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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)



NICHOLAS WHITINGE was the first of the family to hold the manor of Woode, in the parish of Kentisbeare, with its manor house.[1]

He is thought to be the son of William Whiting of Bruton in Somerset and Alianor Hereward from a Great Torrington family. Richard Whiting puts his dates at around 1310-1380. He lists him as the first of four brothers, though there is no evidence which specifically states that he was the eldest son.

He was probably brought up in Somerset, where the family was well-connected through Nicholas’s grandmother, Alianor Clyvedon. The Clyvedons were an influential, landed family.

Nicholas was well educated and became a lawyer. His brother Thomas became Recorder of the Mayor’s Court in Exeter and was probably schooled in law, too. Nicholas may have graduated in the subject. He was apprenticed at one of the Inns of law in the city of London. Until 1362, two centuries after the Conquest, all law pleadings were made in Norman French, but Latin was the language in which records were kept. Nicholas was thus fluent in three languages.

He became an attorney, practising in Exeter.

At first, he lived at Sidbury, two miles north of Sidmouth on the Devon coast.


MARGARET PRUDHOME was from another landed family. She was the daughter of John Prudhome of Pridhamsleigh and Upton Prodhome in East Devon. Her mother, whose first name is unknown, was a younger sister of the powerful but ill-fated Bishop Walter Stapeldon of Exeter. Another Stapeldon sister married Nicholas’s uncle, Sir William Hereward, and a third married Thomas Keynes. The Keynes and Whiting families were connected long before Humphrey Keynes married Mary Whiting in the 16th century.

John Prudhome’s son and heir was Margaret’s brother Thomas. She also had a younger sister Elizabeth. The family seat was at the manor of Upton Prudhome in the parish of Payhembury, five miles west of Honiton.

Her uncle Walter Stapeldon was a wealthy and influential bishop. He endowed a number of educational institutions. He was treasurer under the unpopular King Edward II, and was murdered in 1326 by a London mob, while holding the city for the unpopular king.

Another of Margaret’s uncles was Sir Richard Stapledon, a puisne, or junior, judge. Though Margaret probably married Nicholas after their deaths, her family was well-connected enough to advance Nicholas’s legal and political career.


The couple seem to have married around 1340. Their eldest son John was born in 1343.


Helped no doubt by Margaret’s family, Nicholas was able to secure a number of church appointments and crown commissions throughout his life.

In 1347 he was made surety for Ralph Birt, a tax collector, who was summoned before the treasurers and barons of Chancery to render account of taxes he had collected in Devon.

As well as his law practice, 1347 also saw him embark on a parallel career as a politician. He was elected to Parliament to represent both the city of Exeter and the county of Devon. The journey from Devon to London was difficult and, at times, dangerous. Even in good weather it took five days of constant travelling. But it had its compensations. Nicholas was entitled to collect full travelling expenses from both the constituencies he represented. As the number of his constituencies grew, he and his colleague Henry Percy became two of the most notorious pluralists in Parliament. Over the course of six Parliaments Nicholas represented 14 seats, though not all simultaneously. In 1347/8 he held Exeter and Devon, 1350/1 Devon, Exeter and Clifton Dartmouth, 1351/2 Devon, Clifton Dartmouth, Chipping Torrington and Tavistock, 1352 Totnes, 1354 Devon and Tavistock, 1360/1 Devon and Dartmouth. The Dartmouth seats were obtained through the patronage of the powerful feudal knight Sir Guy de Brian..

Lawyers had good reason to wish to become members of Parliament. It gave them the right to pursue petitions on behalf of their clients unrelated to the business of the Chamber. They were banned from holding county seats in 1372.

But, for the time being, the country had a more urgent matter to occupy it. In 1348 the Black Death cut a swathe through the population. Parliament was prorogued sine die and was not recalled until 1350/1. Peasants died in their thousands, creating a labour shortage. The survivors at last saw a chance to better their lot. Their rulers thought otherwise.

In 1351 Nicholas was paid £23.9.0d for discharging his duties as a knight of the shire and as a burgess of Exeter and Dartmouth. County knights were paid more than borough members. Among their privileges was the right to wear spurs within the Chamber and a sword at election time in the County Court.

The session of Parliament for which Nicholas received these fees was the one which enacted the Statute of Labourers, which made it a punishable offence for workers to ask for higher wages. Labourers who broke the law were imprisoned, flogged and branded. Landowners could seize vagrant able-bodied men and compel them to work for the statutory wage. The measure failed. Peasants simply absconded to the towns, where they could not be recognised and could sell their labour freely. Landlords were forced to commute the agricultural service of their serfs under the feudal system to the payment of money rents. The shortage of labour also compelled landowners to let out part of their lands to tenants.

The Black Death continued to flare up for years afterwards, but business resumed.


In 1349 Nicholas loaned £100 to Peter Tryvet of Sidbury, where he was then living. The security for the loan was land in Devon. A further loan of £100, which he made in conjunction with William Chikston, was secured by land in Somerset. The two also loaned £10 to Geoffrey Malherbie, lord of Feniton in East Devon, on the security of his manor.

In 1350 Nicholas received his first commission from the Crown. He was appointed one of three escheators to hold an inquisition into the estate of the late John de Belle Campo (Beauchamp) whose son and heir was a minor. The same year he was one of two attorneys retained by Isobel de Wylington. They won for her an income from her late husband’s estate in Devon. Nicholas was at her manor house of (Up)Lowman on 19 July when she took the oath of fealty and promised not to remarry without the king’s permission.

In 1351 we have the first link with Kentisbeare, where the Whitings were to live for the next two centuries. Robert Hereward, archdeacon of Taunton, who was Nicholas’s cousin, John Dabernoun, John de Chudleigh and Henry Walrond gave Nicholas and Margaret lands, woods and tenements at Woode in that parish, and also at Luttockshele and Cullompton, with reversion to Nicholas’s mother Alianor, née Hereward, if he should die without heirs of his body. This suggests that the Hereward family already had an interest in these estates.

The following year, Nicholas, with Roger de Shelton, clerk, loaned £100 to Sir Thomas Uvedale, and a further 100 marks (a mark was 2/3 of £1). The security was land in Surrey. Only half the loan was repaid. Nicholas foreclosed, gaining the tenement subsequently referred to as ‘Whitings, previously the property of d’Ovedales’, near Camberwell. The Uvedale family lived mostly in Hampshire. They may be connected to the Porchester Whitings. Nicholas Whiting of Porchester had led an uprising in Winchester against the unpopular Edward II, to coincide with the rebellion at Bedford of the queen’s lover Roger Mortimer and the Earl of Lancaster. He was pardoned by the next king, Edward III. It is not known how closely he was related to the Devon Whitings. Margaret’s uncle, Bishop Walter Stapledon of Exeter, had led the defence of London on the other side.

in the reign of King Edward II, Sir William Pole lists for Devonshire: ‘Nicholas Whitinge, sheriff  ye 46 yeare’ (1552-3).[2]


Nicholas and Margaret seem to have still been living in Sidbury, north of Sidmouth, before they took up residence in Kentisbeare. In 1353, Robert Sencler (St Clere) of Stapeldon granted Nicholas Whiting of Sidbury land in the manor of Wood in Kentisbeare, enlarging his estate there.[3] Stapeldon was formerly the North Devon home of the Stapledons, Margaret’s mother’s family, so this may have been a transaction between relatives. Among the witnesses were Peter Whiting and Thomas Whiting, recorder of the Mayor’s Court in Exeter. These were probably Nicholas’s brothers.

The same year, there was a grant of property in the same manor by William, son of William Sencler of Kingswood, also to Nicholas Whiting of Sidbury.[4] The deed was written, not in Latin,  but in Norman French. William Sencler was then living at Wood. We have a grant, also of 1353, by ‘William Sencler atte Woode’ to Nicholas Whiting of Sidbury.[5]

William Sencler died soon after. In 1357 a grant was made by Lettice, widow of William Sencler, to Nicholas Whiting.[6]

Richard Whiting suggests that one of the reasons for Nicholas and Margaret moving from Sidbury to the more secluded manor of Woode may have been a resurgence of the Black Death.

Woode is thought to have been built about 1351, and was therefore quite new when the Whitings moved in.

It is heavily constructed of cob, with outbuildings around a central courtyard. There are many small windows in the thick walls. Later wings and outbuildings give it a more rambling aspect now. Medieval features which remain are the 14th century oak doorway to the cider house and the large former kitchen with its huge fireplace. The house once had fine oak panelling. Traces of carving on the ancient roof timbers point to their once being exposed above a great hall. A large window, now blocked, overlaps the ground and first floors, and is further evidence of the hall rising the full height of the house. There is mention of a chapel in 1370. The last reference to it is 1438, and it appears to have disappeared around the time of the Reformation a century later. Some carved stones incorporated in outbuildings bear signs of religious imagery and may come from it.

Nicholas was the first known user of the Whiting family coat armour: ‘Argent a bend wavy cotised Sable’. This diagonal band, bordered by wavy lines, appears throughout the heraldic shields with which Nicholas’s descendant John Whiting decorated the Whiting aisle of Kentisbeare church in the 16th century. It is variously quartered or impaled with the arms of the Whiting wives.

In 1355 Nicholas was appointed Recorder for Exeter for one year.

He granted to Joanna, mother of John Bampfield, the estate of Huxham, held on lease for his lifetime from Robert St Clere.

In 1356, Nicholas Whiting and John Gatepath of Chudleigh were appointed seneschals of the manor of Doccombe by the monastery of Christ Church, Canterbury. This manor had been given to the Church in 1173 by William de Tracy, as partial reparation for his part in murdering Thomas à Becket. Before Nicholas, the manor had been administered by Philip Wantort, rector of nearby Moretonhampstead, as agent of the monastery. The tenants of Doccombe had proved refractory. They were at least two years behind with their rents. Within the year, Nicholas and his colleague had evicted Thomas Legge, his wife and children, though they were probably reinstated later. The other tenants agreed to pay their rents promptly from then on. They did not always keep their word.

Nicholas’s business continued to take him to London. That year, the ailing Bishop Grandisson of Exeter appointed him as his Proctor, along with John Tremayne, to represent him in a case at the King’s Bench. Bishop Grandisson and Simon, abbot of Canterbury, who appeared in court in person, were challenging the king over the church of Bosham, which the king claimed was a free chapel belonging to the Crown.

After the death of her father, the Prudhome estates had passed to Margaret’s brother Thomas. In 1360, Thomas settled on Nicholas and Margaret the family manor of Upton Prodhome in Payhembury, together with land and houses in Milton, Buckerell, East Wonford and Ringswell. For this, they paid him 200 marks (1 mark = 13s 4d). When the couple died the estates were to pass to Margaret’s heirs. If she had no surviving heirs of her body, they were to go to her sister Elizabeth.


UPTON PRUDHOME lieth in this parish [Payhembury], thenheritance of the name of Prodhom by Marg’et, on of the sisters & heires of Thomas Prodhom, in the middel of the raigne of Kinge Edw. 3 [1327-77], brought this land unto Nicas Whitinge her husband, in wch name it contynewed divers discents, & by the daughters of John Whitinge it was transferred in the famylies of Walrond, Keynes, the heirs of Robert Fitz James & Ashford, & nowe [17th century] Henry Ashford, Esquier, hath the whole.[7]

After Thomas died, Nicholas and Margaret also inherited the manors of Pridhamsleigh and Fursleigh.

In 1361 The archdeacon of Taunton, Robert Hereward, Arthur Tanton, John Dabernoun, John of Chudleigh and Henry Whiting made a grant of the premises of Luxhele and Wood in Kentisbeare to Nicholas Whiting and Margaret his wife. Henry Whiting is probably Nicholas’s younger brother, acting as a trustee for these estates.[8]

In 1362 it became illegal for an MP to be paid for representing more than one constituency. Nicholas at once terminated his career in Parliament. Prince, in Worthies of Devon, says that Nicholas was responsible for the enactment of many excellent laws, particularly in the area of civil rights. Richard Whiting, always keen to puncture reputations, points out that during his time as an MP Parliament was almost entirely concerned with matters of inflation, trade and criminal offences.

Nicholas had plenty of other business to occupy his time. That same year, he was appointed Commissioner, together with Hugh Courtenay, earl of Devon, and Edmund Cheyne, to investigate a complaint of piracy. John Lechise of Normandy claimed that his ship La Seint Germeyn had been boarded on her way to Gascony and Jersey. The alleged pirates were William Pyes and the crew of his ship Seint Katerine from Teignmouth. They were said to have stolen a large quantity of wine and other cargo.

Nicholas continued to be busy with church affairs. He was patron of the living of Stoke Rivers, where in 1364 he, Sir Walter Paveley of Stratton and John Calmatine, rector of Little Torrington, presented Robert Dauwa as priest.

That year he was also appointed a Justice of the Peace for Devonshire, with commissions of Oyer and Terminer to try cases in the Assize court. Under the Statute of Westminster, this appointment was to be renewed annually for the next five years. During his period of office he received several commissions of escheat, to preside over enquiries. One of these was into an allegation of conspiracy between John and William Hamlyn to release Osbert Hamlyn from Exeter gaol. He had been imprisoned while awaiting trial for allegedly causing the death of John Trenchard. The conspiracy to free him was successful, but while at large he was accused of ‘inflicting many injuries on the King’s lieges’.

Another case involved fraudulent deception, concerning the detention of forbidden goods and forgery of the Exeter Custom House seal. The accused, Roger Plenty and John Grey, were said to have abused the offices they held in Exeter.

Since Roger Plenty later became mayor of Exeter, his reputation could not have been severely damaged.

Nicholas also served as seneschal for the Hundred Court of Stanborough. His handwriting is on the reverse of a deed in the Stanborough court rolls.

In 1369 he received a stipend of 20s from the city of Exeter, presumably for legal services.

In June of that year, Nicholas, John Paulett and Jole Wyllington gave their attorneys, Roger Boys and John Ponton, clerk, seisen of the manors of La Yate, Patton Afferton, Stalpit, Langleigh and others. The three men had presumably been enfeoffed in these estates earlier by the occupant, to manage them for his use. The de Wyllingtons retained Nicholas as their legal advisor for many years.

Nicholas was sometimes on the receiving end of judgements, too. Later in 1369 a commission was set up which included Hugh Courtenay, earl of Devon, and Henry de la Pomeroy, of Berry Pomeroy castle. They were to ‘investigate complaints that William de Luscote and Nicholas Whiting, whom the king hath appointed several times keepers of the peace and justices of Oyer and Terminer in the county of Devon, have been guilty of oppression by the colour of their offices’. The result of the investigation is not known, but we may assume that Nicholas was cleared, because on 5 Nov 1371 he was appointed Sheriff of Devon by the Crown. Richard Whiting says that the commission was probably packed with his friends and colleagues.

There was a private chapel at the Whiting’s manor house of Woode. In 1370 Bishop Brantryngham granted Nicholas a perpetual licence to celebrate mass there on 12 July every year.

Nicholas was at Bramford Speke towards the end of Nov 1371, soon after his appointment as Sheriff,  to witness an indenture by which Henry de Reigny, parson of Memworthy, gave Constance, widow of John Speke the elder, an annuity of 50s from the income of the manor of Wonford. Nicholas had a substantial interest in this estate.

Nicholas’s first duty as Sheriff may have been to appoint a coroner for Devon in place of Thomas Dabernoun, who was said to be insufficiently qualified for the post. Walter Cryst was selected, but he too was deemed unsuitable because he neither owned land in Devon nor had a residence there.

Another duty was to deliver a mandate to the mayor and bailiffs of Dartmouth concerning a petition from Richard Somaster and William Luccombe, chaplain, relating to a tenement in the town. He ordered a jury of twelve to inspect the property before the hearing.

He performed numerous official duties for the king, Edward III. He was responsible for keeping the branding iron, used to brand the foreheads of runaway labourers with an ‘F’ for falsity. This punishment was designed to reinforce the Statute of Labourers and prevent the labouring class from bettering their lot in the depleted workforce after the Black Death.

A statute of 1360-1 also made him responsible for stray hawks. The finder was required to take the bird to the Sheriff, who would have it proclaimed in all good towns. If it remained unclaimed, the Sheriff was to keep it for four months. After that, it was handed back to the finder, if he was a gentleman. If not, the finder received a small payment and the hawk became the Sheriff’s property.


Towards the end of his life, in 1373, Nicholas acted as Seneschal of Sir Guy de Brian’s manor court of Dartmouth. Records of a judgement over property were issued under Nicholas’s seal.

The last record of him is in 1374, when he would have been in his 60s. He was present in a legal capacity to witness the gift of land and tenements in Totnes from Robert Slade of Ashburton to Richard and John Stozion.

Nothing more is known about him. His career until then is so well documented that we may he presume he died soon after.


We do not know when Margaret died.


[1] Source, except where otherwise stated: Richard Whiting. Whiting of Wood: A Mediaeval Landed Family, 1974 (MS in DRO).
[2] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791), p.95.
[3] A2A.org.uk: 1926 B/W/ET/10/2
[4] A2A.org.uk: 1926 B/W/ET/10/3-4
[5] A2A.org.uk: 1926 B/W/ET/10/5
[6] A2A.org.uk: 1926 B/W/ET/10/6
[7] Pole, p.383.
[8] A2A.org.uk: 1926 B/W/ET/6/2





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