Sir Thomas POPE, Knight

Born: ABT 1507, Deddington, Oxford, England

Died: 29 Jan 1558/9, Clerkenwell

Buried: St Stephen's

Married 1: Dau. DODMER (dau. of Ralph Dodmer, Sheriff of London)

Married 2: Elizabeth BLOUNT 1540


1. Son POPE (d. young)

 Per pale or and azure, on a chevron between three griffins' heads erased four fleurs de lys, all counterchanged

The arms shown are those of Sir Thomas Pope, the Founder (1554), granted to him on 26 Jun 1535, by Sir Christopher Barker, afterwards Garter King of Arms. They may be seen on his tomb in the College Chapel.

Founder of Trinity College, Oxford, was born at Deddington, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, probably in 1507, for he was about sixteen years old when his father, a yeoman farmer, died in 1523. He was educated at Banbury school and Eton College, and entered the court of chancery. He there found a friend and patron in the Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley.

On 6 Jul 1535, a fortnight after the death of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Sir Thomas Pope, went to inform Sir Thomas More that he must hold himself in readiness. I thank the king, said More, for shutting me up in this prison, whereby he has put me in a condition to make suitable preparation for death. The only favor I beg of him is, that my daughter may be present at my burial. Pope left the cell in tears.

As clerk of briefs in the Star Chamber, warden of the mint (1534-1536), knighted (1537), clerk of the Crown in chancery (1537), and second officer and treasurer of the court for the settlement of the confiscated property of the smaller religious foundations, he obtained wealth and influence. In this last office he was superseded in 1541, but from 1547 to 1553 he was again employed as fourth officer. He himself won by grant or purchase a considerable share in the spoils, for nearly thirty manors, which came sooner or later into his possession, were originally church property. He could have rode, said Aubrey, "in his owne lands from Cogges (by Witney) to Banbury, about 18 miles".

Henry VII had granted Cogges, along with other Oxfordshire manors, to his brother Jasper, duke of Bedford. When Jasper died without legitimate issue in 1495 the manor passed back into royal hands and in 1509 Anthony Fettiplace, squire for the body, was made steward of Cogges and other manors in Oxfordshire. In 1514 all the manors were granted by Act of Parliament to Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, in tail male, and in 1517 Norfolk leased Cogges to William Bryan for 21 years. Norfolk's son and heir, Thomas, inherited Cogges in 1524, and sold it to the Crown in 1540. In 1543 the Crown granted the manor to Lord Audley and Sir Thomas Pope; Audley immediately quitclaimed to Pope, and in 1545 the manor was confirmed to Pope alone.

In 1547, Sir Thomas Pope bought of King Henry VIII the ancient stately mansion house of Tyttenhanger, in the parish of Ridge, Hertfordshire, being the country seat of the abbots of St. Albans; and which, but for this purchase, would have been destroyed as an appendage to the abbey. This house was so large, that, in 1528, Henry VIII, with his Queen Catalina, and their retinue, removed hither during the continuance of the sweating sickness in London. In this house Pope made great improvements. It became his favourite place of residence, and the statutes of his college are dated thence. He erected over the vestibule of the great hall a noble gallery for wind music. This chapel was a spacious edifice, and beautifully decorated. The windows were enriched with painted glass, which Sir Thomas Pope brought hither from the choir of St. Albans abbey, when that church, by his interposition with the King, was preserved from total destruction. The wainscot behind or over the stalls was finely painted with a series of the figures of all the saints who bore the name of John, in memory of John Moot, one of the abbots. But Sir Thomas put up a new piece of wainscot, of Spanish oak, on a very large scale) at the east end, most exquisitely sculptured, beginning at the end of the stalls, and continued towards the altar. This was to adorn that part of the chapel which was usually called the presbytery, or the space about and near the altar.

The religious changes made by Edward VI were repugnant to him, but at the beginning of Mary's reign he became a member of the privy council. In 1556 he was sent to reside as guardian in Elizabeth's house at Hatfield. Although Sir Thomas himself did his utmost to decline this charge, Elizabeth accepted him with good grace. Thomas Pope was a very different proposition from her last guardian, Sir Henry Bedingfield. For one thing, he was no stranger, having been a member of the household at Ashridge in 1554. He was also a witty, cultivated man, and a pleasant companion whose presence would relieve her of responsibility. Sir Thomas Pope did his best to entertain her, giving a great display of rich masquings and pageants, according to the fashion of the times, in the great hall at Hatfield, and a banquet afterwards of sweet dishes, when the cupboard of the hall was garnished with rich gold and silver vessels, "alle at his own costes". The play of Holophernes was performed for Elizabeth's amusement the next day. A rumour of these gaieties, however, reaching Queen Mary, she wrote to Sir Thomas, telling him that she disapproved of "such follies", and that disguisings must cease. Throughout the remainder of the summer, the aftermath of the Dudley plot continued to smoulder beneath the surface. In Jul a feeble attempt was made to stir up the dying embers when a Suffolk schoolmaster named Cleobury created some local disturbance by pretending to impersonate Edward Courtenay and proclaiming 'the Lady Elizabeth Queen and her beloved bedfellow, Lord Courtenay, King'. Thomas Pope was instructed to acquaint the Princess with 'the whole circumstance', so that 'it might appear how little these men stood at falsehood and untruth to compass their purpose and how for that intent they had abused her Grace's name'.

As early as 1555 he had begun to arrange for the endowment of a college at Oxford, for which he bought the site and buildings of Durham College, the Oxford house of the abbey of Durham, from Dr George Owen and William Martyn. From Mary and Felipe that he received Letters Patent and royal approval for his new foundation. He received a royal charter for the establishment and endowment of a college of the "Holy and Undivided Trinity " on the 8 Mar 1556. The foundation provided for a president, twelve fellows and eight scholars, with a schoolhouse at Hooknorton, all supported by the income from his generous endowment of lands, and for up to twenty undergraduates. His wife, Elizabeth Pope, was a particularly influential figure in Trinity's early years. A devout catholic with no surviving children, Thomas Pope saw the Foundation of an Oxford college as a means of ensuring that he and his family would always be remembered in the prayers and masses of its members.

In 1558, he was joined with Edward Stradling and others, in a commission for the suppression of heretics.

Pope died at Clerkenwell on the 29 Jan 1559, and was buried at St Stephen's. John Pope, brother of Sir Thomas, inherited the manor of  Cogges and was succeeded in 1583 by his son William, created earl of Downe in 1628. His widow Elizabeth, dau. of Walter Blount of Blount's Hall, remarried Sir Hugh Paulet. Tyttenhanger House continued to be inhabited by the relations of his second wife, bearing the name of Pope-Blount. In the year 1620 it began to be lessened, or pulled down in part; about which time the family of Napier, then tenants to Trinity college (Oxford) at Luton, by the mediation of the college, removed the wainscot (above mentioned), put up by Sir Thomas Pope in the chapel of Tyttenhanger House, in entire preservation) to the chapel of the mansion house at Luton. John, Earl of Bute, about the year 1768, pulled down this old mansion house at Luton, to build a new house in its place; but, with great taste and judgement, retained the old chapel, with Sir Thomas Pope's wainscot, where it still remains.

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