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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)


Sampson Tree


OWEN FARRIER may have come from Wales.[1] It is not certain whether the researcher had evidence for this, or deduced it from the Welsh name Owen and the accessibility of Berrynarbor from South Wales. The Nerbert family who gave their name to Berrynarbor came from Narberth in Pembrokeshire.[2] Certainly there were a number of Welshmen and women in the parish, noted in the registers as “a welchman” or “ a Welchwoman”. Owen is not so recorded, but this may be because he was by then settled in the parish.

His surname is uncommon in Devon. There are very few occurrences in the 16th century tax and muster rolls, none of them in North Devon. Up to the 19th century the IGI offers only 115 births or baptisms for the name Farrier or Ferrier in Devon. Only one of these is in the 16th century. In 1590, Thomas Farryer or Farrer had a son baptised in Exeter. From tax rolls, he appears to have lived in Powderham and is probably not connected. There are many smaller parishes not included on the IGI, and others whose records begin later. Neighbouring Combe Martin, for instance, only has registers from 1671. There remains a real possibility that Owen Farrier introduced the surname to North Devon.

There are, however, even fewer instances of the surname in Wales – 58 on the IGI. None of them is this early, though that may be because few Welsh parish registers go back that far. It may be that Owen had Welsh blood, but that his father was not Welsh.

There is a tradition in Denis Wood’s family that the surname is of French origin. We can, however, discount stories that it derives from a French ancestor at the time of the French Revolution. The Farriers were in North Devon much earlier than this.

Owen is believed to have been born between 1585 and 1595, towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, a date estimated from the birth dates of his children.


JOANE. As yet, we know the name of Owen’s wife only from the Berrynarbor burial register. We do not know her surname, or where she married Owen. The wedding does not appear in the Berrynarbor register. It could have been in a nearby parish such as Combe Martin or Kentisbury, whose registers begin later.

The Farrier tree gives Owen a son David, and says he may also have been born in Wales, between 1615-1630. Again, there is probably no evidence for this, other than that his baptism is not in the Berrynarbor register. David first appears in the records as an adult in Weare Giffard. If he was born outside Berrynarbor,  then it was most probably at the beginning of that suggested date range, since Owen and Joane spent the rest of their lives there. That would make him the eldest known child, born in the reign of James I, David is another good Welsh name, not much used in England at this time. There are several other instances in the Berrynarbor registers, one of whom is said to be a Welshman.


Owen Farrier first enters the records with the baptism of a child in Berrynarbor in 1617. This is a village near the small port of Ilfracombe in North Devon. He could have sailed here from Wales across the Bristol Channel. Today there is a ferry service between Ilfracombe and Swansea.

White’s Devonshire Directory  of 1850 says that “Berrynarbor is a pleasant village, on an eminence near the sea coast, overlooking Combemartin Cove, 3 miles E of Ilfracombe. Its parish contains … a range of hills in which lime and other stone is got.”

In the parish is Watermouth Castle, which has many cellars and underground passages. “One striking feature of this subterranean labyrinth is a wide tunnel-like passage under the tower and which slopes towards the sea. This was most probably a tunnel or slipway through which boats could be hauled up from the sea to a boathouse or warehouse under the main building … Who can say that the fortunes of earlier occupants were not derived from sea-trading of a questionable nature in the days when it is believed the tidal waters rose to a much higher level than they do today?”[3]

These tunnels contain niches for tallow lights which are not normally found after the 16th century.


Two children of Owen were born in Berrynarbor.

Baptisms. Berrynarbor.
1617 Julie 5  John sonne of Owen fferrier
1622 Maie 26  Elizabeth dau of Owen fferrier.


Joane and Owen both lived to see the tumult of the Civil War.

In 1642 the Protestation Returns required every man over 18 to swear an oath of loyalty to the king and the Protestant religion. No Farriers took the oath in Berrynarbor, nor in the surrounding parishes. Owen was probably around 50 then, so it is unclear why he did not. He may have been a Catholic who refused to take the oath, or perhaps away at sea.

Berrynarbor’s rector, George Westcott, is said to have been a loyalist clergyman. “In order no doubt to protect himself from the attentions of the Puritans, [he] married as his second wife Grace Whychalse whose brother was John Wychalse, the Parliamentary Commissioner. One of the primary tasks of John Wychalse as Commissioner was the ejection of Loyalist Clergy. By this marriage he escaped being sequestered and it is perhaps for this reason that the beautiful 16th century early plate still survives in the Church and the Church did not suffer so much destruction as others.”[4]

The Wychalses had held Watermouth Castle.


John and Joane lived on into the time of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell.

Burials. Berrynarbor.
1651  Dec 5  Joane the wife of Owen Farrier.
1659  June 21  Owen ffarrier.

Joane was probably around 60 when she died and Owen about 70.

Neither of them lived to see the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660.


[1] Farrier tree compiled by Dennis Wood, based on research by David White.
[2] A.J.A. Blake, Berrynarbor; A Short History and Introduction to the Village.
[3] Blake.
[4] Blake.





Sampson Tree