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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)



ROBERT SOUTHCOMBE. Despite the loss of many early parish registers, there are a number of records of a Robert Southcombe in various North Devon parishes in the 16th century. It would be unwise to assume too readily that they all refer to the same man, but there is reason to believe that many of them do.

Early in 1598, by the modern calendar, Robert Southcombe gave evidence in a dispute over a will. He testified that he was:

Robert Southcombe gent. of Satterley where he has lived 28 years, aged 60.[1]

This places Robert’s birth in 1537.

A family tree of unknown provenance puts Robert as one of the three sons of Margaret Southcomb, who died in 1580.[2] The source of this information is not stated, but it probably comes from Margaret’s will.[3] This was proved in Barnstaple but later transferred to Exeter, where it was lost in the Blitz. The index of Barnstaple wills says she was ‘of Maryansleigh’. This makes it highly likely that Robert’s father was another Robert Southcombe, who was a leading citizen there and appears in the Subsidy and Muster Rolls.

Robert’s brothers are said in this family tree to be George and Humphrey. The relationship with George is confirmed by George’s will. What is not certain is whether the brother Humphrey was named as such in Margaret’s will, or whether his relationship was merely inferred from the fact that, like Robert, a Humfrye Southcombe witnessed George’s will. In that case, there may be a confusion with Robert’s son Humfrye.

Two years before Robert’s birth, Henry VIII had broken with the Roman Catholic Church, making himself head of the Church of England by the Act of Supremacy. The year after Robert was born, or that same year if his birthday was in January or February, Henry ordered every parish in England to keep records of all baptisms, marriages and burials which occurred within its boundaries. Very few parishes have registers going back that far. Not only were early records lost, but, in rural areas in particular, there was some difficulty in getting the new registers kept according to the law. The first entries were usually on paper. It was only in 1598 that orders were given to copy them onto parchment. Unfortunately, the wording of the order encouraged less conscientious scribes to begin only from Elizabeth I’s accession in 1558. Robert’s baptism would, in any case, have been just too early to appear in any register.

We do not know where he was born, except that it was not in Satterleigh. It was probably in or near Mariansleigh, five miles to the east. He would have been living there as a small boy by the time of the tax assessment in the Devon Subsidy Rolls of 1543. In ‘Marlegh’, or Mariansleigh, in 1545, Robert Southcombe was assessed at £2, and in 1546 William Southcombe for land at £12.[4] A file of property deeds, naming a succession of Southcombe owners of Bynneforde in Stockleigh English, makes it likely that the landed William was little Robert’s grandfather, and that the adult Robert, his father.[5] Robert senior had not yet inherited the family estates, but Robert junior was from the parish’s leading family.

Robert is thought to have married around 1560, when he would have been in his mid-twenties.[6]


ELLYNOUR CRUWYS was the daughter of John Cruwys, of Cruwys Morchard, Esq., and Anne Keynes of Winkleigh. Her father was the eldest son of John Cruwys senior, lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard. This family had held the manor since Norman times. Her mother’s family had held the manor of Winkleigh Keynes.[7]

We do not know the date of Ellynour’s birth. Girls from high-class families often married in their teens, while brides from farming and labouring families were normally sturdy women in their twenties. A birth-date in the late 1530s or early 1540s is the most probable.

As a girl, she would have been at the wedding of her eldest brother Humphrey to Dorothy Hatch of Aller. Both were from the oldest landed families in the county. The wedding was paid for by the bride’s stepfather, Geoffrey Tothyll of Peamore. He ‘consented against the daie of maryage to prepare and give unto Humphrey Cruwys and Dorothy Hacche such conveyant decent apparell for theyr bodies as theyr estates and degree requyreth and shall requyre for them to have and were at the time of the said espowsells.. and also to provyde prepare and give unto Humphrey and Dorothy at the sayd marriage meate drynke and lodgynge sufficient and conveyant as well for them as also for such of theyr friends as shall there accompanie them’.[8]

Ellynour’s own marriage to Robert Southcombe almost certainly took place in Cruwys Morchard. The parish registers begin too late for it to be recorded there. If it was around 1560, Elizabeth I had been on the throne for only two years.


The couple had a daughter and a son baptised in the parish of Bishops Nympton.

Baptisms. Bishops Nympton.
1562(3) Southcombe, Thomasyn  d. of Roberte.  7 Jan
1566  Southcombe, George  s. of Robert.  4 Dec

It is, however, likely that Robert and Ellynour were already living in Mariansleigh. Sixty years later, and probably for long time before that, Robert’s son Humfrye was the owner of Yeo Barton, a medieval open hall farmhouse  in Mariansleigh. Evidence suggests it had been in the Southcombe family since the arrival in Mariansleigh of Robert’s grandfather William.[9] This farm is on the parish boundary with Bishops Nympton. Robert and Ellynour may have lived there, or in another house on its land. Yeo Barton is nearer to Bishop Nympton’s parish church than to Mariansleigh’s. Registers should say if someone was from another parish, but they were not always conscientiously kept in this respect.

There was at least one other son, who was probably the eldest. In 1596, Humfrye Southcombe is named as Robert’s son and heir apparent.[10] Either Humfrye was born before 1566, when George was baptised, or George died before he was 30. Since it does not appear in the Bishops Nympton register, Humfrye’s baptism probably took place in Mariansleigh’s church. There may have been other children baptised there, too.

In 1585, there was a burial in Bishops Nympton for John, son of Andrewe Southcombe. We have no further record of Andrewe. It is possible that he was another son of Robert and Ellynour, or perhaps a nephew.

Robert and Ellynour and their young family were certainly living in Mariansleigh by the 1569 Muster Roll. Robert was then 32. By now, Robert’s grandfather, the landed gentleman William Southcombe, had died. Robert’s father would have inherited his estates.

Mustering, which in this period meant little more than a display and inspection of men and equipment, arose out of the obligation of every man to bear arms in home defence. In 1567 a strong Spanish army established in the Netherlands constituted a real threat to England. The preparation for the muster took place through the hundred and parish constables whose business it also was to prepare the rolls of the men taking part.

At the beginning of each hundred the presenters state whether or not there is any park for the breeding of horses in their hundred and whether any horses have been transported abroad. This was forbidden without licence and in view of the fact that “the brede of horses is sore decayed”, all owners of parks of up to two miles in circumference were to keep 2 mares, and over that 4 mares.

The sworn presenters… are among the more important parishioners and are often duplicated in the next section. All citizens possessed of certain wealth, including widows and clergy, were to provide armour and weapons according to a laid down scale and were subject to penalties if they did not do so, except that it was a valid excuse if they were genuinely unable to obtain them because of “want and lack of within the realm”. About a third of the number were taxed in an Elizabethan subsidy; thus they were made up of the gentry and the richer yeomen.[11]

The name of Robert Southcombe appears three times in the Mariansleigh roll.

Marensleghe:  Presenters sworen:  Robert Southcomb  John Smale  Nicholas Britten
Who do presente as aforesaid
Robert Southcombe  G7 + 1 cors, 1 pike                              John Smale  G7
Thinhabitants not particularlie chardged by the Statute are accessed to fynde and maynteyne one corslet, one pike, one almon rivet, one large bowe, one sheaf of arrows, one blacke bille, one caliver, one murryon.
The names of all the habell menne within the saide parishe of Marleghe mustered:

Archers: …… Robert Southcomb

Robert junior’s father, Robert Southcombe senior, was well-fitted to be a presenter of the muster roll. A list of free tenants of Mariansleigh in the reign of Elizabeth is headed by ‘Robert Southcombe Gentleman’. He is the only gentleman listed. The Muster Roll shows him to be the most affluent man in the parish.  Wealthier citizens were assessed on a graded scale for land or goods. G7 was the lowest category to be specially charged. It meant they had a nominal income of £10 to £20 annually, though this often did not reflect the person’s real wealth. No one in Mariansleigh is ranked higher.

Robert senior was probably too old to serve in person. It seems very likely that it is Robert junior who is listed among the archers.

The ablemen of the parish were divided into light horsemen, archers, harquebusiers, pikemen and billmen. The harquebus was an early firearm.

As an archer, Robert would have worn a leather coat. He would have been armed with a longbow of yew, about 6 ft in length. It was supposed to be the distance between the outstretched arms of the archer, and usually about his own height. With it, he took a sheaf of 24 arrows. He also carried a sword and dagger, so that he would not be helpless if the enemy closed in for hand-to-hand fighting. There was rivalry between the archers and the harquebusiers. The archers prided themselves on being really fit and trained men. As guns gained in popularity, the days when every boy learned to shoot with the bow were fast disappearing.

His brother George has not been found on the Muster Roll, though we would expect him to be over 16 by now. He might have been ‘unable’, but the account of his death 26 years later shows him to be physically active then. Or he may have been in a parish whose muster roll records are lost.

The witness statement in the 1597 dispute over a will says that Robert Southcombe had then lived in Satterleigh for 28 years. This means he and Ellynour moved to this little village, on the hills between the rivers Taw and Mole, in 1569. The timing is very tight for this Robert to be the archer of Mariansleigh. He would have to have moved within months of the muster. But there were no Southcombes on the Satterleigh Muster Roll that year and no other Robert Southcombe has been found on the roll elsewhere. By the 1581 Subsidy Roll there were no Southcombes left in Mariansleigh. The deed of 1596 which names Humfrye Southcombe of Mariansleigh as his son, also describes Robert as ‘Robert Southcombe of Satturleigh, gent.’

The year after the Muster Roll, Ellynour’s grandfather died and her father, John Cruwys, became lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard. He held the manor for seven years and was succeeded in 1577 by Ellynour’s brother Humphrey. In his history of Winkleigh, Laurence Molland says:

A John Cruse married Ann, daughter of Humphrey Keynes and their son Humphrey ran into a debt of £2,000, a stupendous sum for those days, being equivalent to about £132,000 today. His father, mother and his uncle, John Keynes, tried to help him by arranging a loan on the security of the family estate. [12]

Humphrey’s folly resulted in the loss of most of the Cruwys estate.


St Peter’s in Satterleigh, Robert and Ellynour’s new home, is a simple little 15th century church. It stands almost in the farmyard of Satterleigh Barton. The Barton was once the residence of the Hacche family. In 1597 Robert Southcombe gave evidence in a lawsuit concerning the will of Elizabeth Hatch.

There is a small wooden bell-cote at the west end, which can be seen between the farm buildings.

The chancel forms an unusually large part of such a small church. In Robert and Ellynour’s time it would have been separated from the nave by a rood screen. On the north and south sides are seats for the communicants, with pegs above for their hats. The hat pegs are later than the Southcombes’ time.

The painted boards at the front and over the tympanum were added after Robert’s and Ellynour’s time, but they would have been familiar with the font, the carved ceiling and some of the carved pews.      .









The registers for St Peter’s begin in 1574. The very first entry is the marriage of George Southcombe.

Marriage. Satterleigh.
1574  George Southcombe & Maria Pawlett were married the ?twentyth Daie of November

This cannot be Robert and Ellynour’s son George, who was baptised in Bishops Nympton in 1566. He would have been only eight. This must be Robert’s brother. We know from the Meshaw baptismal register that the name of the his first wife was Marie. The registers should say if one party was from another parish, but they do not always do so. George may have moved to Satterleigh with Robert and Ellynour, or he may have met Maria there when visiting them.

The 1581 Subsidy Roll for ‘Saterley’ shows Robert, at 43, well-established. He is assessed for land at £4. This is substantially more than any other parishioner. Others were rated for land at £1 or for goods.

His brother George has not been found on this Subsidy Roll, either, but the parishes in the Witheridge Hundred are missing, and at the time of his death, George was high constable of Witheridge.

Twelve years after George’s marriage, there was another Southcombe wedding in the church at Satterleigh.

1586  Humfry Southcombe & Jane Beare were married the ?th Daie of September. Ano Dmi

This was Robert and Ellynour’s eldest, or eldest surviving, son.

Humfrye and Jane Southcombe went on to have children baptised in Bishops Nympton, as Robert and Ellynour had done. They probably lived in Yeo Barton after Robert’s parents died. Robert himself did not return to Mariansleigh.

There are no more Southcombe entries in the Satterleigh registers. Robert and Ellynour had presumably completed their family before the baptismal records begin in 1574.

Ellynour’s mother Anne Cruwys made her will in 1586. She left legacies to ‘every of the children of Ellynour Southcome late deceased five shillinges apiece’. From this we conclude that Ellynour died in the mid-1580s. She was probably in her forties. Unfortunately, the will does not list the names of the Southcombe children[13].

In 1587, Robert’s brother, George Southcombe, gentleman, and his five children moved from Meshaw to Rose Ash, which borders both Bishops Nympton and Mariansleigh. His first wife Marie died and he remarried Jane, whom family records say was the daughter of Lord Paulet of Basing House, near Basingstoke in Hampshire. Her relationship to Maria Pawlett of Satterleigh is unclear. If this parentage is correct, her great-grandfather was William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester. Earlier that century, as Lord High Treasurer of England, he had offered the crown to Lady Jane Grey to ‘see how it fitted’. He was no friend of Mary Tudor, but was a favourite statesman of Queen Elizabeth. The marriages of Robert and George are a measure of the social standing of the Southcombe family.

On 29 May 1590, ‘Roberte Southcomb of Satturleighe, gent’ granted a lease for 21 years to ‘George Bradforde of Stockleighe Englishe, weaver’. Similar transactions had been going on between the Southcombes and the Bradfordes for three generations, and continued after Robert’s death. They related to ‘messuages, land and tenements in Bynneforde’. This stands stands on Binneford Water, a tributary of the Creedy. The consideration (immediate payment) was £18, the rent was 26s 8d and a capon, and the heriot (death duty) was the deceased tenant’s best beast.[14]

Three years later, George Bradford appears to have died. On 30 April 1593, a similar lease, for 21 years (or life of lessee), was drawn up between ‘Roberte Southcomb of Satturleigh, gent’ and ‘Margarett Bradford wife of George Bradford of Stockleigh. As before, it was for ‘messuages, lands and tenements with appurtenances at Bunneford’, and the consideration was £18, the rent 26s 8d and a capon, and the heriot the best beast.[15]

Robert’s brother George met a violent end in 1595, when he was still in middle age. A memoir by one of his descendants describes how he:
riding a colt to Witheridge Fair on Midsummer-day 1595, came where were two men fighting with swords, and being Constable of the Hundred, he rode up to them requiring peace. His colt, frightened with their swords, etc., threw him, and he dyed of the fall in a few hours, and was buried at Rose Ash June 27th 1595.

After the accident the critically injured man was carried to his house at West Ford, on the outskirts of Rose Ash, where he made his will before dying. He bequeathed his estate to his second wife Jane and his children from his first marriage. Jane was the sole executrix. But he appointed ‘my trustie and wellbeloved in Christ Robert Sowthcombe my brother’, with two other men, to be overseers of his will and left each of them ten shillings for their pains. Because his only son Lewes was still a child, he also appointed four men, including Robert, to administrate the will during Lewes’s minority.[16]

Robert was the first of five witnesses to sign the will. He was probably fetched in haste from Satterleigh, seven miles away, unless he was staying with his brother and was one of the party riding to Witheridge Fair. The third witness was Humfry Sowthcombe, whom we presume to be Robert’s son, and now a gentleman of Mariansleigh.

George Southcombe gave rise to long line of descendants in Rose Ash. From 1675 onwards, this family supplied eight generations of rectors for the parish. The last one died in 1948.

1596 sees the property at Stockleigh English passing to the next generation. On 17 February, a new lease for lives of lessees names the landlords as ‘Robert Southcombe of Satturleigh, gent., and Humfrye Sowthcombe of Marrynaleigh, gent., his son and heir apparent.’ The tenants are ‘Joane Bradforde, the wife of George Bradforde of Kennerleigh and Robert Bradforde the younger, the son of the said George Bradforde’. Again, it is for ‘messuages, lands and tenements at Bynneford’, but the consideration has risen to £45. The rent is still 26s 8d and a capon, and the heriot the best beast.

The lawsuit over Elizabeth Hatch’s will in 1597 shows that Robert was still living in Satterleigh at the age of 60. He was called upon to testify as a long-standing resident, who was living in the village when Elizabeth Hatch died, and likely to have some understanding of legal matters. He was probably a Justice of the Peace. He was asked whether he could recall whether Elizabeth Hatch had made a will and appointed an executor.

Robert Southcombe gent. of Satterley where he has lived 28 years, aged 60.

He cannot depose of any testament or will made by said Elizabeth Hatch neither can he set down whether Elizabeth appointed Huigh Tucker to be exr.

After death of Elizabeth this deponent asked Huigh Tucker who was exr of Eliz & he answered that he himself was exr which caused this deponent to ask who were witnesses & Tucker answered that there were none but himself.[17]

Elizabeth Hatch may be related to Dorothy Hatch, who had married Eleanor’s brother Humphrey  Cruwys.

Robert had the status of gentleman. Satterleigh had no resident lord of the manor. Robert was probably the nearest the small village had to a squire.

He died in his 66th year, within a month of Queen Elizabeth’s death. He was buried, not in Satterleigh, but in the neighbouring parish of Warkleigh.

Burial. Warkleigh.
1603  Robert Southcombe was buried the xxth daie of Aprill Ano Domini

That autumn, his granddaughter was baptised in the same church

Baptism. Warkleigh.
1603  Jane the daughter of George Southcombe was christened the xxxth daie of October

It may be that the Southcombes were using Warkleigh church because it was nearer to the house  where they lived than St Peter’s, Satterleigh. Or Robert’s son George may have settled in Warkleigh, and Robert gone to live with him as his health failed.


Their son Humfrye lived on into the 1630s in Mariansleigh, where he and his wife Jane jointly owned the farm of Yeo Barton. Another generation of Southcombes took over as leading gentry in the parish where the family had lived from the mid-16th century.


Copy Feoffment, Bargain and Sale and Bond  1186M/E 1(1564)

Particulars for Fine  1186M/E 2  n.d

Properties in Devon and Somerset.
Devon: East and West Tappe, West Loosemore, Ilarton, West Netcott and Bowersland in parishes of Oakford, Rackenford and Bampton.
Somerset: Lucott, Langridge, and Upcott in parishes of Stoke Perow or Pero and Brushford.

There is a clear link here with Robert’s mother Margaret, who held the advowson of Stoke Pero.


[1] Course of a will between Hatch & Tucker. 9 Feb 1597.  Moger Series I, No. 87.
[2] Debbie Kennett.
[3] Index to Barnstaple wills 1563-1858 [WSL]
[4] T.L. Stoate (ed), Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1543-1545 (www.thebookshop.org.uk)

5] A2A: Shelley of Shobrooke (DRO)  Z1/30/17-26
[6] Debbie Kennett.
[7] T.F.Johns, Crewes of South Cornwall and their ancestors in Liskeard, Cornwall, and Cruwys Morchard, Devon.
[8] M.C.S. Cruwys, Records at Cruwys Morchard. Trans. Dev. Assocn. Vol. 84. 1954, 1-19.
[9] A2A: Cornwall Record Office EN/796
[10] A2A: Shelley of Shobrooke (DRO)  Z1/30/23
[11] The Devon Muster Roll of 1569 [WSL].
[12] Lawrence Molland, A History of the Parish of Winkleigh in the County of Devon, (MS in WSL)
[13] PCC Will at the Public Record Office, PROB11/69, 1586 Cruse, Anne, Mortonhamsted, Cruse
[14] A2A: Shelley of Shobrooke (DRO)  Z1/30/21
[15] A2A: Shelley of Shobrooke (DRO)  Z1/30/22
[16] Major W.H. Wilkin, Southcomb of Rose Ash. [WSL]
[17] Course of a will between Hatch & Tucker. 9 Feb 1597.  Moger Series I, No. 87.






Sampson Tree