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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)




JOHN KEYNES. The Keynes family of Winkleigh is copiously documented for the preceding and following centuries, but after the 1420s, there is a shortage of evidence for the next 50 years. Our only knowledge of John comes through the pedigree compiled in the 17th century by Sir William Pole.

Richard Keynes had issue John, wch had issue Nicholas’.[1]

 John’s father Richard is himself something of a mystery. We know of him only through Pole’s pedigree and the Inquisition Post Mortem of his elder brother John. He is not mentioned in his father’s IPM, though his four brothers are. He may have been the black sheep of the family.[2]

In 1420, Richard’s brother John inherited a great deal of land in all the south-western counties and several manors, including the key family manor of Winkleigh Keynes in mid-Devon. But he died a few months after his father, leaving only a daughter as his heir. As his male heir, Richard would have become lord of at least some of those manors. By 1480, Winkleigh seems to be the only manor held by the Keynes in Devon, though there is property in Dorset not included in the abstract.[3] It may be that most of the land went to John’s aunt Joan Speke, or that the Keynes family later forfeited land in the War of the Roses.

We do not know when or whom Richard married, or when his eldest son John was born. Richard was 30 or 33 in 1420 (the IPM gives two different ages for him). Had he been the eldest son, he would probably have married young. For a younger son, it is more difficult to estimate the date of his marriage. Richard may have had property not mentioned in his father’s IPM, or he may have been landless until his brother died. If the latter, it is likely to have delayed his marriage. We have IPMs, giving valuable family details and dating information for Richard’s brother and four generations before him, but not for Richard. The best guess we can make is that John was born in the period 1410-25. The date of his grandson’s IPM, and the age of his great-grandson, suggest an earlier date rather than a later one.[4]

He was thus probably born before his father became lord of the manor. John, as a boy, would have experienced the thrill of moving into Court Castle on its massive mound at Winkleigh.

We do not know his mother’s name, or what brothers and sisters he may have had.


John would have grown up in the reign of Henry VI, who suffered increasing bouts of mental illness. Abroad, the Hundred Years’ War was limping to an end. John may have fought in France. He was may even just have been old enough to see Joan of Arc at the head of the Dauphin’s army in 1431 or subsequently as a prisoner, tried under English guard, and burned at the stake.

Working back from his great-grandson’s date of birth, it is likely that John married and began his own family as a relatively young man in the 1430s. We do not know the name of his wife. Pole’s pedigree tells us that his eldest son was Nicolas.


We do not know when John’s father died, and he inherited the manor. Indeed, for all we know, John may have predeceased him.

If he lived into the 1450s, he would have seen the English lose Normandy. The Hundred Years’ War came to an end with the fall in 1453 of Bordeaux, which had been an English stronghold in the south of France.

More seriously, trouble was brewing at home. The government was hugely in debt. Law and order was breaking down. Many lords were abandoning the justice of the courts and enforcing their will with armed bands.

Either John or his father, if he was still alive, would have had responsibility for the manorial court at Winkleigh. We do not know how scrupulously they fulfilled their obligation.

Parts of the present church of All Saints at Winkleigh, including the north aisle and the transept, date from the 15th century. John may have had some hand in this.

These were the closing years of the House of Lancaster. Richard of York, cousin to King Henry VI, had been heir presumptive, with a rather stronger claim to the throne than Henry himself. But in 1453, Prince Edward was born. Supporters of Richard grew increasingly hostile to the ailing king. In 1455 hostilities broke out with the Battle of St Albans. The High Constable of England was killed. Henry’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, took over the lead of the king’s party. Richard fled to Ireland. In England, the struggle was bloody and bitter. In 1460, the Yorkists were victorious at Northampton. It was agree that Richard should be Henry’s heir, instead of the young prince Edward. But when Richard attacked the queen’s forces in the north, he was killed. In 1461, his son, also called Edward, entered London and was proclaimed king.

We do not know if John lived to see these tumultuous times. If he did, he could hardly have remained unaffected by them. He would have been expected to take the side of his overlord, the earl of Gloucester.


[1] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791), p.432.

[2] IPM John Keynes senior 1419/20; IPM John Keynes junior 1420. [WSL]

[3] IPM John Keynes 1480.

[4] IPM John Keynes 1480.




Sampson Tree