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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)




JOHN KEYNES was born in 1472-3. He was the eldest son of John Keynes, lord of the manor of Winkleigh Keynes, and his wife Joan.

In 1476, when John was a small boy, his father handed over the manor to William Yeo and Otho Gilbert, by a deed of enfeoffment, but two years later, the ownership passed back to John senior, Joan and their heirs, of which the principal was John junior. [1]

The following year, in June 1479, his father died. John was only six.

The Inquisition Post Mortem into John senior’s death took place in Exeter. Otho Gilbert was in charge of the enquiry as the escheator. The investigation confirmed that the manor had been transferred to William Yeo and Otho Gilbert, but said nothing about its subsequent return to the Keynes family. Clearly, by modern standards, Otho Gilbert should not have been in the chair when his own interest was at stake.[2]

What effect that ruling had on John and his mother is unclear. In 1494 John’s mother was said to be ‘seised of the manor’ when she died. They probably remained at Winkleigh Castle, with Joan managing the manor during John’s minority.

John was about 13 when Henry Tudor’s forces defeated and killed Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The victor became the first Tudor king as Henry VII.

As John neared his majority at the age of 21, there was a dispute over whether he was the rightful lord of the manor of Winkleigh. Possibly Otho Gilbert, one of the two men to whom John’s father had enfeoffed the manor in 1476, still had designs on it. A commission was set up by a court at Westminster ‘to enquire as to concealed lands in Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, & Wilts.’ Winkleigh Keynes was one of these.[3]

Before the Devon enquiry could meet, John’s mother, Joan, died, most likely in March 1494, as stated in her IPM, though the enquiry into the ownership of the manor puts it as March 1493.

The enquiry in Exeter in May noted the enfeoffment to William Yeo and Otho Gilbert in 1476, but confirmed that ‘at the request of John Keynes they demised the same to said John, Joan his wife, & the heirs of John, by their charter dated 24 Dec. 18 Edw.IV. [1478]. The manor is held of the King’s honour of Gloucester, by knight’s service, worth &c. £10.’  It went on to say that ‘Joan survived her husband, & died seised thereof’. Since Joan was in possession of the manor at the time of her death, the inference was that John, now 20, was the irightful heir.

In October of that year, 1494, the Inquisition Post Mortem into Joan’s death was held, also at Exeter. This confirmed that John senior had been seised of the manor when he died. John was now 21, and established beyond doubt as the rightful lord of the manor of Winkleigh Keynes.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the power of the lord of the manor was waning. Some duties were taken over by church officials, such as the Four Men of Winkleigh Church and the Constable.[4] They fulfilled the later roles of police and churchwardens. The Four Men took charge of prisoners coming to trial at the manorial court. They were also responsible for church finances, and acting as treasurer in turn. They kept their documents in the Church House, in a large chest with four locks. Each of the Four Men had a key. When the chest was later moved to the Gidley Chapel, it was found to contain documents dating back to 500 years, although the collection was not complete.[5]


We do not know whom or when John married. Sir William Pole’s pedigree of the family tells us that his eldest son was Humpfrey.[6] It is likely he was born in the 1490s, when John was in his twenties.

On 20 Nov 1500, a deed was signed in Shaftesbury confirming George Whiting, Humphrey Walrond, John Kirkham and others as recipients of the manors of Stokewake, Hulle and Caundleswake, which John Keynes conveyed to them in return for a perpetual annuity of £24 for himself and his heirs.[7] George Whiting’s niece Mary was later to marry John’s son Humphrey.

It was a time of prosperity for sheep-rearing landowners in Devon. The Merchant Adventurers exported cloth to the profitable Antwerp market. It was a less happy scene for villagers, who saw the land enclosed for sheep and lost both agricultural holdings and rights of pasture on the common. In 1504 an Act of Vagrancy was passed, because of the large numbers who had lost work on the estates and took to the roads.

In 1509, the young Henry VIII came to the throne. His first wife Catherine of Aragon’s children all died or miscarried, except for Princess Mary, born in 1516. England had not had a queen regnant since Matilda in the 12th century, which had led to civil war between her and Stephen. Henry determined to get rid of Catherine and marry a wife who would give him a son. So began the campaign that was to end in the overthrow of papal authority and the founding of the Church of England.


If John was still alive in 1522 he would have seen the completion of the carved and painted Rood Screen in the church, which John Kelly made over a ten-year period, at the considerable cost of £54.6s.8d. John may well have contributed towards it. The screen was removed in 1761.[8]

Before the Reformation, there would have been many altars and statues in the church. Every parish had a number of guilds, dedicated to a particular saint. The community history of Winkleigh says: ‘There were eight guilds in Winkleigh. The most important was probably the Guild of All Saints; St George’s Guild was for the young men; St Katherine for the young women; St Blaize for the woolcombers; St Christopher; St Anthony; St Mary of Pity and St John the Baptist. Nearly everyone belonged to the guild – life membership was 3/4d. They then gave voluntarily whatever they could, often in goods or kind, as three rings of silver and a pair of silver slippers are recorded. Much of their income came from keeping cattle, sheep and bees. Wool and wax were important donations.

‘The Guilds resembled the friendly societies of later days, caring for people in times of sickness, distress and death. The accounts were administered by the Four Men and the goods, money and records were all kept in the parish chest in their charge.

‘The Guild all had their own altars in the church, but these were destroyed in the time of Queen Elizabeth I in the wave of protestant reformation which swept the country. The Guilds are heard of no more and the churchwardens took over the caring for the poor of the parish.’[9]


There is no Keynes in the Subsidy Rolls for Winkleigh in 1523-27. This may mean that John had died, but there no mention of his son Humfrey either, in Winkleigh or elsewhere. We have thus no certain information about the date of John’s death, and no information at all about his wife.


[1] IPM John Keynes 1494 [WSL]
[2] IPM John Keynes 1480.
[3] IPM John Keynes 1494
[4] Lawrence Molland, A History of the Parish of Winkleigh in the County of Devon, (MS in WSL), p.65.
[5] Lesley McLean, ed., Winkleigh: A View of their Parish by the People of Winkleigh, (Beaford Arts Centre, 1997), p.38.
[6] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791), p.432.
[7] Richard Whiting. Whiting of Wood: A Mediaeval Landed Family, 1974 (MS in DRO).
[8] Molland, p.116.
[9] McLean, p.38.




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