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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 only son of John Ayshford of Ayshford in Burlescombe and Edith Gambon of Halberton, both in East Devon. [1]

He was born on 5 July 1361. When he had to prove that he had reached the age of 21, and could claim his inheritance, a number of people testified that they remembered the day of his birth.[2]

Proof of age of William Assheford 24th February 1382/3

William, son and heir of John Assheford

Writ to the escheator to take proof of the age of the said William, whose father held by knight’s service of the heir of John Clavill, late a minor in the late king’s wardship, and the said John held by knight’s service of Edward le Despenser, a minor in the late king’s wardship. The lands of the inheritance of the said William are in the custody of the executors of Henry Percy, to whom the late king committed the same. 24 February, 6 Richard II [1382/3].

  1. DEVON. Proof of age taken at Assheford, Monday after the Annunciation, 6 Richard II [30th March 1383[3]].

John Gillyngham, the elder, aged 42 years and more, says that the said William was 21 years of age on Saturday[4] after SS. Peter and Paul, 6 Richard II [1382].[5] This he knows because he was with John Assheford, the father, in the chapel of St. Michael, Assheford, when the said William was baptized, and in the same year the said John Assheford granted him a virgate of land at Assheford for life, and by the date of the indenture thereof he well knows the age of the said William. Moreover, the age of the said William is generally recognised in the parish of his birth.

Walter Gamboun, aged 50 years and more, agrees and says that he had a son Richard born at Assheford on 31 August, 35 Edward III [1361], and the said William was born before him. Moreover etc.

Richard Gamboun, aged 43 years and more, agrees and says that immediately after the birth he had a son named Philip born, whose age is written in the missal of the chapel of Assheford. Moreover etc.

John Craulegh, aged 42 years and more, agrees and says that in the week of the birth a dispute arose between him and John Assheford, and immediately afterwards, in the same year, an agreement was made between them at Assheford, and John Assheford made him a general letter of acquittance, by the date of which he well knows the age of the said William. Moreover etc.

Roger Polford (age not given) agrees and says that he held a lighted wax candle in his hand while the said William was baptized in the said chapel. Moreover etc.

Thomas Jurdan, aged 48 years and more, agrees and says that he had a sister Joan who died on Monday after SS. Peter and Paul, 35 Edward III [1361],[6] to wit, the day on which William was born and baptized, and the day of her death is written in the missal of the said chapel. Moreover etc.

Thomas Newehall, aged 43 years and more, agrees and says that on the same day that William was born he had a son Richard born, who is now ordained subdeacon. Moreover, etc.

John Kilryngton, aged 56 years and more, agrees and says that on the day of William’s birth and baptism, to wit, on Monday after SS. Peter and Paul, 35 Edward III [1361], he married a certain Alice Laumprey, and their names and the date of the marriage are written in the missal of the said chapel.

Walter Grede, aged 50 years and more, John Holm, aged 46 years and more, John Churchehull, aged 52 years and more, and …………., aged 58 years and more, agree and say that the said William is acknowledged by all the parishioners to be of the above age. Moreover the said John Holm took Joan daughter of the said Walter to wife on Monday after SS. Peter and Paul, 35 Edward III [1361], and their marriage was celebrated in the chapel of St. Michael aforesaid at the time when William was born and baptized.

  1. Ric. II. File 29


He was only a year and three months old when his father died on 14 Oct 1362. John Ayshford may have fallen victim to a recurrence of the Black Death around that date.

Over nearly three centuries the Ayshfords had risen from a modest beginning with the steward of the new Norman lord of the manor to become a well-connected family with considerable estates. William was the heir to this property, but far too young to have control over it. Heather Ayshford explains:

“When a landowner who held property of the King died a series of consequences followed. First, all the properties held by the deceased were taken into the King’s hands by the county escheator (Royal manager) to “safeguard” the infant heir’s interests. This made the child a ward of court, as happens today. This also ensured that all the estate revenues went into the Royal Treasury too! An allowance was made to support the child, the widow having her own means of support. This arrangement was very popular with Kings and disliked by the nobility who often came up with various legal fictions to avoid it.

John Ayshford must have died too quickly to make any arrangements. Little William was in the hands of the royal officials from his father’s death until July 1364, when the King granted custody of the lands to Henry Percehay at the yearly rent of £2.13.4. The King would often keep the property of very high-born heirs for as long as possible but with less wealthy subjects the rights would be sold off to the highest bidder as happened here. Henry Percehay was a “wheeler dealer” of some experience in Devon at the time. He would gamble that the rents from the property he managed would exceed the cost of the rental he paid the King.

William, as a child, would know nothing of this but Percehay’s next move, in October 1377, would have much more of a personal impact. For the sum of £11.13.4, the King granted him the marriage of the heir. A ward of court could only marry with the King’s permission and to a person chosen by the King. This was the right sold to Percehay .Many a wealthy man with an unmarried daughter used this route to gain socially superior in-laws. It was a way that rich merchants could ensure that their grandchildren would be members of the nobility.

We do not know if William’s eventual wife was the choice of Percehay. The next hurdle to clear was the proof of age. William had to show that he was 21 and adult in order to regain his lands and independence. In an age before birth certificates this was quite a feat. On Monday 30th March 1383, before John Aston the Escheator of Devon, a long list of tenants and friends was produced by William to prove his age. Walter Gambon said he had a son born at Ayshford on 31st August 1361 after the birth of William and saw “the said William being suckled by his mother immediately after his birth”. Roger Polford said he held a burning taper at the subsequent baptism. Thomas Jordan said his sister had been buried on the same day as the birth and her name was written in the missal. John Holm married Joan Grede in the chapel of St. Michael at Ayshford on the same day, and so on for a total of 13 witnesses. This constituted a grand jury and proved the case. William succeeded to his inheritance.

The family had survived a very risky period. With the very high infant mortality William had been lucky to survive. Apart from luck, however, his mother must take some credit. Born a Gambon, she had the support of her family from nearby Morston and it is noticeable that among the witnesses testifying to William’s age are two Gambons.”

A few months earlier, an inquest had  been held into the lands John Ayshford held at his death, which William now stood to inherit:[7]

John de Assheford

Writ of Mandamus, 28 November, 6 Richard II [1382]

  1. DEVON. Inq. taken at Exeter, Monday after the Epiphany, 6 Richard II. He held the under-mentioned messuage etc. in his demesne as of fee.

Assheford. A messuage and a carucate of land, and 27s. 2d. rent of assise from tenants at will, held by knight’s service of the heir of John de Clavill, late a minor in the wardship of Edward III, which John held them of Edward le Despenser, then a minor in the same wardship.

He died on 14 October, 36 Edward III [1362]. William de Assheford, his son, who was 2 years of age and more at the time of his death, is his heir.

Thomas Cheyne, then escheator, received the issues of the premises from the said 14 October until 1 July, 38 Edward III [1364], when the king by letters patent granted the custody of the premises to Henry Percehay until the lawful age of the heir, at a rent of 4 marks yearly at the Exchequer. Afterwards the present king, by letters patent of 18 October, 1 Richard II [1377], granted to the same Henry the marriage of the heir for a payment of 17 marks 6s. 8d. at the Exchequer. By virtue of these grants the said Henry and his executors have been in possession of the premises and received the issues ever since the said 1 July.

  1. Ric. II. File 2.4 (3)


Over the years, the Ayshfords had come into the possession of many other estates through marriage. These are not mentioned here.


JOAN WOLLAVINGTON.  William’s bride, perhaps chosen for him by Henry Percehay, was Joan, daughter and co-heir of Robert Wollavington of Woolavington in Somerset. Woolavington lies 3 miles NE of Bridgwater, where the Polden Hills cut across the Somerset Levels.


The couple had a son, another William, born in the 1380s. Around 1400 they succeeded in marrying him to the heiress Emma Ferrars, thus ensuring a significant rise in the Ayshfords’ wealth and status.

The late 14th century was the time of the Lollard heresy. The name comes from a Dutch word meaning ‘mutterer’. It was based the religious beliefs of John Wycliffe, who wanted the people to be able to read the Bible in English, not Latin. Lollards were early Protestants, who felt that the English Church had become subservient to Rome. They objected to the Roman views of priesthood, including celibacy, and did not believe in transubstantiation. They rejected war and argued against wealth and pride. The contemporary poet William Langland, author of Piers Plowman,  called the movement ‘the exceeding bitter cry of the socially disinherited’.

Heather Ayshford believes that the Thomas Ayshford against whom a number of writs were issued by the King’s Bench in 1388 was William’s great-great-uncle and a Lollard. He was accused of “trying to pass to foreign parts to the prejudice of the King and many of the people”. “There was an investigation by John Cheney, clerk, and a later demand for the release of the said John Cheney.” Clearly, Thomas Ayshford was a man you challenged at your peril.


We have no information about the deaths of William and Joan.


[1]  Source, except where otherwise stated: F. & H. Ayshford, Notes Towards a History of the Ayshford Family of Devon. Typescript booklet
[2] IPM William Assheford, Proof of Age
[3] The Feast of the Annunciation is on 25th March. In 1383 the 25th March fell on a Wednesday.  The Monday after the Annunciation was therefore on 30th March
[4] The word Saturday is written over an erasure.
[5] The Festival of St Peter and St Paul is on 29th June. In 1382 29th June fell on a Sunday. Therefore, the Saturday after St Peter and St Paul was 5th July 1382.
[6] In 1361 the Festival of St Peter and St Paul on 29th June fell on a Tuesday. The Monday after this Festival was 5th July 1361.
[7] IPM John de Assheford.





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