21. BOYS

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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



JOHN DE BOYS (DE BOIS, BOSCO) was the son of William de Boys and Elizabeth de Halberton. A pedigree in the Plea Rolls confirms his mother’s name as Elizabeth. [1]

Another pedigree in the Visitations of the County of Devon in 1564 gives John as living in the time of Edward III [1327-1377]. He was probably born earlier than that.[2]

His parents’ heir was his older brother William, but when he died without issue the ancestral estates came to John.

Their principal manor was Halberton in east Devon. It lies between the market towns of Tiverton and Cullompton.

Halberton village is divided into two parts, Higher Town and Lower Town, separated by the mill stream and pond. The pond is fed by warm springs and never freezes.

The de Boys had been in possession of it since the 12th century, but John was the last of that name to be lord of the manor.

Magna Britannia tells us: “The manor of Halberton, which had been part of the royal demesne, was the property of the ancient family of De Bosco, or Boys, who resided here from the reign of Henry II. to that of Edward II. The heiress of the seventh in descent married Henry Burton, whose daughter brought it to the ancestor of Earl Pawlet.”[3]

Several online family trees give John’s wife as Eustace Sandeby of Ravenfield in Yorkshire. She was known as Lady Ravenfeld and died at Somme in Picardie. Though she would have made a colourful addition to the family tree, she was in fact married to a different John de Boys, of Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

We do not know the real name of John’s wife.


The Pedigrees from the Plea Rolls gives John two sons: Simon and William, both of whom died without issue. His daughter and heir was Alice. The Heralds’ Visitation names another daughter, Margaret, but she was Alice’s daughter, not her sister.


Sir William Pole tells us that John Boys was sheriff of Devon in 39 Edw 3 [1355-6].[4]

This record of public service makes it likely that it is the same John de Bosco who was “Justice of the lord King for the assizes in Devon” who judged a quitclaim for land in the manor of Cullompton, not far from Halberton, in the early 14th century.[5]


John’s dates make it clear that he lived through the cataclysm of the Black Death, which reached Devon in 1349. The plague was most virulent in south east Devon. Colyton, 20 miles from Halberton, lost four vicars in seven months. Clergymen were among the few people who put their lives at risk by visiting plague victims.


On 28 Feb `1349/50 John the son of William Boys of Halberton owed £40 to William Foytz, John Crosse, Thomas Tiverton and William ate Hethe. A writ was sent to the Sheriff of Devon by the Mayor of Exeter and his clerk for the recovery of the debt. [6]

The fact that John is referred to as the son of William Boys is confirmation that his father was still alive. John and his brother William had not yet inherited the manor.

William senior is believed to have died in 1352. We do not know how long William junior was lord of the manor, before he died without issue and the manor of Halberton passed to John.

It was probably the two brothers who appear before the Mayor of Exeter and his clerk on 15 Oct 1364. William Boys of Halberton [Hemyock Hundred], and John Boys of Halberton of Devon, owed £8 to William of Loriwille of Devon, deceased. A writ for this amount was sent to the Sheriff of Devon. The first hearings of this case were taken in 1345.[7]


In the 12th century, William FitzRobert had given the Church of Halberton, with some land, to the Abbey of St Augustine in Bristol. Augustinian monks arrived in the village and founded the priory of St Jude’s.

In the 1300s, probably when John or his brother was lord of the manor, the church was rebuilt in stone and the priory of St Jude’s built on the High Street. Both buildings have been substantially altered since then. The cob building now on the site of the Priory is no earlier than the 16th century.

Halberton Priory today[8]

Both John’s father and his brother had evidently died before 1370.

In 44 Edward III [1370-71] Henry Pyk,  clerk, John Boys and Andrew Maundevyle agreed to grant a messuage [dwelling house] in Exeter to the Dean and Chapter of the church of St Peter there [Exeter Cathedral],  the said John retaining the manor of Halberton, and the said Andrew half the manor of Clovelly, Devon.[9]

On 3 Feb 1370/1, John Ellis, son of William Ellis, and his brother William, of Wilts, were summoned to appear before the Mayor of Exeter and his clerk over a debt of £40 they owed to John Holland, deceased. John Holland’s executors were Henry Pyke, Canon of Exeter, John Boys of Halberton, Richard May, Clerk [clergyman], and Andrew Mandeville.[10]

With the exception of Richard May, these are the same names that appear in the previous document.

Two years later, John again appeared before the Mayor of the Staple of Exeter and his Constable. This time he was the creditor. On 27 Feb 1372 Osbert Hamelyn of Devon owed John Boys of Halberton £40.[11]

Clearly the debt was not settled. An identical case was brought before the Mayor and Constable on 13 May 1373. A writ was sent to the Sheriff of Devon.[12]

The de Boys arms were: Argent, a chevron gules between three oak leaves vert.

An apparently well-researched family tree has John born around 1318 and dying at about 59 around 1377.


[1] G.Wrottesly, Pedigrees from the Plea Rolls. 1905.
[2] Visitation of the County of Devon 1564.
[3] Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons, ‘Parishes: Haccombe – Hittesleigh’, in Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire (London, 1822), pp. 250-272. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/magna-britannia/vol6/pp250-272 [accessed 15 November 2022].
[4] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791).
[5] National Archives: 123M/TB268
[6] National Archives: C 241/126/262
[7] National Archives: C 241/145/29
[8] British Listed Buildings. The Priory, Halberton, Devon.
[9] National Archives: C 143/372/21
[10] National Archives: C 241/151/150
[11] National Archives: C 241/153/87
[12] National Archives: C 241/155/76




Sampson Tree