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Colonel Alexander Popham, of Littlecote, Wiltshire, portrait circa 1660-5 by Abraham Staphorst
Arms of Popham: Argent, on a chief gules two stag's heads cabossed or

Alexander Popham (1605 – 1669) of Littlecote, Wiltshire, was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1640 and 1669. He was patron of the philosopher John Locke.

Early life

Popham was born at Littlecote House in Wiltshire, the son of Sir Francis Popham and Anne Gardiner Dudley, and grandson of Sir John Popham and wife Amy Games. He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and admitted to the Middle Temple in 1622.[1]


Popham was a prominent figure and Justice of the Peace in Somerset. In April 1640 he was elected Member of Parliament for Bath in the Short Parliament. He was re-elected MP for Bath for the Long Parliament in November 1640.[1]

Civil War and Interregnum

Popham came from a Presbyterian family and was himself an elder in the church. He supported the Parliamentary cause.[1] On the outbreak of war he was colonel of the Bath Trained Band, the part-time force of local infantry. After it served in the Siege of Sherborne in September 1642, he took its weapons early in 1643 to arm a full-time regiment of foot for Parliament.[2] Popham's Foot saw action in the 1643 Western campaign that culminated in the Battle of Roundway Down near Devizes. He also had a garrison stationed at Littlecote House.[1][3][4]

Despite his Presbyterianism, Popham's sympathies lay with the Army during the Second Civil War, so he survived Pride's Purge in late 1648 and – after the execution of Charles I and the founding of the Commonwealth – he served on the Council of State.[1]

In 1654, he was elected MP for Bath again in the First Protectorate Parliament. He was elected MP for Wiltshire in the Second Protectorate Parliament and for Minehead in the Third Protectorate Parliament. He did not support the Protectorate and although he sat in the Protectorate parliaments he refused to take his seat in Cromwell's Other House (1657–1658).[1]


In April 1660, he was elected MP for Bath in the Convention Parliament. After the restoration of the monarchy, he made his peace with Charles II and entertained him to a "costlie dinner" at Littlecote. He was re-elected MP for Bath in 1661 to the Cavalier Parliament.[1]


Littlecote House, Wiltshire, the seat of the Popham family

Popham inherited from his father in 1644, his older brother John (also an MP) having died in 1637.[5]

Popham married first Dorothy Cole (died 1643) and second Letitia Carre, daughter of William Carre of Ferniehurst, Scotland, half brother to Robert Carre, favourite of King James I. By his second wife, he had eight children, of whom six, three sons and three daughters, survived into adulthood:

Deaf nephew

This Alexander Popham is not to be confused with his nephew Alexander Popham, son of Alexander's brother Edward Popham, who was born deaf and was taught to speak by two scientists, John Wallis and William Holder. He is considered to be one of the earliest cases of a born deaf person learning to talk.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Helms, M. W.; Cassidy, Irene. "POPHAM, Alexander (c.1605-69), of Houndstreet, Som. and Littlecote, Wilts". History of Parliament Online. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  2. ^ Popham's Bath Trained Band at British Civil Wars Project.
  3. ^ Wroughton, John (2004). Stuart Bath: Life in the Forgotten City, 1603–1714. Wiltshire, England: The Lansdown Press. p. 45.
  4. ^ Popham's Foot at British Civil Wars Project.
  5. ^ "POPHAM, John (1603-1637), of Houndstreet, Som., and Littlecote, Wilts". History of Parliament Online. Archived from the original on 4 September 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Find could end 350-year science dispute". BBC News: Health. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2021.

Further reading

External links

1 Annotation

Second Reading

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Alexander Popham’s ancestors had been seated in Somerset since the late 13th century, and first represented the county in 1300.

In the Civil War the Pophams were strongly parliamentarian. Col. Alexander Popham, although a Presbyterian elder, continued to sit after Pride’s Purge and served on the council of state. But he opposed the Protectorate and refused to take his seat in the other House in 1657-8.

He was in touch with royalist agents in 1659, declaring himself ‘ready to expiate his former actions’, but proved ‘a broken reed’ at Booth’s Rising.

In Jan. 1660 he offered his life, fortune and interest to Charles II, but the Cavaliers looked upon him with suspicion as one of the Presbyterian junto.

Col. Popham was returned unopposed to the Convention for Bath, ten miles from his residence at Houndstreet. Although marked by Lord Wharton as a friend, and regarded as aiming at a conditional Restoration, he was reported to be delighted with the unanimity and cheerfulness of proceedings in the first week of Parliament. He was not a very active Member.

Col. Popham and his colleague, William Prynne, were opposed at Bath by two Cavaliers in the general election of 1661, but allowed to take their seats after a double return.

He was again inactive, being appointed to only six committees.

He gave the King ‘a costly dinner’ at Littlecote in 1663, and further demonstrated his loyalty by his activity as deputy lieutenant when a rising was threatened a few weeks later.

He must have conformed, but is unlikely to have favoured the Clarendon Code.

He was among the Members chosen to thank Charles II and the City for defending the nation against the Dutch in 1664.

Col. Alexander was buried at Chilton Foliat on 8 Dec. 1669, leaving an estate estimated at £4,000 p.a.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.