Sir Richard Copley

The pedigree of John Copley given in the Visitation of the Northern Counties in 1530 [V1]  commences with Sir Richard Copley.

Sir Richard’s death is clearly documented. A reference to his will is given in various sources, as Reg Test Ebor iii, 396b. It was written 16 July 1434 and proved at York 28 Sep 1434. There does not appear to be any publication of the original. Anjou [B10] refers to Harleian Society Vol 16 [V2], and quotes an English translation. The Harleian volume only references Testamenta Eboracensia IV (Surtees Society Vol 53) [B16], which in turn only gives a partial extract. A full version given by Sheard [B1] in Records of Batley appears to be the source used by Anjou.

Sir Richard expressed a wish to be buried in the Convent Church of the Order of the Carmelite Brothers in London. That is widely misquoted, including a version “Church of the Cormel Fries”. That his wish was carried out is confirmed by the will of his son William whose will states that if he dies in London he is to be buried next to his father, adding the address of the church as Fleet Street. ( A Latin version of William's will is given in Testamenta Eboracensia IV, Sheard gives a translation. )

Sir Richard’s will also mentions “my daughters” but there is no mention of them in the pedigrees.

Other than that, the history of Sir Richard is confused. The RootsWeb WorldConnect project has

  • 191 entries giving his birth at Gatton, Surrey, date range 1375-1405
  • 54 entries for birth at Wighill, West Riding, Yorkshire, all dated 1375 or "about 1375"
  • 45 entries for birth at Batley, Yorkshire dated from 1375 to "between 1400 and 1410"

The majority of other on-line pedigrees give his date of birth as about 1400, at Gatton. His parents are usually given John Copley and Margaret Hutton, the daughter of John Hutton, though ocassionally his father is stated to be Richard.

Primary sources linking the Copley family to Gatton do not appear until the very late 1400s. In his will Sir Richard describes himself as a parishioner at Batley.

Thoresby [B2] and Foster [B4,V4] both identify his father as a second Richard, whose wife was “daughter of Sir John Hutton”. They are the only sources to do so. There is no other evidence of this older Richard Copley. The only known primary source that records a father, as John, is a grant of arms quoted in Denton’s Perambulation of Cumberland [B6]. A John Copley appears in 1379 in the list of poll tax payers in Batley (Sheard). The will of John Copley, also given by Sheard,  is dated “the feast of St Germanus in the 15th year of the reign of King Richard II” (31 July 1391) and administration was granted 9 Nov 1391 to his wife Margaret.

It is probable Sir Richard was born at Batley, and on the assumption that John is the father it must be in 1392 at the latest.

There is similar confusion surrounding Sir Richard’s wife or wives. The 1530 pedigree names his wife as Margaret Denton, and names only Lionel as son and heir. That pedigree was the second of the “modern” republications, in 1863, based on College of Heralds and other manuscript material. It is preceded by the Surtees Society publication in 1859 of the Dugdale 1665/66 visitation [V5]. That does not go back to Sir Richard Copley.

The next pedigrees to be published were by Joseph Foster. Pedigrees of the County Families of Yorkshire [B4] appeared in 1874, and the Visitations of 1584 & 1612 [V4] in a volume published privately in 1875. These both state that Lionel Copley was the son of Sir Richard and Margaret Denton. The earlier pedigree names 7 sons of Sir Richard and Elizabeth Harrington – William, Thomas, Oliver, Roger, Percival, Jonathon, John. The visitation pedigree lists 5 - John, Oliver, Percival, Roger, Thomas. Foster’s visitation pedigree contains a footnote

MS18,011 states the above mentioned sons of Sir Richard Copley to be by the 2nd match, whereas MS 1415, 1571 and 6070 state them to be by the 1st match. The pedigree is altered as above, in conformity with the pedigree which appear in Hunter’s So. Yorkshire Vol1 p51 and my Yorkshire collection.

The introduction says that MS18,011 [M1] and MS1487 [M2] are the preferred sources. The British Library catalogue of the Harleian manuscripts describes MS1487 as written around 1640, by John Withie. The manuscript contains the names of both Margaret Denton and Elizabeth Harrington (the latter may be a later addition in a different hand) but does not indicate which children are ascribed to which wife. Despite Foster’s comment, Add MS 18,011 contains no mention of Elizabeth Harrington. Neither manuscript includes William Copley as a son of Sir Richard.

The visitation of 1563/1564 ( versions published by the Harleian Society in 1881 [V2] and the Surtees Society in 1921 [V3]) names only Margaret Denton, and lists the sons as in the 1584 / 1612 visitations, that is without William. The final publication of a visitation is J W Clay’s [V6] 1899 version of Dugdale’s visitation of 1665. The pedigrees there commence with Sir Richard Copley and name both wives. William is included as the son of Elizabeth Harrington. Clay does not give sources. He is primarily concerned with reproducing the material from the Surtees Society 1859 publication as that is becoming rare, and with extending the pedigrees downwards where appropriate.

A large chart [D1] in the Doncaster archive, produced by John Philipott, Somerset Herald, in 1630, gives 7 names – Lionel (heir), John (2), Oliver (3), Percival (4), Thomas (6), William, and Roger. The section showing their parents is missing, but the parents' arms are those of Copley and Denton.

Thus other than the material introduced by Foster, all the visitation pedigrees and other heraldic sources name only Margaret Denton as Sir Richard’s wife, and identify her as the mother of all his sons. William is omitted from all the originals. This suggests that later versions are merely bringing down the earlier data. Foster's comments on 2 wives are not supprted by his references.

William Copley’s will refers to his parents, Richard Copley, Knight and Elizabeth his wife. It also mentions “all my brothers Lionel, John, Oliver, Perceval, Roger, and Thomas”. His parentage is consistent with the version given by Hunter’s “South Yorkshire” pedigree [B3] which gives Lionel as the son of Sir Richard and Margaret Denton, with William as one of 4 sons of Richard Copley and Elizabeth Harrington – William, Thomas, Oliver, and Roger. Hunter does not give a source, but given its publication was in 1828, it is possibly copied from Whitaker’s reprint (1816) of Thoreby’s Ducatus Leodiensis (1715). Thoresby gives his source

The pedigree is from Mr Hopkinson’s manuscript, collated with others in large folio, with the arms painted, penes Geo. Plaxton Rector of Berwick. From the Adam slain in the siege of York p18 to the 2 Edw Copley p26”

but that has not been traced. British Library MS Add 24473 suggests Hunter was aware of Hopkinson’s work.

Sheard in Records of Batley quotes a deed dated 20 Apr 1468 in which Lionel Copley refers to “… the reversion of the manor of Batley which the Lady Elizabeth Copley, my mother, holds as dower from my father, Sir Richard Copley”. William Paley Baildon [B12] offers evidence that Sir Richard Copley’s grandfather was married to Margaret, possibly the daughter of Sir Richard Denton, and states that he can find no evidence that Sir Richard Copley married another Margaret Denton.

This all suggests that Sir Richard Copley had only one wife, Elizabeth. The various pedigrees give her as Elizabeth Harrington, daughter of John Harrington and Isabella Sewer of Doncaster. There is little corroborating evidence.

Wainwright [B7] gives various inscriptions from the church of St Mary Magdalene, Doncaster. They had disappeared by the time he wrote (1829) but had been recorded by Dodsworth. John Harrington died in 1465, Isabella in 1462. Given that Lionel Copley was born in 1421 or 1422, it is possible that their daughter was his mother, but the chronology is unusual. Wainwright also states that Nether Hall, Doncaster descended from the Sewers through the Harringtons into the Copley family. This evidence, which is also quoted elsewhere, is the only known source to support the “Harrington”.