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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




Both the Heralds’ Visitations and the pedigree published by Margaret Cruwys say that Thomas Cruwys, who died in 1471 after the Battle of Tewkesbury, was succeeded by his son John Cruwys, husband of Johanna, and that in the next generation, their son John Cruwys married Elizabeth Whitley.[1]

Margaret Cruwys used the collection of documents held at Cruwys Morchard House. Since then, more extensive research has been done by F.B. Prideaux and by T.F. Johns, both of whom used a detailed catalogue of the Cruwys Morchard documents and also records held elsewhere. Both reached the conclusion that the generation of John and Johanna did not exist.

Johns points out that the inquisition after Thomas’s death shows that his son John was born about 1449. He quotes a document, probably unknown to Margaret Cruwys, which seems to show that John Cruwys married Elizabeth Whitley in or before 1479. Tom Johns says “Now it is impossible to believe that the second John could have been married to Elizabeth only 30 years after his father was born. It is, however, plausible to believe, as Prideaux had proposed, that the person who married Elizabeth Whitely in 1479 or a little earlier, was the one born in 1449, son of Thomas, but the father of the John who married Elizabeth Whitley was a figment of the imagination.”[2]

In defence of Margaret Cruwys, it can be argued that she gives the name of the older John’s wife as Johanna, while some other wives in the pedigree remain unnamed. This implies she had seen some evidence for Johanna’s existence. However, her published writings on the family make no further mention of Johanna. She may have taken the name from the Heralds’ Visitations, which are notoriously unreliable. Johns points out that the pedigree of the second husband of John Cruwys’s widow also contains a generation which is contradicted by the evidence of his will.

Thomas’s parents were called John and Johanna, possibly leading to a confusion of identity.

However, Johns goes too far when he says the dates make two generations impossible. Teenage marriages were not uncommon for the eldest sons of upper class families. John senior would have had to marry at about 15, produce his first son within a year, and see that son also married in his early teens. This is on the limits of credibility, but not quite impossible.

Johns certainly shows that there are serious errors in Margaret Cruwys’s dates for this and subsequent generations.


JOHN CRUWYS. In either version, John Cruwys was the eldest son of Thomas and Johanna Cruwys. His father’s Inquisition Post Mortem, in October 1471, shows that John was born about 1449, in the reign of Henry IV. If T.F. Johns is right in eliminating the older John, than he had at least two younger brothers, and probably sisters too.

John was three when his uncle John died without a male heir. John’s father, though a younger son, became lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard and inherited many other estates as well.

That year, a challenge for the throne by Richard, Duke of York, set the scene for the Wars of the Roses. When fighting broke out in 1455, between the Houses of Lancaster and York, John’s father followed his overlord, Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and fought for the king on the Lancastrian side. In 1461, when John was twelve, Richard of York’s son Edward defeated Henry VI at the Battle of Towton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire. The Earl of Devon was beheaded. John’s father escaped death, and but forfeited much of his estates. The House of York, in the person of Edward IV, now ruled England.

If Margaret Cruwys is right, and there were two separate generations, then John must have married Johanna by 1464, when he was no older than 15.


JOHANNA. We know nothing more about her, if she existed at all.

If John and Johanna did exist, their eldest son  John must have been born within a year of their early marriage.

This was a dangerous time for the Cruwys family. The deposed King Henry fled to Scotland, but fighting continued. He was captured in 1465. Undeterred, Thomas continued to fight for his cause, which was now led by Henry’s redoubtable Queen Margaret. It is likely that, as John grew to manhood, he too took up arms. He may have been among the men of Devon who met Queen Margaret when she landed at Weymouth in 1471. The decisive battle was fought at Tewkesbury later that year. John’s father certainly took part, on the losing side. He died soon afterwards, either executed or from wounds.

The imprisoned Henry VI was murdered that year, bringing the rule of the House of Lancaster to an end.

At the age of 2 2, John found himself lord of the manor. Whether or not he fought at Tewkesbury, he needed to make his peace with the victorious King Edward IV. The following month, on 21 June 1471, he signed a deed granting all his estates to the king’s younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence, and others:

Know present and future that I, JOHN CRUWYS, son and heir of THOMAS CRUWYS, esq. have given, granted and by this my present charter have confirmed to George, Duke of Clarence, and William Fulford, clerk, Thomas Fulford, knight, Thomas Wyse, esquire; William Huddesfield; Christopher Cook; Richard Whytlegh; Walter Ralegh; Thomas Harry, clerk; Hugh Cayleway; John Notte; John — and Robert Forst, all my manors, demesnes, messuages, lands, tenements, advowsons of churches, reversions, rents and services, with all their appurtenances, to the said Duke, William,Thomas, William, Christopher, Richard, Walter, Thomas, Hugh, John, John and Robert …, their heirs and assigns for ever.”

This probably explains why, when the Inquisition Post Mortem into Thomas’s affairs was held in Barnstaple on 11 Oct 1471, it concluded that “Thomas Cruwys of Morchard held no lands in Devon.

The forfeiture seems to have been in name only. By placing himself at the king’s mercy, and formally granting all his lands to the Duke of Clarence, John appears to have remained in possession, for all practical purposes. The Duke may have become, in effect, his overlord, in place of the executed Earl of Devon. Or, as Johns thinks, the Duke of Clarence may have had his hands full with many such seizures and been overtaken by more pressing events before he could take advantage of them. He fell out with his brother, the king, who had him imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he was allegedly drowned in a “barell of Malmsey wine” in 1478.

That John was still very much concerned with his ancestral lands is shown by “an imperfect roll” of 1472-3, which refers to a long-running dispute over Ansty Cruwys, Little Rackenford and Sideham. John’s disputatious relative, Thomasine Pollard, and two of her grandchildren, John Prous and John Chalvedon, were laying claim to these lands, although the document on which the claim was based had long since been proved a forgery. A deed of 1474 also refers to a bond relating to manors, lands and tenements which “belonged to Alexander Cruwys, father of Robert Cruwys”. Involved on one side were descendants of Robert’s daughters and on the other side John Cruwys.

On 20 April 1473 he was certainly described as ‘Lord of Morchard’ when he granted lands at Throwcombe in the parish of Stodeleigh at 10/- rent to Ric. ? and his wife.

According to Margaret Cruwys, it was John and Johanna’s teenage son John who married Elizabeth Whitely. But if we follow Johns and Prideaux, who deny the existence of that generation, this would have been the marriage of Thomas’s eldest son John, who was then aged about 30.


ELIZABETH WHITELY was his first wife. She was the daughter of Thomas Whitely.


Johns and Prideaux believe it is probably the marriage of John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard and Elizabeth Whiteley which is referred to in 1479, when Roger, Guardian of the Franciscan Convent at Exeter, granted letters of association to John Cruwys and his wife Elizabeth.[3]

Roger, a prior and guardian of the Franciscan Convent at Exeter, admitted John Cruys and Elizabeth his wife to participate in all the prayers and good works of the convent in vita partiter et in morte.

John and Elizabeth had at least six children. The eldest was another John, born about 1480. He was followed by Robert, Matthew, Elizabeth, Jane and Joan, though the order of their births is uncertain.

Margaret Cruwys has the older John dying in 1485, to be succeeded by the younger John, husband of Elizabeth.[4]

1485 saw the Battle of Bosworth, which ended the reign of the house of York. Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian supporter, took the throne as Henry VII. Although John Cruwys had made his peace with the Yorkist monarchy, it may have done him no harm now that his father Thomas Cruwys had died in the Lancastrian cause.

Soon afterwards, John added Norden in Throwleigh to the family estates.[5] Throwleigh is some distance from Cruwys Morchard, on the northern edge of Dartmoor.

We do not know when Elizabeth died, but Johns puts the date of his second marriage around 1490.

John’s second wife was Maria Francis, daughter of John Francis, of Combe Flory in Somerset. She is thought to have been about 25 years younger than John.

The Francis family were entitled to bear a coat of arms. In the floor of the north chantry of Combe Florey church there is a brass memorial, dated 1485, to Maria’s father, John Fraunceys. It is now partly lost, but showed him with his son or sons. Inserted into it was a brass of her mother, Florence Frawnays, (née Ashford). She is shown kneeling, with her two daughters, of whom Maria is assumed to be the elder, kneeling behind her.

In the next generation, John and Elizabeth Cruwys’s son John also married an Ashford. It is likely that Alice Ashford was related to Maria’s mother.

In 1493 there was a dispute about the properties of Northdown and Throwleigh. John Cruwys of Cruwysmorchard was the querent and Roger Coyte and his wife Eleanor the deforciants. On 18 November there was a plea of covenant concerning 1 messuage, 100 acres of land, 100 acres of meadow and 100 acres of furze and heath in Westnorthdon’ and Throulegh’. It resulted in an agreement that Roger and Eleanor have acknowledged the tenements to be the right of John, as those which he has of their gift, and have remised and quitclaimed them from themselves and the heirs of Eleanor to him and his heirs for ever.  For this John has given them 40 marks of silver.

Maria bore John another four sons, William, Thomas, Edward and Anthony. The youngest, Anthony, seems to have been born within a few years of 1509. This was the year when Henry VIII succeeded to the throne.

As lord of the manor, John would preside over the manorial court. He often found himself having to give judgement in cases which he or his family were personally involved.

Manor Roll of 1510 for Morchard Cruys

To this court came Thomas Leigh and took of John Cruwys Esq. lord of the said Manor of his traditional right one tenement with its appurtenances called Parkers with Forkeshey and Chepmanshey which John Byddegode there lately held to hold of him for the term of his life according to the custom of the Manor there. Rendering for it annually to the said John Cruwys and his heirs 16/- at the four usual terms of the year to be paid into his lord’s hands in equal portions. And he shall do suit to his lord’s mill called Morcharde Mylle as the other tenants there do. And rendering his best beast in the name of a heriot or farleu on the death or surrender of the said Thomas. And he will plough for 2 days and reap for 3 days at Morchard Cruys aforesaid every year in autumn when summoned thereto by the lord or his bailiff. And he gives to the said lord for a fine £6.13.4 by the surety of William Eston and Robert Bysshope. And he is admitted tenant and does his fealty to the lord.

The homage presents that Robert Bysshope (2d) Thomas Whyte (2d) John Takell (2d) Richard Melhuysshe (2d) John Gore (2d) Thomas at Wode (2d) Richard Capener (2d) Hugh Lok (2d) Simon Maunder (2d) Hugo Brodemore (2d) John Maunder (2d) and William Ayleston (2d) who have trespassed on the lord’s barton with their beasts. Therefore they are in mercy. (‘In mercy’ means that they are found guilty and subject to fines. The sums in brackets are the fines imposed on absentees and delinquents in the Manor Court.)


The following year:

The bailiff is in mercy because he has not distrained William Greneslade and Richard Moggeforde to answer to the lord because on Tuesday in the Feast of St Katherine the Virgin (25 Nov) they broke into and entered a close of John Cruys lord of this manor called Manclyffe and then and there killed and took away 12 gooseanders without the leave of the said lord to the prejudice of the said lord.

In 1516:

One swarm of bees strayed in a certain oak tree on the land of Richard Squyre now for more than a year & is adjudged to the lord without challenge of anyone.[6]

The Burnet Morris Index has John Cruwys, son of Thomas, dying in 1509. Margaret Cruwys, far less credibly, has the husband of Elizabeth Whitely dying in 1558. T.F. Johns says that between 1500 and 1515 there are documents referring to “John Crues, junior”, “John Crues, senior, gentleman” and “John Crues, Esq, Lord of the Manor”. ‘ But, strangely, when the son married to Alice Ashford in 1514, much property which had previously belonged to the father was transferred to the son by William Cruwys, Matthew Cruwys, Richard Facy, Clerk, and John Bymowe, who had presumably been made feoffees; these transfers were stated to be made “in view of the special wish of John Cruwys senior to have given to John Cruwys junior and Alice Ayshford (who by divine grace John will take as his wife), various lands in Cruwys Morchard.” Although the wording suggests that the father was already dead, he was in fact probably still alive at that time, but there is another document dated 1518 which states that “John Skynner holds by copy for his life two holdings in Eggworthy by the demise of the lord”, and it seems that the father had certainly died before that date. There is no further reference to “John Cruwys junior” or “John Cruwys senior” for another 32 years.’

John’s widow, Maria, remarried to John Ackeland of Landkey, near Barnstaple. He died in 1539. His will, dated 1538, suggests it was not an entirely happy marriage:

“Item I will that Maria my wyffe shall have xl marks of lawful money of England to th’intent that she shall have no further mellying as well with any parcel of the residue of all my goods and catalles as also with any mellying or clayming any goods or catalles that the said Maria my wyffe had by the death of John Crewes esquyer late her husband; and in case my wiffe at any time hereafter be not contente but doo make or cause to be made any farther buseness to put my cosen (grandson) John Acland to any vexation or trouble then I will that the said xl marks of money shall remain to my said cosyn John Ackeland and to  Anthony Ackeland and his children equally to be divided amongst them.

“Also I will that my executor shall cause an honest priest to say ij years in Landkey aforesaid for me and my father Baldewyn, Joane my mother, Elizabeth my wiffe and John my sonne and for all Christian sowlys and the said priest to have vil by the yere to finde hymself breade and wyne and waxe and for his clarke iijs iiijd.”

Clearly, John Cruwys had left Maria goods and animals, but her second husband was determined that these should go to his grandchildren by his first marriage, against Maria’s wishes. If she complained, she was to be cut off without a penny.

John and Maria’s youngest son, Anthony, went to Cornwall, where he married a wealthy merchant’s daughter in Liskeard, and founded a Cornish branch of the Cruwys family.


[1] Colby, ed., Visitation of Devon 1620, (London 1872), p.78; M.C.S. Cruwys, Records at Cruwys Morchard. Trans. Dev. Assocn. Vol. 84. 1954, 1-19.
[2] T.F.Johns, Crewes of South Cornwall and their ancestors in Liskeard, Cornwall, and Cruwys Morchard, Devon. p.11. [WSL], p.22.
The remaining information, unless otherwise stated, is taken from Johns, who supplies primary source references.
[3] Oliver’s Monasticon
[4] Records at Cruwys Morchard.
[5] Records at Cruwys Morchard.
[6] Margaret C.S. Cruwys. A Cruwys Morchard Notebook. 1066-1874. 1936;





Sampson Tree