Charlotte image

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)



We are indebted to Sir William Pole for our knowledge of the early generations of this family.[1] Writing on the history of Devon, he tells us:


“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. 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.”

Though largely correct, the dates of documents relating to property and inheritance in this family are difficult to reconcile with this. If we insert another two generations, also named Richard and Thomas, in this alternating sequence, the dates make perfect sense. With so much repetition of names, it is easy to see how Pole could be mistaken.

We know very little about the first Richard, except that he had a son called Espus. This is a Norman name meaning “husband” (cf. “spouse”).

We learn a little more about Espus from Pole:


“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. Uppon the separacion of Normandy from England, King John assumed the mannor into his own hands, & gave it unto Geffery de Lucy to hold the same at the kinge’s will.”

This tells us that the second Richard’s father was known as Espus de Blacktoriton (Black Torrington).

Black Torrington is a village in NW Devon, named after the River Torridge. It lies between the towns of Holsworthy and Hatherleigh.

The hundred of Black Torrington included both these towns, as well as a number of villages. This suggests that Black Torrington was formerly more important than either of them. The court of the lord of the hundred was held in Black Torrington.

A hundred is a subdivision of a county, consisting of a number of parishes. Black Torrington Hundred was particularly large, covering 35 parishes.

Henry I ruled from 1100 to 1135 and King John from 1199 to 1216. This makes it likely that the first Richard and his son Espus lived around the first half of the 12th century, not long after the Conquest.

They predate the present 15th-century church in Black Torrington by several centuries, though that has some signs of a Norman origin. Richard and Espus would have worshipped in that older church.

Many Norman families took their name from lands their ancestors owned in Normandy or Flanders. The Wampfords took theirs from the Anglo-Saxon names of the places in Devon where they lived. Since the grant of Wampford was made to the second Richard, son of Espus, it is unlikely that the first Richard and Espus were known by this name, or one of its variant spellings. Espus evidently lived in, or came from, Black Torrington, and took this as his surname.

Black Torrington today, with the Torridge on the left.[2]

 We do not know the names of their wives and only the name of their eldest son and heir. Richard was followed by his son Espus, and Espus by his son Richard.

We do not know if either of them was lord of one or more manors. The grant made to the second Richard was a substantial one, so it is likely that they were.

We do not have birth or death dates for either of them.


[1] Sir William Pole (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description  of the County of Devon,(1791).
[2] Rightmove. Properties for sale in Black Torrington.



Sampson Tree