The earliest Hanwell COPE ancestor was John Cope of Denshanger, County of Northants (South), M.P. and High Sheriff for the same County. Described as "a very important person" during the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV, he married the daughter and heiress of John Newnenham. John Cope died in 1414. His younger son was William Cope of Spratton who married the daughter and heir of William Gossage of Spratton, County Northants. Their son was Stephen Cope whose son was Sir William Cope of Banbury, Cofferer to Henry VII and Constable of Porchester Castle. This William married twice; firstly a widow Agnes Harcourt (daughter of Sir Robert Harcourt) and secondly to Jane, daughter of Sir John Spencer. William seems to have held several very strange sounding appointments, including “Steward of Guildford and Henley Parks; Sargeant of Catery and of the Poultry; Steward of Worpleden and Witeby; Lieutenant of Southbere Forest; Bailiff of Bedhampton; and Secretary to the Duchess of Savoy”!
I’m told that all descendants of the Hanwell COPE family possess an Ancestral Chart and a Signet Ring, but we have neither, and as far as I am concerned that is confirmation there is no true link! The reason the family was keen to try was the word-of-mouth stories handed down over several generations, that the Gloucestershire branch of the family originated from twins who arrived in Berkeley as wards of a solicitor and they had then been placed in a Manor House and Farm. It had been assumed they eventually left because they were not used to working and could not make ends meet. The tale goes on to suggest that the children's Mother was the first wife of one of the Protestant Hanwell Baronets. When that Baronet remarried, the second wife, who was Catholic, sent the first wife's children away in order to safeguard the inheritance of her own children. This was supposed to have taken place during the Reformation. As mentioned on page 2 there was a branch of the Hanwell family who went to live in a Manor House at Iccombe, near Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds in the early 17th Century and according the official linealogy, William Cope of Iccombe’s line died out with no heirs in the 18th Century (I think). Early in my investigations I thought this family might have been the source of our line, but as time went on I discovered dozens of Copes going back to the 1500’s in my area of interest, which appears to rule that out.
It seems that most families have similar tales about links to noble or aristocratic families and most are either highly exaggerated, false or are impossible to prove. However, the process of discovery is interesting and good fun while playing detective.
In recent times families are far more scattered than they used to be but I have confirmed my line is definitely from the Gloucestershire group with the preponderance being around Berkeley and further south. They appear to have moved northwards in the late 18th century from the part of Gloucestershire that was subsumed in 1974 by Avon, in particular Westerleigh, Pucklechurch, Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell, Old Sodbury, Dyrham and Bitton.
You will see from the next section that I think I’m back to a John Coape of Westerleigh who died in 1664. There are groups going back over 100 years earlier in Bitton and 300 years earlier in the Parish of Dyrham and Hinton, but as nearly every one of them seems to be named John Cope, Coap or Coape, and records that far back are difficult to find (or confirm) I’ve been unable to establish the links I need and it is very frustrating.