(16)  Henry Copinger

He was born in 1550, and received his academical education at St. John's College, Cambridge, of which Society he was in 1577 elected Fellow.[1]  By a mandate from Queen Elizabeth, he was elected Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge, which, at her request, and to avoid a contest as to his title by the Earl of Suffolk or his guardians, he afterwards resigned,[2] but soon after this, viz., 26th March, 1578, he was presented by the Earl of Oxford, the then patron, to the rectory of Lavenham.  Before his death he purchased of one Woden the next presentation.  He was an intimate friend of that eminent scholar and renowned wit of the seventeenth century, the Rev. George Ruggle, A.M., and Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, the ingenious writer of that celebrated dramatic satire, the comedy of "Ignoramus," and from him received the following legacy :- 

"Item, I give and bequeath to my worthy friend, Mr. Henry Copinger, the elder, of Lavenham, fifty shillings to make him a ring."  

Henry Copinger was, in 1591, promoted to a Prebendary stall in the Cathedral Church of York, being collated on the 4th December.

Dr. Fuller, in his Church History, gives the following interesting account of this spirited divine, whom he styles "a free Pastor and faithful Incumbent well met."

1622, Dec. 21. - Henry Copinger, formerly Fellow of St. John's College, in Cambridge, Prebendary of Yorke, once Chaplain to Ambrose, Earl of Warwick (whose funeral sermon he preached), made Master of Magdalene College, in Cambridge, by her Majesty's mandate, though afterwards resigning his right at the Queen's (shall I call it?) request, to prevent trouble, ended his religious life.  [The fact was he was so much discountenanced by the hereditary patron of the college, that he was forced to quit his mastership, and by accepting that, having parted with his fellowship, to which there was no return, he was practically turned out of all - as one chronicler adds "a very hard fate upon so deserving a man."]  He was the sixth son of Henry Copinger, of Bucks Hall, in Suffolke, esquire, by Agnes, daughter of Sir Thomas Jermyn.  His father, on his death-bed, asking him what course of life he would embrace, he answered he intended to be a divine.  "I like it well," said the old gentleman, "otherwise what shall I say to Martin Luther, when I shall see him in heaven; and he knows that God gave me eleven sons, and I made not one of them a Minister?" an expression proportionable enough to Luther's judgement, who maintained, some hours before his death, that the saints in heaven shall knowingly converse one with another. Laneham living fell void, which both deserved a good minister, being a rich parsonage, and needed so, it being more than suspicious that Dr. Reinolds, late incumbent, who ran away to Rome, had left some superstitious leaven behind him.  The Earl of Oxford, being patron, presents Mr. Copinger to it, but adding withal that he would pay no tithes of his park, being almost half the land of the parish.  Copinger desired to resign it again to his lordship, rather than by such sinful gratitude to betray the rights of the Church.  'Well, if you be of that mind, then take the tithes,' saith the Earl, 'I scorn that my estate should swell with Church goods.'  However, it afterwards cost Master Copinger sixteen hundred pounds in keeping his questioned and recovering his detained rights, in suit with the agent for the next (minor) Earl of Oxford and others, all which he left to his churches quiet possession, being zealous in God's cause, but remiss in his own.  He lived forty and five years the painful parson of Laneham, in which market town there were about nine hundred communicants, amongst whom, all his time, no difference did arise which he did not compound.  He had a bountiful hand and plentiful purse (his paternal inheritance, by death of elder brothers, and other transactions, descending upon him) bequeathing twenty pounds in money, and ten pounds per annum, to the poor of the parish; in the chancel whereof he lyeth buried under a fair monument, dying on St. Thomas his day, in the threescore and twelfth year of his age.

Thomas Skinner, an Alderman of the City of London, was seised in his demesne as of fee of Lavenham Park, and "did the same disparke temp. Eliz.  Upon which a suit commenced between said Thomas Skinner and Sir Thomas Skinner, Knt., his sonne, and Henry Coppinger, clerk, then Parson of Lavenham, when it was ordered by Chancery that said Alderman Skinner and Sir Thomas Skinner, the trustees, should tender and pay yearly to said Henry Coppinger and his successors, £40 a year in lieu of all tithes, growing, &c., upon the said park, to be paid quarterly, and if a whole year became due, and remained unpaid, the said rate should cease, and tithes in kind become payable."

Paul Dewes in 1630 bought for £1,900 the greater part of the park of Thomas Skinner, Esq., of Lavenham, son and heir of Sir Thomas Skinner, expectant on the death of Dame Mary, relict of Sir Thomas, then residing in the capital messuage there, being her jointure.  The rent was then £300.[3]

Mr Copinger died on the 21st of December, 1622, and was interred in the chancel of the Church of Lavenham, where, on the north side of the altar, a very handsome monument is erected to his memory, of marble and alabaster, gilt and painted.  It consists of an arched recess, between two Corinthian pillars, supporting a cornice surmounted with the arms of the family.  In this recess are represented, in alto relievo, the reverend divine and his wife, facing each other, and kneeling before a table, the divine with a book in his hand, and the wife with her hands in the attitude of prayer.  They are both habited in black, with white ruffs round their necks.  Under the principal figures are three compartments.  In the middle are seen their children habited in black, and kneeling before a covered table; under the man 7 sons, and just at the knees of the eldest, an infant in swaddling bands, and under the woman, four daughters; the two groups facing each other, a folding stool being between them.  The first of the sons is represented cross-gartered down the leg, in the fashion alluded to by Shakspeare in the fifth act of his "Twelfth Night."  One of the boys has a skull in his hands, and the second girl another, to show that they were dead before the monument was erected.  On either side of the monument, upon a pedestal stands an angel at full length, the one on the dexter side with a cross in his right hand and a scroll in his left hand, on which is written, "dilicti accipite coronam vitæ;" and the one on the sinister side holding a trumpet in his left hand and a scroll in his right, bearing the inscription, "mortui venite ad judicium."  Over one angel, on the cornice, "novissimus lectus sepulchrum;" and over the other, "viventes sequentur mortuos."

On a tablet, on the left hand, is this inscription:- 

Sacrum memorie Henrici Copingeri, antiquissimœ Copingerorum familiœ, in agro, hoc Suffolciensi, oriundi, hujus ecclesiœ per quadraginta et quinque annos pastoris; pacifici, fidelissimi, et vigilantissimi.  Monumentum hoc, amoris et pietatis ergo, dilectissima uxor, Anna, marito optimè merenti, heu invita superstes, mœrens posuit

Amans maritus, prole fæcundus pater,
Sancti pius pastor gregis,
Qui sensa dextrè codicis docuit sacri
Nee voce quàm vitâ magis.
Qui largâ abundê pavit indigos manu
Securus annonæ domi.
Hic plenus annis, plenior Deo, jacet,
Secum polo gregem trahens
Mutus jacet; sed lingua quæ vivo decus,
Vitam paravit mortuo.

On a tablet on the left side:-

This monument was erected at ye sole costs of Mrs. Ann Copinger, in memory of her deare husband, the Reverend, learned and godly divine, Mr. Henry Copinger, fourth sonne[4] of Henry Copinger, of Buxhall, in this countie, esquire, by Agnes, his wife, daughter to Sir Thomas Jermine, of Rushbrooke Hall, Knt., the paineful and vigillant Rector of this church By the space of 45 yeares, Prebendarie of the Metropolitane church of St Peter, in Yorke, Lord of ye towne, and patron of ye church of Buxhall aforesaide, who marryed Ann, daughter to Henry Fisher, of Linne, in Norfolke, gent., and by her had eight sonnes and four daughters; and, after he had lived Godly 72 yeares, dyed peaceably ye 21st of Dec., Anno. 1622.

Under the whole is this inscription in a circle:-

Justorum Memoria benedicetur.

On a tablet underneath:-

This monument of Dr. Henry Copinger was new beautified, Anno Domini 1721, by Mrs Judith Brinkley, daughter of Thomas Burlz, gent., and Margaret, his wife, third daughter and co-heir of Ambrose Copinger, D.D., by Judith, his wife, only daughter of Roger Kiddington, gent.; which Ambrose was second son of the said Henry, and also Rector of this parish, and of Buxhall, where he was buried, AoDi 16.

On a shield under the niche, between and just above the man and woman, are these arms:-

Copinger, Bendy of 6 or. and gu. on a fesse, sa. 3 plates Impaling: Fisher, Arg. on a chevron between three demi-lions rampant gu., as many plates.

On a shield at the top of the monument are these escutcheons, viz:-

 (1) and (6) Copinger; (2) Jermyn, Quarterly Or. and Gules; on a bend sable, three escallops Argent; (3) Bond, Argent, two bends sable, in sinister chief a cross crosslet of the last; (4) Alphage, Argent, a fesse between three boars' heads couped, fesse ways, sable; (5) Petytt, Argent, a chevron engrailed between three bugle‑horns sable, stringed gules.

Crest: a rams head sa.  On the dexter side on a small shield, Copinger; on the sinister side, Copinger impaling Jermyn.

The following is a copy of his Will:-

Will of Henry Copinger, 1621.

"This last of Decr, 1621, I Henry Copinger, Parson of Lavenham, in Suffolk, make and write with myne oun hand this my last will and testament.  Imprimis, I give my soul to God in Christ who gave it me, and my body to be buried as near my good mother's body as conveniently may be.  For my worldly estate:  I give first to Ann, my beloved wife, besides her oun land in Lynne, in Norfolk, all the free lands and copyhold which her father, Mr. Henry Fisher, gave unto me and my heirs, and by name, that fourteen acres holden of the King's Manor of West Walton, in Marshland, for her life, and after her death to William Copinger, mine and her eldest son, and his heirs; to the same my good wife, I also give for term of her life upon condition That she never nor any in her name and title molest any that have and by virtue of this my last will and testament purchase any parcel or parcels of freehold which I have sold, or do now appoint to be sold, for the performance of this my Testament, the house I now dwell in, with the barns, stable yards, back sides, and appurtenances, in as simple manner as I now occupy and enjoy them, and after her death to Ambrose Copinger and his heirs for ever; provided ever that by this exclusion of her from her thirds in these sold or to be sold lands, she be not barred of her thirds in my freehold lands in Buxhall, Finbarrow, or Ratlesden, which I ever purposed to be for her life.  To the same Ann, my good wife, I also give all my plate silver, a silver and gift; to her I also give all my wood in my yards and houses and four of my best milche kine, two kumbers of the best wheat, two kumbers of the best malt, and the other half part of all my household stuff to the same Ann my good wife.  I give also to be paid her in money within 16 months after my death £200, so that her widowhood before she receive that £200 she enter into bond of the penal sum of £400 to my executor or his assigns, to repay within two months after her next marriage that £200 again to my Executor or his assigns, for the better help of my younger sons Raphe, Francis, and Thomas. To William Copinger, my eldest son, if heretofore I have not conveyed the perpetual patronage of the Parsonage of Church in Buxhall, yet I now do fully and freely give to him and his heirs, with all other copy and free lands which I have in Buxhall, Great Finbarrow, little Finbarrow, or Rattlesden.  To my daughter Rebecca Jegon, I will that my executor pay, if it be not paid before I die, the bond which I have sealed to her husband to be paid the next May, and she hereafter to claim no further interest in any of my goods then is assured to her husband before this last of Decr, 1621.  To Ambrose Copinger, my second son, I give the parcel of ground called Sturmins, by estimation ten acres, lately purchased of Mrs. George Pogle, to him and his heirs forever.  To him also and to his now wife, Judith, I give for their lives time or the longer liver of them, my meadow called Church Meadow, free and copy, but all my gifts to the said Ambrose being upon this condition, that whereas he is joined purchaser with me in one piece of land called Frost land, and also in a lease of a portion of tithes belonging to the late Priory of Colne, and purchased of the Rt Honble Earl of Oxenford, that is that he and his heirs shall suffer and further assure if he be lawfully thereunto requested, the same lands called Frostland to his brother Henry and his heirs for ever, and further shall allow £70 for the lease of the portion tithes before mentioned, to the help of his three younger brothers, that is Raphe, Francis, and Thomas, their portions, and so take that lease and whole right of all tithes purchased lately of the aforesaid Earl, to his use and his heirs.  To the said Ambrose, and Judith, his wife, I also give for their lives or the longer liver of them, the tenement and yard which James Write now dwell in; the which Ambrose Copinger I nominate my sole executor., and to the said Ambrose Copinger I also give upon condition before mentioned for Frostland, and the lease of the portion [of tithes,] the next vacancy immediately after my death of the Parsonage of Lavenham, which I purchased of Mr. Isaac Woden.  I also give and desire Mr. Wm Greenhall, whom I have put in trust herein to give the said Ambrose Copinger, my second son, for and to the performance of this my will, I give all my goods, chattels, debts, lands, rents, corn, household stuff, or whatsoever is mine not heretofore disposed of, nor hereafter in this my last will mentioned or otherwise disposed of.  To my son William Occowld, for his wife and his eldest son Haughton Occowld, I give to be paid within 18 months after my death £100 good of English money.  To Thomas, my youngest son, I give to his maintenance in Cambridge, if he live there so long, and Mrs. Frances Langwest die not before the time, then I will that out of the rent due to me by my eldest son, he pay to his brother Thomas his maintenance, £10 every half year at our Lady and Michael, until six years after my death be ended; if Mrs Frances Langwest if live so long, and so much of his rent as is due to me and is so paid by him unto his brother, to be defaulked, and the rest due after six score pounds a year to be paid within 2 years after my death, to be paid to his brothers Raphe, Francis, and Thomas equally, to be divided between them, Raphe having first payment, Francis the second, and Thomas the third.  To Henry Copinger, my third son, I also give the freehold lands I bought of Robt. Richman, to him and his heirs.  The overplus of my whole estate after my debts, funerals, gifts to the poor, and other mentioned legacies be discharged, my mind and intent is that it be equally divided between my three youngest sons, Raphe, Francis, and Thomas, the elder served first, and after the others in their order.  And for the Poor whom I should have first remembered, Imprimis, I give to be distributed within one week of my death £4, and in the month of February next following other eight pounds, and in the second February after my death other £8, and further to four of the most aged, needy, and impotent persons in Lavenham, which shall be after the death of Ambrose, my son, and Judith, his now wife, I give all the benefit and profit which shall arise of the tenement and yard which now James Write dwelleth in and useth, and all the free meadow called the Church Meadow, and the three roods more or less of copie lying in that meadow, if the Lord of that Manor will consent thereunto, to the use of four such parties as before be named successively for ever, which four persons purposed to receive that benefit are to be nominated by my sons William, Henry, Raphe, Francis, and Thomas, the parson of the Town then being, the Headboroughs of that Town, or the greater number of them, and if all my sons be dead, or being requested to join in choice of any of these refuse, then my mind is that the Parson and Headborough, if the Parson be resident, otherwise the greater part of the headboroughs without the Parson, to make choice of such as shall receive that helpe, and if the Lord of the Manor will not permit the coppy piece therein to be applied to that good use, then I give that copy piece, after Ambrose and his now wife's death, to Thomas, my youngest son, and his heirs.  The intent of me is that the headboroughs of Laneham have the estate of the land to the only user before said.  This second of January, 1621, before my sealing and delivering of this my last Will, I add this as a codicil thereunto, that is, that it is my purpose, intent, and will, that if the overplus of my estate after my funerals, debts, charges, of Probate of this my will, and all legacies be discharged, will amount to yield every one of my three youngest sons eight score pounds a piece, that is, to Raphe, Francis, and Thomas, so much, besides his maintenance at Cambridge for Mrs. Langwest's lifetime, if that exceed not six years after my death, then my will is that my wife have and shall enjoy all my linen and household stuff to give to her children, as she please.  And if my brother Edward, for all his debts due to me pay my executor or his assigns £100 within six months after my death, and three score pounds more within 12 months after my decease, then my mind is that he be discharged of all debts to me; but (if) neither he nor any for him perform both and either of these payments, at or before the prefixed time, then I will that my Executor to prosecute all my bonds from him in extremity.


Read, sealed, subscribed, and delivered this 2d
day of Jany, 1621, in the presence of us,
Wm. Greenhall, Thos. Halbrough, Isaac Creme,
Richard Hubbard X his mark.
Probat.  ap.  London, 21st Jany, 1621, and administration committed to Ambrose Copinger.

Ambrose having died in or about November, 1644, and Judith, his wife, on the 3rd of November, 1675, the charity was, soon after the demise of the latter, applied in accordance with the will of the testator.  The charity constituted by this will is still in being.

The following account of the first appointment of persons to partake of the charity, is extracted from the "Account Book" :-

 "Of all the five sonnes which the donor, by his will, did appoint to joyne with the parson and headboroughs of the Towne, in the choice of the foure poore persons, there was none that was alive at the death of Mrs. Judith Copinger, save only Mr. Henry, who, being requested to joyne in the said choice, did refuse, and made his owne request to the other electors that he himself might be chosen for one of the foure to partake of the benefitt; to whom, being very aged and low in estate, his said request was readiely granted.  And the other three that were chosen in to make up the number, were old John Lambert, the husbandman; the Widow Wright, relict of that same James Wright which dwelt in the tenement when the Will was made; and the Widow Deersly, relict of old John Deersly."

The cottages and meadow were then in the occupation of one William Bennet, at a rent of £10 per annum.  It appears from a memorandum in the "Account Book," relating to "the materials of the house," that the tenement became void in or about the year 1776, but from what cause is not stated.  Writing in 1829, Mr. McKeon (Inquiry into the Charities of Lavenham, p. 33) says:-

This circumstance is to be regretted, for its preservation would have enhanced the value of the charity, insomuch that itself and the yard would now let at between four and five pounds a year, and ten shillings per annum upon average would be sufficient to keep it in repair.  The present tenant of the charity lets the yard and site of the cottage to William Smith, of Church End, at 40s. a year.  The whole is thus described in the latest survey :  -

A. R. P
Pasture 1 3 37
Meadow 3 1 5
Garden and Entrance 0 1 4
5 2 6

The two first were originally in one, as is evident from the description given in the estate of the Will, as well as from the modern appearance of the dividing fence, but was parted off for convenience by some of the occupiers.  This, however, must have taken place before the year 1776, for it is stated in the "Account Book" that the piece of pasture and meadow were let separate to the Rev. John Davy, on the 5th January in that year.  This charity was let by tender on 29th of December, 1826, to Mr. John Green, of this parish, butcher, for a term of four years, at a rent of £25. 10s. per annum.

From an abstract of charitable donations made to Parliament in 1786 and 1788, it appears that the clear produce of the gift in question was then £12. 18s.  From "A true terrier of all the gifts belonging to the Parish of Lavenham, made in 1820," the particulars of the gift are thus described:

"1st, Coppinger's gift.  Imprimis.  One meadow called Church Meadow, and a piece of pasture adjoining, containing together by estimation six acres, abuts on the north and west on Mr. - -  land, east on glebe land, south on a cottage and orchard, and on the King's highway.  The rent of the above is £25. 4s. per annum, in the occupation of Mr. John Green."

The following note with respect to this charity, made about 1826, has been discovered:-

"There being no headboroughs at present the Rector is the sole trustee, but there are other inhabitants of Lavenham who act in the management.  The tenement mentioned in the Will has fallen down, and the charity estate, which in its present state consists of the site of the tenement and yard and two pieces of meadow and pasture near the church, containing 5a. 2r. 6p., is let to John Green for four years from Christmas, 1826, at £25. 10s. a year.  The rent is equally divided between four poor aged persons chosen by the managers as life pensioners."

The following extract from "Lavenham Church," a poem from "the pen of a Child of Nature," thus characterises the Rev. Henry Copinger:-

The great good Copinger, whose godly ways
'Twere well to imitate in modern days,
Maintain'd a character which grac'd our land,
And for its meed a laurel might demand.
Oxford's unlawful offers he refus'd,
Forbad the sacred rites to be abus'd.
Oh! let not sacrilege our conscience stain,
Wrong not the sacred place for earthly gain;
Success itself will prove the cause of pain.

[1] V. Peck's Desid. Curiosa, vol. ii., pp. 40-42.

[2] Carter's History of Cambridge, p. 295.

[3] Harl. MSS., 362, fo. 41.

[4] It will be remarked that Fuller represents him as the sixth son.  The monumental description,  however, contains the correct statement.

Contact us by e-mail   mailto:copinger@talktalk.net

This page was last updated on 31 August 2016. 

Copyright © 2023   I. S. Copinger