William Soper was a burgess, steward and twice mayor of Southampton in the first half of the 15th century. He was active in the king’s service from the early years of Henry V’s reign and had a long association with the navy, supervising ship building and repairs. He built the naval vessel Holy Ghost in 1414. Soon after its launch he was created Clerk of the King’s ships and from 1422 he was Keeper and Governor of the King’s Ships. Between 1416 and 1418 he built the Gracedieu, possibly the biggest ship in the world at that time. He was also involved in trade, being particularly active in wine and wool, and he held many important offices in the town, including Collector of Customs. He held many properties in the town including a large tenement at the south-west end of the High Street abutting on to the Water Gate. He died in 1459 and was buried in the nave of the Franciscan Friary.

See also

'Grace Dieu'

Further reading:
Medieval Southampton, by Colin Platt, p237-238. (HS/h)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 51.
The Navy of the Lancastrian Kings: Accounts and Inventories of William Soper, Keeper of the King’s Ships, 1422-1427, by Susan Rose. (359.622MA)


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