Fay Sampson’s Family History
This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)
WILLIAM SOUTHCOMBE and ?SARAH (15)
WILLIAM SOUTHCOMBE was the son and heir of Hugh Southcombe, a landed gentleman, who in the 1524-7 Lay Subsidy Roll was taxed in the parish of Crediton. We do not know his mother’s name.
At Hugh’s death in 1539 William was said to be “aged 40 years and more”. This puts his birth in the 1490s.
This was in the reign of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. These were troubled times. In 1495 the pretender Perkin Warbeck laid claim to the throne. Cornishmen rebelled against the taxes levied for the king’s war against Scotland. They marched across Devon on their way to Blackheath. They were defeated before Warbeck could join them. In 1497 he laid siege to Exeter. He was executed in 1499.
It is possible that William grew up in Crediton, though his father’s home there has not been identified. At his death, Hugh’s largest estate was in Cheldon.
After a period when the crown had been rapidly changing hands, Henry VII died in 1509. The accession of Henry VIII ushered in a lengthy time of stability in which William grew to manhood.
By the time of the 1524-7 Subsidy Roll, William was an adult. He may still have been living at home and thus not subject to tax. Or he may be the William Southcombe of Meshaw, who was taxed for wages at an assessment of £1. Meshaw is just south of Mariansleigh, where we find William living at the time of the 1543-6 Subsidy Roll. On that later roll, he was assessed for tax at the high figure of £12 for land. The difference between income from wages of £1, around 1525, and from land of £12, around 1545, seems a large gap to bridge, so these may be different men. But on the earlier roll, William had not yet inherited estates from his father, and some gentlemen did apprentice their sons to a trade. He might have been learning the wool business, on which Devon’s prosperity depended.
He was probably married by now, with a young family. We do not know his wife’s name, but there is a clue that it may have begun with S. If so, then it was probably Sarah. We assume that they married in the 1520s.
There is no proof that their eldest son was Robert, but the succession of their names, both in the a file of leases for Bynneford Farm and in the tax and muster rolls, and also the difference of a generation in their dates, suggest that he was.
William’s father died on 8 Aug 1539, soon after the Reformation in which Henry VIII broke from Rome and established the Church of England.
Hugh Southcombe’s Inquisition Post Mortem was held in Exeter on 19 November of that year. It established that William was Hugh’s heir and listed the properties he would inherit.  The largest of these was 250 acres, with two messuages, in East and West Cheldon. This was not leased to anyone else, and may be where William’s father had by then made his home.
There were 140 acres and a messuage at Upham in Cheriton Fitzpaine, also not leased out, and 16 acres and a messuage at Tokyngemylle (Tucking Mill) in the same parish.
He had 12 acres at Nether Stykerigge in Cruwys Morchard, leased to Thomas Isaak and his wife Agnes. This was said to be ‘in Langlegh’, but there is other evidence suggesting Langlegh was a separate estate.
Crosse, a farm in the village of Poughill, consisted of a messuage, two tofts, and 34 acres. It was leased to John and Alice Lovell.
In East Tapps and Oakhayes in the parish of Oakford he had a messuage, 2 tofts and 120 acres. This was leased to Richard and Joan Radford. The Radfords were kinsmen of the Southcombes and some of these estates may have been inherited by Willliam’s great-uncle from the Radford family.
Although it is not mentioned in Hugh’s IPM, William also inherited the farm of Bynneforde in Stockleigh English.
William was now a landed gentleman, if he not been one before.
Sometime in this period he moved to Mariansleigh, 15 miles north of Crediton. His son Robert seems to have come, too.
Entries for Southcombe in the 16th century Subsidy Rolls are as follows:
|Down St Mary||Richard||W 1|
G = goods, L = land, W = wages. The amount is the annual income in £s.
There were no Southcombes listed as taxpayers in Mariansleigh in 1524-7, so it is reasonable to assume that both new arrivals in the 1543-5 Subsidy Rolls were from the same family. William had the highest rating for land of any Southcombe, though Philip in Kenton had a higher rating for goods. Robert, assessed in Mariansleigh at a modest £2, could be a man with a young family heading his own household, but not yet inheriting large estates.
William may have been the first of the Southcombes to live at Yeo Barton, which his great-grandson certainly owned in 1632. Yeo Barton is a farmhouse on the northern edge of the parish, where the Crooked Oak brook forms the boundary with Bishops Nympton. This was a high quality house of medieval origin, in which the main room was a hall which rose the full height of the building. Along the east wall of this hall still runs a bench, with a finely carved back which has Renaissance-style arabesques. This would fit a 16th century date. On one of these plaques are carved the initials W&S, or less probably WS. The W is almost certainly William, who could be William Southcombe. The S is most probably the initial of William’s wife. Sarah and Susan were popular names with that initial, with Sarah being the most common.
There are similar plaques or shields along the whole wall, which were doubtless intended to carry the initials of William’s successors. Sadly all the others have been left blank, depriving us of valuable evidence.
Whether or not William Southcombe lived at Yeo Barton, he was the largest landholder in Mariansleigh and would have had a similarly high-status house. This illustration of an open hall matches very well the pattern at Yeo Barton, except that there the bench along the wall is much more intricately carved. If the initials in that carving are William’s and those of his wife, then he probably commissioned the Renaissance style decoration when he bought the house.
This was the main room of the farmhouse whose work Mistress Southcombe would have presided over. Originally it had an open hearth. Later in the 16th century a fireplace and chimney stack were added on the front wall at Yeo Barton. There was also a room at either end of the house.
In 1544-1551 there was a lawsuit in Chancery relating to lands William owned.
William Escott and … his wife, executrix and late the wife of Willliam Radford v William son and heir of Hugh Southcombe: Loan intended to have been secured on lands in East Cheldon and elsewhere. 
William Southcombe’s great-uncle, John Hyll alias Southcombe, had inherited at least some of his lands from Thomas Radford, to whom he was related. We may assume that William Radford was a descendant of this Thomas, and thus related to William Southcombe. Land in East and West Cheldon formed the largest of the estates which William had inherited from his father.
There was a replication of a lawsuit between these parties, date uncertain. Presumably William Southcombe had borrowed money from William Radford and was alleged not to have repaid it.
One estate which we know was formerly owned by the Radfords was Bynneforde in Stockleigh English. This stands beside Binneford Water, a tributary of the Creedy. Generations of Southcombes granted leases on it. William followed his father in this.
On 12 June 1549, William Southcombe, gent, granted a lease for 90 years or the life of the lessee to Joan, the wife of Robert Bradforde. It was for ‘messuages, lands and tenements in Bynneforde in the parish of Stockelegh Englysshe now in the tenure of Thomas Bradford and Alice his wife and the said Robert Bradford.’ The term was to begin on the deaths of Thomas, Alice and Robert. Robert Bradforde made a down payment (‘consideration’) of £4. Joan’s rent was to be 26s 8d. On the death of the previous tenant, the heriot (death duty) was the deceased’s best beast.
This deed was a suit of court at the grantor’s court at ‘Crose’ (possibly Cruwys Morchard). The witnesses were Edmund Roland, George Downe, and Gilbert Atwyll.
William is styled as “gentleman”. His grandfather had been lord of the manor of Poughill, but there is no evidence that William was.
Henry VIII’s 38-year reign ended with his death in 1547. William Southcombe certainly lived to see the start of the boy king Edward VI’s six-year reign, and perhaps that of Mary I in 1553. If he was still alive in his 70s, he may even have witnessed the celebrations when Elizabeth I ascended the throne in 1558.
The absence of William’s name from the 1569 Muster Roll points to his dying before that date. Though he would have been too old to be eligible for service, his wealth would have made him liable for a special charge to provide armour and weapons, and he would have been named on the roll..
There is at least one Robert Southcombe, and possibly two, on that Muster Roll. One is a leading parishioner who presents the roll. He falls into the lowest income category liable for the special charge. This is probably William’s son, who had taken over William’s estates. There is a third mention of Robert Southcombe as an archer. He is probably William’s grandson.
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