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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 FLOYER.  We have a pedigree for the Floyers which includes:[1]

FLOYER, was called FLORIDUS. He m. Sabrina, daughter of Geoffry de Dunstanville, of Enscombe, in Devonshire, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir.
Roger, living in 41st Henry III [1256-7].
He died previously to his wife (who was living a widow in 48th Henry III [1263-4]) and was s. by his eldest son,
JOHN FLOYER, of Floiers Hayes, who left by Marriott his wife, a son and heir,
WILLIAM FLOYER, of Floiers Hayes, who m. Fina, daughter of John Herewarde, of Doddescote, in Great Torrington, Devonshire.

This establishes John as the eldest of three sons of Floridus Floyer and Sabrina de Dunstanville. He may well have had sisters too.

Like his brother Roger, he would have been an adult in the mid-thirteenth century, in the reign of Henry III. This suggests that he was born in the first half of that century.

In the Exon Domesday Book the family home was Sotrebroc or Southbrook, on the west side of the Exe opposite the city of Exeter and a little downstream from Exe Bridge. It became known as Floyer’s Hayes. The Floyers were not Norman incomers but Anglo-Saxon thanes. Over time they intermarried with the Norman ruling class. John’s mother was a Norman.

By the thirteenth century, the liege lords of the Floyers were the Courtenays, who were barons of Okehampton.

Inq. pm. on John de Courtenay, Hen. III., Harl. MS. 6126, British Museum:-[2]

“And that Hugo de Courtenay is son and heir of the said John [and] of the age of twenty-three years at the Feast of the Annunciation of Mary last past. And by the oath of John Floyer, etc., who says that the same John holds a mill with meadows and other belongings from the lord King in chief at Exeter as part of the Barony of Okehampton. And that John holds thirty acres of land belonging the lord John de Courtenay in chief, rendering for it one cup of wine whensoever the said John and his heirs wish to breakfast or to dine on Exe Island.”

This traditional custom had been in the Floyer family for the previous four generations.

“At Sotrebroc, or Floyer’s Hayes, the Floyer family lived continuously until about 1580. It was held by the tenure mentioned in the early charters, namely, that when the Earls of Devon should come to Exe Island to fish or enjoy themselves, the lord thereof for the time being, Floyer, should attend him, in decent apparel, with a pitcher of wine, and offer him to drink. In the older charter granted by Robert Fitz Roy the obligation to furnish one soldier is also mentioned.”[3]

“This is what is known as a “waiting” or “serjeanty” tenure. Such tenures were most common among those to whom the King had granted “folk” land. The idea was that the house should be one of call to the King’s agents when on the public service. This suggests that Floyer’s land had been previously held by the same tenure before the charters were granted. There are slight variations in the form at the different periods at which it is mentioned. In the charters of Robert FitzHenry and of Reginald de Courtenay between 1170 and 1194 the same phrase is repeated – the pitcher of wine is to be given “whensoever it shall happen that I or my heirs shall dine on the Isle of Exe.” In the later account, before 1272, the pitcher becomes a cup (allum), and it is to be offered as often as John de Courtenay and his heirs breakfast or dine on the Isle of Exe, and the provision of a soldier in addition is not mentioned, this requirement being now made by other means. In 1311 the tenure is still more carefully defined. It is to be rendered whensoever Hugh de Courtenay comes on to the Isle of Exe, below the bridge, the tenant for the time being shall attend, provided with dinner, a white napkin girt round his neck over his tunic or shirt, and shall bring one pitcher of wine and one white or silver cup, and shall offer the same lord to drink. Four simnel cakes are also added. These differences look as if each time the service had been rendered it had been done with these small variations, which were afterwards registered as the precise form in which it should be offered in future, for it is expressly said that the four simnel loaves were not in the charter, that is, not of obligation.” [4]


MARRIOTT. There is an internet family tree that names her as Ellen Marriott, but it is more likely that Marriott was her baptismal name. It is a diminutive of Mary. We do not know her surname.


The couple had a son William and a daughter Ellen. Both married into the Hereward family of Dodescote, now St Giles in the Wood, near Torrington. William married Fina, daughter of John Hereward, and Ellen  married Fina’s cousin, a younger John Hereward.


We know that John was still alive at the end of the 13th century. Sir William Pole tells us:

“Hugh Peverell, John Floier & John Hereward, held Much Ernscomb, or Great Ernscomb, in free socage of the heires of Toryton, anno 24 of Kinge Edw I. [1295-6]”[5]

This John Hereward was Ellen’s husband, and son-in-law to John and Marriott Floyer.

Ernscomb, also near Torrington, had been brought to the Floyer family by John’s mother Sabina Dunstanville.


Until now, shipping had navigated freely from the sea at Exmouth, up the tidal estuary of the Exe, to the quay at Exeter. Some of John’s ancestors had been portreeves of the harbour near Floyers Hayes. This trade brought in much revenue from harbour dues.

Towards the end of the 13th century, Isabel de Fortibus, one of the Courtenay family, built a wear across the Exe called Countess Wear, downstream from Exeter. This restricted shipping to the quay, damaged the salmon fisheries, and caused much bad feeling with the city of Exeter. The Floyers would have noticed the diminution in trade.

A generation later, Hugh de Courtenay went further by blocking the weir completely. He built a quay at Topsham to take the trade that had hitherto gone to and from Exeter.


We do not have death dates for John and Marriott.


John was succeeded by his son William Floyer.

The Floyers continued to play an influential part on the west bank of the Exe.

In those days, Exeter lay entirely on the east bank of the river, where the walled city stood above the bridge and harbour. Floyers Hayes stood on the west bank, outside the city. This western area had been served by the church of St Andrew, part of the priory of Cowick, and by a small chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket which stood at the western end of Exe Bridge. In 1384 this chapel was swept away in a flood. “The Chapel was upturned from its foundations, and collapsed beyond hope of recovery”.[6]

It was decided not to restore this small chapel, but to build a much larger church further from the river.

A later John Floyer took part with one Holland, another leading parishioner, and the vicar, John Alkebarwe, in procuring a fresh site from the monks of Cowick, and in causing the new church of St Thomas to be built. It was consecrated on 4th October 1412, by Bishop Edmund Stafford. He dedicated the Church to St Thomas Becket ordering, ‘that the Feast of Dedication should always be observed in the same manner as Christmas Day’. A register kept by Bishop Edmond states, “The new Basilica was in the midst of the people, and was in every way more convenient and suitable for the Parish Church than its predecessor which was quite at one end of the Parish.” This other parish church was in Cowick.

The new church was bigger than any of the 17 parish churches in Exeter. Since then, the area on the west bank has been known as St Thomas. The parish included Floyers Hayes.

There are now no architectural remains of the house, but it appears in several old maps of Exeter. On a map 1573 it is shown as a building of very considerable size, surrounded by a stone wall, and entered beneath a massive circular arched gateway.

It stood a little way back from the road on the left hand side going from Exeter to Alphington, between the Haven Road and the railway viaduct, rather beyond what is known as Sydney Place. The name “Flower Pot Buildings” may have been originally “Floyer’s Plot.”” . The house was demolished in the 19th century.


 In 1475 a William Floyer served for a short time in France in an army led by the Duke of Clarence in the service of Edward IV. No fighting took place, but, following custom, William Floyer was granted  a coat of arms.


Arms of Floyer of Floyer Hayes: Sable, a chevron between three arrows points downward argent; crest: A stag’s head erased or holding in the mouth an arrow argent.[7] Motto: Floret Virtus Vulnerata (“Virtue flourishes wounded”)

The arrows echo the meaning of “Floyer” as an arrow maker.



[1] John Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland: Enjoying Terrestrial Possessions or High Official Rank; but Uninvested with Heritable Honours. Colburn 1833.
[2] “The Family of Floyer”. http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~floyer/genealogy/index.htm
[3] “The Annals of the Family of Floyer.” http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~floyer/genealogy/annals.htm
[4] “The Family of Floyer”
[5] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon, (1791).
[6] History of St Thomas Church. http://www.stthomaschurchexeter.co.uk/history-of-st-thomas




Sampson Tree