Hugh Clopton

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Hugh Clopton (c.1440 – 15 September 1496) was a London mercer and Lord Mayor of London, and a benefactor of his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon.


Hugh Clopton was born about 1440 at Clopton House near Stratford-upon-Avon, where the Clopton family had settled in the thirteenth century in the reign of Henry III. He was a younger son of John Clopton. His mother's name was Agnes; however her surname is unknown.[1]

In 1450 his father had received license to erect an oratory at the manor house, and in 1474 his elder brother, Thomas Clopton, obtained permission from Pope Sixtus IV to add a chapel to the house for the celebration of divine service.[2]


As a younger son, he left Clopton for London at an early age, and rapidly became a wealthy mercer. He was apprenticed in 1457 to the mercer John Roo, and was admitted to the Company in 1464. He served as warden of the Company three times, in 1479, 1484 and 1488. On 15 October 1485 he was chosen as alderman for Dowgate ward. In 1486 he was elected Sheriff of London during Sir Henry Colet's term as mayor, and was himself chosen Lord Mayor in 1491. By 1495 he was living in Bread Street. Although earlier biographers have stated that he was knighted, this does not appear to have been the case as he described himself in his will merely as citizen, mercer and alderman'.[1]

His vast fortune enabled him, it is said, to become possessed of the family estates at Clopton, the inheritance of his elder brother, and it is certain that the neighbouring town of Stratford was his favourite place of residence. About 1483 he erected there (in Chapel Street) 'a pretty house of brick and timber,' which was ultimately purchased by Shakespeare in 1597, and was, in a renovated form, the poet's residence, under the name of New Place, until his death in 1616. [2]

The nave of the chapel of the Stratford guild of the Holy Trinity, situated opposite his 'pretty house,' Clopton rebuilt, and he adorned the building with a steeple tower, glass windows, and paintings for the ceiling. He also removed at his own expense the old wooden bridge over the River Avon, and substituted a remarkably fine stone structure resting on fourteen arches. Clopton's chapel and Clopton Bridge are still notable features of modern Stratford. [2]

He died 15 September 1497[2] holding the manor of Clopton of the King 'as of the manor of the Castle of Beaudesert by 1/8 of a knight's fee, and leaving as his heir William Clopton (d.1521), the son of his nephew John, then aged 15'. In 1504 William had livery of his great-uncle Hugh's manors of Clopton and Little Wilmcote, and his lands in Stratford and Bridgetown.[3]

By his will, dated a week before his death, he provided for the due completion of the Stratford improvements, and left a hundred marks to twenty-four maidens of the town, and £200. for rebuilding the cross aisle of the parish church. He also instituted exhibitions of £4. a year each for five years for three poor scholars at each university of Oxford and Cambridge ; and gave £10. to the common box of the Mercers' Company, and other sums to 'the Venturers' fellowship resident in Zeland, Brabant, and Flanders,' and to 'the fellowship of the staple of Calais.' [2]

Clopton desired to be buried in the parish church of Stratford, if he died in that town, where he spent much time in his later years. But his death took place in his London house, in the parish of St Margaret Lothbury, and he finally 'bequeathed ' his body to the church of that parish. Clopton never married.[2]

The Clopton estates ultimately passed to Joyce (not Anne as is sometimes stated) Clopton, of the sixth generation in descent from Thomas, Sir Hugh's elder brother. She married Sir George Carew, 1st Earl of Totnes, who thus became for a time master of the property.[2]




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