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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



THOMAS HOPER. There are no Howpers/Hopers  in the 1525 Lay Subsidy Roll for Molland where we later find Thomas.[1] There are two in South Molton, 6 miles away: John Hoper at G22/3 and Richard Hoper at W1. Thomas appears to have called his eldest son John, so it is possible that the more affluent John Hoper is Thomas’s father, but the evidence is not strong enough for this to be more than a guess.

 Our first firm information comes in the 1545 Lay Subsidy Roll for Molland.[2]

Thomas Howper is assessed at £5. There are 48 taxpayers on the list. One is assessed at £9, one at £8, one at £7, two at £6 and three at £5. This puts Thomas in the top sixth for income in the parish.

There are no other Howpers/Hoopers listed for Molland. The impression we have is of a man who moved away from his birthplace to set up on his own in this parish in the foothills of Exmoor. Since his son was a yeoman farmer, it is very likely that Thomas was too. The fact that he was assessed for goods, not land, shows us that he was a tenant farmer.


The name Molland means “land of the bare hills”. The village actually lies below the heather-clad slopes of Molland Comman, home to red deer, Exmoor ponies and buzzards.


Molland [3]
We have no information about Thomas’s wife. Although the Molland registers go back to 1538, we have not found his marriage or his wife’s burial. He may well have married outside the parish, or pages of old registers can become mutilated or illegible.

Nor have we found the baptisms of his children, either here or in any nearby parish. He was succeeded by John Hooper as the sole representative of that surname in the 1581 tax return for Molland[4]. It is fairly certain that John is Thomas’s son, probably the eldest.

There was a convention that the second daughter was named after the father’s mother. John Hooper’s second daughter was Christian, so this may be the name of Thomas’s wife, but this pattern cannot always be relied on.


We next meet Thomas in the 1569 Muster Roll for Molland.[5] Thomas Howper is one of four presenters of the roll, and therefore a significant figure in the village.

He also appears as Thomas Hooper on the list of those sufficiently wealthy to be required to make an extra contribution of arms and armour. He was classed as G7, which was the lowest rating for which this was demanded. All those in G7 were required to contribute 1 bow, 1 sheaf of arrows, 1 steel cap and 1 bill (a long-handled weapon with a hooked blade). In addition, Thomas was charged with providing 1 corselet and 1 pike.

He does not appear in the lists of those bearing arms – archers, halberdiers, pikemen, etc. He was nearing the end of his life and must have been too old or infirm by then. Those bearing arms were between 16 and 60.

He is the only one of that surname in the Muster Roll. Either John was living in another parish, or was unable to bear arms because of some disability.


The impression we have of Thomas is of a yeoman farmer of some means, who was a respected figure in the community.


Thomas died the following year and was buried in Molland.

Burial. St Mary, Molland.
1569/70 Mar 8  Thomas Hoper.

He had lived through the Tudor reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I, and part way through that of Elizabeth I.

In 1570 the will of Thomas Elston alias Hoper of Molland was proved. This is the first indication we have of this alternative surname. It is found in parishes outside Molland, particularly in the village of Washfield near Tiverton, 12 miles south of Molland. It is possible that Thomas’s origins lie there.

A search for Thomas’s baptism, marriage or children using the Elston surname has produced no results.


 [1] Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-1527, ed. T.L. Stoate. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[2] Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1543-1545. ed. T.L. Stoate. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[3] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a3/MollandPanorama.jpg/240px-MollandPanorama.jpg
[4] Devon Taxes 1581-1660. ed. T.L. Stoate. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[5] The Devon Muster Roll for 1569. Ed.T.L. Stoate and A.J. Howard. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/




Sampson Tree