Wormleighton Manor
Warwickshire, England
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A.

The Entrance to Wormleighton Manor-House, Warwickshire, England (dated 1613)

Wormleighton, former manor house of the Spencer family, was located in Warwickshire and is a fine example of late Henry VIII or Tudor style architecture. The Normans were responsible for building much of Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle, also located in Warwickshire, following the Norman invasion in 1066. In olden times, there were many castles in this area of England. John Gaunt's Hall was at Kenilworth (Wood, 53).

"When the need for castles passed away, the buildings were adapted to new roles, allowed to decay, and were pulled down and the materials used for constructing other buildings and repairing old ones. Many were converted ... into more comfortable residences by their owners, or sold to new owners to do likewise" (Fry, 111). The county of Warwickshire was dominated, throughout the medieval period, by Coventry which became an important center of wool and textiles trades. The Spencer family's wealth was built on the production of wool. Their first manor house was Hodnell, in Warwickshire, England.

The present Northamptonshire manor house of the Spencer family, Althorp, is decorated with oak paneling brought from Wormleighton. This paneling is now located in the Tapestry dining room. Stained glass, from Wormleighton Manor, was brought to Althorp in the 19th century and installed in Althorp's chapel. Wormleighton was four times the size of Althorp.

The Spencers first established themselves in Warwickshire in the fifteenth century. John Spencer became feoffee of Wormleighton in 1469, and a tenant (lessee) at Althorp in 1486. John Spencer's nephew, John, traded in livestock and other commodities and saved enough money to buy both Wormleighton and Althrop properties. John, the nephew, was then knighted as Sir John Spencer. The original John Spencer (d. 1522) secured the lordship of Wormleighton from the Cope family in 1507 (Spencer, 9). Sir John Spencer married Isabell Graunt.

*A feoffee was a person who invested in a fief (common from 1275-1325) A Middle English term. A fief was a fee held by a feudal lord, a tenure of land that was subject to feudal obligations.

The Cope Family's relationship to the Spencer Family:

The first reference to the Cope family are in Norman records. Turstin Coupe (1180-1195) was the first man. There was also a Hugh Coupe in 1198 records, who may or may not be a relative of Turstin's. As they became more Anglo-Norman, the name was changed from Coupe to Cope. A Robert and Walter Cope was recorded circa 1272. The following genealogy shows that there was about a 200 year gap in records, before this line starts up again:


Alexander Cope.


Sir William Cope (1450-1513),of Grimsby and Hanwell, married Agnes Harcourt (1450-1495) in 1470, Grimsburg, Northamptonshire, England. Agnes was the daughter of Sir Robert Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt, and Margaret Bryon. The Stanton's "Pope Tower" was built in 1470. Sir Robert Harcourt was the high Steward of Oxford University from 1446-1471 (Wood, 174).

The Harcourts, like the Copes were a Norman family who came to England around 1066 with William the Conqueror. Robert de Harcourt married Isabel de Camville whose mother was a cousin of Queen Adeliza. Adeliza was the second wife of Henry I. Upon their marraige, her wedding gift was the lordship of Stanton. The Harcourt family lived in Stanton Harcourt until 1688, when Sir Philip Harcourt died and left it to his second wife Elizabeth. The Harcourt's coat of arms was the peacock.

Sir Robert Harcourt was standard-bearer to Henry VII at the battle of Bosworth Field. Sir William Cope built castle of Banbury, Handwick and St. John's Cowcross, Smithfield, Wormleighton and Fenny-Compton. In 1502, Sir William bought the manor house called "Hanwell" in Wiltshire, England. In 1485, at Battle of Bosworth, William fought for Richard III, and the Knight of the Royal Arms awarded the Cope family their second coat of arms. Sir William was the Keeper of the Privy Purse to Henry VII, father of Henry VIII, and was thus granted the lordships and manors of Wormleighton and Fenny-Compton. Sir William Cope possessed much wealth, and sold "Wormleighton" to Sir John Spencer, father of his second wife, Jane Spencer. The Spencers were the Earls of Sunderland.


Stephen Cope, of Denmede, was married (1) to Anne Saunders and (2) to Jane Spencer, daughter of Sir John Spencer of Hodnell, and heiress to her brother Thomas Spencer. They married circa 1495, at Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, England. Stephen was Sergeant of the Butlery, Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and Sergeant of the poultry to both Henry VIII and Edward VI.


(1)Sir Anthony Cope (1496-1550) of Hanwell,
Hampshire, England, married Jane Cruwys, daughter of Matthew Cruwys of Pynee, on August 4, 1518. Anthony was "Chamberlain" to Queen Catharine Parr. Their family was Protestant. In the will of his grandfather, John Spencer, it states that his mother, Jane Spencer, was married before 1496, which verifies the 1495 date. Anthony was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, England. After his studies, Anthony traveled to France, Germany, and Italy.

(2) William Cope, Esq. died after 1567. William never married. In 1516, he was Esquire of the Body to King Henry VIII; and "Servitor" at the coronation of Queen Anne Boleyn.

(3) Sir John Cope of Eydon and Heale, Northamptonshire, and of Knowle Hall, Warwickshire, England, was Sheriff of Northamptonshire, and a member of Parliament. (d. 22 Jan 1559) married . (1) Bridget Raleigh. (2) Mary Mallory (3) Margaret Tame.


As you will note, the Spencers expanded their holdings through business dealings and marriage into the peerage.

However, not until Sir Robert, First Lord Spencer (1570-1627), does a fully-rounded character emerge from history. Sir Robert married Margaret Willoughby in 1587. Thanks in part to the steady accumulation of his forebears Robert Lord Spencer became one of the richest men in the land. He owned almost 20,000 sheep, and with sales of meat, breeding stock, and wool his income was about £8,000 per annum. As a man of standing, he met James I as the royal court traveled down from Scotland, in 1603, to London. Meanwhile Jamesís wife was entertained at Althorp, which was, at that time, a secondary residence, with a masque by Ben Jonson. Robert was soon ennobled; and like many Spencers afterwards. He suddenly found himself in public service. King James I, sent him as ambassador to Wurtemburg to present Duke Frederick with the Order of the Garter.

Wormleighton was said to belong to the Earl of Mellent (at the Conquest), and afterwards it was inhabited by the De Clintons. "Lawrence Washington and his sons, Sir William and Sir John, were frequent guests at the old house and also at Althorp" (Ditchfield, 89)

During the English Civil War, the house was used as a garrison for the king and abandoned. Charles Spencer says it was "burnt down by the Royalists in the English Civil War (Spencer,9). Prince Rupert slept at Wormleighton.


Biddle-Cope, J.C. The Copes of Wiltshire. from Memoirs of the Copes of Wiltshire. M.A. Worchester College, Oxford, 1882.

Ditchfield, P.H. The Manor Houses of England. New York: Crescent Books, 1985.

Fry, Plantagenet Somerset. Castles of Britain and Ireland. New York: Abbeyville Press Publishers, 1997.

Loyd, Lewis C. The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families. Baltimore, MD.: Genealogical Publishing Compnay, Inc., 1999.

(The)Norman People - a compilation of various Norman records orginally published in Lodon in 1874. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. (reprint), 1999.

Spencer, Charles, Althorp: The Story of an English Manor House. New York: St Martin's Press, 1999, 9

Tyack, Geoffrey and Steven Brindle. Country Houses of England. New York: WW Norton and Company, Inc., 1994.

Wood, Margaret. The English Mediaevil House. New YorK: Harper Colophon Books, 1965.

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