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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)



We have traced our Woodley ancestors back to the baptism in Tedburn St Mary of John Woodlye son of John in 1586.

But the Woodleys were in Tedburn long before that.

Tedburn St Mary lies some seven miles west of Exeter, on the road to Okehampton. The parish then consisted of scattered farms, with a cluster of houses around St Mary’s church. The larger village you see today grew up later around the Kings Arms inn, which dates from the early 1600s. This settlement was originally known as Taphouse. The name “Tedburn” was used for the houses near the church.

Genealogists have traced the Woodley family back to the middle ages, though some dates are very imprecise. [1]

The oldest known is John Woodley of Tedburn St Mary. He had a son John somewhere between 1343 and 1463. He is said in one family tree to have died in 1438.


John Woodley of Exwick was the son of the older John Woodley, born in the 14th or 15th century. Exwick is a village west of Exeter on the other side of the River Exe. He was the father of William Woodley of Tedburn St Mary and Thomas Woodley of Poltimore.


William Woodley of Fairwood, in Tedburn St Mary, was the son of John Woodley of Exwick. We do not have dates for him.

He returned from Exwick to his grandfather’s parish.

Today, Great Fairwood, Little Fairwood and South Fairwood are all properties in Tedburn. In older historical documents, “Fairwood” is Great Fairwood. This is a farm on a hillside north of the present village, and ¾ of a mile NE of the original village around the church. It lies just below the road from Tedburn to Crediton.

Great Fairwood
from the author’s home Christie Cottage

It appears in the Domesday Book.

There are no Woodleys there in the 1332 Lay Subsidy Roll.

William had sons John Woodley of Moretonhampstead (d.29.11.1572) and Walter Woodley of Tedburn St Mary, whose birth date is estimated as between 1442 and 1562.

John had a son Peter Woodley.


Walter Woodley of Tedburn St Mary was the son of William Woodley of the same parish. His birth date is believed to be in the early 16th century.

We do not have a record of his residence, but it seems likely that he inherited Great Fairwood.

He had two daughters, Johan and Dionysia. The latter married Nicholas Hele, from one of the leading landed families in Devon. [2] In another tree there is a son Richard Woodlye, born c.1533. He married Margaret Jackson of Chelmsford in Essex. [3]

It is a measure of the standing of this family that they were not confined to a single parish, or even one county.


The Lay Subsidies of 1524/5 show three men of this name in Tettburne. William Woodlegh is assessed for  goods at £44, John Woodlegh at £30 and Philip Woodlegh for wages at £1. William’s is the highest assessment in the parish, and John’s the second. They are considerably more than the third parishioner at £18.

We do not know how these men relate to the generations listed above. There may well have been other sons who are not recorded. It is possible that the highly assessed William is the same as William Woodley of Fairwood.

We have no information about the source of their income or their occupation. The more affluent ones were probably yeomen farmers.

This was in the reign of Henry VIII, shortly before his break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England with Henry as its head.


John Woodleigh appears again soon after the Subsidy Roll in a document of 14 April 1529. [4]

Debtor: William Upton of Hempston Arundell, [nr. Totnes, Devon] gentleman.
Creditor: John Woodleigh at Way in the parish of Tedburn St Mary {Tetburn} [Wonford Hundred, Devon]
Amount: 100m. of legal English money for merchandise bought from him in the staple.
Before whom: Henry Hamlyn, Mayor of the Staple of Exeter; Robert Hoker and Richard Faux, Constables.
When taken: 23/11/1527
First term: 12/04/1528
Last term: 12/04/1528
Writ to: Sheriff of Devon
Sent by: John Britnall, Mayor of the Staple of Exeter; Thomas Hugge and Richard Martyn, Constables.

The mark was a two thirds of a pound, or 13s 4d. It was used in accounts but was never issued as a coin.

The Mayor of the Staple was separate from the Mayor of the city. He regulated the trade of merchants.

There are a number of properties bearing the name Way along the high road from Exeter to Tedburn. It bears witness to the antiquity of this route to Okehampton. Way Farm in Tedburn St Mary lies in a valley north of Six Mile Hill, on the approach over Heath Cross to the present village. Waylands is a little further east.

It is likely that John Woodleigh was selling wool at the Exeter Staple.

£66.13.4d was a considerable debt. John Woodleigh must have been farming on a substantial scale.


We next meet the Woodleys in the 1544 Lay Subsidy Roll for Tetborn. Those listed as taxpayers are:

Margaret Wodelegh assessed at £13,
Robert Woodlegh £10,
Agnes Wodelegh £10,
Walter Wodelegh £5,
Philip Woodlegh  £3,
Margaret Woodlegh £1.

The range of assessments runs from £13 to £1. Margaret Wodelegh is the only parishioner assessed at £13. She was probably an affluent widow. One other parishioner is rated at £12 and five at £10.

Walter Wodelegh may be the father of Johan and Dionysia listed above.

John Woodleigh of Way does not appear on this list, and nor does the highly assessed William Woodlegh of 1524. We presume they had died. The more affluent Margaret and Agnes could be their widows. Philip Woodleigh remains at the lower end of the scale.


We move closer to the time of our first confirmed Woodley ancestor with a document whose date has been partly obliterated by damp, but is probably around the fourth or fifth year of Elizabeth I’s reign, i.e. in the early 1560s. [5]

It concerns the parish lands owned by the church. The feoffees, or trustees, of these lands entered into an indenture with Gilberte Westington, warden of the parish church. The feoffees include Thomas Wodleyh and George Wodlegh. The inclusion of these two Woodleys suggests that they were men of some standing in the parish. One of them, possibly Thomas, may be the father of John Woodley, who had a son baptised in Tedburn in 1586, though there are also likely to have been other Woodleys of a lower status.

It was around this time that we believe our John Woodley to have been born.

Some of the people listed here are likely to be our direct ancestors, but we cannot be certain which ones.


[1] http://www.stirnet.co.uk/genie/data/british/ww/woodley1.php. Genealogy-geni: www.geni.com/people/John-Woodley/6000000058663042841
[2] www.wikitree.com/wiki/Woodley-37
[3] www.myheritage.com/names/richard_woodlye
[4] National Archives C 241/280/167.
[5] http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/TedburnStMary/ParishLands.




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