John Acland (d.1553)

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John Acland (d.1553) of Acland. 1554 Portrait by unknown artist. Collection of Killerton House, Devon, property of National Trust
Arms of Acland: Chequy argent and sable, a fesse gules
Acland Barton, 1851 watercolour by Edward Ashworth showing the mediaeval chapel wing[1]

John VI Acland (died 1553) was described as "the first of the (Acland) family to emerge from the shadows of history as a visible human being"[2] His great-grandson was the Royalist colonel Sir John Acland, 1st Baronet (d.1648) of Columb John. Little if anything is known of his life and career, he was possibly a minor Tudor official,[3] but he is chiefly remembered for his surviving portrait which is displayed at Killerton House, the earliest surviving image of an Acland and the most cherished in that family's former collection,[4] now owned by the National Trust. He was seated at Acland Barton in the parish of Landkey, near Barnstaple in North Devon, which had been the family's seat since 1155.[5] The Acland family is believed to have migrated to England from Flanders soon after the Norman Conquest[6] and were in the late 20th century probably the oldest surviving landed family in Devon, which by the 19th century possessed a huge estate in the West Country of almost 40,000 acres.[7]


He was the eldest son and heir of John V Acland of Acland by his wife Elizabeth Cruwys, daughter of John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard, Devon,[8] another ancient Devon family which survives today and still occupies its ancient manor house.[9] John V had pre-deceased his own father John IV Acland (d.1539) and thus John VI, at the age of about 17 inherited his grandfather's estates.[10]

Marriage & progeny[edit]

Portrait of Hugh Radcliff/Redcliffe of Stepney, Collection of Killerton House, Devon, owned by National Trust

John Acland married Margaret Radcliff, a daughter and co-heiress of Hugh Radcliff of Stepney, near London.[11] Margaret remarried to John Brett of Whitestaunton Manor,[12] Somerset[13] and also lord of the manor of Pilland in the parish of Pilton, near Barnstaple, Devon. Robert Brett (d.1540) was lord of the manor of Pilland and the last steward of Pilton Priory before the Dissolution of the Monasteries[14] In 1536 following its dissolution, Robert Brett purchased the Prior's House (now called "Bull House") next to Pilton Church.[15] The Brett family is today represented by Viscount Esher. By Margaret Radcliff he had the following progeny:[16]

  • Hugh Acland (c.1543-1622) of Acland, eldest son and heir, Sheriff of Devon in 1611. At the age of about 70 he became heir to his wealthy and childless younger brother, Sir John Acland of Columb John, Broadclyst. He was buried in Landkey Church on 22 May 1622.[17]
  • Sir John Acland (d.14 Feb 1620), knighted at the Tower of London 15 November 1603/4, MP for Devon in 1604, Sheriff of Devon in 1608. He purchased the estate of Columb John in the parish of Broadclyst, Devon. He is one of John Prince's Worthies of Devon".
  • Gertrude Acland, married Guy Bonvile of Street, Somerset.
  • Dorothy Acland, married Robert Smith of Mucheney, Somerset.

Lands held[edit]

In addition to his estate of Acland, by the 1550's John Acland held lands in the parishes of Loxbeare, Chittlehampton, Tedburn St Mary, High Bray and Swimbridge.[18]

Death & burial[edit]

John Acland died on 5 October 1553 and was buried in Landkey church.[19] The Latin inscription on his portrait Aetatis suae 4.. 1554 (Of his age forty... 1554) is stated to be an erroneous later addition by Anne Acland, the family historian.[20]


The will of John Acland was proved on 1 June 1554 in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Exeter:[21]

In the name of God amen. The 5th daye of October in the yere of or. Lord god 1553 & in the first yere of the raigne of our Soveraigne Lady Mary &c., I John Ackland Esquier of Ackland within the parishe of Landkey in the Countie of Devon & diocese of Exeter, being of good memory &c. make my testament in form following, that is to say: First I commend my sowle to almighty god my maker & Redeemer & my body to be buried within the parishe churche of Landkey aforesaid. Item, I bequeath to every of my two daughters Dorothe & Gartrude two hundred markes to be leveyed perceived and taken of all my landes tenements rents & hereditaments to be paid to them at theire maryage and yf yt happen my sd. two daughters or one of them to decese before they shall be maryed, then I bequeath there [sic] or her parte of them or one of the so deceasing to Margarett my wiff. Item I will & my mynde is that John Ackland my son shall have all the barton land & tenement of my manor of Hauckeworthy and all that my tenement in Est Downe called Endecott in the Countie of Devon which one Slee noew [sic] of me there holdeth to have and to hold the same premises with the appurtenances to the sd. John Ackland my son & to that woman whom he shall take to wiff & to such childe as shall first be between them lawfully begotten for term of there lyves & of every of them longest lyving yelding therefore to my heires all seche rents services and other charge as shall [have] bin usually paid for the same & for the more perfect assurance of the premises to be had to the said John my son in manner & form aforesaid. I charge myne heyre to seale and deliver him a sufficient writing indented of the leasse of the premises to be made in such forme and according to my intent as I thereat have before declared provided always if John my son shall have & enjoy bargaine which Sir Hugh Pollard, Knight, did give & grant to him then he shall not have the sd. tenement in Est Down which the said Slye there holdeth. Then I give to Edmund my servant for his good service done to me the reversion of my tenement in Charles called Stocke which one Brydwycke there holdeth in the right of Emott his wiff dewring his life to have and hold the said tenement for terme of his life by all such rents services charge and conditions as the said Brydwycke ought & hath accustomed to yield and do in the right of his sd. wiff. Item I bequeath to Robert Rye xx s. I bequeath to Harry Moune xx s. Item I will that Redwood shall have the tenements which Harry Ellys holdeth after his decease for term of life by suche like rents and service as the sd. Harry Ellys there now beareth. Item I give to William Raynell xx s. with his wayge. Item I give Joan xx s with her wayge. Item I will that my heyre shall have such plate as I had by the death of my grandfather & that Sir John Chichester knight shall have the keeping of the sd. plate immediately after my death until myne heyre shall come to his full age. Item I bequeath to Agnes Wyatt xxs. with her wage. Item I give to John Pope iii s iiii d. Item to George Alen iii s iiii d. The residue of all my goods and cattals before not bequeathed I holy give & bequeath [sic] to Margaret my wiff whom I make & ordeyne and constitute my sole exx. of my present last will and testament these being witnesses:- Anthony Ackland, Robert Raymond, William Hunacote & others.


  • Acland, Anne. A Devon Family: The Story of the Aclands. London and Chichester: Phillimore, 1981


  1. ^ See also Acland, Anne, plate II, 1981 photo showing the chapel wing projecting from the main house
  2. ^ Acland, Anne, p.1
  3. ^ Acland, Anne, p.1
  4. ^ Acland, Anne, p.1
  5. ^ Acland, Anne, p.2; & foreward by W H Hoskins
  6. ^ Acland, Anne, p.2; & foreward by W H Hoskins, p.xv
  7. ^ Acland, Anne, foreward by W H Hoskins, p.xv, xvi
  8. ^ Vivian, p.3, spelling modernised
  9. ^ Lauder, Rosemary, Devon Families
  10. ^ Vivian, p.3
  11. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitation of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, pedigree of Acland, p.3; Hugh Ratcliff (d.1531) of the Middle Temple held land in Stepney per ['Stepney: Manors and Estates', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 19-52. URL: ]
  12. ^ Vivian, p.3
  13. ^ Dunning, R.W. (Ed.), A.P. Baggs, R.J.E. Bush, A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4, Parishes: Whitestaunton [1]
  14. ^ Reed, Margaret, Pilton: its Past and its People, Barnstaple, 1985, p.175
  15. ^ Reed, p.152
  16. ^ Vivian, p.4
  17. ^ Vivian, p.4
  18. ^ Acland, Anne, p.3
  19. ^ Vivian, p.3
  20. ^ Acland, Anne, footnote 1 to chapter 2, p.155
  21. ^ Book 2 of the Consistorial Court of the Bishop of Exeter, p.91, transcribed by Olive Moger, "Transcript of Devonshire wills, 1600-1800", compiled some time before WWII now held at the West Country Studies Library in Exeter. The original will was destroyed during the blitz of 1942 when the Probate Registry in Exeter was bombed by the Germans. All quoted from