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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 William Ayshford of Burlescombe and Joan Wollavington of Wollavington in Somerset. He was born in the 1380s.[1]

The Ayshfords were at the time modest landowners. Around 1400 William’s parents secured for him the hand of the heiress Emma Ferrars.


EMMA FERRERS was one of two daughters of William Ferrers of Churston Ferrars, between Brixham and the Dart estuary. Her father was a wealthy landowner and Sheriff of Devon in 1396. She had no brothers, or none surviving to inherit.
Her mother was the heiress Elizabeth Matesford of Daldich north of Honiton.

 Churston Court, Emma’s childhood home.

We are moving into a century of cultural change. The 15th century saw the rebuilding of churches across the county, often preserving no more than the Norman font. St Mary’s, Burlescombe dates from this century.

English was becoming the common language of all ranks, ousting Norman French for the higher levels of society. Literacy spread among the upper and middle classes. A number of schools were founded.

In 1400 the Lancastrian Henry IV had recently ascended the throne. He was met with a rebellion, among whose leaders was the powerful Lord Despenser, but managed to avoid capture.


The couple had a son, the third William in succession to inherit the Ayshford lands.


In 1408 there was a quitclaim in which the rector of Washfield, near Tiverton, renounced his claim to lands in that neighbourhood and elsewhere in favour of a group of claimants, including William Ayshford.[2] William’s family had long had an interest in Washfield through his great-great-grandmother Constance Worth of Worth in that parish.

Quitclaim, 1408, October 14. 10 Henry IV. 1

Quitclaim by William Wodeborne, rector of the church of Wasshfeld (Devon), to John Strecche, William Walrond, and William Aysshford of all his right and claim in all the lands, etc., which they had of the gift of Hugh Beauchamp in Wasshfeld, Lughetorre, and elsewhere in the county of Devon. Given at Tyverton on the feast of St. Calixtus, 10 Henry IV.

Witnesses: John Gambon, Reynald Hengstelegh, John Chuderlegh, John Gyllyngham, John Dennyng.

With 1 seal (1.6 cm.) of red wax, pendant on a tag, bearing the initial “N”; with other devices.


One of the witnesses was John Gamon, of the same family as William’s paternal grandmother, Edith Gambon.

The William Ayshford in this case could be either this William or more probably his father.


In 1428 Emma’s father died and she and her sister inherited his wealth. Heather Ayshford writes: “An idea of the difference this made to the family finances can be gained from a valuation of the Ayshford lands made in 1655. Ayshford itself was worth £15 in rents, the Wollavington inheritance £16.5.5, but the properties that came with the Ferrars marriage total a huge £212.19. 3! We must multiply by at least 30 to get some idea of present- day values, and this was annual income… The Ferrars’ land was divided between Emma Ayshford and Joan Yard, her sister, after the death of their father in 1428. There was some difficulty in recovering a “certain box, with certain written documents and other muniments contained in the said box”, from Cecilia Ferrars, a relative by marriage. The lovely illuminated manuscript, listing Ferrars’ properties and now held in the Somerset Record Office, is perhaps one of these documents.

The Yard family used some of their newly acquired wealth to rebuild Bradley Manor, near Newton Abbot, in 1419. Perhaps William Ayshford did something similar but the evidence is lacking. What is certain is that this marriage propelled the Ayshfords from relative obscurity to a more central role in the county.”

Another inheritance came to the sisters from John Ferrers, their uncle. ‘Dalditch in this parish [Luppitt] sometime ye land of Sr Willam Meleden, Kt … came to John Ferrers… & he dying thout issue, the lands of Ferrers were devided betwixt Emma, wife of Willam Ashford, of Ashford, & Joane, wife of Richard Yard of Bradly. This land fell in coparcinary unto Ashford, & from Kinge Henry 6 tyme [1422-1461] it hath contynewed in yt name & family unto these tymes.’[3]


Emma died before 1442.


William seems still to have been alive then. He had an interest in the parishes of Huntsham, 5 miles NW of Burlescombe, and in Thurlestone, near the south Devon coast north of Salcombe.[4]

In 1439 there was a commission of inquiry concerning the living at Huntsham:

31 July 1439, Taunton Episcopi; to the archdeacon of Exeter, to enquire into the vacancy, etc. of the parish church of Hunsham, to which Thomas Ley clerk has been presented by Sir John Speke knight, John Orchard senior, William Speke, William Aysshford and Thomas Speke.

Another commission followed in 1442, concerning the living at Thurlestone.

12 July 1442, Radeway; to the archdeacon of Totnes, to enquire into the vacancy etc. of the parish church of Thurlestone, to which master William Gambon has been presented by Richard Yerd, Joan his wife, and William Aysshford esquire.

Not the first time, the names of Ayshford and Gambon occur together.

On 1 Nov 1442, the Bishop received at Chudleigh a certificate from an official of the Archdeacon of Totnes confirming the appointment of William Gambon to Thurlestone. William Ayshford is recorded as “Willelmus Ayssheforde, Armigeri”, in other words, he had the right to bear a coat of arms. “On the same day, and at the same place the Bishop instituted Master William Gambone, on the Presentation of the Patrons aforesaid.”

A note relating to that appointment says: “Richard Yerde and Johanna wife of the same, and William Ayshford are the sworn patrons of the same. Richard Yerde and Johanna wife of the same, daughter and one of the heirs of William Ferrers, … and the same William Ayshford … Emmote, his deceased wife, another daughter and heir of the said Ferrers deceased.” Emmote is a pet name for Emma.

Matt Tompkins comments: “William Ferrers had been the patron, and had presented the previous incumbent. On his death the advowson had descended to his two daughters as co-heirs. Each of the daughters had married (Joan to Richard Yerde and Emma to William Ashford) and consequently each daughter’s share was now held by her husband (ut de jure = in right of). Emma is now dead, however, so the new owners are Joan and her husband jointly with Emma’s husband.”[5]

About this time another Ayshford, formerly of the diocese of Bath and Wells, was ordained as priest.

Walterus Aysshford Bathon’ et Wellen’ d. per litt. dim. ad tit. priorisse et con. de Canyngton. [6]

Walter’s relationship to William is unknown, but he could be a younger son. ‘Canyngton’ may be Canonsleigh priory in Burlescombe, with which the Ayshfords had long been associated.


It becomes difficult to determine when this William died. Deeds concerning the patronage of churches continue to refer to William Ayshford, but this could be his son and heir. There is a reference in 1448 to the institution of “William Aysshforde junior” to the living at Thurlestone. This is not William and Emma’s son, but their grandson. This may mean that the elder William was now dead, but the evidence is not conclusive.

Thurleston had been owned by the Ferrers who were lords of Churston Ferrers, so this must have been one of the manors Emma brought to the Ayshfords on her marriage.


[1] Source, except where otherwise stated: F. & H. Ayshford, Notes Towards a History of the Ayshford Family of Devon. Typescript booklet.
[2] Harvard Law School English Deeds Collection 1-50, Deed 34, HOLLIS number: -APU5049
[3] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791), p.131.
[4] Register of Edmund Lacy, Bishop of Exeter, 1420-1455, Registrum Commune. DCRS, 1966.
[5] Matt Tompkins email
[6] Register of Edmund Lacy.





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