major Gunter, Captain Sheffield and Captain Cross were joined by Captains Sanders and Buller’s dragoon companies. These 300 men skirmished with an overwhelming force of Royalists around South Weston. Hampden was riding from Thame with Sir Samuel Luke and Colonel John Dalbier to Watlington when they stumbled into Gunter’s men shortly after the skirmish. Hampden joined Captain Crosse’s troop as a volunteer. It is noted by the reference, ‘those that had before skirmished with our rear’ that these named troops’ commanders were engaged in a skirmish prior to the battle of Chalgrove. Clarendon's original manuscript (Clarendon state Papers – Bodl. MS. Clar. 112, f366) written on the day of the battle in Oxford has testament about events from high ranking prisoners. The MS states that Essex's most senior officers were collecting their Regiment's pay when the alarm came to Thame. It was these 800 officers who joined the 300 skirmishers prior to the battle of Chalgrove, not a contingent of 1,100 troopers led by Sir Philip Stapleton with John Hampden as a volunteer.

Renn Dickson Hampden DD fresh back from Barbados, his ancestors having emigrated 200 years previously, had claimed through the heralds that he was the heir to the Hampden estates. To further his cause Renn donated 7.5 perches of Magdalen Collage's land to Nugent on which to build the Monument. That this land was over a mile away from where Nugent wrote that the ‘encounter’ occurred was politically disguised from the subscribers. On the Monument is the legend, ‘within a few paces of this spot he received the wounds of which he died.’ The subscribers were none the wiser and soon the history of the Monument's siting was taken to the grave.

Surveyors from Ordnance Survey (OS) came to Chalgrove 1880 to map the area for the first time (Note: The National Library of Scotland does not have a digital copy of the first edition, however paper copies are available). The surveyors were aware of the Monument's history and believed the battle to have taken place in a Chalgrove cornfield. OS were wrong in their belief, this error continued onto the second edition of the six-inch maps published in 1900.[26] The Royalists marched 1,000 yards westwards exiting the Chalgrove cornfield into adjacent pastures that are sited 550 yards north of the Monument. Across Warpsgrove Lane is Houndswell, one of the fields that comprised the ancient three field system which is a few paces away from the Monument. In large bold capital letters stretching from beyond the airfield's boundary hedge through and over the Old Watlington to Oxford Road over Warpsgrove Lane and into the field beyond are the words CHALGROVE FIELD.(See Map)[26] Neither the 1822 Magdalen College map nor the Enclosure Award map of 1845 has reference to Chalgrove Field. Directly under the words Chalgrove Field is the first reference to a battle at Chalgrove. OS wrote, Battle of Chalgrove, 18 June 1643 on the map as having occurred in Houndswell. The Victorians’ and historians of today have debated vociferously about the Chalgrove battlefield's location. When listing the battle of Chalgrove for the 1995 Battlefield Register English Heritage realised the impossibility of OS's location for the Battle. Two hedges and a road immediately between the armies induced them to move the site of the battlefield 300 yards northwards. There is no supporting documentation except a statement made by English Heritage's director of the Chalgrove listing. He answered by letter after been questioned about the absurdity of the evidence that ‘My relatively poorly informed appreciation of military tactics…’ but preferred his own account.

In 1994 English Heritage were minded to refer to the Battle of Chalgrove as a skirmish and not to include it in their forthcoming Battlefield Register. They based their decision to refer to Chalgrove as a skirmish on data as stated in the ‘Death’ sub heading. English Heritage were instructed by an Independent Review Panel to use the data as presented by the Chalgrove Battle Group. English Heritage Battlefield Report: Chalgrove 1643 (1995) listed Chalgrove as a Battle but refused to use the data supplied by the Chalgrove Battle Group. The myths, legends and unsubstantiated history of events concerning the battle of Chalgrove has been perpetuated by the Battlefields Trust. Many years ago Battlefields Trust inherited from English Heritage the responsibility for battlefields, including that of Chalgrove from the ‘relatively poorly informed’ gentlemen. Battlefield Trust took on English Heritage's account of the Battle as their own. Chalgrove Battle Group's fierce arguments of fact with the Battlefields Trust resulted in their website's Resource Centre being regularly updated. Battlefields Trust refer to English Heritage's 1995 Battlefield Register when academic institutions ask for information about the battle of Chalgrove. Oxoniensia vol 80 published ‘The Military and Political Importance of the Battle of Chalgrove: 1643’.[19] This peer reviewed article has effectively been suppressed by Battlefield Trust from its website. Historic England has recently reviewed the Battle of Chalgrove and used information from the Oxoniensia article. Throughout Historic England's review Battlefields Trust has sought to impose their opinion of the battle of Chalgrove upon the reviewers. Oxoniensia published the writer's article 2015. In 2017 the writer found Clarendon's original MS[20] referring to Chalgrove. The MS concurred in detail with writer's article. Battlefields Trust's response was and to quote, ‘that Clarendon realised his mistake in the original manuscript…. This he corrected in the published work’. Clarendon died December 1674, ‘The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England',[27] was first published in 1702 reportedly by the Right Honourable Edward, Earl of Clarendon – corrected from the grave!!

Marriages & progeny

Hampden married twice:


Hampden is immortalised in St Stephen's Hall in the Palace of Westminster, where he and other notable Parliamentarians look on at visitors to the UK Parliament.[32] In Britain diverse establishments are named after him, ranging from Hampden Park, the home ground of Queen's Park F.C. and the Scotland national football team, to an older persons' mental health unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Several schools use his name: a primary school in Wendover and another in Thame, a grammar school in High Wycombe and a school in Hertfordshire. There is also a statue of him in Aylesbury town centre (illustrated above) pointing to his home in Great Hampden. Aylesbury Vale District Council use an image of the statue as their logo.

Outside of Britain, the towns of Hampden, Maryland; Hamden, Connecticut; Hampden, Maine; Hampden, Massachusetts; and Hampden, Newfoundland and Labrador; as well as the county of Hampden, Massachusetts are named in his honour. Hampden–Sydney College in Virginia is also named in honour of John Hampden and of Algernon Sydney, another English patriot; and Mount Hampden in Zimbabwe.

Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" refers to the heroism of Hampden in the stanza: "Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast / The little tyrant of his fields withstood;/ Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, / Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood."[33]

As one of the Five Members of the House of Commons, Hampden is commemorated at the State Opening of Parliament by the British monarch each year: the sovereign sits on the throne in the House of Lords and sends their messenger Black Rod to summons the Members of the House of Commons to attend them. At his approach the doors to the Commons Chamber are slammed in his face, symbolising the refusal by the Commons to be entered by force by the monarch or one of the monarch's servants, and also its right to debate without the presence of the Queen's Representative.[34] This is done in relation to the events of 1642, when King Charles I stormed into the House of Commons in an unsuccessful attempt to arrest the Five Members.[35][36] Since that time, no British monarch has entered the House of Commons when it is sitting [meeting].[34] Black Rod then bangs with the end of his ceremonial staff three times on the closed doors which are then opened to him.[34]

The Handley Page Hampden bomber was named in honour of John Hampden.

The London Underground also had an electric locomotive built by Metropolitan-Vickers named after him. Used on the Metropolitan line, No. 5 lasted along with other locomotives, until 1961. Painted a maroon colour, she is now one of only two of the original twenty locomotives to survive, and is kept on display in the London Transport Museum. The other one is No. 12 Sarah Siddons.[37]

The Hampden Clubs of the 1810s, which campaigned for parliamentary reform, were named after Hampden.[38]


  • John Adair, John Hampden, the Patriot, 1594–1643, ISBN 0-354-04014-6

Further reading


  1. borne in the 1st and 4th quarters, quartering Hobart
  2. Kidd, Charles, Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage 2015 Edition, London, 2015, p.179
  3. A Short History of Thame School. John Howard Brown. Published 1927, Hazell, Watson and Viney
  4. A Short History of Thame School
  5. Willis, Browne (1750). Notitia Parliamentaria, Part II: A Series or Lists of the Representatives in the several Parliaments held from the Reformation 1541, to the Restoration 1660 ... London. pp. onepage&q&f&#61, false 229–239.
  6. "A letter from the Speaker of the House of Commons dated 20 October 1992, to Roy Bailey Esq, of the John Hampden Society".
  7. Gross, David (ed.) We Won't Pay!: A Tax Resistance Reader ISBN 1-4348-9825-3 pp. 9–16
  8. Alfred A. Young, "English Plebeian Culture an 18th Century American Radicalism" in Margret Jacob and James Jacob, eds., "The Origin of Anglo-American Radicalism" 9New Jersey, Humanitarian Press International, 19910 Page 195,
  9. Britannica 1911 (article "HAMPDEN, JOHN") "two carbine balls". John Hampden, c.1595–1643 on the British Civil Wars & Commonwealth website "possibly from his own pistol exploding".
  10. Nugent-Grenville 1854, p. 361.
  11. John Nichols "The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 181". p. 512. E. Cave, 1847
  12. Adair, John Eric, A life of John Hampden, the patriot (1594–1643), London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1976
  13. "Lee, Frederick George – The History, description and antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame in the county and diocese of Oxford ... / by Frederick George Lee".
  14. Frederick George Lee, The History, description and antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame in the county and diocese of Oxford. Published 1883
  15. Lifelines40, John Hampden. An Illustrated Life of John Hampden 1594–1643. Frank Hansford-Miller. Shire Publications. ISBN 085623322 Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Invalid ISBN..
  16. Old Tamensians
  17. "Selected Readings in English History". p. 265. Ginn, 1913
  18. A Short History of Thame School. John Howard Brown. Pge 96. Hazell, Watson & Vivery. 1927
  19. Lester, Derek; Lester, Gill (1 September 2015). "Military & Political Importance of the Battle of Chalgrove (1643)". Col. John Hampdens Regiment of Foote. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  20. Hyde, Edward,Clarendon State Papers - The History of the Rebellion, Bodleian: MS. Clar. 112 Folio 366 – 367
  21. Lester, Derek; Lester, Gill (2000). "The Controversy of John Hampden's Death". John Hampden's Regiment of Foote. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  22. Yates, John (c. 1675). Lester, Derek (ed.). "Hampden Magna". Col. John Hampden's Regiment of Foote. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  23. Lester, Derek; Lester, Gill (February 2006). "Hampden's Monument Unveiled". John Hampden's Regiment of Foote. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  24. Prince Rupert (1643). Lester, Derek (ed.). "His Highness Prince Rupert's Late Beating Up the rebel quarters". John Hampden Regiment of Foote. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  25. Earl of Essex (1643). Lester, Derek (ed.). "Two Letters from his Excellencie Robert Earl of Essex". John Hampden's Regiment of Foote. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  26. OS (1900). "OS Six-Inch England & Wales: Oxfordshire XLVI.NE (includes: Chalgrove; Great Haseley; Little Milton; Newington; Stadhampton.)". National Library of Scotland - Map Images. Revised: 1897. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  27. Hyde (1717). Lester, Derek (ed.). "The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England ." (PDF). John Hampden's Regiment of Foote. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  29. "Parishes: Great Hampden – British History Online".
  30. Christopher Thompson
  31. Christopher Thompson, biography of HAMPDEN, John (1595-1643), of Great Hampden, Bucks. published in History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
  32. "St Stephen's Hall". UK Parliament.
  33. "The Works of Thomas Gray, Containing His Poems and Correspondence: With Memoirs of His Life and Writings, Volume 1". p.120. Harding, Triphook, and Lepard, 1825
  34. "Democracy Live: Black Rod". BBC. Retrieved 6 August 2008
  35. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Black Rod" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  36. John Joseph Bagley, A. S. Lewis (1977). "Lancashire at War: Cavaliers and Roundheads, 1642–51 : a Series of Talks Broadcast from BBC Radio Blackburn". p. 15. Dalesman,
  37. Green, Oliver. "The London Underground: An Illustrated History". p. 44. Ian Allan, 1988.
  38. "British History Timeline". Retrieved 25 December 2017.
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Francis Barnham
Thomas St Aubyn
Member of Parliament for Grampound
With: Sir Robert Carey
Succeeded by
John Mohun
Sir Richard Edgecumbe
Preceded by
Franchise resumed
Member of Parliament for Wendover
With: Alexander Denton 1624
Richard Hampden 1625
Sampson Darrell 1626
Ralph Hawtree 1628–1629
Succeeded by
Parliament suspended until 1640
Preceded by
Parliament suspended since 1629
Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire
With: Arthur Goodwin
Succeeded by
George Fleetwood
Edmund West
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