Kinver Church
and tomb of John Hampton

"The Church is an ancient fabric, dedicated to St Peter. From the form of an arch over the principal window, Bishop Littleton supposed it to have been erected even prior to the Norman Conquest, but the chapel adjoining the chancel, he ascribes to the time of Henry III, when the Hamptons were lords here, and resided at Stourton Castle. Here are several antique monuments of the families of Grey, Hampton, Hodgett, Foley and Talbot. The perpetual curacy is in the patronage of the Earl of Stamford and JHH Foley, Esq, and incumbency of the Rev Geo Wharton, MA."

[From History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield, 1851]

The register of the parish church of St Peter commences in 1560. The original registers for the period 1560-1915 (with gaps 1650-52) and Banns for the period 1823-1897 are deposited at Staffordshire Record Office. Bishops Transcripts, 1655-1880 (with gaps 1755-58, 1762-73, & 1854-55) are deposited at Lichfield Joint Record Office.

Sketch of Kinver Church

Visitors to Kinver Church who are able to go into the Choir Vestry will observe that they are in a fine 15th Century Chapel. In it they will see the limbless trunk of the effigy of a man in armour; this is all that remains of what was probably a striking tomb which once contained the bodies of John Hampton, Esquire of the Body to King Henry VI, and of his first wife, Ann, who died in 1444 and for which John Hampton built the Chapel of St. Katherine and St. Anne so that Masses might be sung for his wife and himself.

The tomb was still in existence in the 18th Century, but seems to have been removed subsequently to provide a private pew for the Foley family.

John Hampton's grandfather, Richard de Hampton, became Lord of Kinver in 1382, but there is a possibility that he was the son-in. law of Hugh Tyrell to whom Edward Ill granted Kinver 'for his better support in the order of knighthood'. Hugh Tyrell died in Brittany in 13113, leaving infant sons, both of whom died childless, the younger, also Hugh, in 1382. However, a number of documents describe John Hampton as being 'the heir of Hugh Tyrell', so that it is possible that he was descended from a daughter of Hugh Tyrell, Senior.

John Hampton's grandfather belonged to a Wolverhampton family and the family had a small estate at Dunstall on the edge of Wolverhampton. Round about 1360 he held various minor offices under the Crown, but in 1365 he appears as Squire to the great General of the Black Prince, Sir John Chandos.

When Sir John Chandos was killed in a skirmish in Gascony in 1370, he became Squire to the Black Prince and on his death in 1376, became Squire to the Black Prince's son Richard, so that upon his accession he became the King's Squire. He was also Warden of Berkhampstead and Tintagel Castles. He died in 1388 and was succeeded by his son John Hampton (father of our John Hampton).

John Hampton Senior and his wife Hawise had at least two sons, John born about 1392 and Bevis; John and Bevis appear to have been very close and affectionate, so that one wonders if they were twins. They also had a sister, Goda. it seems likely that Bevis was named from a romantic fancy of his mother after the hero of a popular verse romance concerning one Bevis de Hampton; in the story he was the son of Guy, Earl of Southampton, whose wife, after she had procured the murder of her husband, sent her son Bevis as a slave to the Court of the Saracen King; after many adventures Bevis escaped with the Saracen's daughter, fled to Cologne and there they were married.

John Hampton Senior does not seem to have done anything noteworthy, except that in 1411, he was ordered to appear before the King because he had led away by guile and forcibly detained as a lay person, one Margaret Veal, who had been a Nun of the Priory of Nuneaton for the past nine years. At this date, Hawise was still alive but by 1420 she was dead and John Hampton Senior was married to a wife named Margaret so that it looks as if somehow he had got round the accusation. He died in 1433 and Margaret survived him and to provide for her the rents from Compton and Hyde Meadow (then called Steramoor), Gothersley and two other pieces of land were assigned to her for life. There is little doubt that the Hamptons lived at Stourton Castle; this was the Manor House for Kinver which they held by the Tenure of being Wardens of the Royal Black Prince. When Sir Forest of Kinver, for which they had to pay 9 yearly to the Crown, as a result of which rent in 1433 it was said that the Wardenship was worth nothing.

On his father's death, one of the first things John and Bevis had to do was to confirm a settlement which their father had made in about 1401 with the villeins of Kinver; in 1398 they had refused any longer to carry out the customary services of ploughing and hoeing the Lord's demesne land and getting in his hay and they were apparently imprisoned for this; ultimately, however, a settlement seems to have been arrived at under which instead of performing the services, each villein paid the Lord thirty-seven shillings a year. There is a deed in existence setting this out and Bevis joined in as John Hampton's heir.

John Hampton also gave Dunstall to Bevis to have for his life together with property at Lichfield which seems to have come to his father as Hawise's dowry.

In the meantime and during his father's lifetime, John Hampton had begun to rise at the Court; in 1421 he was in charge of Henry V's armour in the Tower and was authorised to engage artificers for that purpose; in 1428 he was described as Squire of Henry VI and Usher of the Chamber and in 1430 he was made responsible for the operational movement of ordnance (artillery). He must have been well regarded by the Council who were ruling the Country (the King was only born in 1420), since by 1433 he had been appointed waterbailly of Plymouth and Sheriff of Merioneth, besides which he received 50 from the Exchequer and was entitled to take the 9 rent for himself payable for Kinver.

John Hampton, being part of the King's household was very close to the King and after the King in 11,36 became of age he became Esquire of the Body to the King. He was appointed Constable of Chester in 1436 and the same year Bevis was appointed Constable of Shrewsbury, surely by his brother's application to the King. In the course of the next few years John was granted annually 10 from Pendleston Mill, Bridgnorth, 50 from Coventry, 20 from Worcester and, jointly with Bevis, 8 from Wrockwardine in Shropshire; he also arranged that Bevis should be waterbailly of Plymouth jointly with him.

Numerous other grants were also made to him. Perhaps John's most important appointment however, was when he was appointed with the Bishop of Salisbury, the Earl of Suffolk and others in charge of the foundation of Eton College and there is little doubt that he fulfilled more than an honorary position. This was in 1442 and it was in 1444 that his first wife, Ann died. Could it be that the Chapel of St. Katharine and St. Anne was designed and built by the same people as designed and built Eton College?

In 1444 the King married Margaret of Anjou and John was made her Master of Horse and thus was in charge of all the transport arrangements to bring her to England and held this office until 1449.

Neither John nor Bevis had any children but in the past few years he had met John and Thomas Hampton of Stoke Charity in Hampshire and they had associated together. In 1449 (possibly on the occasion of his marriage to another Ann), he settled his estates so that if neither he nor Bevis had children they should go to John Hampton of Hampshire and his heirs. They do not seem to have been related at all. In 1451 however, disaster struck, for the King became insane and the Duke of York took over the rule of the country. One complaint against Henry VI was that he had frittered away the Royal estates by gifts to his courtiers and an Act of Parliament was passed cancelling all gifts made since the King came to the throne. John and Bevis lost all grants and offices, even those made before the King came of age.

However, when the King recovered next year they were restored. The same thing happened in 1454 when the King again became mad (but John was allowed to keep an annual grant of 40 marks); again they were restored next year.

By 1459 John was an old man and the King made final grants to him; but next year Warwick, the King Maker placed Edward IV, the Duke of York's son on the throne and John and Bevis loyal Lancastrians were on the wrong side. Exactly what happened next is not clear but it looks as if John was forced to transfer Kinver to Feoffees (Trustees) for the King but that he was allowed to continue for his life to live at Stourton Castle. At the same time Bevis had to transfer his Lichfield property to Halesowen Abbey to pray for the King, the Queen and Bevis and their souls, a most unlikely voluntary settlement by a Lancastrian. As a result, the Hampshire Hamptons never got Kinver although after Ann Hampton's death they got Dunstall.

There was a short-lived restoration of Henry VI in 1470 and John Hampton seized Kinver from the Feofees but at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Edward IV recovered the Kingdom and Henry VI was put to death shortly after.

John Hampton died in 1472 and was buried beside his first wife in his Chantry Chapel in a tomb inscribed: 'Hic jacet corpora Johan Hampton Armig et Agnet Conjugis ejus qui dies suos extremos clauserunt Johan an 1472 Agnes vero an 1444'.

Bevis and his second wife survived John and in his Will he bequeathed to Bevis: "my couch of colour 'blodij' and figured with paintings of 'lawmpes' being in the Kechin Chamber" i.e. in the room over the Kitchen at Stourton Castle. As for Kinver, Edward IV gave it to his brother, Clarence, who gave it to Tewkesbury Abbey from whom Henry VII recovered it for the Crown.

© Kinver Historical Society