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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 PRUDHOME was the son and heir of John Prudhome, vicar of Payhembury in 1323/4.[1] His mother’s name is unknown. His uncle Walter was rector of Bideford. In addition to this ecclesiastical background he was also descended from the lords of the manor of Pridhamsleigh and Upton Prodhome. Pridhamsleigh lies just across the A38 from Buckfastleigh in Staverton parish. The area is known today for Pridhamsleigh Cavern. The manor of Upton Prodhome is in Payhembury parish, between Cullompton and Honiton, and below the Iron Age fort of Hembury.

Sir William Pole writes:

PAYHEMBIRY, in the hundred of Harridge, anno 27 of Kinge Henry 3 [1242-3], Roger Giffard, Kt, held by the 4 part of a knighte’s fee, & after hym Phillip Giffard his younger sonne in Kinge Edward I tyme [1272-1307]. It appeareth yt after this the heires of Phillip Giffard, John Prodhome, & the priory of Polsloe, held ye third part of a knighte’s fee in Payhembiry.[2]


? STAPELDON. We know only the surname of John’s wife. She was the daughter of William and Mabel Stapeldon, of Annery in the parish of Monkleigh, near Bideford. Her sister Joan, who married Thomas Keynes, is also an ancestor. Another sister Douce, or Dulcia, was sister-in-law to Alianor Hereward and her husband William Whiting. Their brothers were Sir Richard Stapeldon, heir to the family estates, who was a puisne, or junior, judge, and Walter Stapeldon, who became the powerful and wealthy Bishop of Exeter and was Treasurer and ambassador to Edward II.[3]


The Prudhomes may have been present at the magnificent induction of Bishop Walter to  his cathedral in 1307. He had previously been chaplain to Pope Clement V and teacher of canon law at the new University of Oxford.[4]

Walter set about a bold and costly reconstruction of the cathedral to create transepts where the massive twin towers stood. This meant creating great arches to open up the space at the base of the towers, which had previously been accessed by smaller openings. Under the mason Thomas of Whitney, the crossing was filled with huge timber supports, a new roof was created and the inner walls of the tower removed. There must have been nerve-wracking moments when the supports were removed and everyone waited to see whether the towers would hold up.

The crossing and screen[5]

 Under Walter’s direction, Whitney also designed the magnificent wooden canopy for the bishop’s throne, a reredos for the new high altar and the beautiful screen which divides the choir from the nave. From 1310 to 1325 the bishop paid £124.18s.8d annually into the fabric fund. No doubt Walter’s sisters and their husbands would have seen these spectacular changes.

Shortly before his death Bishop Walter gave Exeter Cathedral the enormous sum of 1000 marks for further rebuilding. Afterwards, Thomas of Whitney used this to rebuild the Norman nave.

Walter de Stapeldon was a politician as well as a churchman. As Lord Treasurer, he was closely identified with the king’s hated favourite, Hugh Despenser. He was murdered by a mob in London in 1326, one of the early casualties of a revolution led by the Queen. He had made himself unpopular in London by imposing a stricter tax regime.

London: Tuesday October 15th 1326:

The citizens, still enraged, attacked the house of the Bishop of Exeter, and – setting fire to the gates – entered it… tragically it was just at this time that the Bishop returned from the country. Although he knew of the disturbances he was unafraid, but rode on boldly, arriving at the north gate of St Paul’s. There he was surrounded by the crowd, wounded, torn and thrown down… When they had dragged him as far as Cheapside the mob proclaimed him a public traitor, a seducer of the king, and a destroyer of the liberties of their city. The bishop was wearing a kind of armour, which we commonly call ‘aketon’; being stripped of that and of his other apparel, his head was cut off. Afterwards two others of his household, namely his squire and his valet, underwent the same fate.

This sacrilege being perpetrated, they fixed the head of the bishop on a long pole as a sort of trophy, that it might remind all who saw it of the crimes he had committed. The cause of their hostility was that Stapledon, as Lord Treasurer and a member of the King’s Council, had caused the King’s Justices to hold court within the City of London. This meant that Londoners who committed offences faced heavy penalties in the form of fines, imprisonment and corporal punishment – as they deserved.

Thomas of Walsingham


 About the hour of vespers the same day, the choir of St Paul’s took up the headless body of the prelate and conveyed it to St Paul’s. When it was made known that he had died under sentence of death, the body was brought to St Clement’s beyond the Temple, but there ejected; so that the naked corpse, with a rag given by the charity of a woman, was left on the spot called ‘the church for the lawless’; and without any grave, lay there with those of his two esquires, no priest or clerk attending.

French Chronicle of London


 But after eleven weeks, at the request of Queen Isabella, the Bishop’s body was carried to the church nearby, and afterwards to Exeter. And the two squires’ bodies were carried to St Clement’s Church, and there buried.

Chronicle of William of Pakington


The Prodhomes must have been deeply shocked by these events.

Both brothers, Walter and Richard Stapeldon have tombs with effigies in the cathedral.


The Prudhomes had at least one son, Thomas, and four daughters, Margaret, Mulieris, Joanna and Elizabeth. Mulieris and Joanna became nuns at Polsloe Priory, which was named by Pole as sharing the ownership of Payhembury with John. Margaret married the influential lawyer Nicholas Whiting, who was the first of that name to hold the manor of Woode in Kentisbeare. His mother Alianor was sister-in-law to Margaret’s aunt Douce, née Stapledon.


Richard Whiting has a note on his Prodhome family tree that John ‘fl. 1346’. He must have seen evidence that John was alive then. This was well into the reign of Edward III, who had succeeded to the throne as a child after the murder of his father Edward II, possibly with the connivance of his mother, Queen Isabella.


We do not know when John or his wife died. He was succeeded by his son Thomas, who died after 1360 without offspring, leaving his estates to his sisters Margaret and Elizabeth.


[1] 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.383.
[3] Whiting.
[4] The material on Bishop Walter Stapledon is from Bill Leedham and Stewart Brown, Builders of the Cathedral, Exeter Cathedral Resources Project, 1994.
[5] Pictures from: www.projects.ex.ac.uk/…/cathedral-int.html




Sampson Tree