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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)


GUILLAUME DE CAHAIGNES. We can trace the Keynes family back to Guillaume de Cahaignes, who was probably born around 1040. He is generally thought to have come from the village of Cahagnes in the Calvados region of Normandy, rather than Cahaignes, further east. Cahagnes lies on the upper reaches of the River Seulles, about midway across the base of the Cherbourg peninsula, just north of the RN175 from Avranches to Caen. ‘Cahaignes’ is said to come from a Celtic word meaning ‘juniper’.

He is said to have fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. William, Duke of Normandy, claimed that he was promised the crown of England by Edward the Confessor, but it had passed to Harold, the husband of Edward’s daughter, with Edward’s deathbed blessing. When William invaded the south coast, Harold had just won a notable victory against a Danish invasion in the north. He and his army then had to march at speed to Sussex. They lost this second battle, and Harold was killed.

Only about fifteen of William’s supporters at Hastings can be confidently vouched for by scholars. Guillaume de Cahaignes is not among these. A much longer list, of 375 names, appears on the Battle Abbey Roll. This was compiled much later and is not entirely reliable. Twenty names were subsequently removed as spurious. Some families paid bribes to have their ancestors recorded on it.

The 375, if genuine, were the commanders, leading an army of some 5000.

J.W Freeman says of Guillaume: “It is reasonably safe to assume that all French or Norman names recorded in the Domesday Book as tenants-in-chief, sub-tenants or land holders took part in the Battle of Hastings. From Cahaignes or Cahagnes, Normandy, William de Cahaignes buckled on his armour, ready for the fray.[1] William de Cahagnes features prominently in the Domesday Book.

Guillaume’s liege lord was Robert, Count of Mortain, half-brother to the Conqueror.

Geoffrey Gibbon, vicar of Somerford Keynes in Gloucestershire, confirms this. He says that William of Cahaignes:

‘fought at Hastings by the side of the Conqueror’s half-brother, Robert Count of Mortain. Robert was made Earl of Cornwall and given vast estates, from which he gave William of Cahaignes twenty-five manors or parts of manors in Northants and nine in Sussex. In the reign of Henry I [1100-1135] the lands were divided between William’s two elder sons: Ralph took most of the Northamptonshire manors, including Dodford, with the Maminot inheritance [fiefs in six counties given to Gilbert Maminot, Bishop of Lisieux, whose great-niece married Ralph] and Barton near Cambridge (the gift of Bishop Odo of Bayeux): Hugh took the Sussex manors, including Horsted, with the rest of the Northamptonshire lands. The third son, William, distinguished himself in the Civil War of Stephen’s reign by taking the King prisoner at the Battle of Lincoln and was later given the manor of Winkleigh in Devon as his reward. Hugh’s second son married the heiress of Milton in Buckinghamshire [Milton Keynes], thus founding a fourth line, and there was a fifth line at Higham Gobions in Bedfordshire. Four of these families died out in the male line in the 14th century, but the Keynes of Winkleigh, who later settled in Compton Pauncefoot in Dorset, still continue: the economist John Maynard Keynes (Lord Keynes) was one of them.’[2]

It is reasonable to assume that the Keynes who lived at Winkleigh in the 13th century were descended from the William Keynes who captured King Stephen. He did not inherit the Keynes’s Domesday manors, but gained lands in his own rightl.

Today, Horsted Keynes is twinned with Cahagnes in Normandy.

We do not know whom Guillaume married. He may already have had a wife in Normandy, or married the daughter of a newly-arrived Norman family after 1066. In time, English families willing to assimilate to Norman culture also intermarried with their conquerors. If William’s youngest son fought at Lincoln in 1141, then he can hardly have been born much before 1080, and probably later. We have no dates for the older brothers, Ralph and Hugh.

In the centuries following there were many variant spellings of the family surname, some of them in the same document. Eventually, Keynes became the accepted form. The variant Caynes indicates how it was pronounced.


SIR WILLIAM DE KEYNES. According to Gibbon, William was the third and youngest son of Guillaume de Cahaignes who fought with the Conqueror at Hastings. Winkleigh is said to have come into his possession in the 12th century, as a result of the civil war between the Empress Matilda, daughter and heir of Henry I, and Stephen, who laid claim to the throne through his descent on his mother’s side from their common grandfather, William the Conqueror. It was this long-running civil war which forms the setting for Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael novels.

Charles Worthy, writing his history of Winkleigh in 1876, describes it thus:

“The manor of Winkleigh appears to have been divided into two not long after the Conquest.

The first moiety into which the manor was divided was in the possession of the family of Keynes as early as the reign of Henry II [1154-1189], and continued with them for fifteen descents… In all probability land at Winkleigh was first bestowed upon Sir Wm. Keynes as a reward for services rendered to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who, having first retired beyond the sea, renounced his allegiance to King Stephen, and landed in England with his half-sister, the Empress Matilda, and a small retinue of knights in 1139. A frightful state of anarchy ensued in this kingdom…. All this trouble was brought on the land through the usurpation by Stephen of the crown of his uncle, Henry I, who dying in the thirty-fifth year of his reign, had left his daughter Matilda heiress of all his dominions. The hostile armies at length met at Lincoln on Candlemas-day, 1141, when William Keynes took Stephen prisoner, and delivered him to his master, the Earl, who conducted him to Gloucester, and at first treated him with humanity, but afterwards had him removed to Bristol, where he threw him into prison, and loaded him with irons. Although King Stephen is commonly branded with the name of usurper, yet it should not be forgotten that the right of direct lineal succession was not firmly established until the time of Edward I., and we cannot help considering that the circumstance of his seizing the crown, regarded in itself, was no more an act of usurpation than that of his two predecessors. Looking at it in another light, however, it was doubtless a great crime, and one which caused disastrous consequences to the country; for he had sworn fealty to his cousin, Matilda, and he broke the promises which he made to his uncle and benefactor, King Henry I.

It is uncertain at what period the Keynes family obtained the fee of Winkleigh; but they ultimately gave their name both to the manor and court-house which for many generations were called respectively “Keynes-Castle and Winkleigh-Keynes” They were powerful in this county for many centuries.[3]


The 13th century monk Matthew Paris describes the capture of Stephen more colourfully:

A very strange sight it was, there to behold King Stephen, left almost alone in the field, yet no man daring to approach him, while grinding his teeth and foaming like a furious wild boar, he drove back with his battle axe the assailing squadrons, slaying the foremost of them, to the eternal renown of his courage. If but a hundred like himself had been with him, a whole army had not been able to capture his person; yet single handed as he was, he held out till first his battleaxe broke and afterwards his sword shivered in his grasp with the force of his relentless blows, and he was borne backward to his knees by a great stone, flung at him. A knight (Sir William Keynes) then seized him by the helmet and holding the point of his sword to his throat, called on him to surrender.[4]


Despite the tradition is that Winkleigh Keynes was given to Sir William as a reward for this exploit, the claim of the Keynes family to Winkleigh may be older than 1141. Laurence Molland’s history of the parish quotes: “William Keynes claimed in 1315 by right of a grant of the Conqueror to the predecessors of Roger Keynes.”[5] If it was a gift of William the Conqueror, it would have been made no later than 1087.

The Genuki website for Buckinghamshire credits William de Keynes with another manor:

MIDDLETON, or MILTON-KEYNES, in the hundred and deanery of Newport, lies about four miles south of Newport-Pagnell, and about a mile out of the road from that town to London. It acquired its additional name from the ancient family of Keynes, who possessed the manor. William de Keynes, Lord of this manor, was the person who took King Stephen prisoner, at the battle of Lincoln. From him this estate passed by female heirs to the families of Aylesbury and Stafford.[6]

This is at variance with Gibbon’s conclusion that the son of William’s brother Hugh acquired Milton through marriage.

Whatever the truth of this, William settled in Winkleigh. It became the seat of this branch of the Keynes family for four hundred years.

Today, Winkleigh is a hilltop village, just off the B3220 road from Crediton to Great Torrington. All that remains to show its early power and prestige are the mounds where once two castles stood.

Before the Norman Conquest, Winkleigh had been in the possession of the Saxon Earl of Gloucester, Brictric, the ‘Golden-Haired’. Brictric visited Flanders, where he captivated the heart of Lady Matilda, but returned to England and married Lady Godiva instead. Matilda married William, Duke of Normandy. When William conquered England, Matilda obtained from him most of Brictric’s lands, including Winkleigh. Brictric died in prison.

On Matilda’s death, these lands reverted to her husband, and were eventually granted to the Norman Earl of Gloucester, whose successor awarded them to William de Keynes.[7]

The Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, shows Winkleigh to be a very rich parish: ‘The manor pays 30 pounds in coinage.’ For comparison, Okehampton was only worth £10, North Tawton £15 and Chulmleigh £13. Winkleigh parish also had two manors at Loosedon, worth 20s and 15s respectively. The wealth of the parish indicates that there was a long Saxon period of occupation, and that the land was well settled by the 11th century.

The Domesday Book also mentions a ‘park for beasts’. This is the only such park in Devon recorded in Domesday. Like the Royal Forest of Dartmoor, it was a reservation where the King could hunt, but no one else. The purpose of these royal parks and forests was to preserve the game. Animals like wild boar were becoming rare, and would soon be hunted to extinction. The local name Parker comes from ‘park keeper’.[8]

The land given to William Keynes lay on the east side of the village, and was very much that which formed the ‘park for beasts’ in the Domesday Book.[9] There, on a large mound, either William or perhaps one of his descendants built what came to be known as Court Castle.

But William had backed the losing side. On the verge of gaining the realm her father had left her, the Empress Matilda antagonised the citizens of London and had to flee. A force led by Stephen’s queen routed Matilda’s army at Winchester only six months after the Battle of Lincoln. William’s overlord, the Earl of Gloucester was captured, and eventually exchanged for King Stephen.

And so it came about, unusually, that Winkleigh had two castles. The other, at the western end of the village centre, was Croft Castle. It was owned by the Tracey family, who fought on King Stephen’s side in the war. Its lands almost encircled those of Court Castle, held by the Keynes family.[10]

There were only three stone castles in Devon: at Exeter, Okehampton and Barnstaple. Court Castle and Croft Castle in Winkleigh were two of five timber motte and bailey castles, the others being at Bampton, Heywood and North Tawton.[11] Court Castle was at one time a place of considerable strength, surrounded by a moat. It was one of a chain of castles stretching across Devon from east to west. Curiously, the ramparts are of red earth, though none occurs naturally in this area.[12]

The community history of Winkleigh says:

‘A survey of Court Castle, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, was carried out by The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England on May 1992. Court Castle consists of a substantial flat-topped mound with a hummock at its north-eastern corner. A well-preserved ditch lies at the foot of the mound on the north and west while the centre of the mound is occupied by a ruinous 18th century banqueting house…

‘The castle mound is probably a product of the late 11th or 12th centuries. There is no earthwork evidence for an intermediate manorial centre in this part of Winkleigh for the period between the construction of the castle and the building of Winkleigh Court [the later manor house of Court Barton nearby]. The Keynes family were apparently in residence during the medieval period but Winkleigh Court appears to have been built on a new site. Did occupation of the former castle continue after the 12th century? What was the masonry noted by Risdon [‘There only remaineth in one of them (Court Castle) a pillar of lime and stone, so firmly compacted that time has not wrought his will thereon.’]?…

‘Motte and bailey castles are familiar to us from our history lessons. But where was the bailey of Court Castle? A “bailey” would normally be expected to lie between the castle “motte” or mound and its associated settlement, although there is no trace of this at all in Winkleigh. It has been suggested that the bailey occupied the area of Court Barton lawns, but that area is fairly small and, given the size of the castle mound, a much larger bailey would normally be expected.’ [13]

Winkleigh divided into two warring factions. One stronghold besieged the other. Molland believes that Winkleigh Keynes held the Major, or King’s, Court, while Winkleigh Tracey was a sub manor, subsidiary to it, with an Outcourt.[14]


Sir William Pole begins his 17th century pedigree of the Keynes family with Thomas Keynes, who died in 1308.[15] Before that, he gives isolated references to men of that surname, at widely spaced dates, whose relationship to each other he had apparently not been able to establish. They begin with William Keynes in the time of Henry II [1154-89]. This was probably the one who fought at Lincoln.

WYNKLEY HUNDRED contayneth only one parish.
WINKLEGH was the chief place of the honor of Gloucester in this county.

WINKLEG KAYNES, thauncient dwellinge of Kaynes, wch gave thaddicion of this name. Willam de Kaynes, in Kinge Henry 2 tyme [1154-1189]; Willam de Kaignes, 10 of Kinge John [1208-9]; Willam Kaignes, & Willam Kaignes, 51 of Kinge Henry 3 [1266-7]; Sr Roger Kaignes.

There is another family tree on the internet which lists: William de Cahaignes, b.abt. 1060, m. Adelicia b.abt.1075, son: Robert de Cahaignes, b.abt.1105, grandson: William de Kegns, b.abt.1135, great-grandson: Robert de Keyns, b.abt.1165. These dates are difficult to reconcile with the William who fought at Lincoln, and no references have been found to either of the Robert Keynes in 12th-century Winkleigh. Gibbon says Guillaume’s eldest son Ralph married Alice Maminot. There may be some confusion between different branches of the family.[16]


WILLIAM and PHILIP KEYNES. Gibbon’s Keynes family tree gives William de Keynes of Winkleigh a son, also William, who must have been born in the early or mid-12th century.[17] The earliest documentary record Laurence Molland could find was to Philip Keynes, who is cited as Bailiff and Provost of Winkleigh in 1166. He says, ‘In Winkleigh, the Lord of the Manor was almost invariably the bailiff and provost of the court, deriving authority from his baron – the King; and well into the fourteenth century, ruled almost as a despot.’[18]

For centuries, the village was divided between the manors of Winkleigh Keynes and Winkleigh Tracey, with Winkleigh Tracey having most of the village centre. The parish church is dedicated to All Saints, and that is how it appears in all the surviving records. An old tradition says that it was originally built and dedicated to St Thomas á Becket by Sir William de Tracy, as a penance. Sir William was one of the four knights of Henry II who assassinated the archbishop in his cathedral at Canterbury in 1170.

There would have been an earlier Saxon church on the Winkleigh site.

The first record of the church is in 1176, when the Earl of Gloucester gave it to Tewkesbury Abbey. The church would have been served by a canon from the abbey. As often happens when the patronage of rectory rests with a monastery, Winkleigh had both a rectory and a vicarage.

The community history of Winkleigh says:

‘Glancing at the village, standing upon very high ground, this church is a conspicuous object from every side, and was used in the past by travellers as a guide. From the top of the tower is a magnificent view of the hills and tors of Dartmoor, and on a clear day twenty-four other parish churches may be seen.’

The earliest parts of the present church, including the chancel, date from the 13th century. The first priest whose name we have is Serlo in 1202.[19]

Gibbon says that the third William de Keynes died in 1205.


WILLIAM DE KAIGNES. Pole’s second reference to the Keynes family is ‘Willam de Kaignes, 10 of Kinge John’ [1208-9]. This would appear to be the fourth generation from the Norman Conquest. He may have been the son of the William who died in 1205 or of the Bailiff and Provost Philip Keynes.

It is about this time that the Nomina Villarum places the gift of Winkleigh to the Keynes family. ‘Winklegh is the chief place of the Honor of Gloucester in Devon. In it are two castles. One was granted to Keynes by King John A.D.1212.’[20] Other evidence says that it was in the hands of the Keynes family before this. Or perhaps it was only now that the Keynes family was given permission to build a castle on their land.

This fourth William may well have been alive to witness a change of ownership of the parish church. In 1223, the Abbot of Tewkesbury gave it to Bishop Brewer of Exeter, who passed it on to his son, Roger de Winkleigh. Roger’s is the second name on the list of Deans of Exeter Cathedral, holding the office from 1231-52. In the Chancery Proceedings of 1255, William de Kaignes submitted and gave quit claim in acknowledgement of the rights of the Dean and Chapter.[21]

In 1238, a son of the ‘priest’ at Winkleigh was accused of killing his brother. He was acquitted after testimony that it was an accident and that the man fell on his own knife.[22]


WILLIAM DE CAYNES and WILLIAM KAIGNES. We then move to 1262, with a reference Pole does not give. It is the gift of ‘a sore sparrow-hawk’ by William de Caynes. A sore sparrow-hawk was one of under twelve months. Falconry was then a popular sport, which also provided game for the table.[23]

The William de Caynes who made this gift was probably the fifth generation to bear that name. He was presumably one of the two Williams named in Pole’s next reference, four years later: ‘Willam Kaignes, & Willam Kaignes, 51 of Kinge Henry 3’ [1266-7]. We may assume these were father and son, giving us a sixth generation.


SIR ROGER DE KEYNES.  Pole’s final member of the Keynes family for whom he can provide no proven link is Sir Roger de Keynes. His dates make it possible that he is the son of one the Williams of the 1260s and brother to the other. He is also likely to be the father or brother of Thomas Keynes, who died in 1308, and who heads Pole’s pedigree of the family.

Sir Roger flourished in the second half of the 13th century. ‘Roger Keynes, of Winkley Keynes, Kt’ features in a list of knights given by Pole.[24]

We know his coat of arms:

Kaignes, of Winkley; Azure, a bend unde, cotified Argent.[25]

This appears to mean a blue shield, with a wavy silver band from the upper left to the lower right.

Pole gives no dates for him, but we have information from other sources. In 1274, the Hundred Rolls of 3 Edward I record:

‘Roger de Keynes holds ½ fee of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and the said Gilbert holds the said ½ fee of the King in Chief and it belongs to the Barony of Gloucester. The Hundred of Wynkelegh is in the hand of Roger de Keynges and the same Roger holds the said Hundred of Gilbert, Earl of Gloucester and Gilbert of the King in Chief. It is worth ½ mark per annum; and the same Roger has gallows and assize of bread and beer at Wynkelegh.’[26]

 Minor offences were dealt with at the manorial court of Winkleigh Keynes, presided over by the lord of the manor or his representative. The gallows is witness to the fact that many of these minor offences were punishable by hanging.

In 1275 the commissioners of Edward I investigated abuses of the courts in Devon. They found that Roger Keynes (Bailiff and Provost) had an assize of bread and beer, involving the power of life and death, and added, “by what authority we know not”. Molland thinks that from this time the authority of courts was curtailed. Under the system of Frankpledge, some of the inhabitants, perhaps twelve, stood surety for the good behaviour of the community.[27]

The manor of Winkleigh had already suffered a loss not long before. Weremund de Portuo Mortuo, another Norman lordling, held Hollocombe Manor in the parish of Winkleigh. He ‘has withdrawn himself and makes his two tithings to withdraw altogether from the outland Court of Roger de Keynes, lord of Winkleigh.’[28] This was a loss of both income and prestige for Winkleigh Keynes.

There are three property documents, dated only to the second half of the 13th century, 1258-99, in which Sir Roger de Kaygnes appears in a list of witnesses. In each of these, another witness is William de Stapeldon. Since William Stapledon’s sister Joan married Thomas Keynes, who heads the Keynes pedigree, this strengthens the likelihood that Roger was Thomas’s brother or father.[29]

The principal parties to the deeds, and presumably associates of Roger de Kayngnes and William Stapeldon, give some indication of the circle in which they moved. They are Robert Cnoyl, Sir George Oliver, Monasticon Dioecesis Exoniensis de Dynam, and Thomas Schuta.  Other witnesses are Sir Richard Coffyn, Sir Robert de Dynam, Sir Roger Milys, Sir Baldwin de Speckcote, Robert de Bosco, Sir Thomas, Abbot of Hertilonde, Thomas Franceys, Roger de Loges, Bartholomew Giffard, William de Langforlang. The title ‘sir’ was used more widely then. Only Sir Roger and the first three witnesses are listed as knights.

In 1281, Roger de Kaynes claimed that he and all his ancestors had held the manor of Winkeley, with the Hundred. ‘Roger Keynes, of Winkley Keynes, Kt’  is listed by Sir William Pole as one of those of best worth in the county in the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307).[30]

We have no information about Sir Roger’s wife or the date of his death.


[1] Discovering Surnames, J.W. Freeman.
[2] Geoffrey Gibbon, Through the Saxon Door: The Story of Somerford Keynes, (publ. by the author, 1969), p.3.
[3] Charles Worthy, The History of the Manor & Church of Winkleigh in the County of Devon, (William Brendon & Son, Plymouth, 1876), pp.12-14.
[4] Laurence Molland, A History of the Parish of Winkleigh in the County of Devon, (MS in WSL, 1949), p.149
[5] Molland, p.51.
[6] GENUKI website: BUCKS, Milton Keynes.
[7] Lesley McLean, ed., Winkleigh: A View of their Parish by the People of Winkleigh, (Beaford Arts Centre, 1997), p.31.
[8] McLean, p.32.
[9] McLean, p.30.
[10] McLean, p.30
[11] McLean, p.29
[12] Molland.
[13] McLean, pp.28-30.
[14] Molland, p.54.
[15] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791), p.432; IPM Thomas de Kaygnes, 1308.
[16] http://209,190.235.73/genes/db/chart.cfm?ID=483288sex=Male&total=6
[17] Gibbon, p.59, based on Baker’s “Northamptonshire”.
[18] Molland, pp.59, 61.
[19] McLean, pp.57, 63.
[20] Molland, p.322.
[21] Molland, p.67.
[22] McLean, p.63.
[23] McLean, p.70.
[24] Pole, p.53.
[25] Pole, p.490.
[26] Poremere, Hundred Rolls 3 Edward I, p.87.
[27] Molland, p.62.
[28] Poremere, Hundred Rolls 4 Edward I, p.89.
[29] DRO: AR/1/611, AR/1/614, AR/1/623, www.a2a.org.uk.
[30] Pole, p.53.




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