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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



Sir William Pole, in his Collections Towards a Descripton of the County of Devon, gives us Richard’s parentage.[1]

“Blacktoryton giveth name unto the hundred, wch, together wth the hundred, was given by King Henrye I unto Geffrey de Meduana, in exchange for lands in Normandy. Joel de Meduana succeeded Geffery his father, wch granted the hundred, wth all the libertyes thereof, unto Richard, the sonne of Espus de Blacktoriton, payinge on mark of silver yeerlye at the feast of St Michael tharchangell.”

Clearly, the Wampford surname was not yet in use. Richard’s father is Espus de Blacktoriton (Black Torrington), presumably because he lived there or came from there.

Black Torrington is a North Devon village above the wooded valley of the River Torridge. Since it gave its name to Black Torrington Hundred, it was probably a more significant place then than it is today. The court of the hundred was held there.

This is probably where Richard grew up.

A hundred is a subdivision of a county, containing a number of parishes. Black Torrington Hundred covered Abbots Bickington, Ashbury, Ashwater, Beaworthy, Belstone, Black Torrington, Boyton (Cornwall, part), Bradford, Bradworthy, Bridgerule, Broadwoodkelly, Clawton, Cookbury, Exbourne, Halwill, Hatherleigh, Highampton. Hollacombe, Holsworthy, Honeychurch, Inwardleigh, Jacobstowe, Luffincott, Milton Damerel, Monkokehampton, Northlew, North Petherwin, Pancrasweek, Pyworthy, Sampford Courtenay, St Giles on the Heath, Sutcombe, Tetcott, Thornbury, Werrington and West Putford.

Holsworthy and Hatherleigh are now sizeable towns. It would appear that, in earlier times, Black Torrington was more important than either of them.

The lord of a hundred held a position somewhat similar to the sheriff of a county, but on a smaller scale. It was also a permanent role, and usually hereditary, whereas sheriffs were appointed annually.

On the next page, Pole tells us more about the Wampford name, and confirms that this became their home:


“Wampford, Witaleth and Northcot, did alsoe the said Joell de Mayae grant unto the said Richard, whose posterity were called Wampford, beinge the principal place of theire dwelling.”

This follows immediately after the entry for Black Torrington. It is unusual to have three names heading an entry, rather than a single parish. It ends with the note:

“Patron of the church of Blaktoryton is John Bamfilde, Esq.”

The inference from this is that all three properties were in Black Torrington Parish.

This is borne out by a list of the properties held by John Speke (d.1518), a descendant of this family.[2] These include:
“Wampford, in the parish of Black Torrington.
“Witalegh/Whitalegh, in the parish of Black Torrington.
“Northcott, in the parish of Black Torrington.”


Along the west of the parish boundary, Whiteleigh Water flows north to join the Torridge. Whiteleigh Meadow is alongside it and Higher Whiteleigh is in the SW corner of the parish. Other documents relating to the Wampfords name the property they hold as Higher Whiteleigh.

Northcott lies between Higher Whiteleigh and Black Torrington village. There are other Northcotts in Devon, but in none of them do we hear of a connection with the Wampfords.

This leaves Wampford itself, from which the family took its name, and where we are told they made their home. The surname has variant spellings. The later generations settled on Wampford, but in earlier ones de Wanford or de Waunford is common. The nearest we can find to this in Black Torrington is Winsford on Wagaford Water, on the southernmost boundary of the parish. But these names are not a good match.

The only Wampford in Devon today is a farm in the parish of Kings Nympton, further south. This, too, was held by Joel de Mayne, who could have granted it to Richard. But Pole’s entry for Kings Nympton does not mention the Wampford family.

The most likely scenario is that the medieval farmstead of Wampford in Black Torrington fell into disrepair and was not rebuilt, so it has vanished from modern maps.

Wampford does not appear again in any list of properties held by this family, other than the one concerning John Speke, which owes its source to Sir William Pole.

The grant to Richard was a considerable one. There would be many lords of the manor within the hundred he oversaw.

Before he died in 1135, Henry I got his barons to swear that they would uphold his daughter Matilda as heir to his throne. When he died, his nephew Stephen put in a counter claim, and many barons switched their allegiance, resulting in a bitter civil war that Stephen eventually won. Richard’s overlord, Joel de Mayne fought for Matilda, as did many in the West Country. In 1140 she rewarded him with the hundred of Black Torrington and the manor of Kings Nympton.

We do not know what prompted Joel de Mayne to grant these lands to Richard. The most likely reason is that the latter was his loyal follower, who fought for Matilda under Joel’s leadership.

We do not know the date when Joel de Mayne made his grant to Richard. It was probably in or soon after 1140. This would put Richard’s likely birth date in the first half of the 12th century.

We do not learn the name of Richard’s wife, but we know that he had a son named Thomas. Sir William Pole offers the following pedigree:

“Of this name, these following I find to have lineally succeeded: Espus the son of Richard, Richard the son of Espus, Thomas, Richard, Thomas and Nicholas Wampford, the last, which left issue Jone, wife of John Keynes, & Elizab.”

It is difficult to reconcile the dates of documents relating to this family with Pole’s pedigree. It would make Richard’s son Thomas over 100 when he died. But if we insert two more generations, another Richard and Thomas, in this alternating sequence, the difficulties disappear.

We do not have a birth date for Thomas, but we have the following document of 21 Jun 1200:[4]

“Confirmation to Thomas [de Wonford] son and heir of Richard son of Espus, of the outhundred of Black Torrington, to hold of the heirs of Walter de Mayenne and Juhel de Mayenne by 1m pa, as testified by charters of the said Walter and Juhel. Also confirmation of  the grants by Juhel of the whole land of Wonford, to hold of Juhel and his heirs by 12s pa, the whole land of Coham, to hold etc by 3s pa, and the whole land of Higher Whiteleigh and Northcott, to hold etc by 10s pa, as testified by Juhel’s charter.”

“Wonford” here is Wampford.

Coham is just north of  Black Torrington village, on the south bank of the Torridge..

It is not stated in the document that Thomas is a minor, and thus a ward of the king, though this happens with other under-age heirs. We assume he was an adult.

If Thomas took over these lands in 1200, then Richard must have died shortly before this. We do not have an IPM for him.

It also gives us a likely birth date for Thomas in the second half of the 12th century.

This would put him in the same generation as Jordan de Wanford, whom we hear of in a Feet of Fines dated 1219, and Hamelin de Waunford, who transferred land in Holsworthy in 1228. It is possible that they are also Richard’s sons.

 There is much that we do not know about Richard: the names of his mother and wife, the date of his birth, and the IPM of the properties he held when he died. But he provides a welcome example of the origin of a surname.


[1] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791).
[2] Wikipedia: John Speke (landowner) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Speke_%28landowner%29
[3] Kain, R.J.P., Oliver, R.R., Historic Parishes of England and Wales: an Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata [computer file]. Colchester, 2001. https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/BlackTorrington/ParishMap
[4] The ‘Lands of the Normans’ in England 1204-1244. hAYFttps://www.dhi.ac.uk/normans/appearances.jsp?place=503




Sampson Tree