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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)




WILLIAM AYSHFORD was the son and heir of John Ayshford of Ayshford in Burlescombe and Florence Paulet of Hinton St George in Somerset. He was born in 1456.[1]

When William was only 12 his father died, on 24 Sept 1468. Fortunately, John Ayshford had anticipated this and made provision for William, so that he did not become a ward of the king, with the Ayshford estates in the hands of strangers until his majority. John may have been in ill health or about to go to war – this was the time of the Wars of the Roses. Four years before his death he arranged that William’s affairs should be handled by Florence’s father, Sir William Paulet.

William had a sister, Florence junior, who married John Frances of Combe Florey in Somerset.

When William became 21, in 1477, he had to prove his age in order to claim his inherited estates. He then married his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Frances. Multiple marriages between families were common in this part of our family tree.


ELIZABETH FRANCES was the sister of John Frances of Combe Florey in Somerset. . Their parents were Nicholas Fraunceis and Ellen Wynyard. Nicholas was the third of this family to hold the manor of Combe Florey and Elizabeth’s brother John succeeded him.

By the time the couple were married, the Wars of the Roses were over and the Yorkist king Edward IV was firmly on the throne. The Ayshfords had been Lancastrians.


The couple had at least two sons and two daughters. The eldest son was Nicholas. One daughter, Helen, became a nun at the priory of Canonsleigh, on Ayshford land in Burlescombe. She is mentioned on the pensions list of Canonsleigh in the 1530s, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. A younger son, Robert, is probably the Robert Ayshford who was admitted to the Middle Temple on 7 Feb 1506/7. He is the first known lawyer in the family. Worth’s Devonshire Wills says that, towards the end of the 15th century Robert, second son of William Ayshford of Ashford, married Philippa, daughter and heir of Robert Hyndeston of Wonwell. Heather Ayshford’s booklet does not mention another daughter, Alice, who married John Cruwys, lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard, in 1514.

In 1485, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. The reign of the House of York was over and the Tudors took the throne.

On 20 Jan 1487 an inquisition post mortem was held into the estates of Thomas Coterell, esquire. Among the properties listed were “a messuage, … meadow, 40 acres land, and 20 acres pasture in Whitelegh, worth 30s, held of Richard Yarde and Wiliam Ayssheford in free socage, by fealty and 1d rent”.[2] The Yardes had been connected to the Ayshfords, sharing the patronage of ecclesiastical livings, for four generations, since an older Richard Yarde and William Ayshford married sisters of the Ferrers family.

Back at Combe Florey, Elizabeth’s brother John died in Nov 1485, the tombstone of John and his wife Florence Ayshford, sister of William, is behind the organ in Combe Florey church, with that of Elizabeth and John’s father Nicholas Fraunceis. Most of the brass has disappeared, but the kneeling figures of Florence and her two daughters and the brass inscription – dated November 1485, – still remain. The women’s butterfly headdresses fix the date of the brass at no later than 1490.

When Elizabeth died, William married the widow Margaret Hindeston. The two of them arranged the marriage of William’s son Robert to Margaret’s daughter and heir. Robert became steward to Robert Cary of Cockington, near Torquay. He founded the South Devon Ayshford line at Wonwell, which survived into the 18th century.

In 1497, Henry VII’s heavy taxation to finance war against Scotland provoked an uprising in Cornwall. Cornish rebels marched across Devon on their way to Blackheath, intending to join the pretender to the throne, Perkin Warbeck. The king’s troops crushed them before Warbeck arrived. Warbeck then attacked Exeter, but was captured. He was executed in 1499.

In 1504 William is mentioned in the Inquisition Post Mortem of Christina Hyngscote. She held “a third part of 5 acres meadow in Burscombe, worth 20d, held of William Aysshford, esquire, by a rent of a pair of gloves yearly”.[3]


William died on 17 June 1508, in the final year of Henry VII’s reign. According to Hoskins, it is his colourful altar tomb, also commemorating his two wives, which can be seen in the chancel of Burlescombe church. It is painted and ornamented on its sides with ten standing figures under canopies.[4] John Stabb has this as the tomb of Nicholas Ayshford, grandson of William, and his two wives, but since they have a memorial slab in the floor of the north aisle, this is unlikely. He describes the tomb thus: “On the north side of the chancel under an arch is an old altar tomb, the front ornamented with a series of richly canopied niches containing figures of ecclesiastics holding shields, on which are emblazoned alternately a fleur-de-lis and a cross.”[5]


William’s sister Florence, wife of Elizabeth’s brother John Franceis of Combe Florey, outlived her husband by a remarkable 65 years. She died in 1550. She obviously suffered from dementia in her later years and was known as “Florens Forgett”.

 William’s cousin, William Paulet, became the first Marquess of Winchester. He was Lord Treasurer of England during the turbulent reigns of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor in the mid 16th century. When asked how he managed to keep his head in such dangerous times, the noble gentleman is said to have replied, “by being a willow not all oak!”


[1] Source, except where otherwise stated: F. & H. Ayshford, Notes Towards a History of the Ayshford Family of Devon. Typescript booklet.
[2]  Calendar of Inquisitions. No 248. C. Series II. Vol. 20 (60).
[3]  Calendar of Inquisitions, 798. Christina Hynsgote.
[4] W.G. Hoskins, Devon, David & Charles, 1972, p.358.
[5] John Stabb, Some Old Devon Churches.





Sampson Tree