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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



There is a Devon rhyme which runs:

Crocker, Cruwys, and Copplestone
When the Conqueror came were all at home.

Historians are agreed that this is unlikely to be true. W. G. Hoskins says, ‘There seems little doubt that the first Cruwys came into Devon about the middle of the 12th century, probably from Flanders whence other Devonshire families originated.’[1]

The earliest spellings of the name seem to be ‘de Crues’ or ‘de Cruys’. This suggests that it is a place-name. Although the church at Cruwys Morchard is dedicated to the Holy Cross, the most likely origin of the surname is a crossing-place on a road. T. F. Johns thinks the most promising candidate is Cruys-straete or La Kruystraete, which was formerly in Flanders, but is now in the Nord departement of France. It stands where the road crosses the River Yser south of Dunkirk.[2]

William, Duke of Normanday, took the crown of England from King Harold in 1066. The first wave of invaders who accompanied him came mostly from France. Families from Flanders settled in Devon during the following century.

It is still possible that the name Cruwys derives for the Cornish for ‘cross’, that the holders were a local Cornish or English family, and that, some time after the Conquest, one of them was sufficiently assimilated with the Norman rulers to be offered a manor [3], but this requires a greater stretch of the imagination.

There is an early reference in the records to Robert Cruwys, who is mentioned in a Pipe Roll of 1175.[4] He may be an older generation of the family of Richard Cruwys, who is believed to be the first of this name to be lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard.[5] He may quite possibly be Richard’s father. The name Robert occurs frequently among Richard’s descendants.

There cannot have been many men with the name Cruwys in Devon in 1175. Robert may well be related to Otnel de Cruwys. John Prince, writing around 1700, says that Otnel held the manor of Nether Exe, eight miles north of Exeter, in the reign of King Henry II, 1154-89.

Which was first in the possession of the family, Morchard, or Nether-Ex, I cannot say: Otnel de Cruwys held Nether-Ex in K.H.2’s days; and an.1233, being the 18th of K.H.3, Sir Richard Cruwys held it, whose son William, leaving five daughters and heirs, this mannor was parted among them; who brought their properties to their husbands; de Lucy, de Laccombe, a knightly tribe in this shire heretofore; Saint-clere, le Reis, or Keis, and de Whitfield.’ [6]

If the family origin was in Flanders, it is quite plausible that they, or the generation before them, were the first to arrive, some time in the twelfth century.

Henry II was the first Plantagenet king of England. King Stephen had seized the throne from Henry’s mother Matilda. A long-running civil war ensued, but when Henry landed with an army in 1153, he put an end to this strife by persuading Stephen to declare him his heir. Henry became a powerful monarch, who reduced the power of the barons.

Robert and Otnel were almost certainly living in Devon when the country was rocked by scandal. Henry had made his chancellor Thomas à Becket archbishop of Canterbury, but when Becket sided with the privileges of the Church against the king, Henry’s rage led to Becket’s assassination in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.[7]

One of Henry’s greatest contribution was to have disputes over the ownership of land settled in the courts and not by trial of arms. We do not know what land Robert held, but later generations of the Cruwys Morchard family owned considerable estates, which were often the subject of dispute.

A Robert Cruwys was an under-tenant of Henry Pomeroy, of the powerful Norman family at Berry Pomeroy, in 1198. Margaret Cruwys thinks he was probably the son of the first Robert.[8] He may also be the brother of Richard Cruwys, first lord of the manor of Cruwys Morchard.


[1] W.G.Hoskins, Devon, David & Charles, 1972, p.76.
[2] T.F.Johns, Crewes of South Cornwall and their ancestors in Liskeard, Cornwall, and Cruwys Morchard, Devon. p.10. [MS, WSL]
[3] Margaret Cruwys, A Cruwys Morchard Notebook, 1066-1874, 1939. [WSL]
[4] M.C.S. Cruwys, Records at Cruwys Morchard, Trans. Dev. Assocn. Vol 84, 1952. 1-19.
[5] Records at Cruwys Morchard.
[6] John Prince, Vicar of Berry-Pomeroy, The Worthies of Devon, c.1700.
[7] Encyclopædia Britannica, 1972 edn., Vol 11, pp.359-60..
[8] A Cruwys Morchard Notebook, p.9.




Sampson Tree