Pope, Sir Thomas

, founder of Trinity college, Oxford, was born at Dedington, in Oxfordshire, about the year 1508. His parents were William and Margaret Pope, the daughter of Edaiund Yate, of Stanlake, in Oxfordshire. She was the second wife of our founder’s father, and after his death in 1523, was again married to John Bustarde, of Adderbury, in the same county, whom she survived, and died in 1557. The circumstances of the family, if not opulent, were “decent and creditable.”

Thomas was educated at the school of Banbury, kept by Thomas Stanbridge, of Magdalen college, an eminent tutor, and was thence removed to Eton college, from which he is supposed to have gone to Gray’s Inn, where ie studied the law. Of his progress at the bar we have no account; but his talents must have discovered themselves at an early period, and have recommended him to the notice of his sovereign, as in October I 533, when he was only twenty-seven years old, he was constituted by letters-patent of Henry VIII. clerk of the briefs of the star-chamber at Westminster, and the same month received a reversionary grant of the office of clerk of the crown in Chancery. Of this last he soon after became possessed, with an annual fee of twenty pounds from the hanaper, and also a robe with fur at the feast of Christmas and Pentecost, from the king’s | great wardrobe. Two years after, in November 1535, he was constituted warden of the mint, exchange, and coinage, in the Tower of London, which his biographer thinks he quitted about eight years after for some more valuable preferment. The same year he received a patent for a new coat of arms to be borne by him and his posterity, which are those of Trinity college. In October 1536, he received the honour of knighthood, at the same time with Henry Howard, afterwards the gallant and unfortunate earl of Surrey. In December, he was appointed to exercise, jointly with William Smythe, the office of clerk of all the briefs in the star-chamber at Westminster. In Feb. 1538, he obtained at his own instance, a new royal licence for exercising the office of clerk of the crown in conjunction with John Lucas, afterwards an eminent crown, lawyer in, the reign of Edward VI.

Some of these appointments, it is probable, he owed ta Sir Thomas More, with whom he was early acquainted, and some to lord Audley, both lord chancellors,; but in 1539 he received one of greater importance, being constituted by the king, treasurer of the court of augmentations. on its first establishment byact of parliament. The business of this court was, to estimate the lands of the dissolved monasteries, vested in the crown, receive their revenues, and sell the monastic possessions for the king’s service 5 and it was so called from the increase which the royal revenue thus received. The treasurer’s office was a post of considerable profit, and of considerable dignity, as the person holding it ranked with the principal officers of state, and was privileged to retain in his house a chaplain, having a benefice with cure of souls, who should not be compelled to residence. What the emoluments of this office were, is not s,o clear, but they were greater than the allowance of sir John Williams, treasurer in Edward Vlth’s reign, who had 320l. yearly: and it may be supposed the office gave those advantages in the purchase of the dissolved possessions which probably formed the foundation of sir Thomas’s vast fortune.

He held this office for five years, and during that time was appointed master, or treasurer, of the jswel- house in the Tower. In 1546, the court of augmentations was dissolved, and a new establishment on a more confined plan substituted. In this sir Thomas Pope was nominated master of the woods of the court on this side the river Trent., | end was How a member of the privy council. It has been asserted that he was appointed one of the commissioners or Visitors under Cromwell, for dissolving the religions houses; but the only occasion, according to his biographer, in which he acted, was in the case of the Abbey of St. Albans. He was undoubtedly one of those into whose hands the seal of that abbey was surrendered in 1539, and it was to his interest with the king that we owe the preservation of the church now standing. But although there is no proof of his having been one of the visitors employed in the general dissolution, it is certain that his immense fortune arose from “that grand harvest of riches,” and diverted his thoughts from the regular profession of the law. Before 1556, he appears to have been actually possessed of more than thirty manors in the counties of Oxford, Gloucester, Warwick, Derby, Bedford, Hereford, and Kent, besides other considerable estates and several advowsons. Some of these possessions were given him by Henry VIII. but the greatest part was acquired by purchase while he was connected with the court of augmentations, and many of his estates were bought of queen Mary.

During the reign of Henry VIII. sir Thomas Pope was employed in various services and attendances about court, but in none of more affecting interest than when he was sent by the king to inform his old friend and patron, sir Thomas More, of the hour appointed for his execution. (See More.) On the accession of Edward VI. as he was not of the reformed religion, sir Thomas Pope received no favour or office; but when queen Mary succeeded, he was again made a privy councillor and cofferer to the household, and was often employed in commissions of considerable importance; nor are we surprized to find his name in a commission for the more effectual suppression of heretics, in concert with Bonner and others; but his conduct, when the princess (afterwards queen) Elizabeth was placed under his care in 1555, was far more to his credit. After having been imprisoned in the Tower and at Woodstock, she was permitted by her jealous sister to retire with sir Thomas Pope to Hatfield-house, in Hertfordshire, then a royal palace, where he shewed her every mark of respect that was consistent with the nature of his charge, and more than could have been expected from one of his rigid adherence to the reigning politics. After a residence here of four years, she was raised to the throne on the death of her | sister Mary, Nov. 17, 1558, and on this occasion sir Thomas does not appear to have been continued in the privycouncil, nor had he afterwards any concern in political transactions. He did not, indeed, survive the accession of Elizabeth above a year, as he died Jan. 29, 1559, at his house in Clerkenwell, which was part of the dissolved monastery there. No circumstances of his illness or death have been discovered. Mr. Warton is inclined to think that he was carried off by a pestilential fever, which raged with uncommon violence in the autumn of 15p8. He was interred, in great state, in the parish church of St. Stephen’s,Walbrook, where his second wife, Margaret, had been before buried, and his daughter Alice. But in 1567 their bodies were removed to the chapel of Trinity college, and again interred on the north side of the altar under a tomb of gothic workmanship, on which are the recumbent figures of sir Thomas in complete armour, and his third wife Elizabeth, large as the life, in alabaster.

Sir Thomas Pope was thrice married. His first wife was Elizabeth Gunston, from whom he was divorced July 11, 1536. His second was Margaret Dodmer, widow, to whom he was married July 17, 1536. Her maiden name was Townsend, a native of Stamford in Lincolnshire, and the relict of Ralph Dodmer, knight, sheriff and lord-mayor of London. By sir Thomas Pope she had only one daughter, Alice, who died very young, but she had two sons by her former husband, whom sir Thomas treated as his own. She died in 1538, after which, in 1540, he married Elizabeth the daughter of Walter Blount, esq. of Blount’s Hall, in Staffordshire. She was at that time the widow of Anthony Basford, or Beresford, esq. of Bently, in Derbyshire, by whom she had one son, but no children by sir Thomas Pope. After Sir Thomas’s death she married sir Hugh Powlett, of Hinton St. George, in Somersetshire, the son of sir Amias Powlett, who was confined in the Temple by the order of cardinal Wolsey. Sir Hugh joined her cordially in her regard and attentions to the college, of which she was now styled the foundress. She died at an advanced age, Oct. 27, 1593, at Tyttenhanger, in Hertfordshire, the favourite seat of sir Thomas Pope, and was interred, in solemn pomp, in the chapel of Trinity college.

Mr. Warton’s character of sir Thomas Pope must not be omitted, as it is the result of a careful examination of his public and private conduct. He appears to have been a | man eminently qualified for business; and although not employed in the very principal departments of state, he possessed peculiar talents and address for the management and execution of public affairs. His natural abilities were strong, his knowledge of the world deep and extensive, his judgment solid and discerning. His circumspection and prudence in the conduct of negociations entrusted to his charge, were equalled by his fidelity and perseverance. He is a conspicuous instance of one, not bred to the church, who, without the advantages of birth and patrimony, by the force of understanding and industry, raised himself, to opulence and honourable employments. He lived in an age when the peculiar circumstances of the times afforded obvious temptations to the most abject desertion of principle; and few periods of our history can be found which exhibit more numerous examples of occasional compliance with frequent changes. Yet he remained unbiassed and uncorrupted amid the general depravity. Under Henry VIII. when on the dissolution of the monasteries he was enabled by the opportunities of his situation to enrich himself with their revenues by fraudulent or oppressive practices, he behaved with disinterested integrity; nor does a single instance occur upon record which impeaches his honour. In the succeeding reign of Edward VI. a sudden check was given to his career of popularity and prosperity: he retained his original attachment to the catholic religion; and on that account lost those marks of favour or distinction which were so liberally dispensed to the sycophants of Somerset, and which he might have easily secured by a temporary submission to the reigning system. At the accession of Mary he was restored to favour; yet he was never instrumental or active in the tyrannies of that queen which disgrace our annals. He was armed with discretionary powers for the suppression of heretical innovations; yet he forbore to gratify the arbitrary demands of his bigoted mistress to their utmost extent, nor would he participate in forwarding the barbarities of her bloody persecutions. In the guardianship of the princess Elizabeth, the unhappy victim of united superstition, jealousy, revenge, and cruelty, his humanity prevailed over his interest, and he less regarded the displeasure of the vigilant and unforgiving queen, than the claims of injured innocence. If it be his crime to have accumulated riches, let it be remembered, that he consecrated a part of those riches, not | amid the terrors of a death-bed, nor in the dreams of old age, but in the prime of life, and the vigour of understanding, to the public service of his country; that he gave them to future generations for the perpetual support of literature and religion.

Sir Thomas Pope was certainly in the prime of life when he determined to found a college, the necessity of which was to him apparent, from the actual state of the university, and the increasing zeal for literature, which had in less than half a century produced three new colleges in Oxford, and four in Cambridge. Like some of the most learned of his predecessors in these munificent acts, he saw the necessity of providing for classical literature, and his teacher of humanity is specially enjoined to inspire his scholars with a just taste for the graces of the Latin language, and to explain critically the works of Cicero, Quintilian, Aulus Gellius, Plautus, Terence, Virgil, Horace, Livy, and Lucan. From these and other injunctions respecting the same subject, it may be inferred, that although Mr. Wavton has not made it a prominent feature in his character, the founder’s acquaintance with classical learning was not inferior to his other accomplishments.

The site chosen for his new foundation was at this time occupied by Durham college, which Edward VI. granted to George Owen, of Godstowe, the king’s physician, a man of great learning and eminence, and William Martyn, gentleman, in 1552; and sir Thomas purchased the premises of these gentlemen by indenture dated Feb. 20, 1554. On March 8, and March 28, he obtained from Philip and Mary a royal licence and charter to create and erect a college within the university of Oxford, under the title of Collegium Sanctæ Et Individuæ Trinitatis In Universitate Oxon. Ex Fundatione Thomæ Pope Militis. The society was to consist of a president, a priest, twelve fellows, four of whom should be priests, and eight scholars (afterwards increased to twelve) and the whole to be liberally and amply endowed with certain manors, lands, and revenues. They were to be elected out of the diocese and places where the college has benefices, manors, or revenues, more particularly in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Kent. The same charter empowered him to found and endow a school at Hokenorton, in Oxfordshire, to be called Jesus Scholehouse; and to give statutes both to the | college and to the first and second masters of the said school. And by deed, dated March 28, 1555, he declared his actual erection and establishment df the said college, and the same day delivered possession, before a large concourse of witnesses, to the president, fellows, and scholars. In May following he supplied his college with necessaries and implements of every kind, books, furniture for the chapel, of the most costly kind; and next year he transmitted a body of statutes to the society, dated May 1, 1556. These statutes he had submitted to the revision of cardinal Pole, from whom he received some valuable hints. On the 8th of the same month, May, he gave them one hundred pounds as a stock for immediate purposes; and the endowment, by thirty-five manors, thirteen advowsons, besides impropriations and pensions, was completed before, or upon the feast of Annunciation, in the same year; and the first president, fellows and scholars, nominated by himself, were formally admitted within the chapel, May 30, on the eve of Trinity Sunday. During his life-time, the founder nominated the fellows and scholars, and afterwards delegated the power to his widow, dame Elizabeth, of nominating the scholars, and presenting to the advowsons, and this she continued to exercise during her long life, but with some interruptions, and some opposition. On one occasion the college rejected her nomination to a scholarship, and chose another candidate; but on an appeal to the visitor, he decided in her favour. She sometimes also nominated the fellows, and once a president. But both she and her husband, sir Hugh Powlett, were so liberal and punctual in fulfilling the founder’s intentions, and in contributing to the prosperity of the college, that she was in general obeyed with respect and gratitude.

On St. Swithin’s day, July 15, 1556, the founder visited his college, accompanied by the bishops of Winchester and Ely, Whyte and Thirlby, and other eminent personages, who were entertained sumptuously in the hall, the whole expenses of which were paid by him to the bursar on the same day. Nor was this a singular act of liberality, for it appears that during his life-time he paid all the university expences of degrees, regencies, and determinations, for the fellows and scholars. He also continued to send various articles of rich furniture for the chapel and hall, and a great quantity of valuable plate, and made considerable additions to the permanent endowment, by new revenues | for five obits or dirges, yearly, to be sung and celebrated ss festivals in his college. About the same time he founded four additional scholarships, from the endowment of the school intended to have been established at Hokenorton, but which intention he now abandoned, thinking it more beneficial to the public to increase the number of scholars in the university. In December 1557, he announced his intention of building a house at Garsington, near Oxford, to which the society might retire in time of the plague. This was built after his death, pursuant to his will, in a quadrangular form; and it appears from the college books that they took refuge here in 1570-1, and again in 1577. On the former occasion they were visited by sir Hugh Powlett. At this house they performed the same exercises, both of learning and devotion, as when in college. In 1563, before this house was completed, they retired, during a plague, to Woodstock. 1


Warton’s Life of sir Thomas Pone. Chalmers’s Hist, of Oxford.