Manor of Copleston

The Manor of Copleston was a manor in Mid Devon, England, centred on the village of Copplestone.

The Copleston Cross or Stone gave its name to the historic estate or manor of Copleston (modern: Coplestone) which was the earliest known home of the prominent historic Copleston family, one of the most ancient in Devon according to "that old saw often used among us in discourse", the traditional rhyme related by John Prince (d.1723):[3]

"Crocker, Cruwys, and Coplestone,

When the Conqueror came were at home"

The Cruwys family in 2014 still resides in its ancient manor house at Cruwys Morchard where, despite the traditional rhyme, it is first recorded in the reign of King John (1199–1216), or possibly a little earlier.[4] The last male of the Crocker family of Lyneham in the parish of Yealmpton[5] in Devon was Courtenay Crocker (d.1740),[6] several times MP for Plympton.[7]

Descent in Coplestone family

The Devon historian Tristram Risdon (d.1640) wrote concerning the parish of Colebrooke:[9]

"In this tything is Coplestone, which hath given name to a numerous family who for their fair possessions, their port (sic) (report?) and the respect they lived in, were intitled 'the Great Coplestones' besides dignified with the name of 'Whit Spurrs', some time a title of great note and in these western parts of much esteem. Of this name are many branches sprung who flourished in this county"

The Devon historian Sir William Pole (d.1635) stated the honour accorded to this family as "Silver Spurr", similar to Risdon's appellation, and added that it was connected to the fact that although they were a great county family which had married well, unusually no member of the family had ever been knighted, adding that the family was known as "the great Copleston" on account of their great revenue.[10]

The principal junior branches of the Copleston family were seated at the Devon manors or estates of: Bowden in the parish of Yealmpton, Instow, Upton Pyne, Kingdon in the parish of Alverdiscott, Woodland in the parish of Little Torrington, Weare Giffard, Eggesford[11] and Bicton. Copleston House was stated by John Prince to be "all in ruines".[12] The present Copplestone House, situated about 1/2-mile south-east of Copplestone Cross, was rebuilt after 1787 in the Georgian style by Robert Madge, who had purchased the estate at that date. It is thought to be on a different site to the old mansion of the Copleston family, but does incorporate some of the older fabric.[2]

The descent of the senior family seated at Copleston was as follows:[13]

Richard Copleston (floruit 1307/27)

Richard Copleston, who according to William Pole was party to a deed made during the reign of King Edward II (1307–1327) which was witnessed by William de Coplestona[14]

Adam/John Copleston

Adam (or John[15]) de Copleston (son of Richard). His daughter Eleanor Copleston (d.1430) married John Pollard of Way, St Giles in the Wood, Devon.[lower-alpha 1]

John Copleston (died 1433)

John Copleston (died 1433) (son), buried in the parish church of Horwell in Devon, with a monument in Colebrooke Church. He married Catherine Grace (alias Graas), daughter and co-heiress of John Grace of Teign Grace[18] and divorced wife of John de Affeton of Affeton, Devon.

John Copleston (died 21 October 1458)

John Copleston (son), like his father a lawyer, was three times MP for Devon, Escheator of Devon and Cornwall and joint steward (with Nicholas Radford) of the lands of the infant Earl of Devon.[20][21] He married Elizabeth Hawley (d.1457), daughter and eventual heiress of John Hawley the younger (died 1436), of Dartmouth.[20][lower-alpha 2]

In his will dated 18 October 1458[20] he requested to be buried in St Katherine's aisle in Colebrook church, and ordered the graves of himself and his wife to be covered with a marble slab,[20] which much-worn ledger stone survives in the north aisle of St Andrew's Church, Colebrooke. He instructed his executors to rebuild the aisle to match the other and to be furnished with service books, plate and vestments.[20] At the east end of this north aisle is located the Copleston Chapel, sectioned off by an ancient pierced oak screen.

Philip Copleston (floruit 1472)

Philip Copleston (son), Sheriff of Devon in 1471/2.[23] In accordance with the will of his father he rebuilt the north aisle with the Copleston Chantry or Chapel at its east end.[24] He married Anne Bonville, daughter and heiress of John Bonville (1417–1494)[25] of Shute, nephew of William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville (1392–1461) of Shute. As William Pole stated: "By this match of Bonvile's daughter the estate of Copleston was greatly augmented"[26] Anne Bonville was heiress, from her maternal grandmother Leva Gorges, to the manor of Tamerton Foliot[27] and her father John Bonville was, through his mother, the grandson and heir of Martin Ferrers.[28]

Raphe Copleston (died 1491)

Raphe Copleston (died 1491) (son), called "The Great Copleston"[29] for his great revenue.[30] He married Ellen Arundell, daughter of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, St. Mawgan-in-Pyder, Cornwall, from a leading Cornish family. In the Subsidy of 1434 his estate was assessed at £100 and he served in the honourable position of Justice of the Peace in 1451.[31]

John Copleston (1475–1550)

John Copleston (1475–1550) (son). John Prince (d.1723) called him "The Great Copleston".[32] He was co-heir of his great-grandfather John Bonville.[29] He married twice, firstly to Margaret St Ledger, a daughter and co-heiress of Bartholomew St Ledger, which marriage was childless, and secondly to Katherine Bridges, daughter of Raphe Bridges.

Christopher Copleston (1524–1586)

Christopher Copleston (1524–1586) (son by his father's second marriage), Sheriff of Devon in 1560.[31] He married twice: firstly to Mary Courtenay, daughter of George Courtenay (who predeceased his father Sir William Courtenay (1477–1535) "The Great"[33] of Powderham), which marriage was childless; secondly he married Jone Paulet, daughter of Sir Hugh Paulet (before 1510 – 1573) of Hinton St George, Somerset, Governor of Jersey.

John Copleston (died 1608)

John Copleston (1546/9 – 1608) (second son and heir, by his father's second marriage), married Susan Pollard, a daughter of Lewis Pollard of King's Nympton, Recorder of Exeter and Sergeant-at-Law, who was grandson of Sir Lewis Pollard (c. 1465 – 1526), Justice of the Common Pleas.[34]

According to John Prince, John Copleston murdered his godson, who was possibly an illegitimate son, at Tamerton Foliot; through his influential friends at the royal court he procured a pardon from Queen Elizabeth by paying a large fine which necessitated the sale of thirteen of his manors in Cornwall.[12] The couple's monument, erected in 1617 and repaired in 1894, survives in St Mary's Church, Tamerton Foliot.[35]

Amias Copleston (died 1621)

Amias Copleston (1581/2 – 1621) (son). He was buried at Tamerton Foliot, the manor his ancestors had inherited by marriage to Anne Bonville. He resided at the former Gorges seat of Warleigh within that manor, and thus possibly had abandoned ancient Copleston as the family's principal seat. He married Gertrude Chichester (d.1621), second daughter of Sir John Chichester (d.1586), of Raleigh, Pilton, Sheriff of Devon in 1576[36](or 1585[37]) from a leading family in North Devon.

John Copleston (1609–1632)

John Copleston (1609–1632) (son), died childless aged 23 and was buried at Tamerton Foliot. He was the last of the family of Copleston of Copleston and Tristram Risdon wrote of him:

The heir male of this house was a hopeful young gentleman, lately dying issueless, who left his lands unto his two sisters, married into the families of Bampfield and Elford.[9]

Copleston's older sister, Elizabeth Copleston (born 1608), married (as his first of four wives) John Elford (1603–1678) of Sheepstor, near Buckland Monachorum in Devon, whose ruined manor house survives on the shore of Burrator Reservoir.[38] Elizabeth had no male issue, only four daughters, including[39] Gertrude Elford, who married Roger Wollocombe of Combe; Elizabeth Elford, who married Edmund Fortescue of London; and Barbara Elford, who married Arthur Fortescue (1622–1693)[40] of Penwarne, Cornwall and of Filleigh, Devon, ancestor of Earl Fortescue.

The younger sister, Gertrude Copleston (born 1611), married in 1632 at Tamerton Foliot to Sir John Bampfylde, 1st Baronet (c. 1610–1650) of Poltimore and North Molton in Devon. She was the heiress of Warleigh and of the manor of Tamerton Foliot,[41] which the Bampfylde family retained for several generations until 1741, when it was sold to Walter Radcliffe of Franklin, whose wife Admonition Bastard was a great-granddaughter of the heiress Gertrude Copleston.[42] Gertrude's son and heir was Sir Coplestone Bampfylde, 2nd Baronet (c. 1633 – 1692), MP and Sheriff of Devon.[43] In 1741 Copleston and Poltimore in Devon and Hardington in Somerset were the seats of Sir Richard Bampfylde, 4th Baronet (1722–1776), MP.[44]

By these heirs the manor of Copleston was sold in 1659 and it descended into the families of Wollocombe and Fortescue.[45][46]


  1. Eleanor was the grandmother of Sir Lewis Pollard (c. 1465 – 1526), of King's Nympton, Justice of the Common Pleas.[16] Part of the original monumental brass of this Alyanora Pollard (d.1430) exists in St Giles Church, with an inscription.[17]
  2. John Hawley the younger was son of John Hawley (called the elder), MP, who was a wealthy ship owner and 12 times MP for Dartmouth, by his wife Emma Tresilian, daughter of Sir Robert Tresilian (d.1388), Lord Chief Justice. After Tresilian's execution for treason, his lands had been purchased by the elder John Hawley, who in 1402 also acquired the wardship and marriage of Tresilian's daughter, called variously Emmeline, Elizabeth or Margaret.[22]


  1. Church guide booklet, St Andrew's Church, Colebrooke, 2002, inside front cover
  2. Cherry & Pevsner, p.277
  3. Prince, p.274
  4. Hoskins, W.G., A New Survey of England: Devon, London, 1959 (first published 1954), p.380
  5. Cherry & Pevsner, p.553
  6. Lysons, Daniel & Samuel, Magna Britannia, Volume 6, Devonshire (1822), Families removed since 1620, pp.173–225
  7. Prince, p.273
  8. Cherry & Pevsner, p.276
  9. Risdon, p.97
  10. Pole, p.225
  11. Pedigrees of foregoing branches given in Vivian, pp.226–233
  12. Prince, p.237
  13. The first Richard Copleston per Pole, p.225, pedigree post Adam Copleston per Vivian, pp.224–5
  14. Pole, p.225, clarified by Prince, p.235
  15. according to the inscription on the monumental brass of his daughter Eleanor Pollard (d.1430) in the church of St Giles in the Wood, Devon
  16. Vivian, pp.597–8, pedigree of Pollard
  17. See photo of monument and description on Commons
  18. Thus the manor of Teign Grace came to the Coplestons (Risdon, p.135)
  19. Hope, pp.8;17. The last inscription on the ledger stone is (M)"CCCCxlvii"
  20. "COPPLESTONE, John (d.1458), of Copplestone in Colebrooke, Devon". History of Parliament Online.
  21. Hope, Rev. Vyvyan, St Andrew's Church, Colebrooke (church booklet), 1952, revised 2002, pp.8, 17; Vivian, p.224
  22. "HAWLEY, John I (d.1408), of Dartmouth, Devon". History of Parliament Online.
  23. Vivian, p.224; Stabb, J., Some Old Devon Churches, London, 1908–16, p.65
  24. Stabb
  25. Vivian, p.102, pedigree of Bonville of Shute
  26. Pole, p.335
  27. Pole, p.335; Vivian, p.102
  28. Vivian, p.102
  29. Vivian, p.224
  30. Pole, Sir William (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.225
  31. Prince, p.236
  32. Prince, p.235
  33. Vivian, p.246
  34. Vivian, p.598, pedigree of Pollard
  35. Cherry & Pevsner, p.679
  36. Risdon, list of Sheriffs
  37. Vivian, p.174
  38. Cherry & Pevsner, p.725
  39. Vivian, p.329, pedigree of Elford of Sheepstor; Prince, p.238
  40. Vivian, p.355, pedigree of Fortescue
  41. Risdon, p.402
  42. Burke, John (1 January 1835). "A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland..." Henry Colburn via Google Books.
  43. Vivian, p.40, pedigree of Bamfield of Poltimore
  44. Wotton, Thomas, The English Baronetage, Vol 2, London, 1741, p.195, Bampfylde of Poltimore
  45. Prince, p.238
  46. Hoskins, p.372


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