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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)

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WILLIAM ATTE MERSHE. In 1619, Christian Marsh of the village of East Langdon in Kent married William Pettit of the nearby parish of Ringwould.

Researchers have traced the Marsh pedigree back two centuries in the same parish. East Langdon is three miles NE of Dover and 4 miles SW of Deal. It is set a little way back from the coast.

The continuous pedigree begins with William Atte Mershe who was farming there in the 15th century.

But there were Marshes in East Langdon at least a century before that. Edward Cokayne, who compiled a history of various Marsh families quotes the historian Halsted:[1]

“It is stated in Halsted’s Kent that a family of Marsh were seated at East Langdon (near Dover), in Kent in 1326 during the reign of Edward III. Their position, however, till the 17th century, appears to have been that of yeomen, and no mention of them occurs in any of the Heralds’ Visitations of that county earlier than that held in 1663, and neither previously or for many years after that date did any of them fill the office of High Sheriff, Knight of the Shire, Burgess for a town, or even Justice of the Peace for the county.”

Either the date of 1326 or the name of the king is wrong. Edward III did not accede until 1327.


William atte Mershe was a yeoman in the latter part of his life, but “yeoman” in Kent meant something rather more than elsewhere. It is normally used for someone who farms on a considerable scale, above that of a husbandman. But the yeomen of Kent are thought to have been closer in status to a country squire. They were supposed to be especially well off, as shown in a popular rhyme of the early 16th century:-[2]

“A knight of Cales [Calais], and a gentleman of Wales,
And a laird of the north country –
A yeoman of Kent with his yearly rent
Could buy them out – all three.”

Medieval farmer[3]

 Usually, families having pedigrees going back to the Middle Ages are gentry of Norman or Flemish origin. In the case of the Marsh family, they were not only yeomen, but believed to be of Jutish origin, rather than Norman. The Jutes invaded Kent from the 5th century onwards.

There is speculation that this family may have taken their name from the vast expanse of Romney Marsh, 20 miles to the west.

We do not have the document of 1326 cited by Cokayne, but we do have one dated 9 Jul 1362.[4]

Debtor: William Atte Marsh of Kent.
Creditor: John de Canterbury [of Kent]
Amount: £10.
Before whom: Edmund Cokyn, Warden of Canterbury; John Ellis, Clerk.
When taken: 07/08/1358
First term: 02/02/1359
Last term: 02/02/1359
Writ to: Sheriff of Kent
Sent by: John de Sheldwich, Warden of Canterbury; Stephen de Hoo, Clerk.

This was well into the reign of Edward III.

It is not explicitly stated that this William Atte Marsh was from East Langdon, but we have not found this surname in any other Kent parish.

It is very likely that he is the grandfather of the 15th-century William Atte Mershe, who is the first named in the continuous pedigree.

For this Marsh pedigree we are indebted to a website created by Jeremy James Heath-Caldwell.[5] The information is based on the History of the Ancient Family of Marsh by Joseph J. Green, which is not available on line.[6]

The website names this earliest forebear as “William Atte Mershe (Marsh) of Marston in East Langdon (East Langdon, near Guston, Dover, Kent, England) (1380ish-14??)” It also tells us that William was still living in 1440. No doubt this is because he is named in a document of that date, but we do not know the nature of the document and we have not found it in the National Archives.

The Dover Historian tells us that the name was written Atte-Mershe in the reign of Henry V (1413-1422). We do not have this document, either, but there is one soon after, in the reign of Henry VI.

It is a bond dated 28 Jul 1427.[7]

“From Henry Benet of the West Cliffe parish, Kent, husbandman; William atte merssh’ of East Langdon parish, husbandman; Henry Shoppyer of St Margaret’s at Cliffe parish, husbandman To: John Wodnesbergh, II, prior of Canterbury Cathedral Priory In 100s, payable as specified.”

Before the Reformation, the manor of Langdon was in the possession of the prior and priory of St Augustine in Canterbury. East Langdon’s church is dedicated to St Augustine.

In this document, William is a humble husbandman, farming a few acres.

Later this century, there is a very similar bond for William’s son Thomas, who is also then a husbandman. It is also made out to the Cathedral Priory and is again for 100s. The other men named are from the same parishes as this one.

It is very likely that it concerns land that first William and then Thomas rented from the priory.

The parishes of West Cliffe and St Margaret’s at Cliffe lie just south of East Langdon.


We meet William again in a lease dated 24 Sep 1445.[8] Again, it is between Canterbury Cathedral Priory and local farmers. The short description on the National Archives website reads:

“From: John Salisbury, I, prior of Canterbury Cathedral Priory; the convent of Canterbury Cathedral Priory To: William Grygge of Mongeham; William mersh’ of East Langdon, yeoman; Thomas Page of East Langdon, yeoman Lydden and £40 for stock and dead stock as specified. For a term of 3 years. For an annual payment of £32 13s 4d, payable as specified in the priory’s treasury at Canterbury. Reserving certain rights and dues. The lessees shall have wreck of the sea when it occurs, provided the value is not 20s or more a year. Conditions on repairs. Right of distraint and re-entry if payment in arrears. The lessees have made a bond in £100 to observe the terms of the lease. Priory’s part of indenture. Given at the chapter house of Canterbury Cathedral Priory.”

Since the bond 18 years earlier, William has risen in status to become a yeoman. He is now farming on a substantial scale. It is possible that, in the meantime, William’s father had died, leaving William as his principal heir.

This was a dangerous stretch of coast, not far from the Goodwin Sands. Hundreds of ships came to grief there, and remains must often have been washed up on the shore, providing an additional source of income.

Mongeham is Great Mongeham, just west of Deal.


The Marsh pedigree gives William two sons: Robert Marsh of Marston, East Langden, and.
Thomas Marsh of East Langden.

Robert is thought to have been born around 1416

Marston was the family seat. It lies in the northern part of the parish, while the village and church of East Langdon are in the south.

Our information about William Atte Mershe is only patchy. We do not know when he was born, though it was probably towards the end of the 14th century. We do not have the name of his wife, or his death date. In the bond of 1474, William’s son Thomas is still a husbandman. This may mean that William was still alive, but Thomas appears to be the younger son, so he may not have been William’s principal heir and achieved the same status.


[1] G E Cokayne, Some Notices of Various Families of the Name of Marsh, 1900; Edward Hasted, ‘The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent’, 1797
[2] The Ingoldsby Legends. https://www.exclassics.com/ingold/ing11.htm
[3] Yeoman – Wikipedia
[4] National Archives: C 241/143/53
[5] https://jjhc.info/marshwilliam1440
[6] Joseph J Green, History of the Ancient Family of Marsh,1903, rev. 1912 by Wm. Ernest Marsh.
[7] National Archives: CA-DCc-ChAnt/M/267/3
[8] National Archives: CCA-DCc-ChAnt/L/373A/5



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