Bio/HistorySir William de Cloptone, Knight, of Kentwell Estate

The tomb of William Clopton in Holy Trinity Church with arms, left to right, (1) Clopton, (2) Mylde, Clopton impaling (3) Drury and (4) Francys.

Sir William de Cloptone was the only child of Sir Thomas de Cloptone and his second wife, Dame Katherine Mylde. He married twice; his first wife being Lady Margery Drury, the daughter of Sir Roger Drury of Rougham. Sir William and Lady Margery had four daughters and one son: William Clopton; Alice Clopton who married John Harleston; Catherine Clopton who married John Denston, Squire; Margery and Anne. It is thought a plague visited the countryside and Lady Margery, her son William, and two of her daughters, Margery and Anne died in 1420. William died March 10, Lady Margery in June, and the two girls both died in October.

Following the death of his first wife, he married another Margery, the daughter of Elias Francys, Esquire, of Norfolk. From this second marriage came two children: Elizabeth, who married Robert Cavendish, of Suffolk, Sargeant-at-Law; and John Clopton, Esquire. John would become the great benefactor of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford and would begin the building of the manor house, which would one day evolve into the present day Kentwell Hall. This marriage was also brief. Lady Margery died in 1424, only four years after the death of Sir William's first wife.

Sir William fought in the Battle of Agincourt under the banner of the Duke of Gloucester on October 25, 1415 along side his uncle, Sir Thomas Erpingham. This date marked a stunning victory of the English over the French during the mid-point of the Hundred Years' War. Following an unexpectedly long march in an attempt to find a practicable ford over the Somme, the exhausted invaders of 6000 were caught at Agincourt (Azincourt in the Pas-de-Calais) by a French force numbering between 20,000 and 30,000 men under the constable Charles I d'Albret. But because of the land and serious tactical errors committed by the French their numerical advantage was forfeited. The English archers led by Sir Thomas Erpingham repelled preliminary attacks by the cavalry and three hours of battle ended in disaster for the French.

As part of his inheritance, Sir William received a piece of land called Church Croft together with a certain long house called Market House in the town of Hadleigh. Since 1252 weekly markets and annual fairs on the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Michael had been held at Hadleigh. In 1438 Sir William made the town a gift of the land, reserving for himself the use of Market House. The next year he rented Market House at the annual rent of one red rose. The central two-story portion of Market House was used as a Guildhall. Somewhere between 1460 and 1470 Market House was enlarged by the addition of two wings. The old Hadleigh Grammar School occupied the west wing in the 16th Century. The earliest record of the grammar school is dated May 7, 1382 but it doubtless existed before then since Hadleigh men had taken degrees at Cambridge before 1370.

In 1984 Gene Carlton Clopton, the publisher of The Ancestors and Descendants of William Clopton of York County, Virginia, and the first President of the Clopton Family Association, was making plans for the first International Clopton Family Reunion. He came across the rose story and set out to determine whether the family was still entitled to the annual rose payment. He contacted the mayor of Hadleigh, The Honorable Chris Culpin and, to the astonishment of both, discovered that not only was the rose rent still due and payable each year, but that the town was 512 years in arrears. They decided then and there the town would settle-up on their rent when the Cloptons came to England that year for the 500th anniversary of the rebuilding of Holy Trinity Church where Sir William and his wives are buried. After calculating interest, it was determine the town owed the family over a million roses. Being a kind and sensitive group, the Cloptons settled on a single payment of five roses. Since then one rose per year as payment has continued to be made. The rose is placed on the tomb of Sir William. The ceremony has garnered much attention from the media through the years as one might imagine.

Sir William died in 1446, and his recessed tomb with effigy in armour is located at the upper end of the north aisle near the entrance door of the Clopton Chapel. Several fine brasses in memory of members of his family are located there. The Cloptons coming over from Kentwell to worship traditionally used the door by Sir William's tomb. There is a holy water stoup incorporated into the tomb especially for their use. The arms shown on the wall behind the effigy are those of the Cloptons; second, his mother's Mylde family; and third and fourth, Clopton impaling Mylde and Francis, his wives.


Based on:

Articles Originally Appearing in the April 1988 and December 1991 Issues of the
Clopton Family Newsletter
by Isabel Lancaster (Clopton) Steiner
and James M McMillen,
mcmillen@arlington.net

The Ancestors and Descendants of William Clopton of York County, Virginia,
Compiled by Gene Carlton Clopton, Phoenix Printing, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia

Long Melford Through The Ages, by Barry L. Wall, East Anglian Magazine Ltd., Ipswich, Suffolk

Text Contributed by :

Suellen Clopton Blanton, bblanton@fast.net.

Picture taken in 1996 by Maggie Wright, perspective corrected and shadows minimized by Jim McMillen.

Special Thanks to the Hadleigh Market Feoffment Charity.