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 LE ROUS and MABEL KNOKYN (23)
JOHN LE ROUS was the son and heir of an older John le Rous and his wife Hawise. His father was the feudal lord of a number of manors in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.
He was born around 1298, in the reign of Edward I, probably at the family seat of Harescombe, south of Gloucester.
We know of one sister, Johanna, who became nun.
When Edward II came to the throne in 1307, there was considerable resentment about his favourite Piers Gaveston. John’s father was involved in protests led by the barons, including his liege lord, the Earl of Hereford. When the king insisted on bringing Gaveston back from exile, two of the barons captured and executed him. In 1313, John’s father received a pardon for his part in Piers Gaveston’s death.
This spirit of rebellion was passed on to his son.
By 1320 John had married Mabel Knokyn.
MABEL KNOKYN was the younger of two daughters of John de Knokyn. It is possible that her mother was Isabella Knokyn, who was an executor of her father’s will, but we have no confirmation of this.
She came from a Shropshire family. Knockin is 5 m SE of Oswestry. Her father served as a “King’s Yeoman” at the court of Edward II.
She was born around 1301.
When Mabel’s father died in 1320 his heirs were his two daughters, Margaret and Mabel.
His Inquisition Post Mortem shows two properties in Shropshire.
“Fayntre. A capital messuage &c., and another messuage, 3 carucates of arable land, 2a. meadow, a water-mill, a wood, rents &c. held of the king in chief by service of finding a footman with bow, bolt (petilio) and two arrows, in the king’s army whenever there shall be war in Wales between the king and the prince of Wales, at his own charges, until he shall have shot the said bolt and arrows at the king’s enemies.
“His daughters, Margaret, aged 22 at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist last, and Mabel, the wife of John le Rous [alias de Rous], aged 19 at the feast of the Purification last, are his next heirs.”
Since the time of the Norman Conquest, there was constant friction across the English-Welsh border.
“Nesse manor. A capital messuage &c., and another messuage, 3 carucates of arable land, rents, &c., held for life, by fine levied in the king’s court between Thomas Eyton and the said John, with remainder to John de Rous and Mabel his wife, daughter of the said John Knokyn, and to the heirs of their bodies, of John Lestrange (Extraneo) of Knokyn, by service of making two appearances at the two great courts of Nesse.
“Heirs as above.”
Faintree is 5 m SW of Bridgnorth. Nesse manor lay between Oswestry and Shrewsbury.
The inheritance of Faintree was divided equally between Margaret and Mabel.
“1320 Oct 23 Westminster.Order to the escheator on this side Trent to make partition of the lands late of John de Knokyn, tenant in chief, in Fayntre, co. Salop, and of all other lands late of the same John into two equal parts in the presence of the heirs and parceners, if they wish to be present, and to deliver to Margaret, eldest daughter and heir of the said John, and to John le Rous and Mabel his wife, the other daughter and heir, a moiety each of the said lands in Fayntre and their several pourparties of the other said lands, the said Margaret having done homage and the said John le Rous having done fealty; and to send the partition made by him to be enrolled on the rolls of Chancery.”
Meanwhile, more trouble was brewing between the unpopular Edward II and the barons and minor gentry over the power he gave to his favourites. There had been brief intervals of reconciliation and peace, but a climax was approaching.
In 1321-2 there was a serious uprising. The focus this time was Edward’s promotion of his latest favourite, the powerful Hugh le Despenser. Edward summoned the barons from the Marcher regions on the border with Wales and ordered them not to hold assemblies or musters in their lordships.
They refused to obey the summons to meet him at Gloucester and petitioned him to dismiss Despenser. This the king refused. The barons gathered 800 men-at-arms and 10,000 foot soldiers and devastated Glamorgan. John’s father seems not to have taken part this time, but John the younger did.
Although the barons took the lead, a great many of those who took part were minor gentry, particularly those of the king’s household, as Mabel’s father had been.
Eventually, they forced Parliament to banish Despenser. In response, the king raised a mercenary army from abroad, supplemented by English levies, and led it into Glamorgan. On the way, he arrested the barons’ supporters.
The crucial battle was fought, not on the Welsh Marches, but at Boroughbridge, north of Harrogate in Yorkshire. The barons were heavily defeated. Many of the rebels were killed, including the Rouses’ overlord, the Earl of Hereford.
Edward forced the barons to submit and a number of their leaders were executed as traitors. The king brought back Despenser.
Sir John le Rous the younger was attainted (condemned to death or outlawed) and his lands were forfeited, but as a minor player, he survived with his life.
He had not yet inherited his parents’ considerable estates. The principal manor he lost was Duntisbourn Rouse, between Gloucester and Cirencester. His parents may have given him this as marriage gift.
On 27 Dec 1321 at Cirencester, John le Rous the younger is one of 54 men named in an order to the Sheriff of Gloucester “to take into the king’s hand and keep safely until further order all the castles, lands, goods and chattels” belonging to them.
On 2 Aug 1322 there was a more detailed order listing, among others, “the manor of John le Rous of Duntesburn
More evidence of the forfeiture comes in a document of 1322. This refers to the manor of Duntisbourne, “which formerly belonged to John le Rous the younger, but at that time was in the hands of the king”.
His lands were restored when Edward III came to the throne in1327. Prince Edward was 14 when his mother Isabella rose in rebellion against his father, with the support of her lover Roger Mortimer. Edward II was deposed and imprisoned, and the boy king came to the throne with his mother as regent. Isabella is widely believed to have been responsible for her husband’s death in prison.
There seems to have been some delay in settling John’s claims. In 1335, Roger de Chaundos was ordered to render his account for the issues of the lands of John le Rous and William de Hokelton, which were lately in the king’s hands and were now in Roger’s custody. Roger pleaded that he could not be present in person to render his account, because he was “attendant upon divers services of the king”.
We know of only one child of John and Mabel. Their son and heir was Thomas, born in 1330.
After that, it becomes difficult to decide whether references to John le Rous are to the elder or the younger John, since we do not know when his father died. It seems more likely that they are to the younger
Between 1330 and 1343, John le Rous, Miles (Knight), represented Herefordshire in six successive Parliaments as Knight of the Shire. This strongly suggests that the Rouses were now living in Herefordshire, and this is borne out by the fact that John was later buried in Allensmore, 4 miles south of Hereford.
He was a patron of the Abbey of Dore, a Cistercian house SW of Hereford. He bestowed upon it the Rectory of Avenbury, which had come to the Rous family through his grandmother, Alianore de Avenbury. An Inquisition of 1338-9 says that it would not be to the prejudice of the king if he were to permit John le Rous to assign a garden, with appurtenance, in Avenbury, and the advowson of the church of the said ville to the Abbot and Convent of Dore for their own uses. The garden was worth 6d per year and the church £11. They were held of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, who was the mesne lord between the king and John le Rous.
A deed of 10 Jun 1342 tells us that John le Rous, knight, held part of a fee in Duntisbourne Rouse. He and three others owed Reginald de Abbenhale, knight, John Honsoun, rector of Abbenhale, and Philip le Marshal of Longhope £60
In 1344, John’s rebellious nature, that had led him to revolt against Edward II, came to the fore again. St Ethelbert was the patron saint of Hereford Cathedral. St Ethelbert’s fair was a nine-day celebration held in Hereford every June. Throughout its duration, the bishop of Hereford had charge of the city gates and collected tolls for all the produce entering the city to be sold at the fair. He also exacted a toll from Hereford’s own merchants for goods they sold during St Ethelbert’s fair.
This caused great resentment, and there were often protests. In 1344 John le Rous was involved in an organised and violent embargo of this charge.
It set the scene for the coming showdown between the Rous family and the cathedral, and may have marked him out as a target.
The following year, on 9 Dec 1345, John died aged about 47.
In 1346 there was an inquisition into his lands and manors in Herefordshire. It found that John le Rous held Tregat, Wormelowe, Mora Alani (Allensmore), La Grene and La Heath. The document is defective and the record is incomplete.
HEREFORD. Inq. dated in the castle of Hereford on Saturday the feast of St. Agnes, 19 Edward III.
Treget. A messuage … arable … and 100s. rent … held jointly with Mabel his wife, who survives, by free socage, according to the custom of the manor of Wormelowe … suit at the court of Wormelowe every fortnight, and he ought to be a ‘domesman.’.…
Allensmore (Mora Alani). The manor and one carucate of land at ‘la Grene’ and one carucate of land at ‘la Hethe’ held jointly with Mabel his wife, who survives, of the bishop of Hereford in chief by knight’s service.
He died on Friday after the Conception of the Blessed Mary last. Thomas his son, aged 15 years, is his next heir.
Allensmore had been in the Rous family for at least 200 years. It was named after John’s ancestor Alan Fitz Mayn. Tregets was a stronghold on the border between Herefordshire and Wales. Wormelow is 6 m south of Hereford.
Unfortunately, we do not have the Inquisition Post Mortem for John’s lands in Gloucestershire. We never discover whether he held the ancestral manor of Harescombe, or whether his father outlived him.
Nor do we know about the estates Mabel inherited in Shropshire, which John held jointly.
His 15-year-old son Thomas, was too young yet to enter into his inheritance. Mabel managed the estates during his minority
John was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Allensmore. This was to become the cause of a major dispute.
St Andrew’s, Allensmore
As the mother church, Hereford cathedral insisted on the right to have those of the five city parishes, and a ring of outlying villages, buried in the cathedral precincts, with the mortuary dues paid to the cathedral. The only exceptions were the burials of children and paupers.
This caused considerable resentment. It was more expensive to transport the corpses into Hereford, and more difficult for people to mourn at the graveside of their relatives.
As time went by, people slipped back into their old custom of burying their dead, in the local churchyard, as Mabel did with John.
When the cathedral authorities discovered this, they acted swiftly to assert their rights. The memory of Sir John’s opposition to the bishop exacting tolls at St Ethelbert’s fair may have fuelled their particularly vindictive response.
They sent workmen to dig up the bodies and throw them aside in a heap on unconsecrated ground.
Mabel reacted with outrage. She wrote a furious letter of a complaint to the Court of Arches in London, saying that her husband’s and other bodies had been ‘thrown into a shameful and profane place with contempt’ and demanded justice. The court officials agreed that there was a case to answer and summoned the bishop, dean and chapter to appear before them. The wheels of the law grind slowly, and it was November 1347 before the matter came before the court. Mabel and the village elders led the opposition,
Things dragged on, until in 1350 the parties agreed on an out-of-court settlement. The bishop, dean and chapter agreed that the parishioners of Allensmore could bury their dead in their own churchyard. The Black Death had reached Hereford in 1349 and they were able to make the face-saving claim that the consequent large demand for burials made it impractical to inter those of outlying parishes in the cathedral precinct. They did, however, insist that the people of Allensmore still pay the mortuary fees to the cathedral.
For their part, Mabel and her fellow parishioners got what they wanted: the right to bury their dead with dignity in their ancestral churchyard.
Mabel and Thomas survived the Black Death, but it had a profound effect on manorial lords like them. They had relied on the labour of serfs, who were bound to the land and had to give service to their feudal lords. Serfs were not allowed to leave without their lord’s permission.
With about half the population dead from the plague, there was a desperate shortage of labour. Regardless of the laws forbidding them, serfs left their homes and sought more highly-paid work elsewhere, on another manor or in the towns. Never again could the lords of the manor rely on cheap labour, from serfs who had no choice but to obey.
We do not have the date of Mabel’s death.
 Nigel Saul, Lordship and Faith: The English Gentry and the Parish Church in the Middle Ages, OUP 2017. Ian Forrest, “The Politics of Burial in Late Medieval Hereford, The English Historical Review. Vol. 125, No. 516, OUP, Oct 2010.
 Online Faculty System. Allensmore: St Andrew – CHR Church
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