Popham, Sir John

, an English lawyer of eminence, was the eldest son of Edward Popham, esq. of Huntworth in Somersetshire, and born in 1531. He was some time a student at Baliol college in Oxford, being then, as Wood says, given at leisure hours to manly sports and exercises. When he removed to the Middle Temple, he is said at first to have led a dissipated life, but applying diligently afterwards to the study of the law, he rose to some of its highest honours. He was made serjeant at law about 1570, solicitor-general in 1579, and attorney-general in 1581, when he also bore the office of treasurer of the Middle Temple. In 1592, he was promoted to the rank of chief justice of the court of king’s-bench; not of the common pleas, as, from some expressions of his own, has been erroneously supposed, and at the same time he was knighted. In 1601 he was one of the lawyers detained by the unfortunate earl of Essex, when he formed the absurd project of defending himself in his house; and on the earl’s trial gave evidence against him relative to their detention. He died in 1607, at the age of seventy-six, and was buried at Wellington in his native country, where he had always resided as much as his avocations would permit. He was esteemed a severe judge in the case of robbers; but his severity was welltimed, as it reduced the number of highwaymen, who before had greatly infested the country. If Aubrey may be credited, his general character was liable to many serious exceptions. His works are, 1. “Reports and Cases, adjudged in the time of queen Elizabeth,London, 1656, fol. 2. “Resolutions and Judgements upon Cases and Matters agitated in all the Courts at Westminster in the latter end of queen Elizabeth,London, 4to. Both lord Holt and chief justice Hyde considered the Reports as of no authority. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. I. Lloyd’s State Worthies. Letters by Eminent Persons, with the Aubrey Mss. 1813, 3 vols. 8vo. Fuller’s Worthies. Bridgeman’s Legal Bibliography.