BAMPFIELD, John (c.1586-c.1657), of Poltimore, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. c.1586,1 1st s. of Sir Amias Bampfield† of Poltimore and Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Clifton of Barrington Court, Som.2 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1604, aged 18; M. Temple 1607.3 m. 22 Sept. 1602 (with £660), Elizabeth (d.1629), da. of Thomas Drake of Buckland Abbey, Devon, 8s. (2 d.v.p.) 7da. suc. fa. 1626.4 admon. 30 Sept. 1657.5 sig. Jo[hn] Bampfylde.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Devon 1619-20, 1624, 1630, 1637-9,6 dep. lt. 1626-at least 1639,7 commr. sewers 1627, 1634,8 j.p. 1627-at least 1640, 1643, by 1647-50, 1651-2;9 commr. swans, W. Country 1629;10 col. militia ft., Devon by 1633,11 sheriff 1633-4;12 commr. hard soap, W. Country 1638, exacted fees, Devon 1638,13 assessment 1641-2.14


Bampfield’s ancestors acquired Poltimore manor, three miles from Exeter, in the early fourteenth century, and supplied a knight of the shire for Devon in 1429. His father, Sir Amias, who represented the county in the 1597 Parliament, was an active figure in local government, serving as sheriff and deputy lieutenant, and at his death he owned nearly 9,000 acres in Devon, Dorset and Somerset.15 Bampfield himself was married in 1602 while still a minor as part of a double union in which he and (Sir) Francis Drake* each wed the other’s sister. The two men attended Oxford University together two years later.16

Bampfield entered local government in 1619, and sat in the third Jacobean Parliament for the newly created borough of Tiverton, probably securing his place through kinship ties with the Gifford family of Tiverton Castle. He left no trace on the Commons’ records on this occasion.17 In 1626 Bampfield succeeded to his patrimony, and within barely a year of this event he also became a deputy lieutenant and magistrate. Elected with his brother-in-law Drake to represent Devon in the 1628 Parliament, he again played little part in the Commons’ proceedings, making no recorded speeches. He was named to just one legislative committee, concerned with mitigating the ecclesiastical penalty of excommunication (14 April). More significantly, he was appointed on 12 June to help frame a petition to the king requesting speedy payment of billeting costs and coat-and-conduct money, an issue of great importance to his constituents. On 23 June he was granted leave to return home ‘for his lameness’; it is not known whether he attended the 1629 session.18

Bampfield founded almshouses at Poltimore in 1631, in memory of his late wife. Pricked as sheriff of Devon two years later, he was also one of the county’s most active deputy lieutenants during this decade. By 1639, however, he was becoming disillusioned with the Crown’s policies, and in the following year he signed petitions to the king and Parliament which complained about the Church of England’s new canons and assorted local grievances.19 As he commented to Edward Seymour† in January 1641: ‘how cheerfully and how easily do we go under a just burden, though weighty, though we gall and wince under an unjust one, be it never so light’. A firm supporter of the Long Parliament’s moderate early reforms, which he hoped might usher in a new ‘golden age’, he watched the subsequent political confrontations with alarm, and in early 1642 helped to deliver a petition to London urging the king and Parliament to work together.20

Bampfield’s behaviour in the opening months of the Civil War was ambiguous enough for Charles to include him in the remodelled Devon bench in February 1643. However, he was removed again three months later, and clearly aligned himself with his son and heir, Sir John†, who had emerged as one of the county’s parliamentarian leaders. In February 1644, with Devon back under royalist control, Bampfield felt obliged to sue out a pardon for treasons committed during the previous three years, but his precise activities have not been established.21 In the war’s aftermath, he remained prominent in local government. Nevertheless, his temporary removal from the county bench in 1650 suggests some differences with the Commonwealth regime, and he appears finally to have left public life two years later. He perhaps sympathized with Cromwell’s government, for a younger son, Thomas, represented Exeter in the Protectorate parliaments, briefly serving as Speaker in 1659.22

Bampfield drew up his will on 31 July 1656, requesting burial at Poltimore church close to his wife’s grave, with his own name added to her tombstone. His heir Sir John having predeceased him in 1650, Bampfield bequeathed dowries totalling £4,200 to four of the former’s daughters, the sons being already provided for. His own death date is not known, but the will was proved in September 1657 by his eldest grandson, (Sir) Coplestone Bampfylde, who twice represented Devon in the Commons after the Restoration.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Al. Ox.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 39-40.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Vivian, 40; E.F. Eliott-Drake, Fam. and Heirs of Sir Francis Drake, i. 170; Rep. Charity Commrs. on Devon (1830), iii. 118.
  • 5. PROB 11/268, f. 94.
  • 6. C181/2, f. 348; 181/3, ff. 2, 130; 181/4, f. 52v; 181/5, ff. 84v, 133.
  • 7. SP16/31/62; 16/421/23.
  • 8. C181/3, f. 217v; 181/4, f. 163v.
  • 9. C231/4, f. 225v; C66/2859; Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 11, 42; S.K. Roberts, ‘Devon JPs 1643-60’, in Devon Docs. ed. T. Gray (Devon and Cornw. N and Q spec. issue, 1996), pp. 159-62.
  • 10. C181/4, f. 2v.
  • 11. T. Westcote, View of Devonshire, 72.
  • 12. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 37.
  • 13. C181/5, ff. 92, 102v, 109v.
  • 14. SR, v. 61, 83, 150.
  • 15. W.G. Hoskins, Devon, 464; OR; List of Sheriffs, 36; SP14/105/140; WARD 7/74/207.
  • 16. Eliott-Drake, i. 170; Al. Ox.
  • 17. Vivian, 39, 400.
  • 18. CD 1628, ii. 444; iv. 280, 426.
  • 19. Rep. Charity Commrs. on Devon, iii. 118; B. Cherry and N. Pevsner, Devon, 688; M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 132, 145-7; CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 496; Buller Pprs. ed. R.N. Worth, 135-9.
  • 20. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 64; Wolffe, 149.
  • 21. E.A. Andriette, Devon and Exeter in the Civil War, 56-8, 125; Docquets of Letters Patent, p. 150.
  • 22. HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 586; CJ, vii. 640a.
  • 23. PROB 11/268, ff. 93v-4; Vivian, 40.