2. First 4 Generations
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The Sussex Colepepers
First Four Generations

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Thomas de Colepeper is stated to have been a Recognitor of the Grand Assize, on the authority of Phillipott, in his Villare Cantianum where he quotes "Bundels of incertain years in the Pipe Office," but no direct reference being given we have, unfortunately, been unable to trace him. We would, however, point out that a Recognitor was not a Judge, as is asserted in the article referred to.

The Grand Assize was not an assize in the sense which we now use the word, but it was a proceeding or enquiry like an assize of novel disseisin, or an assize of mort d'ancestor, &c., while the Recognitors, who were summoned on such tribunal, were the jurors whose function it was to investigate all cases involving questions of right, and who, being probably neighbours of the disputing parties, were bound to "recognise" and speak the truth concerning the matter at issue.5

Most pedigrees agree in giving John as the Recognitor's son, followed by Sir Thomas as his grandson. If the pedigrees are correct then this Sir Thomas, of Bayhall, must have been an old man in 4 Edward II (1310). Assuming that the grandfather was fifty years of age when he served as Recognitor, then the two generations succeding him must have covered a period of some eighty years. This would make Sir Thomas Colepeper, in 4 Edward II, when his son Thomas and Margery his with purchased of him 50 acres in Foulsden,6 a fairly old man, and although, indicted in 1305, with his son Thomas, for stealing the goods of the vicar of Ringmer, we can hardly believe that he took any active part in the matter.

Leeds CastleFor this reason it was not probable that it was this Thomas who was porter or janitor of Leeds Castle in 1292; it was more likely his son of the same Christian name. In 1296 (25 Edward I) there is an important reference to Thomas Colepeper, sen.; the executors of the will of Sir William de Montfort brought an action against Thomas Colepeper and John his son concerning the manor of Newenton, in Kent.7

From this it is clear that there was, besides his sons Thomas and Walter, who were executed, another son John, and there was doubtless another son named Nicholas. All four were implicated in the Earl of Lancaster's rebellion, but John and Nicholas evidently in a Iesser degree than Thomas and Walter. There was an order issued in 1322 to the Sheriff of York to receive John Colepeper and others into custody in York Castle.8 This looks as if John Colepeper took part in the Battle of Boroughbridge, and Weaver, in his Ancient Funeral Monuments, p. 272, speaks of Sir Thomas Colepeper siding with the Earl of Lancaster and being hanged, drawn and quartered at Winchelsea. The place fatal to the Earl was Pontefract, so it seems certain that both Thomas and John were with Lancaster's forces at Boroughbridge.

After remaining a close prisoner during the remainder of the reign in the Castles of Berkhampstead and Gloucester,9 John Colepeper was released on the accession of Edward III., and in the restoration of confiscated lands which then took place those of John Colepeper, of Lynlegh, were included.10 He was alive eleven years later, when John Colepeper, of Lynlegh, with Johanna, his wife, appear as deforciants in a fine relating to 20 acres of land in Wythyhame.11

With regard to the other two sons of Sir Thomas Colepeper, sen., Walter and Nicholas, they both suffered for their refusal to admit Queen Isabel to Leeds Castle (Modern day map of castle grounds). Walter "sticked not to tell him" (the Queen's marshal) "that neither the Queen nor any other should be lodged there without the commandement of his Lorde the owner." On the Queen coming to the gate in person "the Captaine most malapertly repulsed her, insomuch that shee complained grievously to the King," who besieged the place and eventually took it. "Then tooke he Captaine Colepeper and hoong him up." Captain Colepeper was doubtless Walter, as the release of Nicholas, his only brother yet unaccounted for, forms the subject of the following order issued in 1323 to Henry de Cobeham, Constable of Rochester Castle: "Whereas Nicholas Colepeper and others are imprisoned in Rochester Castle because they adhered to certain rebels who held the King's Castle of Ledes against him. The King, compassionating their estate, and being unwilling to detain them longer in prison, orders the Constable to release those of them whom he shall find by Inquisition to have no lands, and to cause those of them who have lands to come before the King within 15 days from Easter at their own cost and to do and to receive what the King's Court shall consider in the matter."12

Of the four sons of Thomas Colepeper, grandson of the Recognitor, we can find no trace of John and Nicholas, while from Captain Walter Colepeper sprang the Colepepers of Oxen Hoath and Aylesford, with whom, as being more connected with Kent than Sussex, this paper has no concern.

The eldest son, Sir Thomas Culpeper, who was executed at Winchelsea in 1321, seems to have married Margery, a daughter of the Bayhall family, and either by this match, or by purchase, to have acquired their estates. This Thomas is called in 1306 "fil' Thom' Colepeper de Brenchesle." The following evidence is adduced to show that Margery probably belonged to the Bayhall famiIy.

In 1299 there is the grant, mentioned before, by Benedicta daughter of Thomas de Chitcroft, which family bore identically the same arms as the Colepepers (and therefore Thomns de Chitcrolt may hnve been a Colepeper himself, or he and Thomas Colepeper may both by marriage with the Bayhall heiresses have adopted their coat of arms) to Thomas, son of Thomas Colepeper, and Margery his wife of lands at Beghall with part of a mill in Pepinbury.13

1308. Charter in which Cecilia, Margeria, Amicia, and Christina, daughters of John atte Bayhalle grant to Thomas the son of Thomas Colepeper, for 5 marcs, all their part of a mill and lands in Pepinbury which they had after the death of their grandfather William atte Bayhalle.14

1309. Johanna quae fuit uxor Johannis atte Beyhalle petit versus Thomas Colepeper juniorem.15

1312. Grant from Ralph Newman and Agnes daughtor and heir of Geoffrey atte Beyhalle to Thomas Colepeper and Margery his wife of lands in Pepinbery.16

1312. Grant of Walter son of Jeffrey atte Beyhalle and Agnes his daughter and Ralph Neweman to Thomas Colepeper and Margery his wife for 26 shillings "quandam granam terrae in Pepingebery."17

1313. Gilbert ate Beyhalle grants to Thomas Colepeper and Margery for 50 shillings a piece of land in Pepingbery to be held by them and their heirs for ever.18

1314. Charter by which Christina daughter of John atte Bayhalle for 4 marcs grants to Thomas Colepeper lands in Pepingbery.19

1315. Christina de Bayhalle grants to Thomas Colepeper and Margery his wife for 3s 6d the pension which William Scrivor owes yearly to her.20

1316. Grant from Ralph Newheman to Thomas Colepeper and Margery his wife of lands at Beahalle in fields called "Redest" and "Mesebort" in Pepinbury.21

1316. Charter by which Christina daughter of John atte Bayhalle grants to Thomas Colepeper and Margery for two shillings all that part of wood "inter Rodgate et stagna de Bayhalle cum placea super quam boscus crescit."22

1317. Christina daughter of John atte Bayhalle grants to Thomas Colepeper and Margery for 4 marcs a messuage and lands in Peapingbury which she had "post decessum Willelmi ate Beyhalle avi sui."23

1317. Quitclaim by Johanna widow of John atte Beyhalle to Thomas Colepeper and Margery his wife of a house and lands at Beyhalle for 3 marcs."24

Sir Thomas Colepeper, who "pro bono servicio in partibus Scotie" received a pardon in the 32nd year of Edward  for breaking the park of the Prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, at Westwell, and the park of the Prior of Michelham, in the 29th year of that King's reign,25 took the side of the Earl of Lancaster against Edward I, and being Governor of Winchelsea, was there executed in 1321.

Previous to this, however, by a fine levied in 1320, part of his estates, consisting of 2 messuages (houses), 2 mills, 405 acres of land, 20 acres of meadow, 60 acres of pasture, 80 acres of wood and 20 shillings annual rental in Pepyngbery, Thonebregg and Teudele, were settled on himself and Margery his wife for life, with remainder to their sons Walter, John and Richard in succession.26

By Inquisition taken at Tunbridge 25th February, 1 Edward II (1327), it was found that Thomas Colepeper died seized of Bayhalle, with lands in Pepyngbery, Thonebregg and Teudele, and that Walter was his son and heir, aged 22 years on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary last past (2 Feb 1327).27 In the Inquisition de terris forisfactis, 17 Edward I, taken at Lamberhurst, mention is made of Thomas Colepeper's estate in Pepynbery, included in the fine levied in 1320, besides which it is stated that he had acquired 50 acres in ffoghelesdenne from Thomas Colepeper, senr., in 1310, 1 messuage and 1 carucate of land (land sufficient to support a family farm) in Bernette and Ramherste from Richard Wych in 1320, 1 messuage and 60 acres of land in Bocstede from Ralph Marscot, 10 acres in Bayrugge from Michael de Bettesfield, and 40 acres in ffernth (i.e., Frant) from Roger de fferrugge. All these lands had been seized by the King on November the 6th, 1321, on account of the felony of the said Thomas, and for no other reason.28

It was not long, however, before all these estates were restored to the family. By deed bearing date 1 Jul 1288 (17 Edward I), Margery, widow of Thomas Colepeper, agreed to grant the Pepinbury estate to the King for the term of her life on the payment of 12 marks per annum from the Exchequer.29 But apparently she soon repented of this bargain, and addressed a petition to the King praying that "le manoir de la Bayehalle" might be restored to her, the grounds for the request being tllat the King's ministers had not only neglected to pay the rent, but had let her houses go to ruin, "a g'nt damage de l'avantdite Marg'ie de xlli."30 On this the King issued a commission to Henry de Cobham and others to investigate the matters set forth in the petition,31 and the direct result of this enquiry was an order for the immediate restoration of all the, property. The outlying estates were to be restored unconditionally, and if lands had been "demised at ferm" the farmers were to be satisfied for their expenditure on the land,32 while with regard to Bayhall and the land included in the fine levied in 1320, there was this saving clause, viz., that this portion of the property was to revert to the King in case all the parties mentioned in the fine died without issue.33

From this order it appears that Thomas Colepeper acquired the Buxted property mentioned above in 7 Edward II, and in 13 Edward II he purchased from Reginald, son of Reginald Burgeys, of Boxstede, 1 messuage and 50 acres in Boxstede and Marsefeld. The 40 acres in Fernth (Frant), co. Sussex, is supplemented in this order by 10 acres of wood bought in 10 Edward II from Roger, son of Richard de Ferrugge, while another 20 acres in the same town is stated to have been acquired from William son of John de Netteworth.

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5 See Pollock and Maitland's History of English Law, Vol II, p. 627
6 Inq. de terris fortisfactis, 17 Edward II (1323), No. 12
7 De Banco, Mich., 25 Edward I (1296), m 287d. In 35 Edward I (1306), Margaret, daughter of the late William Pykot, granted to Matilda Colepeper and Joan her daughter 15 dayworks (daywercas) of land in Newintin, in a field called "Breechfelde." (Ancient Deeds, Vol. IV, A. 7030)
8 Close Roll, 1322
9 Close Roll, 19 Edward II (1325), m. 22
10 Close Roll, 1 Edward III (1327), m. 21
11 Feet of Fines, Sussex, 12 Edward III (1338), No. 28
12 Close Roll, 17 Edward II (1323), m. 14
13 Harl., Chap 77, f. 20
14 Harl., Chap 76, b. 1
15 De Banco Mich., 2 Edward II (1308), m. 216d
16 Harl., Chap 79, d. 45
17 Harl., Chap 76, b. 2

18 Harl., Chap 76, b. 4
19 Harl., Chap 76, a. 50
20 Harl., Chap 76, b. 3
21 Harl., Chap 79, d. 46
22 Harl., Chap 76, a. 52
23 Harl., Chap 76, a. 53
24 Harl., Chap 77, e. 52
25 Assize Roll, Sussex, No. 394, m. 6d
26 Feet of Fines, Kent, Case 101, No. 704
27 Inquis. P.M., 1 Edward III (1327), No. 68(b)
28 Inq. de terris fortisfactis, 17 Edward II (1323), No. 12
29 Close Roll, 17 Edward II (1323), m. 3
30 Ancient Petitions, No. 712
31 Harl., Chap T., 5(b)
32 Close Roll, 17 Edward II (1323), m. 1
33 Close Roll, 17 Edward II (1323), m. 5

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Last Revised: 02 Jan 2015


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