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Celebrating Hampshire's Historians

Cope, William Henry (Rev. Sir)

27.02.1811 - 07.01.1892

William was the son of Lieutenant- General E.R. Cope. He was born in France, where his parents had been detained from 1803 to 1813. He had Irish connections and undertook part of his higher education at Trinity College, Dublin, from where he graduated with a BA degree in 1831. Initially serving in the Rifle Brigade, in 1839 he took Holy Orders. He was chaplain of Westminster Hospital from 1843 to 1851 and a minor canon and librarian of Westminster Abbey.

In 1851 he succeeded his cousin Sir John Cope in the baronetcy and came into possession of the Bramshill estate. This made Sir William Charles Kingsley’s squire and they struck up what was described as a ‘warm friendship’ between ‘two ardent, high-minded, and rather unconventional clergymen’. Cope preached at Kingsley’s funeral and there are many ‘allusions to Bramshill’ in the work of Kingsley (Reading Mercury, 16 January 1892, p.4). Other evidence, however, suggests that the relationship, particularly in relation to living conditions at the rectory, was somewhat fraught (Turley, 1976).

Sir William was married twice. His first wife was Marianne Garnett. Their marriage was on 12 August 1834. However he was widowed on 20 December 1862. His second marriage to Harriette Margaret Hautenville took place on 30 August 1865.

He was undoubtedly an ardent collector of material relating to Hampshire and its history (see below). As recorded in a letter from George Minns published in the Hampshire Advertiser (23 April 1892, p.8) the ‘library at Bramshill contained many priceless treasures of great local interest.’ With respect to his character, ‘he was an earnest, genial, pious, ... [and] high-minded man’ (Truth, 14 January 1892, p.56).

Sir William died at his residence in Southsea and his funeral was held at Eversley.



William Henry Cope

Source: University of Southampton, Special Collections.

Contribution to county’s history

His principal contribution was the bequest, in 1892, of his entire collection of publications about Hampshire to the Hartley Institute. This consisted of 1,427 books, 50 bound volumes of pamphlets, seven massive albums of engravings, and a further collection of individual prints. They constituted the foundations of what is known as the Cope Collection. As pointed out in a University of Southampton blog ‘the Cope Collection is a rich trove of resources on the history of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and among its treasures are over a thousand printed illustrations, consisting mainly of engravings and lithographs.’ Thus, the collection has provided Hampshire historians with a wonderful resource. In addition, Cope made a valued contribution to facilitating the compilation of Bibliotheca Hantoniensis 1891. As Turley indicates, however, ‘Cope’s role went no further than that of a major supplier of information, and certainly did not extend to being ‘really the compiler’ (Turley 1975, p.xv).’  

Relevant published works

  • Bramshill: its History and Architecture (London: H.J. Infield, [1883?])

  • The Bridal Chest of Bramshill (Portsmouth: W.H.Charpentier & Co, 1890)

  • Glossary of Hampshire Words and Phrases (London: Trübner for the English Dialect Society, 1883)

  • History of the Parish of Eversley (Southsea: Ansell, 1886)

  • Unpublished collections at the University of Southampton Library:

  • Extracts relating to the Bishops and Diocese of Winchester [press cuttings]

  • Hampshire Gleanings: [miscellaneous cuttings from various publications, 1684-1872]

  • Hampshire Newspaper Cuttings (2 vols)

  • Views in Hampshire (7 vols)

Critical Comments

Other Comments

It is worth reinforcing the point made in the profile of Thomas William Shore that he ‘played a major role in settling the Cope Collection in a safe academic environment.’ As recorded in the blog mentioned above, ‘his standing in local history circles secured’ for the Hartley Institute Cope’s bequest. ‘Cope had apparently conferred with Shore about the disposal of his collection and obtained his advice in the form of words to be used in the bequest.’


Roger Ottewill and Jenny Ruthven (11 March 2024)


Bramshill, Charles Kingsley, The Cope Collection, Hartley College

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