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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



The surname derives from the eccelesiastical office of Archdeacon, and it sometimes appears thus. Other forms are L’Archedekne, L’Ercedecne, Lercedekne, etc.

Our branch of this family is first found in Shobrooke, near Crediton in Devon, but afterwards principally in Cornwall.

L. E. Elliott-Binns writes:[1]

After the bishop, the most important official was the archdeacon; and for Cornwall he was of especial importance since the whole of county came under his jurisdiction.

Archdeacons were known in the Anglo-Saxon Church, but were few in number, and after the Conquest little is heard of them for some time. The Council of Winchester in 1072 restricted the office to cathedral churches. At first, as the name implies, they were in deacon’s orders only, but in the twelfth century priests began to be appointed, an innovation which aroused opposition and a protest at the Council of Westminster in 1102.

In its early stages the office applied to no special area of jurisdiction: the archdeacon was the bishop’s deputy for the whole diocese; but by the end of the twelfth century it had become a benefice, and its holder, by his independent ways, might be more of a hindrance than a help.

The principal duties of the office were concerned with the proper performance of divine service and the care of ecclesiastical fabrics. Visitations by archdeacons were more frequent and more searching than those of bishops, for the bishop seldom had time to inspect more than one parish in each rural deanery….. During Brantyngham’s visitation in 1387 the archdeacons proved difficult…. Brantyngham also forbade them to visit during harvest time.

To remunerate himself for his services the archdeacon was entitled to a fee from each parish, and in addition to entertainment by the parish priest. This might be a grievous burden since archdeacons often travelled with a large retinue. Archdeacons, indeed, were notorious for their love of display, as well as for their evil ways in general, and the question put by John of Salisbury, ‘Can an archdeacon be saved?’ was not merely rhetorical. The office was beset by many temptations, and the saintly Gilbert of Sempringham refused it with vehemence: it seemed to him to lead straight to perdition. Such temptations, and the bad reputation of archdeacons in general, arose not only in connection with their visitations, though those gave abundant opportunities for profit and display, but mainly on account of their courts. These courts were a grave scandal, both on account of the enormous fees exacted and for the apparently arbitrary nature of their findings. For the latter there was perhaps some excuse, for until canon law came to be known and studied there was much uncertainty as to the powers which they possessed and the procedure which they were to follow. These powers, real or assumed, not only provided a large revenue, but gave opportunities for blackmail, if not by the archdeacon himself, at least by his officers.

Chaucer says:[2]

And if he found some rascal with a maid
He would instruct him not to be afraid
In such a case of the Archdeacon’s curse
(Unless the rascal’s soul were in his purse)
or in his purse the punishment should be.
‘Purse is the Archdeacon’s Hell,’ said he.


But the archdeacons themselves were not above making illegal exactions, and would even stoop to defraud the bishop, so Grandisson found.

The amount of time which the various archdeacons spent in Cornwall is a matter for surmise, and doubtless varied with the individual. The archdeacon had a stall in Exeter cathedral, and some archdeacons may well have resided there for the greater part of the year.

Of the archdeacons before the close of thirteenth century when their bishops’ registers become available we have to depend on casual and, it may be said, rather doubtful notices. These are not always to their credit. Ralph Luce committed some offence against Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, and was allowed to commute a sentence of outlawry by a fine of £500.* By some he is regarded as the founder of the Lercedekne family.

*Pipe Rolls 28 Hen II 83. Reginald died in 1175, and Luce is supposed to have been archdeacon 1162-70.[3]

 We do not know the relationship, if any, between Archdeacon Luce in the 12th century and our earliest known Lercedekne ancestor, Michael Lercedekne in the 13th century.

Sir William Pole gives the arms of Archdeacon as : Argent 3 chiverons Sable.[4]  These arms occur carved on a bench-end in Landulph Church (Notes and Gleanings, Vol. I, p. 39); also “lately extant in the glass windows of Liskeard Church” (Polsue,. p. 22); and on a tile in Exeter Cathedral. The family has an unfortunate beginning, for the earliest reference to the name shows that Ralph, son of “Ralph Archid’,” had been outlawed for an unknown offence. In 1194 he is stated to owe £35 3s. 4d. for a judgment made in the King’s Court by which he was quit of an appeal in outlawry against him (Rot. Pip. 6 Rd. II). The Sheriff of Cornwall the same year accounted for 41s. ” of the issues of Hymene which belonged to Ralph Archid’.” A Ralph Larcedekne (probably the same) was a witness to a charter belonging to Tresodorn in 1230 (Tregothnan Charter No. 15, quoted by Maclean). In 1235 Odo le Archedekne was one of the Justices of Assize at Launceston (Rot. Fin. 19 Henry III). In 1269 Roger Arcedekne was witness to a Charter relating to Rodam (Rot. Fin. 1 Edw. I). In 1277-8 Stephen de Archdekne had married the third daughter and co-heir of Thomas Fitz-Anthony, who had a grant from King John, “ad fermam feodi” of lands in Dessia and Dessimonia in Ireland, and this Stephen was in the war of Kyldare against the King (Cal. Geneal. No. 41, p. 268). A branch of the Archdeacons must have settled in Ireland at an early date, for in 1302, John,.Silvester, and William le Ercedekne (possibly sons of Stephen) are described among the ” Fideles ” of Ireland ; and Maurice le Ercedekne is a column lower than the others for the same purpose. Each had a letter of credence from the King concerning the wars in Scotland (Pari. Writs. I, p. 584). In 1309 Mauricius and Reymundus le Ercedekne, “Fideles of Ireland,” were requested to perform military service against the Scots (Palgrave, 3 Edw.II). In 1322 Reymundus Lercedeakne was requested, as one of the “Nobiles” of Ireland to perform military service; and in 1324 he was commanded to obey Johannes Darcy, Justiciar of Ireland. In the same year letters of credence were sent him concerning aid for the Duchy of Acquitaine. Maclean, p. 254, considers all these persons were of the same family, but we can find no evidence of their relationship to each other. Burke, sub “Dunboyne Barony,” says, “The Arcedeaknes were of Baronial rank in Ireland temp. Edw. I and Edw. II, and were summoned to Parliament as Barons by those monarchs. Gortnamona was given by Cromwell to a descendant of the Kilkenny family.” The Archdeacons had great possessions in Cornwall, and were connected with the Trevanions of Carhayes, Trefry of Trefry, St. Aubyn of Clowance, Arundell of Lanhern Gerveis, Cary of Launceston, Tresham, Godolphin, Trefusis, and many others (see Pole). Five members of this family achieved altogether 18 elections for Cornwall between 1305 and 1390: Thomas (4a) eight times between 1305 and 1390 (Palgrave). Odo (4b) three times in 1313-15-19 (Palgrave). John (5b) twice, in 1332 and 1336 (Palgrave). Warin (6b) three times, once in 1380 and twice in 1382 (Blue Book). Michael (6j) twice, in 1385 and 1390 (Palgrave). It is noticeable that M.P.’s in those days were usually considerably under sixty; their average was about forty. Elderly men did not willingly undertake the fatigue of a journey involving 7 or 8 days on horseback. John Archdeacon was elected at 27 and 29, but not after; Warin about 49 and 51, but not after; Michael about 39 and 41, but not after.[5]

 Of these, only Thomas and John are known to be in our direct line.

Although the L’Ercedeknes are mostly connected with Cornwall, we find our first known ancestor of this line in the village of Shobrooke, near Crediton in Devon. Later generations of Cornish L’Ercedeknes still held the manor of Shobrooke, confirming the succession.

SHOBROOKE, in the hundred of West Budleigh and in the deanery of Cadbury, lies two miles from Crediton, and eight from Exeter. The village of Little Silver is in this parish.

The manor belonged, in the reign of William the Conqueror, to Walter Clavell. The family of Ercedekne, or Archdeacon, possessed it in the reign of Henry III. The heiress, after several descents, brought it to Carew.[6]


[1] L.E. Elliott-Binns, Medieval Cornwall, Methuen 1955
[2] Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, (tr. Nevill Coghill), Folio Society, 1974.
[3] Elliott-Binns.
[4] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791)
[5] Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association, Vol.51 (1919)
[6] Pole.




Sampson Tree