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)
JOHN DE FERRERS and ELIZABETH (23)
There is some obscurity about his birth. The date usually given is 1290. His father would then hae been 13 and his mother 20. Although that is not impossible it would be unusual.
Several sources give the date of his parents’ marriage as 1303.
He was born at Churston Court, the manor house of Churston Ferrers next to the church.
Churston Court and Church of St Mary the Virgin 
Churston Ferrers is a village just south of Brixham, between Tor Bay and the River Dart. John’s father had been born at the family seat of Bere Ferrers, upriver from Plymouth Sound, but as a younger son he had needed to make his home elsewhere. John’s mother was an heiress and had brought the manor of Churston to her marriage.
The historian Richard Gorki describes John as “a somewhat obscure figure”. His father was MP for Devon in 1302, and his son William was briefly a coroner, before having himself excused from public service. We have no record of John de Ferrers holding any public office.
ELIZABETH. Some trees have her as Elizabeth Chalons, but this is a later Elizabeth, who married John’s great-grandson.
Back in the family seat of Bere Ferrers, where John’s father had been born, the lord of the manor was now John’s cousin William de Ferrers. He opened up the silver mine at Bere Alston, just north of Bere Ferrers. This was so successful that King Edward I took over. William was instructed to extract the silver and send it to London. In return, the Ferrers received a hefty commission.
Most such mines were run by part-time labour, coupled with agricultural work, but Bere Alston was on an altogether different scale, unique in medieval England. Over 300 men were employed on wages and piecework, many being pressed into service and moved to Devon from other mining fields. Bere Alston may be the first purpose-built mining village in the country.
William de Ferrers spent much of his commission in enlarging and improving the church of St Andrew in Bere Ferrers built by his and John’s grandfather, an older William de Ferrers.
John died on 6 March 1324, leaving his teenage son William as his heir.
In 1337, after the death of John’s cousin William de Ferrers in Bere Ferrers, his widow Matilda was given a licence to castellated the family home of Bere Barton. This kind of fortification of a house could only be undertaken with royal permission. It is a rare example of such a licence being granted to a woman.
Bere Barton, where John’s father grew up, may have been used to store the silver before shipping it to London. The house had a small keep-like tower.
A similar licence was granted to Matilda’s son John in 1340.
NEXT GENERATION: 22. FERRERS
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