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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



ALEXANDER CRUWYS was the eldest son of Sir Robert Cruwys and Isabella de St Aubyn. T.F Johns estimates his birth date around 1330.[1]

His father was lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard. Sir Robert was knighted while he was a soldier in France in 1346. This was part of the long campaign of the Hundred Years’ War, in which Britain repeatedly set out to plunder and waste France. He probably took part in the Battle of Cressy, and the sieges of Calais and Poictiers. He returned to Cruwys Morchard not only with a knighthood, but enriched by the spoils of war. In his absence, Alexander’s mother and their staff had improved the prosperity of the estate. Sir Robert was able to pay off his debts and repair the losses caused by the rash behaviour of Alexander’s grandfather, Sir Alexander Cruwys.[2]


JULIANA. We do not know Juliana’s maiden name. She seems to have been born around 1340.[3]

By the time she married Alexander, she was already a widow. Her first husband was John Bromford. We do not know whether there were any children from this marriage. As part of her dower, she had one-third of Bromford Manor.[4]

Alexander and Juliana had at least two sons, Robert, estimated to have been born about 1367, and John, born about 1381. There were four daughters, Joan, Elizabeth, Luce and Alice, most of whom were probably born in the intervening years.[5]

 Sir Robert Cruwys died in 1362. Alexander was 32 when he inherited. The long-reigning Edward III was still king.

The following year, we find a deed dated 14th February 1363.

 Licence for 20/- paid to the King by William Avenel parson of the church of Cruwysmorchard, for the alienation in mortmain by Bretel Avenel and Alexander Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard to him of a messuage, two ferlings of land, one acre of meadow, and one acre of wood in Coltishorne to find 13 wax lights, each of one pound of wax, burning in the chancel of the said church, and 2 torches each 7 feet long, to serve at the high altar in that church for ever.[6]

 A mortmain is an alienable ownership of land.

Between 1363 and 1382, Alexander Cruwys five times presented a new incumbent to Cruwys Morchard, once in conjunction with two others, who may have been trustees. In 1373-4 and in 1375 he presented to East Anstey, a parish on the southern slopes of Exmoor, with which the family had a long connection.[7]

In 1372, when Robert would have been about five years old, Alexander made over his properties in Ansty Cruwys, Little Racknenford and Sydeham to two feoffees, to hold in trust for him and his heirs.

In 1380, two years before his death, Alexander had a a similar deed drawn up, which conveyed his land Morchard Cruwys and Great Rackenford to same two feoffees, Sir John Morton, parson of Rackenford church, and William Clauton, parson of Anstey Crues, to hold for the use of Alexander and his heirs. His children are named as Robert and the four girls. John seems to have been born the following year. This may have been simple prudence, or Alexander may have been in poor health and concerned for the future of his teenage heir and the family estate.

T.F. Johns says that the deed was “probably a procedure, much used at the time, to avoid feudal obligations attached to ownership of land. If, as seems probable, the land in question was held by knight’s service from a feudal overlord (probably the Earl of Devon), the lord was entitled:

(a) to require a tenant to provide a certain number of fully-armed horsemen for so many days in the year for the Lord’s assistance,

(b) to a sum of money when a tenant succeeded to land on the death of the previous tenant (relief),

(c) to monetary “aids”, for the ransom of the Lord’s person, the knighting of his eldest son, or the marriage of his eldest daughter,

(d) if the tenant died when his heir was under age (21 if male), the Lord was entitled to manage the land until the “infant” came of age (wardship). When the wardship terminated, the Lord was entitled to half a year’s profits.

(e) when the heir of a tenant was under age, the Lord also had the right to make a suitable match for him, with substantial financial penalties if he refused.

In Alexander’s case, it seems certain that his heir Robert was under age. In fact he was apparently still under age in 1387, and the purpose of the feoffment may have been primarily to avoid the obligations noted at (d) and (e) above. It seems likely that Robert married when he was still under age after this feoffment, but just before his father’s death.”

The deed also provided that, in determining the succession to Alexander’s properties in Cruwys Morchard and Great Rackenford, if at some future time there were no “male heirs of the body” of Alexander or of his heirs, the property would pass to other male heirs of Alexander (if any), in preference to other heirs of Alexander’s successors. [8]

Sometime during their marriage, Alexander and Juliana disposed of the portion of Bromford Manor which Juliana had brought as her dower.

‘An Inquisition held in 1403, regarding the properties of Sir John Cary (attainted in 1387), elicited the fact that Alexander Cruwys and Julia his wife, formerly wife of John Bromford, had been seized of one-third of Bromford Manor as her dower and had transferred it to Thomas Affeton before the forfeiture of John Cary’s possessions.’[9]

 Alexander held the manor for twenty years. Before his death in 1382 his eldest son Robert, still a teenager, married Margaret Cornu. While Alexander lay sick, Margaret’s father, Walter Cornu, “privily took away his seal of arms unknown to him as it lay with his Purse under his bedhead.”[10] He used the seal to forge deeds to the manors of Anstey Cruwys and Little Rackenford. He did not act upon them immediately, but waited until Alexander, his son eldest Robert and his grandson Humphrey were dead. From then on, the ownership of these estates was a matter of contention.

This theft is all the more remarkable because Walter Cornu was Sheriff of Devon in 1380-1, the fourth year of Richard II’s reign. As Sheriff he was in charge of law and order in the county and seeing that justice was done.

“Just before his death on 15 Aug 1382, Alexander Cruwys enacted a further deed granting power of attorney to Roger Ackelane to deliver seisin to William Clauton (parson of Ansty Cruwys) and John Braddelegh, of all his rights in a number of properties at various places, including Dunesland, Forde Chedys, Fernham Langhedon, Thorncomb, Blakeson, Chidecomb, etc. Seisin is the technical term appropriate to the possession of land by a freehold tenant.

“A few months later, on 10 Oct 1382, presumably after Alexander’s death, these properties wre transferred by William Clauton to Juliana, formerly the wife of Alexander Cruwys. This deed also mentions John Bykelegh, Chaplain, who (a little later, on 20 Dec 1382) released the rights of the same properties to Juliana and her heirs. It is not clear why there were two such deeds, since they both seem to refer to the same properties.

“When Alexander Cruwys died about 1382, he was succeeded by his son Robert. At the time of Alexander’s death, Robert was probably only about 15 or 16 years old. He had very recently married Margaret Cornu…

“Soon after his father’s death in 1382, and less than two weeks after the rights in many of Alexander’s properties had been transferred by John Bykelegh to his widow Juliana, Robert Cruwys signed a deed which granted to his mother Juliana the right to have certain lands in Cruwys Morchard and elsewhere during her lifetime ‘in the name of dower’. No doubt his mother had several small children living with her at that time (Robert’s sisters and brother). Widows in the position of Juliana had a legal right to a life interest in one-third of any estate of inheritance to which her husband was entitled at his death.”[11]

Within a year of Alexander’s death, Juliana married her third husband, Matthew Hordelegh. As she accumulated dower lands from these marriages, she was becoming a wealthy and powerful woman.

By 1388, she and her younger children were presumably no longer living at Cruwys Morchard. An agreement was reached between her son Robert, “on coming of age”, on one hand, and Juliana and her third husband, Matthew Hordelegh, on the other, saying that she “shall retain a dower out of all lands of her late husband in Cruwys Morchard, the undermentioned properties.” These are listed as five unidentified farms, “a parcel of vacant land at Deptford and a mill there”, Thongsleigh, “a parcel of wood on the north side of the road which leads from the Rectory of Cruwys Morchard to Racynesford… one parcel of wood on the north side of the road which leads from the tenement which Joan atte Wode now holds to Berlesford, and from the said tenement with the course of the water from the south part of Cutclyve. And one parcel at Meneclyve.” In the Barton of Cruwys Morchard the Deerpark and “Betedonne”, 12 acres of land, and near “Brodeyate” 20 acres of land, and the “vacant land…. on the west side of Grabbelond and three acres of park there.”[12]

“A few years later, in 1393, Matthew de Hordelegh and Juliana his wife leased to her son Robert Cruwys at a rental of £11-6-7, all lands held by them, of her right as dower, in the towns and hamlets of Morchard Cruwys, Bodelwyke, Great Rackenford, Ansty and Lytel Rackenford (except the advowson of Great Rackenford). Presumably this related to her ownership of a part-share in each of properties.

“By 1403, following the pattern set by his father, Robert was conveying his manor of Morchard Cruwys, with the advowson, and various other properties, to Walter Robert, parson of Morchard Cruwys, and Robert Martyn, parson of Baketon, as feoffees.”[13]

In the contention for the succession to the crown of England and the fight for Welsh independence, the Cruwys family were loyal to the house of Lancaster. In 1404, Juliana’s husband, Matthew Hordelegh, and her younger son John, were ordered by King Henry IV to capture agents of the Welsh prince Owen Glendower and confiscate the arms they were collecting.[14]

Juliana’s eldest son Robert died about that time, probably still under 40. He was succeeded as lord of the manor by his eldest son Humphrey, who was a minor, aged about 16. In 1406, the manor of Morchard Cruwys, but not the advowson, was granted by Walter Robert, parson of Morchard Cruwys, whom Humphrey’s father had appointed as feoffee, to Humphrey Cruwys, son and heir of Robert Cruwys, and Robert Yeo and the heirs of Humphrey.

Humphrey did not have long to enjoy his inheritance. It is not clear just when he died, but he must have been at most 23. By 1411 he had been succeeded by his uncle John.

This was because Humphrey died without producing a son. He did have a younger brother, as well as two sisters, but the deed Alexander had drawn up in 1380 provided that, if any of his successors had “no male heirs of his body”, the succession should revert to another of Alexander’s male heirs. This was Alexander and Juliana’s younger son, John.[15]

Margaret Cruwys says that in 1411, out of her considerable estates, Juliana granted her grandson John Cruwys Overwholecombe Barton in North Devon for 13/4 during her lifetime, and in 1414 “her estate by way of dower”, in consideration of an annuity of 12 marks. But there is some confusion in her notes here. The John Cruwys referred to is more likely her son, not her grandson who was born around 1414. A mark was ⅔ of £1.[16] Overwholecombe Barton must be Overwoolacombe Barton, on the north-west tip of Devon, which was part of Matilda Fitzpayne’s dowry three generations earlier.

In 1413, Henry V had succeeded to the throne. In this year, Humphrey’s younger brother Robert, Juliana’s grandson, became Rector of Rackenford. The family would have used their patronage to secure him this appointment. It was about this,g time too, that Juliana’s granddaughters, Thomasine and Elizabeth, and their husbands, used the deed forged by their grandfather, Walter Cornu, with the seal he had stolen from Alexander, to lay claim to Ansty Cruwys on the Somerset border. This family dispute dragged on for many years. Her grandson Robert, the parson, took no part in this quarrel.[17]

By 1416, Juliana’s third husband, Matthew Hordelegh, was dead. She must by now have been advancing in years, but her wealth made her still an attractive proposition. By 1423 she had married her fourth husband, John Lee of Smethecote, near Torrington. He did well by it. She granted her lands in Cruwys Morchard, Looseland, Kelly, Wood and Ford to him. Perhaps she was feeling that by now she could no longer administer them herself.

This is the last we hear of her.


[1] T.F.Johns, Crewes of South Cornwall and their ancestors in Liskeard, Cornwall, and Cruwys Morchard, Devon. p.11. [WSL], p.9.
[2] John Prince, Vicar of Berry-Pomeroy, The Worthies of Devon, c.1700.
[3] Johns, p.9.
[4] F.B. Prideaux, ‘Cruwys of Morchard and East Anstey’, Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, Vol    13, 1924-5, pp.134-137.
[5] Johns, p.10.
[6] Quoted in Margaret C. S. Cruwys, A Cruwys Morchard Notebook. 1066-1874. 1939.
[7] Prideaux
[8] Johns, p.10
[9] Prideaux
[10] Quoted in M.C.S. Cruwys, Records at Cruwys Morchard, Trans. Dev. Assocn., Vol 84, 1952. 1-19.
[11] Johns, p.14.
[12] Johns, p.15; Cruwys, A Cruwys Morchard Notebook.
[13] Johns, pp.15-16.
[14] M.C.S. Cruwys, Records at Cruwys Morchard, Trans. Dev. Assocn., Vol 84, 1952. 1-19
[15] Johns, p.16.
[16] A Cruwys Morchard Notebook.
[17] Johns, p.16.




Sampson Tree