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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



NICHOLAS DE MOELES was born around 1195. His parentage is unknown, but it is likely that he is descended from the Norman Roger de Meulles from the manor of Meulles in Calvados. Roger de Meulles owned Devon manors in the Domesday book of 1086.

Nicholas was a distinguished soldier and diplomat.[1]

He first came to prominence in the service of King John. He seems to have spent some of his boyhood at King John’s court.  It is likely that he fought for the king before 1215, while he was still a teenager.  This was the time when the barons were in revolt against the unpopular king. Nicholas was rewarded with grants of lands captured from rebels.

King John died in 1216 and was succeeded by his son, Henry III, who was then 9 years old. The following year, Nicholas received for his maintenance the manor of Watlington in Oxfordshire. The village is now familiar as one of the locations for Midsomer Murders.

In 1223 Nicholas was sent to fight in Wales. The following year he took part in the siege of Bedford Castle.

His talents then secured him the role of diplomat, as well as soldier. In 1225, Henry sent him on an embassy to Germany, and in 1228 to France. As a mark of favour, he was made a knight in the king’s household.

In 1230 he accompanied the king to Brittany. Here he was entrusted with a mission to make contact with King Henry’s mother, Isabella de Angoulême. She was living there with her second husband, the count of La Marche.

It was around 1230 that Nicholas married the widowed Hawise de Newmarch.


HAWISE DE NEWMARCH was the younger daughter and co-heir of James of Newmarch (Newmarket). He was the feudal Baron Newmarch of North Cadbury in Somerset. Her mother was Maud, who had previously been the widow of Otto Fitzwilliam.

Hawise had an older sister Isabel.

James of Newmarch died in 1216, while the girls were still children. As was the custom with heiresses, she and her sister became wards of the king during their minority. The king usually handed this guardianship over to one of his followers. It involved control of the girls’ estates and the right to give their hand in marriage. This could be a lucrative gift. Men were prepared to pay the guardian to get their hands on the heiresses’ lands. King John himself died in 1216, so the girls’ fate rested with the infant king Henry III and his regents.

Their wardship was given to the king’s steward, the elderly John Russell, of Kingston Russell in Dorset. Isabel was married off to Ralph, his eldest surviving son.

In 1218 Hawise’s marriage was sold to John de Boterel or Botreaux..

She brought to the marriage the manor house of Maperton and half the lands of the North Cadbury barony.[2]

When John died, Hawise married Nicholas de Moeles. Her lands in North Cadbury were transferred to him to hold on her behalf.


It was also in 1230, on 14 Aug, that Nicholas was given the royal demesne manors of Kingskerswell and Diptford in Devon, the advowsons of their churches, and the hundreds of Haytor and Stanborough. Kingskerswell lies just south of Newton Abbot, and Diptford is 6 miles SW of Totnes.

Kingskerswell had been a royal manor before 1066. King John had given both manors to Henry, son of Earl Reginald, but he died without issue in 1221. Nicholas held them of the king by service of ½ a knight’s fee.

The Hundred Rolls of 3 Ed I (1274) say that the present king’s father (Henry III) gave Dupeforde (Diptford) to Nicholas de Mules, excepting a rent of 60/l charged on the townships of Hornere [Thorn], Asswile [Ashwell] and Tuneton [Tennerton].[3]


Henry III gave Nicholas numerous other grants of land in several counties. He also held a number of potentially lucrative wardships. Technically, these orphans were wards of the king, but the guardianship was regarded as a favour to be given to the king’s friends. Nicholas also received a number of gifts of wine, timber and game.

Nicholas and Hawise had three known children:

James was the eldest son and heir apparent. In 1243 he was assigned to be educated with Prince Edward, son of King Henry III. But he predeceased his father, dying in March 1253.

Agnes was born in 1230 at Cadbury. She became the second wife of William de Braose, first Baron Broase, the feudal baron of Bramber and Gower.

Since James died early, Nicholas and Hawise’s estates passed to their second son Roger (c.1233/7 – 1294).  He became Marshal of the Army and Governor of Lampsdervour Castle in Ceredigion.

Maud was a late child of the marriage, born c.1258. She married Richard de L’Orti or de Urtiaco, heir to the barony of Stoke Trister, Somerset.


In 1232 Nicholas returned to the troubled border country of the Welsh marches. His role now was not merely to fight, but to negotiate with Llewellyn ab Iorweth, who was known as Llewelyn Fawr, or Llewelyn the Great. Llewellyn was Prince of Gwynedd in North Wales, but de facto ruler of most of Wales. The Peace of Middle was signed in 1234.

By then, Nicholas had moved on, to take command of St Briavel’s castle in Gloucestershire.

In 1234 he was appointed sheriff of Devon. But his peripatetic lifestyle did not allow him to remain in the county and he fulfilled his office through a deputy.

At the same time, he was made warden of the Channel Islands, but only held that post for a few months.

He was sent abroad again on an embassy in October 1235.

On 14 Jan 1236, King Henry III married the 12-year-old Eleanor of Provence in Canterbury Cathedral. The same day, the couple rode to London. Eleanor was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 20 Jan. Nicholas was chosen as one of the sceptre-bearers at the ceremony.

The young Prince Edward, was born in 1239.As a mark of the high favour in  which Nicholas de Moeles was held by the king, his and Hawise’s eldest son James was taken to Windsor Castle, where he was brought up with the infant prince.

In the same year Nicholas became sheriff of Yorkshire. He also had the custody of the vacant see of Durham, and of the lands of the Earl of Lincoln and Earl Warenne.

1241 saw him sent abroad again, this time on an embassy to the count of Angoulême. The following year he accompanied the king on an expedition to Gascony, north of the Pyrenees, which was part of Henry’s realm. He was chosen as one of the king’s envoys to Louis IX of France. They delivered a charge of truce-breaking, which justified a return to warfare.

Henry left Nicholas behind to govern Gascony. On 17 June 1243 Nicholas was appointed seneschal of the duchy. He was given a yearly salary of 1000 marks (£333). Things did not go well. Almost immediately there was serious disorder in the south of Gascony. Nicholas set out to suppress it, but suffered a sharp reverse before the castle of Gorre. In the end, however, his seneschalcy was reasonably successful. He made peace with the troublesome Arnaud Guillaume, Lord of Gramont, and his rule was remembered as benevolent by the townsmen of Saint Sault de Navailles. When Thibault I, king of Navarre, invaded Gascony in Nov 1244, Nicholas defeated him and personally took him prisoner. He drove the king out of the duchy.

But his early setback dampened his enthusiasm for this role. On 8 Sept 1243 he secured a promise from Henry that he could resign his office after a year, if he wished to. On 15 July 1245, he was relieved of his seneschalcy and returned to England. Arrangements to pay the arrears of his salary went on for several years.

We know some details of this period in Nicholas’s life from Benedictine monk Matthew Paris of St Albans, who wrote and illustrated the Chronica Majora and the Historia Anglorum.

Of the events in 1243 he wrote:

And it happened soon after, that when the king was about to leave Bordeaux, and had appointed Nicholas de Molis as a fit person to act as governor, whom they call seneschal, and had taken all precautions for the safety of the land, and had embarked, and was even ploughing the depths of the sea, sailing towards England, a furious quarrel having arisen among those Gascons, the king was hastily recalled by galleys sent after him, and compelled to return, that he might quell the great disturbance which had arisen.

In September 1243 King Henry III left Gascony to return to England, having on 17 June 1243 appointed Nicholas de Moels as Seneschal of Gascony,

At that time also, namely about the feast of St. Remy, the King of England, having settled what was to be settled in Gascony, and having intrusted the government of the land to Nicholas de Molis, a very brave and prudent soldier, whom he created seneschal of Gascony, and taking ship, had a most pleasant voyage across the Channel, and returned into England; he landed at Portsmouth on the 25th of September.

Matthew Paris drew and painted a marginal illustration of the King and Queen on board a ship with a man in a small boat alongside, apparently de Moels, seeing him off.


We do not know to what extent Hawise accompanied Nicholas  to court and on his postings to Wales and Gascony. She may have remained at home with her younger children, administering Nicholas’s estates in his absence.

Nor do we know which of these the de Moeles regarded as their principal home. Two generations later, their grandson was said to be John de Moeles of Kingskerswell, but Nicholas and Hawise may have set up home in her manor house of Maperton in the North Cadbury barony, or elsewhere in Somerset.

It is likely that, when she did appear at court, Hawise would have been greatly interested in Queen Eleanor. The young Provençal queen was noted for her intelligence, her dark-haired beauty, her skill as a poet and as a leader of fashion. She favoured red silk damask, and decorations of gilt quatrefoil, and to cover her dark hair she wore jaunty pillbox caps. Eleanor introduced a new type of wimple to England, which was high, “into which the head receded until the face seemed like a flower in an enveloping spathe”.[4]


On 17 Aug 1245 Nicholas was appointed to the custody of Carmarthen and Cardigan castles. In the following year he was responsible for one of the most notable feats of arms of Henry III’s reign. He led a force of predominantly Welsh troops from Carmarthen to Deganwy on Conway Bay and forced the surrender of the resistance leader Maelgwn Fychan of Is Aeron. In doing this, he showed that the uplands of North Wales were not impenetrable to English invaders. He remained in Wales until 1248.

Events then took him back to Gascony. Simon de Montfort, King Henry’s brother-in-law and adviser, had been sent to take control of the duchy. Nicholas was there to support him, and later mediated between Montfort and the Gascons. The dispute between governor and governed became ever more bitter. Nicholas played the role of arbitrator. In June 1252 he was appointed a conservator of the truce between the two sides. He left Gascony that year, but returned in 1253 with Henry III. He remained there for several months with the king. In Feb 1254, Henry ordered that Nicholas be paid £100, on the grounds that he had received nothing from the king during the past year.

His diplomatic skills then saw him sent back to Wales in 1257, not as a soldier this time. He negotiated a settlement with Maredudd ap Rhys Gryg of Deheubarth.

Next year, he was made Warden of the Cinque Ports, and then sheriff of Kent. He retained the latter office until Oct 1259.

Like his father, King John, before him, Henry III was running into trouble with his barons. John had been forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, and Henry had ratified it the following year. But now, in 1258, a group of barons, led by Simon de Montfort, obliged Henry to sign the Provisions of Oxford, which are often regarded as England’s first written constitution. Power was placed in the hands of a council of twenty-four members, twelve selected by the crown, twelve by the barons.  Among its responsibilities, this group had the authority to decide the custody of royal castles. Nicholas was entrusted with Rochester and Canterbury castles, but he lost the wardenship of the Cinque Ports and Dover Castle. In the struggle between the barons and the king, Nicholas’s loyalty seems to have remained with the latter.


In 1263, Nicholas must by now have been over 60. When war threatened again on the Welsh marches he was instructed to send his son to the muster, rather than attend himself. By now, the son in question was probably Roger.

We do not know what happened to the elder son James, who was brought up at Windsor with Prince Edward, later King Edward I. But he died before Nicholas and left no issue.  He was the eldest son, and could easily have been provided with estates and money to marry and start a family. The fact that he died childless suggests that he met his death while still a child or a young man.

Nicholas and Hawise must have grieved the loss of their firstborn. The second son Roger was now their heir.


Nicholas was still alive in late Nov 1268, when he appeared before the assize justices at Gloucester. But he had died by 24 June 1269, when his son Roger was given favourable terms for the payment of the relief due from his father’s lands.

Nicholas left a reputation as a loyal and able servant of King Henry III. The contemporary historian Matthew Paris was often critical of the king, but he describes Nicholas de Moeles as “a most energetic and circumspect knight”.[5]

Arms of Nicholas de Moels, from the Glover Roll: “d’argent od deux barres de gules over trois moeles de gules en le chief” (Argent, two bars gules and in chief three torteaux.)

Moeles here means a millstone, and is a synonym for a roundel. The device is a pun on the de Moeles surname.

We do not know when Hawise died.

Roger succeeded to his father’s lands.



[1] Most of the biographical material on Nicholas de Moeles is obtained from Henry Summerson’s article “Moels, Meulles, Molis, Sir Nicholas de” in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 30, OUP.
[2] Victoria County History, Somerset.
[3] Oswald J Reichel, “The Mules or De Moulis Family of KIngskerswell and Diptford”, Devon Notes and Queries, vol.7, 1912-13.
[4] Thomas B. Costain, The Magnificent Century, Doubleday, 1959
[5] Paris, Matthew, Chronicles 4, p.255.






Sampson Tree