John Philpot, Compton’s Martyr


John Philpot

Compton’s martyr, John Philpot, had a colourful career and crossed paths with many other characters with interesting and unusual stories, as we shall see.

Sir John Philipot

Sir John Philipot, Lord Mayor of London

 

The Hampshire Philpots trace their ancestry to Sir John Philipot, (d. 1384), a successful wool merchant, mercer and alderman of London. He had probably been born in the Isle of Grain on the Medway, around 1330.

He married three times, to women of high social status and wealth.

He was elected to parliament several times between 1369 and 1383, and sheriff in 1372-3. He was chosen to advise the King’s Council on how to protect merchant shipping in the war against France. This would have included trade with Calais, which had been under English rule since its capture by Edward III in 1347.

For 12 years from 1374 Geoffrey Chaucer held the lucrative job of Comptroller of Wool Customs for the Port of London. He would have known Philipot and two other influential merchants, William Walworth and Nicholas Brembre who were Collectors at the port during that time. All three would become Lord Mayor.

Such was his standing within royal and court circles as well as merchant ones, by 1377, that Philipot led the successful opposition to John of Gaunt’s plan to suspend the mayoralty and place the government of London in the hands of Henry Percy, Constable and Marshal of England.

In 1377, when 14 year-old Richard II acceded to the throne on the death of his grandfather Edward III, Philipot led a deputation from the City to assure the new king of their loyalty. He also sought conciliation with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

In 1376  John Mercer, a wealthy Scottish merchant and friend of the French king, had been shipwrecked off the coast of Northumbria. His merchandise was seized, and he was imprisoned in Scarborough Castle. Although Mercer had been released unharmed in 1377, his son Andrew sought retaliation in 1378. He assembled a fleet of Scottish, Flemish and French privateers which attacked and plundered the town of Scarborough and captured the English ships in the harbour.

John Philipot led a daring raid by fitting out and equipping, at his own expense, a small squadron of ships and a thousand armed men who recovered the ships and booty, and also captured fifteen Spanish merchant vessels.

This unauthorised expedition did not go over very well with the noblemen of the day, who complained to the King that he was usurping his power, but its popularity with the people led to his election as Lord Mayor of London for 1378–9.

In June 1381 Philipot, along with Walworth (then Lord Mayor) and Brembre, and one Robert Launde were knighted on the spot by Richard II for their part in bringing the Peasant’s Revolt to an end with the death of its leader, Wat Tyler.  Tyler had tried to stab Walworth, who was saved by his chain-mail; Walworth struck back and although his blow may or may not have proved fatal, Tyler was caught and beheaded.

Philipot’s generosity included lending money to the crown, providing ships for and funding the Earl of Buckingham’s expedition to Brittany, building one of the two 60ft stone towers erected in the Thames to defend shipping, and leaving property for the benefit of the City of London.

He died in 1384 and was buried in Christ Church, Greyfriars. Only the most important citizens or those with royal blood were buried there.

In the early 14th century, an impressive new church had been built on the site of the 12th century Franciscan monastery. The new church was the second biggest church in the City of London, with its own university and library.

Greyfriars church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666; it was replaced by a smaller church as part of Sir Christopher Wren’s rebuild of the City. It was almost completely destroyed again in the Blitz. The tower and some walls still stand and the site is now a memorial garden.

The Philpot Family

The Hampshire Philpotts
The inscription on Sir John Philipot’s tomb confirms him as the ancestor of the Hampshire Philpotts.

The chain of descendants which leads to Archdeacon John Philpott can be found on various genealogy websites,  and on the 1620 illustrated Philpot family tree in the Hampshire Archives, but details seem to be vague and in some places are definitely incorrect.

Compton Philpotts family tree
Family tree of the Compton Philpotts, according to J.S.Drew
  • Sir John Philipot, Lord Mayor of London, 1330-1384 b. Kent, d. London
  • Sir John Philpot, “Knight of Compton”, b. 1370
  • Sir John Philpot, Sheriff of Hampshire, 1430-1484
  • John Philpot, Sheriff of Hampshire, 1460-1502, b. Compton Hants
  • Sir Peter Philpot, Sheriff of Hampshire, 1488-1540, b. London, d. Compton Hants
  • Archdeacon John Philpott, 1515-1555, b. Compton, Hants, Martyred at Smithfield

Drew states

1455. First mention of John Philpott, a member of a family which for over 200 years held the Wascelyn lands. William Burton is last heard of in 1451, so that John Philpott must have acquired the estate between that date and 1455.

The Philpotts were descended from Sir John Philpott who was Lord Mayor of London in 1378, and they held land also in Pitt, Durley, Bishopstoke and near Lymington, as well as manors in Middlesex and Herts and much house property in the city of London.

This was the first time that a really wealthy family had come to Compton and one wonders at what period they built the house at Compton Place which was eventually pulled down at the beginning of the 18th century.

We shall find that the earlier Philpotts had many virtues, but that regard for the rights of other people was not one of them.

Sir Richard Whittington

to come

Archdeacon John Philpot

to come

Bishop Stephen Gardiner

to come

Bishop John Ponet

to come

Diocesan Registrar John Cooke (or Cook)

to come

Bishop Edmund “Bloody” Bonner

to come

JS Drew writes:

In December this year (1555) a notable Compton man, John Philpott, son of Sir Peter Philpott, died for his Faith. His was a strange, stormy life. Born in 1516 he was educated at Winchester College and became a fellow of New College, Oxford, when he was 18. In religion he broke away early from the Catholic tradition of his family and embraced the tenets of the Reformers with all the enthusiasm of a vigorous nature – there must have been some tempestuous scenes at Compton Place between the father and the son. He was the author of many theological works directed not only against the Catholics but also against those Protestants, and they were many, from whom he differed. He was indeed a controversialist by nature, and in argument no technique came amiss to him polemics, expectoration in the face of an opponent, fisticuffs, he tried them all. Made Archdeacon of Winchester in Edward VI’s time, he quarrelled with his bishop John Poynet, and a rough-and-tumble fight he had with the bishop’s registrar occupied the attention of the City of Winchester court for no less than ten sittings. In the Catholic revival of Queen Mary’s time he stood firmly by his Faith and was committed to the King’s Bench prison; there he discovered among his fellow prisoners some exponents of the Pelagian heresy, so that the period of incarceration was probably not devoid of incident. He was examined in October 1555 by the Catholic bishop Bonner who, with a breadth of view not too common at the time, tried hard to find a formula which would satisfy Authority and save the Archdeacon’s face. But John Philpott was not the man to give way a hair’s breadth where his conscience was engaged, and just before Christmas he went bravely to the stake.

Whitaker writes:

The village must have been shaken by the martydom of the Revd. John Philpott, the archdeacon of Winchester, in 1555; he was the son of the squire Sir John Peter Philpott, and broke away from the traditional Catholic faith of his family. He was a man of uncompromising views, and always ready to defend them, and his courage in facing death at the stake is dramatically honoured by a golden circle of flame around his name in a fine family-tree of 1620.

References

  1. General
    1. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – free access if you have a Hampshire Library card
    2. Compton near Winchester – being an Enquiry into the History of a Hampshire Parish;  J S Drew, published 1939 by Warren and Sons, Winchester
    3. Compton & Shawford, by Austin Whitaker, ©1985, Published by Barbara Large & Austin Whitaker
    4. Winchester Cathedral Stained Glass, Mary Callé. Published by the Friends of Winchester Cathedral.
    5. Lives of Eminent and Illustrious Englishmen, from Alfred the Great to the Latest Times, edited by George Godfrey Cunningham, Vol I 1836, Vol II 1837. Available as an ebook from Google Books, and in hard copy from various sources.
    6. A History of England in the Lives of Englishmen, Edited by George Godfrey Cunningham, vol. I 1853. Also available as an ebook from Google Books, and in hard copy from various sources.
  2. Archdeacon John Philpot
    1. John Philpot, Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Philpot
    2. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs John Philpot
    3. The Examinations and Writings of John Philpot, B.C.L. Archdeacon of Winchester, from Google Play Books
    4. Christianity.com: Because John Philpot Didn’t Run, He Burned
    5. Philpot, John (DNB00)
  3. Sir John Philipot
    1. Philipot, John (d.1384) (DNB00)
    2. British History Online : Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: H, 1375-1399 – Introduction
    3. British History Online: the Borough of Scarborough
    4. The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, 1376-1422
    5. Mercer Millions website: Sir Andrew Mercer
    6. The Old Scots Navy on Mercer
    7. Delphi Classics: The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer
    8. Wikipedia List of Lord Mayors of London
    9. Geni.com Sir John Philpot, Lord Mayor of London
    10. Catalogue of the tombs in the churches of the city of London, A.D. 1666. By Major Payne Fisher, B.A
  4. Sir Richard (Dick) Whittington
    1. Whittington, Richard (DNB00)
    2. The Lord Mayors of London | British History Online
  5. Bishop Stephen Gardiner
    1. Gardiner, Stephen (DNB00)
  6. Bishop Edmund Bonner
    1. Bonner, Edmund (DNB00)
  7. Bishop John Ponet (or Poynet)
    1. Ponet, John (DNB00)