HOPTON FAMILY HISTORY
The Early Hoptons
Many an English family lays claim to being descended from William the Conqueror, but the Hopton family can make a better claim than most. How many other families can claim a castle of their own? A Norman castle at that! Better than that - we Hoptons can boast more than mere family legend to support the claim of a connection with the Conqueror; there is also corroborating evidence in the form of an ancient manuscript.
The castle in
Even though little
more than a ruin, enough of the battered keep remains to enable a visitor to
classify the castle as
A curious rhyme
records the granting of the manor of Hopton castle to the family. It is quoted in
Hopton, Co. Salop.
To the heyrs male of the Hopton family, lawfully begotten.
To me and to myne, to thee and to thine,
While the water runs and the Sun doth shine,
For lack of Heyrs to the King againe,
I, William, King, the third of my reign,
Give to the Norman Hunter,
To me that art both Line and Deare,
The Hoppe and the Hoptune,
And all the bounds up and downe,
Under the Earth to Hell,
Above the Earth to Heaven,
From me and from mine,
To thee and to thine,
As good and as faire,
As ever they myne were,
So witness that is Sooth,
I bit the white wax with my Tooth,
Before Jugg, Marode and Margery,
And my third son, Henry,
For one Bow and one Broad Arrow,
when I come to hunt upon Yarrow.
intriguing doesn't it! If the rhyme is
authentic, the expression "To me that are both
Line and Deare" seems to suggest that the Hoptons are indeed related to
the Conqueror. Yet the wording is
English, whereas William would surely have used Norman French. It was to resolve this problem that I set
myself to find out about
John Stow Chronicler and Antiquary 1525 to 1605
From 1560 onwards his time was mainly spent in the collection of books and literary documents, in the transcription of ancient manuscripts and the like, all dealing with English history, archaeology and literature.'
the supposed link with the Conqueror, the pedigree of the Hopton family has not
been traced back farther than Sir Walter Hopton of
Hoptons are believed to have left that county in the sixteenth century, one
branch of the family settling in Canon Frome in Herefordshire, and another -
described as a 'junior' branch - in Gloucestershire. The Canon Frome branch was a distinguished
family, boasting Members of Parliament, Judges and Senior
clergy among their numbers. They could
trace their descent from the knights of
'Junior branch' or not, unlike their
Herefordshire kinfolk, at least the Hoptons who settled in
* * *
But first, can we link the Hoptons of Hopton Castle to the Hoptons who first appear in Gloucestershire a hundred years after the ownership of the castle passed out of the family? Unfortunately there is no proof but there are a few pointers that add some degree of weight to the theory of continuity.
(1) The following figures, extracted from
Baptismal Registers, chart how the number of Hoptons baptised in
Hopton Baptisms in
before 1700 138
1700 to 1830 37
Hopton Baptisms in Herefordshire
before 1700 8
1700 to 1830 70
Hopton Baptisms in Gloucestershire
before 1700 77
1700 to 1830 174
(2) As late as the eighteenth
century, Bigland's History of
Gloucestershire refers to several members of the Hoptons of Berkeley as
belonging to ‘the junior branch of the Hopton family of
(3) The Coat of Arms as described in Burke's
Landed Gentry and that featured on several Hopton tombs in
(4) When viewed in an overall national
context, the geographical distance between
(5) Frances Hopton of
No conclusive facts here maybe, but interesting pointers.
· * *
Perhaps now is a good point at which to introduce various family trees that different family historians have compiled. I offer four for comparison with that of our own branch. I believe that each of these is in some way related to our own and that somewhere there must be a tie in with our earliest proven ancestor - Daniel (c.1684).
A point to observe is that they all originate in
Bisley towards the end of the sixteenth century. (More particularly in
Chalford which formed part of the Bisley parish at that time.) They are the very earliest Hoptons that I can
trace in Gloucestershire, and it is reasonable to assume that they came to the
county about that time - quite likely from
There is strong circumstantial evidence that links those named in Tree ‘C’ with our Daniel of circa 1684 (although I cannot prove any such link). The most telling factor is the isolated and tiny (even today!) hamlet of Moreton Valence, where William of Eastington left land when he died in 1688 - as did our Daniel over half a century later. I do not believe that there could have been two unrelated families of the same name with connections in such a small and lonely location.
The names of Daniel’s sons also suggest a link - Richard, Daniel, Samuel, William - these all abound in the Eastington family (Tree C).
If I am right about a connection; how does Daniel of circa 1684 slot in with Tree ‘C’? I have a theory - it is no more - that the Richard baptised at Eastington in 1661 could be the father. He married Hannah Knowles in 1683 and the only child traced to the couple is Mary baptised at Whitminster (Wheatenhurst) in 1688. (Richard died in 1690, apparently before he could produce any more children.) A five year gap before a first child was unusual at that time. Could there have been an earlier child? The fact that we cannot trace a baptismal entry is annoying but not necessarily significant. The registers of that time are haphazard; not all have survived and many of those that have are illegible.
Another pointer is that the custom was to name one’s first son after ones’ own father. Daniel named his first son Richard. Was this after his own father? If my theory is correct, the two who left land in Moreton Valence would have been the nephew and uncle. (i.e. Daniel would have been the son of William’s older brother.)
A link between our
proven ancestors and Tree ‘C’ would connect us right back to the sixteenth
century and the
From Patrick there is a proven link to Daniel (1684)
From Daniel there is a link through property at Moreton Valence and family names to Branch ‘C’
From Branch ‘C’ there is a link through Chalford origins and will attestation to Branch ‘A’
From Branch ‘A’ there is a link through Frances Hopton’s will to the Canon Frome branch.
Both ‘A’ and Canon Frome branches claim descent from the Hoptons of Hopton Castle. (Substantiated by Bigland’s History and Armorial records.)
‘To me that art both Line and Deare,
Hoppe and the Hoptune,’ (
Q.E.D. (Well - almost!)
So is our claim of descent from William the Conqueror that far fetched after all?
* * *
 That it was a difficult site to defend is borne out by an appalling incident in the English Civil War, fortunately long after all Hopton family connections with the castle had been severed. In 1644 a small Parliamentary garrison holding the castle surrendered to a vastly superior Royalist force. The commander of the defeated force was made to watch as his thirty three men were bound, hacked to death in cold blood and their bodies thrown in the moat. Was it my imagination or did I sense something of an uneasy air about this place even today? A lingering legacy of the massacre perhaps!
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