SUMPTER (SOMPTER), John, of Colchester, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1416

Family and Education

s. of John Sumpter of Colchester and St. Osyth, Essex. m. bef. June 1408, Margery (d. bef. 1419), da. and coh. of Sir Geoffrey Brokholes of ‘Brokholes’ in Great Munden, Herts. by Ellen, da. and h. of Sir John Roos of Asheldham, Essex, and Sarratt, Herts., 1s. d.v.p. 2da.

Offices Held

Councillor, Colchester Sept. 1413-14, 1418-20, 1428-30; bailiff 1422-3, 1424-5; alderman 1425-6.1

Commr. of inquiry, Essex Aug. 1417 (Fitzwalter estates).


John was perhaps the grandson of the John Sumpter of Colchester who was born in about 1331. His father, another namesake, was a .successful attorney, acting for many clients in the courts at Westminster in the 1380s and 1390s and being especially closely connected with Sir Thomas Swinburne*. Indeed, his fraudulent dealings in a case involving Swinburne’s manor on Mersea island resulted in a petition to the Parliament of 1391. It was probably Sumpter senior who was admitted as a freeman of Colchester in 1396-7 and who obtained a papal indult for plenary remission at death in 1398.2 In October 1399 our John Sumpter, described as ‘junior’, was fined in the borough court at Colchester for an assault, and in the following year he brought a plea of debt there.3 Sumpter senior had close links with Maud de Vere, dowager countess of Oxford, and both he and his son became involved in the treasonable movements disturbing the eastern part of Essex which she fomented and the abbots of Colchester and St. Osyth encouraged. Orders were issued for their arrest in May 1404, and they were presumably held prisoner before being brought for trial before the King’s bench in the Hilary term of 1405. There it was alleged that they had conspired with others at Colchester to kill Henry IV, to proclaim that Richard II was still alive, and to prepare the way for a landing of French forces. However, the jury found them not guilty. At about the same time our MP or his father was concerned in another, though much less serious, action in the courts, regarding a recognizance for £200 made at the Staple at Westminster in 1402.4 Apart from his elections to municipal offices, little is known of the younger John Sumpter’s activities in Colchester. In 1407 he was one of the recipients of a royal licence to refound the guild of St. Helen in St. Cross chapel, having been a co-patron of the chapel with other townsmen for the previous five years. He became a feoffee of land in the suburb of Greenstead in 1408, and having been appointed auditor of the bailiffs’ accounts in July 1410, he subsequently served regularly on the local council and as bailiff for two terms.5 It was while engaged in borough affairs that he secured election to five Parliaments as the commonalty’s representative.

Sumpter’s marriage to one of the daughters of Sir Geoffrey Brokholes and grand daughter of Sir John Roos (d.1373), led to the acquisition by his children of a substantial landed estate: a moiety of the combined Brokholes and Roos holdings, which comprised the manors of Giffards in Great Sampford, Roos in Radwinter and New Hall in Asheldham (Essex), Rooshall in Sarratt, Brokholes in Great Munden and Overhall in Gilston (Hertfordshire), and Brokholes in Mancetter (Warwickshire). When Sumpter’s mother-in-law died in 1419, the moiety of these estates then inherited by his young son, John, was granted in wardship to John Leventhorpe*, the receiver-general of the duchy of Lancaster. The other moiety passed to his sister-in-law Joan, widow of Thomas Aspall, for whom he subsequently stood surety when she undertook not to remarry without the King’s permission. Young John died in 1421, leaving as his heirs his sisters, Christine (b.1411) later the wife of Thomas Bernard, and Ellen (b.1413), later the wife of James Bellers, whose godparents included such local worthies as Christine, wife of Thomas Godstone*, Mary, widow of Simon Fordham*, and the prior of St. Botolph’s, Colchester. Their inheritance remained in the Crown’s possession until 1427 when most of it was divided between them, but their attempts to obtain the property in Warwickshire from their aunt, a few years later, brought forth allegations that they were both bastards.6

Sumpter’s marriage had enhanced his standing in the shire, so much so that, in 1417, he had been associated with Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford (of whom some of the properties due to be inherited by his son were held) in transactions regarding certain manors in Essex. He found considerable employment as a feoffee-to-uses to a number of prominent local landowners, including Sir William Argentine* and Sir William Coggeshall*, and at the parliamentary elections held in Hertfordshire towards the close of 1421 he provided securities for the appearance in the Commons of Sir Philip Thornbury. He had established an especially close relationship with Robert Tey*, the former constable of Colchester castle and his alleged fellow conspirator against Henry IV, for whom he performed the services of a feoffee and eventually an executor.7 Tey himself had been authorized to administer the will of Sir William Marney*, and together he and Sumpter acted as attorneys for Marney’s elder son, Sir Thomas, when he was on service in France in 1419. In 1428 Sumpter was one of those who entered recognizances for £800 with Sir Ralph Butler to raise the ransom of John Marney, Sir Thomas’s brother, who had been taken prisoner in Anjou.8

Sumpter is not recorded alive after Hilary term 1432, when he was named with Lewis Robessart, Lord Bourgchier, as a feoffee of East Newland, Essex, probably on behalf of the late Thomas Godstone.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: K.N. Houghton / J. S. Roskell


  • 1. Cal. Colchester Ct. Rolls ed. Harrod, 2; Colchester Moot Hall, ct. rolls 39, 41-42, 46, 49-50.
  • 2. CIPM, xii. 255; CPL, v. 119; Colchester Oath Bk. ed. Benham, 84; RP, iii. 297; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 533, 552-3.
  • 3. Colchester ct. rolls 30 m. IV, 31 m. 24v.
  • 4. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 414; 1401-5, p. 432; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), 151-5; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 235-6.
  • 5. CPR, 1405-8, p. 392; HMC Verulam, 2; Colchester ct. rolls 37 m. 34v; 50 m. 37.
  • 6. CFR, xiv. 304, 348; CIPM, xiii. 273; xiv. 197; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 82, 116; 1422-9, pp. 299-300, 357; VCH Herts. ii. 439-40; iii. 127, 320; VCH Warws. iv. 120; Procs. Chancery Eliz. ed. Caley and Bayley, ii. p. xiv.; C138/37/19; C139/21/6, 31/72, 73.
  • 7. CCR, 1409-13, p. 345; 1413-19, p. 381; 1419-22, p. 57; 1422-9, pp. 44, 290-1, 293, 408; CPR, 1422-9, pp. 4, 391; 1429-36, p. 64; C219/12/6.
  • 8. DKR, xli. 790; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 397-8, 399-400.
  • 9. Essex Feet of Fines, iv. 16.