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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, lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard, and his wife Matilda Fitzpayne. He was probably born around the 1270s, in the reign of Edward I.


CONSTANCE. We know little about Constance’s origins. We have the maiden names of a number of Cruwys wives in the 13th and 14th centuries, but not hers. She did, however, bring him estates she had inherited, principally a messuage and eight acres in Great Rackenford, a messuage in Little Rackenford, and a messuage and an acre of land in Sideham, which Alexander held of Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon, by military service. [1]

Since their eldest son Robert was born around 1299,[2] the couple were married while Alexander’s father was still lord of the manor. They had at least two other sons, John and Richard.

Alexander was knighted, perhaps in recognition of his service on the field of battle.

After his father died in 1310, in the reign of Edward II, Alexander became lord of the manor. He possessed a large estate. Some of his lands are referred to a deed of 1316 which lists “Morcestre Cruwes [Cruwys Morchard] and Potyngton [Puddington], Lord Alexander de Cruwes.”[3] To this was added the land Constance brought him. He held the advowson to several parishes, giving him the right to choose the incumbent. In 1312 he presented Peter de Crues to Rackenford. We do not know what relation Peter was to him, possibly a brother or a younger son.[4]

Towards the end of his life, Alexander is said to have suffered a heavy loss of land through his violent temper. Prince’s The Worthies of Devon gives the story:

There was antiently a vast estate in this name and family, here in this county; which came to be much impaired by the heat and violence of Sir Alex. Cruwys, Kt. who in the days of K. Ed. 3 unhappily quarrelling with Carew on Bickleigh Bridge, ran him thorow, and the rails breaking, threw him in to the river. Whose pardon, yet to be seen, according to a tradition in the family, cost him two and twenty mannors of land. Notwithstanding which, there remained a noble estate to the heir.[5]

Bickleigh Bridge lies four miles south of Cruwys Morchard, where the Exeter-Tiverton road crosses the River Exe. The present one, with stone sides, replaces the earlier one which evidently had only wooden rails.

Since Edward III succeeded to the throne in 1327 and Alexander died in 1331, this would fix the date to within four years of his death, but Margaret Cruwys gives it as 1323.

She comments that the fine of 22 manors must be an exaggeration, if indeed he ever held so much land. She has found no document in the family archives to support it.[6] He may have forfeited the revenue for a time, while the manors remained in the family. One of the provisions of Magna Carta was that the lands of those convicted of a felony should be held by the king for a year and a day only and then should return to the lord of the fee.[7]

Nor have the Carew family have been able to identify the victim of this unfortunate duel, and some doubts have been expressed about whether it actually happened.[8] But it seems more plausible that it has some basis in fact than that it would have been invented.

Prince’s “Worthies of Devon” published in 1699 tells of an altercation on the bridge between Sir Alexander Cruwys, Lord of the Manor of nearby Cruwys Morchard, and an unnamed member of the influential Carew family who made Devon their base from the 12th century. Cruwys was the victor, his opponent being smitten with a sword and dispatched into the waters of the Exe. Sir Alexander’s ghost in full armour, head under his arm, is said to ride a charger across Bickleigh Bridge at midnight once a year on mid-summer’s day. According to Haunted Pubs in Devon, the dramatic encounter on the bridge look place in 1332. Alexander was a common choice of name for the Cruwys, but few of them were knights, and if 1332 is correct the protagonist must be the Alexander who was Lord of the Manor from 1310 to 1331. According to Hoskins the bridge was first erected in its current location in the late 16th century, more than two hundred years after Sir Alexander’s fateful encounter, but apparitions don’t play by the rules, do they?

Cruwys was condemned to death for his dastardly act but, as was the custom, he was spared the gallows by dint of his wealth:

Sir Alexander Cruwys slew one Mr Carew, and for that fact was condemned to be hanged, but in order to procure his reprieve or pardon, he sold twenty-two manors of land.

Near the bridge stands Bickleigh Castle, a moated and fortified manor house, which the Carew family, one of the most prominent in Devon, later acquired from the Courtenays of Powderham in 1510.[9]

Sir Alexander gave Anstey Cruwys to his younger son John and his wife Agnes. In 1325 and 1326, John de (or le) Crues presented a priest to the living of East Anstey.[10] It remained with this branch of the family until 1374, when it reverted to the main line.[11] His eldest son Robert, who inherited the manor of Cruwys Morchard, is said to have been encumbered with debts, until a profitable military campaign in France enabled him to pay off his creditors.

Alexander died in 1331. A document dated 5 Aug 1331, held at Cruwys Morchard, styles Alexander as ‘cavalier’. It shows that soon after his father’s death, Sir Robert Cruwys, knight, granted or released to his brother Richard his manor of Cruwys Morchard and his estate of Great and Little Rackenford and Sydeham, with the advowsons of Cruwys Morchard and Rackenford. These were estates Robert had inherited from Alexander. He claimed them back from Richard the following year.[12]

An Inquisition Post Mortem, held on 10 Dec 1331, states that Alexander’s heir was Robert de Cruwes, aged 32.[13] Margaret Cruwys quotes the details of Alexander’s possessions. “He held no lands or tenements of the lord king in chief but that he held a messuage, etc. of the manor of Brunys [Bradninch] as of the county of Cornwall by military service, the value per annum 11s id. That he held … a messuage, 60s, of annual rent & 8 acres of meadow with the appurtenances in Great Rakerneford of Hugh de Courtnay, by military service inherited by Constance his wife, namely by one knights fee and suit of court at his court of Exebrigge every seven weeks. That the said messuage and meadow are worth 5s per annum. That he held … a messuage with the appurtenances, in Little Rackenford and 20s annual rent, one messuage and one acre of land in Sidham, and the value per annum in all issues 60s of the Priory of St John of Jerusalem in England in free socage.” [Escheats, 5 Ed.II, no.32][14]

It appears to be a modest holding, much of it brought to him by Constance, though he may have granted other lands to his sons.


[1] M. C. S. Cruwys, Records at Cruwys Morchard, Trans. Dev. Assn., Vol. 84, 1952, 1-19.
[2] T.F.Johns, Crewes of South Cornwall and their ancestors in Liskeard, Cornwall, and Cruwys Morchard, Devon. p.11. WSL
[3] Margaret Cruwys, A Cruwys Morchard Notebook[4] F.B. Prideaux, ‘Cruwys of Morchard and East Anstey’, Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, Vol 13, 1924-5, pp.134-137.
[5] John Prince, The Worthies of Devon, c.1700.
[6] Records at Cruwys Morchard
[7] Encyclopædia Britannica, 1972 edn, Vol 14, p.678.
[8] Johns
[9] W. G. Hoskins, Devon, p.334.
[10] Prideaux.
[11] Records at Cruwys Morchard.
[12] Johns, p.11
[13] Johns, p.11.
[14] A Cruwys Morchard Notebook




Sampson Tree