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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)



In the 15th and 16th centuries the families of Radford and Hyll alias Southcombe were said to be “kinsmen”. The nature of the relationship has not yet been discovered. The Hylls and their Southcombe descendants came to own some of the property previously held by the Radfords.

The link between the two families is recorded in a document in the Devon Heritage Centre.

Reference: Z1/48/20


(1) John Hyll (alias Southcombe), kinsman and heir of Thomas Radford.

(2) Henry Hyll (alias Southcombe), brother of (1).

Manor of Poughill and all lands of (1) in Poughill, Uppcote, [in Witheridge?], Uppehome, Trendelmore, Bareheyss, Witheridge, Minchendown [in Woolfardiworthy in Witheridge Hundred], Stickeridge [in Cruwys Morchard] Binneford [in Stockleigh English], East Chedeldon, Newland [in Witheridge]. Radeford [? Raddiford in Puddington], Langlegh, Granytlond, Crispin Down [Winkleigh], Cadeleigh, Stockleigh, Luscombe, Stockleigh English, Sutton Sachville, Winkleigh Tracy, and Chalvelegh.

Recites that the premises are granted to (2) and to his heirs in perpetuity, but subject to a rent of 10 marks, payable to (1) during the life of (1).

Fragmentary seal of (1).

13 September 1493 Friday before the Exaltation of the Cross, 9 Henry VII


Nicholas Radford.

“Radford, Nicholas (d. 1455), lawyer, was the son of Robert Radford of Okeford, Devon. Radford first appeared on the scene in 1420 when he stood as surety for the lessees of two Somerset manors, was appointed a feoffee for a London goldsmith, and attended the shire elections at Exeter Castle. In 1421 he was elected MP for Lyme Regis; his only other election to parliament was in 1435 for the county of Devon. A justice of the peace in Devon from 1424 until his death, Radford also served as escheator of Devon and Cornwall in 1435-6, and on numerous royal commissions of inquiry in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Wiltshire. Married by 1431, he became a wealthy man and purchased lands in Devon at Grantland, North Yeo, Babbadon, and Cheriton Fitzpaine along with the manors of Cadeleigh, Poughill, and Ford. At his death he had goods worth well over £1337 and a minimum of £780 in cash.
Described at his death as ‘one of the most notable and famous’ apprentices-at-law, Radford’s legal skill and reputation are evident in his wide client base. He was retained by several Devon boroughs, especially Exeter which he served in the office of city recorder from 1442 until his death, at a salary of £3 per annum plus other fees. During the mayoralty of John Shillingford in 1447-50 Radford was Exeter’s chief representative in London, and its legal adviser in a suit brought against the city by the dean and chapter of Exeter Cathedral and by Edmund Lacy, bishop of Exeter, over their jurisdictional claims in Exeter. Many prominent members of the gentry, especially in Devon, also sought Radford’s legal advice. Cardinal Henry Beaufort, John Holland, earl of Huntingdon, Humphrey Stafford, earl of Stafford, the duchy of Lancaster, members of the Carew family, and the Courtenay earls of Devon were among his more notable clients.
Radford’s contact with the Courtenays began in 1423, when he was appointed joint steward of the estates of the earldom of Devon until the heir, Thomas Courtenay (d. 1458), came of age c.1435. Radford became close enough to the family to act as godfather to the earl’s second son, Henry. Radford’s relations with the Courtenays later soured, however, as he came more and more to be associated with Sir William Bonville (d. 1461), Lord Bonville from 1449, a Devon landowner who, with the support of William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk (d. 1450), from the 1430s contested the pre-eminence in south-west England hitherto enjoyed by the earls of Devon. An increasingly bitter struggle led to serious disorders, and Bonville’s success in avoiding their consequences probably owed much to Radford’s counsel.
Whether the earl authorized the killing of Radford is uncertain, but he certainly sheltered the murderers and participated in the ensuing cover-up. The murder and subsequent events are related in several contemporary accounts. Late on the night of 23 October 1455, Sir Thomas Courtenay (d.
1461), the eldest son of Earl Thomas, arrived at Radford’s manor house in Upcott Barton (about 11 miles north of Exeter) at the head of an armed band of some ninety men. Woken by the noise, Radford agreed to come down and talk only after Sir Thomas had promised as a knight and gentleman that no harm would come to him or his goods. But once inside the house Courtenay
distracted Radford while his men broke open Radford’s coffers and stole valuable goods worth 1000 marks along with a good deal of cash; they even rolled Radford’s invalid wife, Thomasina, out of her bed to take the very sheets on which she lay to bundle up some of their loot. Courtenay then lured Radford out of the house by telling him that the earl wished to see him; only a stone’s throw away, however, Courtenay rode off saying ‘Farewell, Radford’ and leaving behind several followers who then stabbed Radford to death.
The Courtenays’ injuries against Radford did not stop there. Four days later Henry Courtenay, the earl’s second son and Radford’s godson, came to the chapel at Upcott where Radford’s body lay, and held a farcical coroner’s inquest which declared Radford a suicide. Henry Courtenay then ordered
servants to bear Radford’s body to the nearby churchyard of Cheriton Fitzpaine, where Courtenay’s men cast the naked corpse into a pit and threw stones Radford had purchased for his own grave onto the body, crushing it beyond recognition. A few days later on 1 November the earl and his two sons
marched at the head of some 1000 armed men from Tiverton to Exeter where they seized the gates of the city, set their own watch, and quartered in the city until 21 December. On 22 November the earl compelled the dean and treasurer of Exeter Cathedral to hand over goods worth £600, and £700 in
money, which Radford had deposited with them. Two days later over a hundred of the earl’s followers raided a house formerly belonging to Radford in Exeter and carried away more valuable plate, jewels, and money. Whether these actions of the Courtenays indicate that financial gain had been a
motive for Radford’s murder, or only show that they needed such plunder to pay their followers, is unclear.
News of Radford’s murder and of the Courtenays’ subsequent actions quickly reached London where they gave considerable strength to a petition to the lords by a group of MPs that Richard, duke of York, should be appointed protector of the realm for a second time. York duly became protector, but the Courtenays and the three murderers nevertheless eventually secured royal pardons for their actions, in spite of the complaints of Radford’s heir and cousin, John Radford.”[1]

John Radford petitioned the king, Henry VI, about the murder.[2]

Petitioners: John Radford, executor of Nicholas Radford of Devon.

Addressees: King.


Nature of request: Petition stating that Nicholas Radford was a justice of the Peace by the king’s commission and was possessed of great zeal to pursue evildoers. On Thursday 23 October in 34th year of the reign, Radford was at his place called Uppecote in Cadleleigh and was in the king’s peace, and Thomas Courtenay came with others bearing arms and attacked Radford’s place and set the gates of the place on fire. Radford came and admitted them after Courtenay that he and his goods would be preserved. While Courtenay distracted Radford, the men stripped the place, turning Radford’s sick wife out of bed and carrying all away.

Afterwards Courtenay said that he had to take Radford to his father and then departed. Philip and the others then struck Radford on the head with a glaive so that his brain fell out and cut his throat.

Afterwards at his burial when his body lay in his chapel, Henry Courtenay came with others and took upon him the office of coroner and held an inquest without authority. Afterwards they cast his body from the coffin into the grave and threw the stones conveyed there for Radford’s tomb onto the body crushing it. Justice is requested for them so that an example is not set if the murder, felony and robbery pass unpunished.

Endorsement: Let it be done as he requests.

Other people mentioned: Nicholas Radford, justice of peace, gentleman of Devon; Thomas Courtney (Courtenay), late of Tiverton, kt., son of Thomas, earl of Devon; Thomas [Courtenay], earl of Devon; Nicholas Philippe (Philip) otherwise called Nicholas Gye, late of Tiverton, yeoman; Nicholas Gye otherwise called Nicholas Philip, late of Tiverton, yeoman; John a More, otherwise called John Penyale late of Exe Island of Devon, tailor; John Penyale, otherwise called John a More late of Exe Island of Devon, tailor; John Briggham (Brigham), late of Tiverton, yeoman; William Layn late of Tiverton, yeoman; Thomas Overye, otherwise called Thomas Amery late of Exeter, tailor; Thomas Amery, otherwise called Thomas Overye late of Exeter, tailor; Henry Courteneye (Courtenay), late of Tiverton, esquire, brother of Sir Thomas Courtenay, kt., and godson of Nicholas Radford.

John Radford died in 1478. His Inquisition Post Mortem is unusual. Instead of the usual list of properties owned by the deceased, it details disputes over Nicholas’s estates and their outcome.


[1] Maryanne Kowaleski, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
[2] National Archives: SC 8/138  




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