Thomas Tropenell

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Thomas Tropenell, sometimes Tropenelle and Tropnell (c. 1405 – 1488), was an English lawyer and landowner in Wiltshire in the west of England.

Kingdom of England historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Landed gentry largely historical British social class, consisting of land owners who could live entirely off rental income

The landed gentry, or simply the gentry, is a largely historical British social class consisting in theory of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate. It was distinct from, and socially "below", the aristocracy or peerage, although in fact some of the landed gentry were wealthier than some peers, and many gentry were related to peers. They often worked as administrators of their own lands, while others became public, political, religious, and armed forces figures. The decline of this privileged class largely stemmed from the 1870s agricultural depression; however, there are still a large number of hereditary gentry in the UK to this day, many of whom transferred their landlord style management skills after the agricultural depression into the business of land agency, the act of buying and selling land.


He acquired large estates, built Great Chalfield Manor, and compiled the Tropenell Cartulary .

Great Chalfield Manor Grade I listed English country house in the United Kingdom

Great Chalfield Manor is an English country house at Great Chalfield, about 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of the town of Bradford on Avon in the west of the county of Wiltshire.

The Tropenell Cartulary is an English medieval manuscript cartulary compiled for Thomas Tropenell, a Wiltshire landowner, in the 15th century.


Great Chalfield Manor Great Chalfield Manor 1.jpg
Great Chalfield Manor

Tropenell, later of Great Chalfield, Neston, and Salisbury, was born about 1405, the son of Henry Tropenell and his wife, Edith, who was the daughter of Walter Roche. [1] [2]

Corsham town in Wiltshire, England

Corsham is a historic market town and civil parish in west Wiltshire, England. It is at the south-western edge of the Cotswolds, just off the A4 national route, which was formerly the main turnpike road from London to Bristol, 28 miles (45 km) southwest of Swindon, 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Bristol, 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Bath and 4 miles (6 km) southwest of Chippenham. Corsham is close to the county borders with Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Salisbury Cathedral city in Wiltshire, England

Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England, with a population of 40,302, at the confluence of the rivers Avon, Nadder, Ebble, Wylye and Bourne. The city is approximately 20 miles (32 km) from Southampton and 30 miles (48 km) from Bath.

Augustus Pugin, in a chapter on Great Chalfield in his Examples of Gothic architecture, gives a pedigree of the Tropenell family stated to be taken from "a MS now in the possession of William Waldron, Esq." According to this, "long before the time that no mind renueth, and before the conquest" a Wiltshire knight named Sir Osbert Tropenell was lord of the whole lordship of Sapworth. Of his two sons, James and Walter, the second son, Walter, received lands in Sherston, Ivy Church, Whaddon and Combe, and married Catherine, the daughter of Sir William Percy, sister of Sir Harry Percy, lords of "Much Chaldefeld, otherwise called East Chaldefeld", having a son, Philip, and a daughter, Galiana. Philip married Isawde, daughter of Richard Cotell, of "Cotells Atteward, otherwise Little Atteward", and left two sons, Roger and John, dividing his land between them. Roger married Christian, daughter of Sir John Rous, lord of Immer, and their son John Tropenell married Agnes, daughter of James Lye, lord of Liniford. Their son Harry Tropenell, who married Edith, the daughter of Walter Roche, younger brother of Sir John Roche, of Bromham, was the father of Thomas Tropenell. [3]

Manuscript document written by hand

A manuscript was, traditionally, any document that is written by hand -- or, once practical typewriters became available, typewritten -- as opposed to being mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. More recently, the term has come to be understood to further include any written, typed, or word-processed copy of an author's work, as distinguished from its rendition as a printed version of the same. Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts. Manuscripts are not defined by their contents, which may combine writing with mathematical calculations, maps, explanatory figures or illustrations. Manuscripts may be in book form, scrolls or in codex format. Illuminated manuscripts are enriched with pictures, border decorations, elaborately embossed initial letters or full-page illustrations.

Knight An award of an honorary title for past or future service with its roots in chivalry in the Middle Ages

A knight is a man granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political or religious leader for service to the monarch or a Christian church, especially in a military capacity. Historically, in all Europe, knighthood was conferred upon mounted warriors. During the High Middle Ages, knighthood was considered a class of lower nobility. By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior. Often, a knight was a vassal who served as an elite fighter, a bodyguard or a mercenary for a lord, with payment in the form of land holdings. The lords trusted the knights, who were skilled in battle on horseback.

Sopworth village in the United Kingdom

Sopworth is a small village and civil parish in northwest Wiltshire, England, on the county's border with Gloucestershire. The village lies about 1.7 miles (2.7 km) west of Sherston and 6.5 miles (10 km) west of Malmesbury. The parish is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


A common lawyer by profession, Tropenell turned himself into "a long-headed, thrifty business man" and was anxious to use his abilities to become a substantial landowner. [4] He spent most of his life in the south-west of England, especially in Wiltshire. [5]

Common law law developed by judges

In law, common law, is that body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of “common law” is that it arises as precedent. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, and synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, and legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue. The court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, and those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, and regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch. Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.

He married firstly Agnes Ludlow, the widow of Thomas Bourton, who was cousin and heir of John Bourton the younger of Atworth. [1]

Atworth village in the United Kingdom

Atworth is a village and civil parish in west Wiltshire, England. The village is on the A365 road between Melksham and Box, about 2.5 miles (4 km) northwest of Melksham and 4 miles (6 km) northeast of Bradford on Avon. The hamlet of Purlpit lies east of Atworth village, and in the south of the parish are the small village of Great Chalfield and the hamlet of Little Chalfield.

Lord Hungerford conveyed the manor of Hill Deverill to Tropenell and Agnes in December 1447. [2] He acquired the manor of Great Chalfield in 1454, after a legal challenge based on the marriage of his ancestor Walter Tropenell with Katharine, daughter of Sir William Percy, [6] and built Great Chalfield Manor. [5] During his life Tropenell acquired a large number of manors, not without battles along the way, and this prompted him to assemble his Tropenell Cartulary , compiled in the reign of Edward IV. [7]

Tropenell married secondly, probably in May 1456, his cousin Margaret, the second daughter of William Ludlow of Hill Deverill and the widow of John Erley, who in 1450–1451 was Member of Parliament for Ludgershall. [8]

While many others were troubled by having taken sides in the Wars of the Roses, Tropenell gave no mortal offence to either side, and in the reign of Richard III, about 1484, he even received a pardon from the new king, recorded as "Thomas Tropenelle of Chaldefeld in the Countie of Wiltshire Squier hathe a generalle pardonne." [9]

Tropenell died in 1488 holding Great Chalfield from the Duchy of Lancaster "as of the honour of Trowbridge. [10] He left the whole of his property to his son Christopher Tropenell, except for "one white bed" bequeathed to his daughter Mary. He was entombed in the chapel of the Blessed Mary at Corsham, [11] now the north chancel chapel of the Church of England parish church, where his large altar tomb, shared with his first wife, Agnes, survives. [12] [13]


A wall painting in the parlour of Great Chalfield Manor is traditionally claimed to be a portrait of Tropenell. Apparently of the right period, it shows a burly man wearing a gown trimmed with ermine and what may be a beaver hat, holding what appears to be a money bag. [14]


The arms of Tropenell are blazoned: gules, a fess engrailed ermine, between three griffins' heads erased argent . These appear in several places at Great Chalfield Manor, sometimes accompanied by the family badge, a yoke, and the motto "Le joug tyra bellement" ('the yoke drew well'). [15]


  1. 1 2 J. T. Driver, 'A Perilous, Covetous man: the career of Thomas Tropenell, Esq. (c. 1405–88)' in The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine vol. 93 (2000), pp. 83–87
  2. 1 2 Anne Holt, History of Parliament, biographies of the members of the Commons house 1439–1509, vol. 1 (HMSO, 1938), p. 875
  3. Augustus Pugin, chapter 'A historical account of the Manor House and Church at Great Chalfield, Wiltshire' in Examples of Gothic architecture, pp. 37–40
  4. Country Life, vol. 36, p. 234
  5. 1 2 Driver, op. cit.: "Thomas Tropenell esquire and lawyer appears to have spent most of his life in the south-west, especially in Wiltshire... his building of the fine manor house at Great Chalfield".
  6. John Silvester Davies, ed., The Tropenell cartulary: being the contents of an old Wiltshire muniment chest, vol. 1 (Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 1908), p. xi: "Release from John Rous, lately of Baynton, younger brother of Will Rous, lord of Great Chalfield, to Thomas Tropenell &c. of all right and claim to the manor of Great Chalfield, 12 July 1454...
  7. Eric William Ives, The common lawyers of pre-Reformation England, (1983) p. 298
  8. Holt, op. cit., p. 302
  9. R. Horrox and P. W. Hammond (ed.), BL Harleian Manuscript 433 (Richard III Society), vol. 1 (1979), 'Register of Grants for the Reigns of Edward V and Richard III', p. 230
  10. Great Chalfield , in R. B. Pugh and Elizabeth Crittall (editors), A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 7Bradford hundred (1953) online at
  11. Country Life, vol. 36, p. 294
  12. Thomas Dingley, John Gough Nichols, Vincent Brooks, History from Marble, vol. 97 (1868), p. 151
  13. A handbook for travellers in Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire (pub. John Murray, 1859), p. 14
  14. Anthony Emery, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500: Southern England (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 573
  15. Thomas Moule, Heraldry of fish: Notices of the principal families bearing fish in their arms (J. Van Voorst, 1842), pp. 95–96

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