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.

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


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]

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]


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]

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

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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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 7 Bradford 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