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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



SIR ROBERT CARY was the eldest son and heir of Sir John Cary, chief Baron of the Exchequer, and the heiress Margaret Holleway of Holleway in North Lew, Devon.

His home is believed to be at Cary, in St Giles on the Heath. This is a village in the far west of Devon. The name Cary comes from a brook there.

He was born in 1375, near the end of the reign of Edward III. He had at least three younger brothers.

He was still a child at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381

In 1388 his father was attainted by the Merciless Parliament, which convicted him of treason for his support of Richard II after the king was removed from power. His death sentence was commuted, but he was sent into exile in Ireland and his lands were confiscated.

Robert made his home at Cockington, near Torquay. He was the first of this family to live there.

He married twice.

His first wife was Margaret Courtenay, granddaughter of the Earl of Devon and great-great-granddaughter of Edward I. She was the daughter of Sir Philip Courtenay and Ann Wake. She grew up at Powderham Castle on the Exe estuary.

Like his father, Robert supported the young king Richard in his power struggle against the Lords Appellant. In 1391, three years after his father was exiled, Robert became a squire in the king’s retinue. The following year he was a squire in the household of the king’s brother John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter and 1st Earl of Huntingdon. He received several grants of land and began to compensate for the loss of his father’s lands.

His father died in exile in 1395. Robert was his principal heir, but there was little left to inherit.

In 1398 Parliament reversed the acts of the Merciless Parliament and Robert was able to reclaim some of his father’s forfeited estates.

In 1399 Richard II was overthrown and Henry IV took the throne. Once again, Parliament went back on its decision, reverting to the acts of the Merciless Parliament. Robert’s chances of recovering his father’s land took a turn for the worse. His father’s manor was given to Sir Robert Chalons  MP, a relative of the new king. Robert Cary turned physically violent in an attempt to deny Chalons his gains. He supported his former patron John Holland in the Epiphany Rising, a plot to capture King Henry at a tournament at Windsor Castle at the feast of Epiphany and restore Richard II to the throne. The plot was foiled, and the conspirators fled. Richard died mysteriously in Pontefract Castle.

The court of assize in Devon found Robert Cary guilty of conspiracy, yet he managed to avoid punishment.

The key to his unexpected royal favour lay in his first marriage to Margaret Courtenay around 1402 and the influence of his brother-in-law Richard Courtenay, Bishop of Norwich.

On the accession of King Henry V in 1413, Robert was fully restored to royal favour. He put this down to his success in a tournament against a knight-errant from Aragon. Prince, in his Worthies of Devon reports it thus:

“A certain knight-errand of Arragon, having passed thro’ divers countries, and performed many feats of arms, to his high commendation, arrived here in England, where he challenged any man of his rank and quality to make tryal of his valor and skill in arms. This challenge Sir Robert Cary accepted; between whom a cruel encounter and a long and doubtful combat was waged, in Smithfield, London. But at length this noble champion vanquished the presumptious Arragonoise, for which King Henry V restored unto him good part of his father’s lands, which for his loyalty to King Richard II he had been deprived of by King Henry IV, and authoriz’d him to bear the arms of the knight of Arragon, viz: in a field silver, on a bend sable three white roses, which the noble posterity of this gentleman continue to wear unto this day, for according to the laws of heraldry whosoever fairly in the field conquers his adversary may justify the bearing of his arms.”

Robert was twelve times Member of Parliament for Devon, between 1407 and 1426.

In 1413 he was appointed Escheator of Devon and Cornwall, which office he retained until 1415. He had to deal with escheats, which were the reversion of property to the Crown or a feudal lord if the owner died without legal heirs.

During the reign of King Henry V (1413–1422) Robert Cary served on Commissions of Array to raise royal troops in Devon, and on other commissions to take the musters of the army of the Seneschal of Aquitaine.

In 1415 he loaned 100 marks to the crown to help finance an expedition to Normandy. He received as security (from his brother-in-law Bishop Courtenay, Keeper of the King’s Jewels) “ the Duke of Bergundy’s great tabernacle” . Such tabernacles were usually created to hold a precious relic.

In December 1415 Richard Courtenay died at the Siege of Harfleur, leaving his 11-year-old nephew Philip Courtenay as his heir. Robert Cary was granted by the king the lucrative wardship of 16 of the bishop’s manors in Devon and Somerset until the heir should attain his majority of 21.

Robert and Margaret had at least two children, Elinora and Phillip.

There is a minority opinion which believes that Margaret was the mother of Joan Cary, who married William Ayshford.  The more general view is that her mother was Robert’s second wife Jane Hankford.

Margaret died in 1413.

JANE HANKFORD was the daughter of the Chief Justice Sir William Hankford of Annery in the parish of Monkleigh near Torrington. Her mother was Cristina, probably from the Stapledon family, who also lived in Annery. Walter Stapelton had been Bishop of Exeter from 1307-26 and we are descended from two of his sisters.

Jane had at least one brother.

According to the historian Vivian, her first husband was Sir John Wadham of Edge inBranscombe.[1] He was a lawyer like her father and became Justice of Common Pleas. He was also an MP for Exeter and for Devon. Under King Richard II he was one of five sergeants-at-law, alongside her father William Hankford and Robert’s father John Cary. All five were Devonians.

Sir John Wadham and Sir William Hankford were joint purchasers of the lands of Robert’s father after he was sent into exile.

This may have been a factor in Robert choosing Jane as his second wife.

Sir John Wadham owned extensive lands. Around 1400, he built a moated and fortified manor house at Merryfield, Ilton, in Somerset, which became the family’s principal home. It was probably here that Jane came as a bride.

However, she is not listed as one of his wives in biographies of him.

Sir John Wadham died in 1413.


Jane and Robert had one daughter, Joan.

Robert probably died in 1431, since there are no records of him after that date.


Despite the early lack of inheritance from his father, he owned many manors.
Cockington and Clovelly in Devon, purchased by his father.                       .
Part of Great Torrington, inherited from his grandmother Jane de Bryan’s family.
Puncknowle Farm, Dorset
Puddington, Devon.
2/3 of North Lew, Devon, where Holway was his mother’s inheritance.
Woodrow, Wiltshire, and Ellingham Priory, Hampshire, grant for life in 1397.
Powderham and Chivelstone, Devon. Granted to him for life by Bishop Richard Courtenay in 1413.

Jane lived on until 1447..


[1] Vivian, John (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds’ Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895.




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