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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)



AMBROSE BRUER. We believe Oliver Bruer of Rose Ash to be the son of John Bruer of Molland, born during a gap in the Molland registers. John was the eldest son of Ambrose Bruer of Knowstone, near the Somerset border.

 From his marriage date in 1574 we should expect Ambrose to have been born around 1550. The Knowstone registers go back to 1538. There is no record of Ambrose’s baptism there, nor any other entry for Bruers.  The earliest occurrence of this surname is Ambrose’s  marriage to Johan Mildon in 1574.

Most of the Brewers whose occupations we know were masons. Typically, sons moved away from their father’s parish to one where there would be more opportunities for work.

Ambrose’s  baptism has not been found elsewhere. His is an unusual name. We have found only one other instance of it before 1574. In 1573, Ambrose Bruer was buried in the parish of Brushford, just across the county border in Somerset. Brushford is six miles from Knowstone.

The early Brushford registers are hard to read. Only some of the entries have been transcribed. The younger Ambrose’s baptism is not among them. The older Ambrose died a year before the younger man’s marriage. They could be father and son, but are more likely to be grandfather and grandson.

Wherever his birthplace, Ambrose set up home in Knowstone and raised his family there.

White’s Devonshire Directory (1850) describes Knowstone as ” a pleasant village, on a bold eminence, encompassed by lofty hills, 9 miles E. by S. of South Molton, .

Opposite St Peter’s church is The Masons Arms. It was built in the century before Ambrose’s to accommodate the masons building the church.

The Masons Arms [1]


 JOHAN MILDON. There were two weddings in Knowstone in quick succession.

10 May 1572   Johan Mildon and William Shepcott
2 Oct 1574  Johan Mildon and Ambrose Bruer

 Either of these brides could be the daughter of Lawrence Myldon and Johan Darte, baptised in Knowstone on 8 Apr 1552. She was the youngest of four children.

No plausible  baptism has been found for the other Johan.

Knowstone has the historic estate of Shapcot, home of the Shapcott family. There is a Shapcott chapel in Knowstone church. William Shepcott was probably related to the future lords of the manor.

After the birth of their first child in Knowstone, the Shepcott family moved on to Molland.

Johan  and Ambrose Bruer stayed in the village. They had the following children baptised at the parish church of St Peter.

1575 Sep 6  John
1577/8 Feb 5  Elnor

1579/80 Mar 7  Mary
1582 Nov 4  Nicholas
1585 Apr 27  Wilmot
1589 May 23  Robt

They appear to be the only family of this name in Knowstone.

There is no record of any of the children dying in infancy, suggesting that the family was not amongst the poorest.

In 1595 their eldest son John married Agnys Norrice. The couple moved to Molland and raised their family there. If John was another mason, this would confirm the family tradition of moving away to seek work. The middle son Nicholas also moved to Molland.


Ambrose died in 1605, four years into the reign of the first Stuart king of England, James I.

Burial. Knowstone.
1605 Apr 18  Ambrose Brewer.

Johan died three  years later.
1607/8 Mar 9  Johan wife of Ambrose Brewr
Normally she would not be described as his wife unless he was still living.

At the time of the 1641 Protestation Return, their youngest son Robert was the only adult male Brewer recorded.


Knowstone has a more recent claim to fame.  Knowstone Manor was built in the 1930s by a German bachelor, who lived there with his housekeeper. He bought up the farms around it to create a large estate. The house was in the shape of swastika. It was rumoured that it was to be used by Hitler and other leading Nazis should they conquer Britain, though this was never proved.


[1] http://www.shapcott-family.com/wpimages/wpf3f9fcc7_05_06.jpg




Sampson Tree