Feudal barony of Barnstaple

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The remains of the Norman motte of Barnstaple Castle, seen from the SE, now the backdrop to the Tully St carpark, with Barnstaple library to the right (NE)

From AD 1066, the feudal barony of Barnstaple was a large feudal barony with its caput at the town of Barnstaple in north Devon, England. It was one of eight feudal baronies in Devonshire which existed in the mediaeval era. In 1235/6 it comprised 56 knight's fees or individual member manors. The feudal service owed for half the barony in 1274 was the provision to the royal army of two knights or four sergeants for forty days per annum, later commuted to scutage.[1]


de Mowbray[edit]

The barony was first granted by William the Conqueror (1066–1087) to Geoffrey de Mowbray (died 1093), Bishop of Coutances, who is recorded as its holder in the Domesday Book (1086). His heir was his nephew Robert de Mowbray (died 1125), Earl of Northumberland, son of Geoffrey's brother Robert de Mowbray. In 1095 Robert II rebelled against King William II (1087–1100) and his barony escheated to the crown.

de Totnes[edit]

At some time before his death in 1100 King William II re-granted the barony of Barnstaple to Juhel de Totnes (died 1123/30), a Breton formerly feudal baron of Totnes, from which barony the king had expelled him after the death of his father William the Conqueror in 1087. In about 1107, Juhel, who had already founded Totnes Priory, founded Barnstaple Priory, of the Cluniac order, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene.[2] Juhel's son and heir was Alfred de Totnes, who died sine prole some time before 1139, leaving two sisters as his co-heiresses each to a moiety of the barony: Aenor and a sister whose name is unknown.

de Braose & de Tracy moieties[edit]

Per party fesse gules and azure, three garbs or. These arms were attributed to William III de Braose (died 1211) by Matthew Paris in Historia Anglorum, Chronica Majora, Part III (1250-59) British Library MS Royal 14 C VII f. 29v[3] (shown there inverted to denote his death). He apparently adopted them at the start of the Age of Heraldry c. 1200-1215, but Matthew Paris's attribution may be dubious as his descendants in the Braose family bore different arms

The inheritance of the barony of Barnstaple by two co-heiresses split its possession during the period c. 1139 to 1213 into two moieties, which became re-united under the de Tracy family. The descent of the two co-heiresses was as follows:

Arms of de Tracy: Or, a lion passant sable between two bends gemelles gules
  • Aenor de Totnes married the Welsh Marcher Lord Philip de Braose (died 1134/55), 2nd feudal baron of Bramber, Surrey, son of William I de Braose (died 1093/6). The moiety descended to her eldest son and heir William II de Braose (died c. 1192/3),[4] and thence to his son William III de Braose (died 1211). According to Sanders (1960) in 1208 King John (1199–1216) confiscated the lands of William III de Braose (died 1211) and in 1213 granted his moiety of the barony of Barnstaple to Henry de Tracy (died 1274),[5] the husband of his granddaughter Matilda de Braose.[6]
  • The other de Totnes sister, whose name is unknown, married Henry de Tracy (died pre-1165), leaving a son and heir Oliver de Tracy (died c. 1184), who in 1165 was charged scutage on 25 knights' fees for his moiety. In 1166 he declared 23 1/3 and in 1168 30 1/2 knights' fees. Oliver left a son and heir Oliver II (died 1210), who left as his heir Henry de Tracy (died 1274), who also inherited in 1213 the other moiety as described above. Henry de Tracy (died 1274), according to Pole, had married Matilda de Braose, daughter of Reginald de Braose, son of William III de Braose (died 1211).[7] In 1235/6 he answered for 56 knights' fees, representing the whole barony. In 1246 he answered for 28 knights' fees formerly relating to the Braose moiety and for his 28 paternal knights' fees "of the honour of Oliver de Tracy". Pole further stated that his wife Matilda de Braose had been given the manor of Tawstock, two miles south of Barnstaple, by her childless aunt Loretta de Braose, wife of Robert FitzPernel, Earl of Leicester (i.e. Robert de Beaumont, 4th Earl of Leicester (died c. 1204)), which manor had been one of three knight's fees of the barony given as her marriage portion by her father.[8] Thenceforth Henry de Tracy (died 1274) made Tawstock his seat.[9]

Henry de Tracy's heir to the entire barony was his granddaughter Maud de Brian (or Briene) (died pre-1279), daughter of Guy de Brian of Laugharne Castle, Carmarthenshire by his wife Eve de Tracy, daughter of Henry de Tracy.[10]


Arms of FitzMartin: Argent two bars gules

Maud de Brian's first husband was Nicholas FitzMartin (died 1260), who had pre-deceased his father Nicholas FitzMartin (died 1282), feudal baron of Blagdon, Somerset.[11] Maud married secondly Geoffrey de Camville (died 1308), of Clifton Campville, Staffordshire, who had summons to attend the king at Portsmouth, with horse and arms, to embark in the expedition then proceeding to Gascony. He was subsequently summoned to parliament as Baron Camville, of Clifton, in the county of Stafford, from 23 June 1295 to 22 February 1307.[12] Camville survived her by about 29 years during which time he retained possession of the barony under the curtesy of England.

The barony was recovered on Geoffrey's death by Maud's son William I FitzMartin (died 1324) whose son and heir William II FitzMartin died sine prole in 1326.


Arms of Audley: Gules, fretty or. As given for Nicholas de Audley on the following Rolls of arms: Collins Roll (1304), Falkirk Roll (1298) and for his ancestor on the Glover's Roll (c. 1240-45)

The heirs of William II FitzMartin (died 1326) were his surviving sister Eleanor FitzMartin (died 1342), who died without progeny, albeit having married twice, and James Audley, 2nd Baron Audley (died 1386), the son of his other sister Joan FitzMartin (died 1322), by her second husband Nicholas Audley, 1st Baron Audley (died 1316) of Heleigh Castle, Staffordshire. James Audley thus in 1342 inherited his childless aunt Eleanor's moiety of the barony of Barnstaple, giving him possession of the whole. On the death of James Audley, 2nd Baron Audley ( 1312/13-1386) in 1386 the barony of Barnstaple passed to his son, Nicholas Audley, 3rd Baron Audley (c. 1328 – 1391), who died without issue. His co-heiresses were his two full-sisters, Joan and Margaret I and his half-sister Margaret II and their descendants:

    • Joan Audley (1331–1393) who married Sir John Tuchet (1327–1371) and had progeny John Tuchet, 4th Baron Audley and 1st Baron Tuchet.[13]
    • Margaret I Audley (b. pre-1351, d. 1410/11), married Sir Roger Hillary.[14]
Detail from oak wood effigy of Margaret II Audley[15] (died 1373), wife of Fulk VIII FitzWarin, 4th Baron FitzWarin (1341–1374) and heiress of a moiety of the feudal barony of Barnstaple, including the later capital manor of Tawstock. Effigy formerly in Tawstock Church under a recessed arch in wall of north chancel, now in Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon
    • Margaret II Audley (died 1373[16]), who married Fulk VIII FitzWarin, 4th Baron FitzWarin (1341–1374) of Whittington Castle, Shropshire and Alveston, Gloucestershire.[17] In 1392 Margaret's 3-year-old grandson Fulk X FitzWarin, 6th Baron FitzWarin (1389–1407), feudal baron of Bampton, Devon, inherited the manor of Tawstock in Devon, 2 miles south of Barnstaple, thought to have been a later seat of the feudal barons of Barnstaple,[18][19] but which had certainly been a possession of Judhael[20] and later of de Braose,[21] and which had been settled in 1370 by James Audley, 2nd Baron, in tail male successively to his three sons from his 2nd marriage, Thomas, Rodeland and James, who all died without progeny.[22] The later heir of the FitzWarins was the Bourchier family, Earls of Bath and Barons FitzWarin, who made Tawstock their seat and were highly influential in Barnstaple society and politics. They also inherited via the Audleys other manors formerly part of the barony of Barnstaple, including Nymet Tracy,[23] St Marychurch,[24] Kingston,[25]Marwood,[26] Upexe[27] and Creedy Wiger.[28] The Bourchier Barnstaple townhouse is thought to be no. 62 Boutport Steet,[29] with its surviving ornate plaster barrel-ceilings dated 1620 (or 1629[30]), showing the arms of Bourchier,[31] which survives next to the Royal and Fortescue Hotel, and was converted in about 1760 to premises of the "Golden Lion" coaching inn.[32] It was converted to premises for the National Westminster Bank in 1936,[33] in 1991 housed a branch of the Woolwich Building Society[34] and in 2014 is a restaurant.

King Richard II[edit]

James Audley, 2nd Baron Audley (died 1386) during his life had settled the feudal barony of Barnstaple by means of an entail on his heirs male, with remainder to the crown.[35] As all his sons from both his marriages died without progeny, the barony thus became the inheritance of King Richard II (1377–1399), who granted the barony firstly to Robert de Vere,[citation needed] who however was attainted in 1388, when it escheated to the crown. King Richard II then granted it to his half-brother John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter (c. 1352 – 1400), in tail-male.[36] Audley had also been feudal baron of Dartington, inherited from the Martin family, and this too passed to the crown and was similarly granted to the Duke of Exeter.[37] The feudal barony of Great Torrington was also similarly granted.[citation needed] Holland was loyal to Richard II, and following the latter's deposition by Henry Bolingbroke in 1399, later King Henry IV (1399–1413), Holland rebelled and was executed in 1400. The barony passed to his eldest son, Richard Holland (c. 1390 – 1400), who died later the same year.[38]

From 1425 the barony was held by John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter (c. 1395 – 1447), son and heir of the 1st Duke. On his death in 1447 it passed to his son Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter (1430–1475), who was attainted in 1461 whereupon his possessions were granted to his wife, Anne of York (1439–1476), the second child and eldest surviving daughter of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and an elder sister of Kings Edward IV and Richard III. She divorced her husband and remarried to Thomas St Leger (1440–1483), who held the lands after her death in 1476 by Courtesy of England until his beheading in 1483. In 1483 King Richard III (1483–1485) granted "the Castle and Borough of Barnstaple" to Thomas Everingham,[39] who held it until King Henry VII (1485–1509) deposed Richard III in 1485 and two years later granted it to his mother, Margaret Beaufort.[40]

Queen Mary I[edit]

Queen Mary (1553–1558) granted the barony to Thomas Marrow, MP,[41] though apparently shorn of all its constituent fees and manors, held thenceforth by their tenants directly from the crown as tenants-in-chief. Thus the feudal barony was now one in name only, with no substantial constituent lands or tenants, and conferred no right on its holder of taking a seat in parliament.

Castle Manor[edit]

This so-called "castle-manor" was soon after acquired from "Samuel Marowe"[42] by Sir John Chichester (died 1569) of Raleigh, in the parish of Pilton just over the River Yeo from Barnstaple, and several leases were granted by him to townspersons of orchards gardens and houses within the walls of the castle.[43] In 1566 Sir John Chichester assigned to the Mayor, Corporation and Burgesses of Barnstaple all his rights and interests in the Manor of Barnstaple.[44] He remained however as lord of the manor of "Castle Court" and as part of the agreement under which he relinquished some of his rights, the Corporation was obliged to provide for him two annual "fish dinners". Later this was voluntarily relinquished by his descendant on condition that the Corporation paid instead two annuities of 20 shillings each to various charities in Barnstaple.[45] The ancient "Manor of Hogsfee/Hoggfee" etc. appears to have been connected with the castle manor.[46] In 1732 the Mayor and Aldermen acquired 1/3 of it from John Carew[47] and in 1734 the remaining 2/3 from Thomas Saltren and John Weddon.[48]

Fees in 1326[edit]

The 1326 Inquisition post mortem of William FitzMartin (died 1326) lists his fees pertaining to the Barony of Barnstaple as follows:[49]

Name of fee Hundred no. of knight's fees Tenant
Hesel & Rewes not recorded 1 Walter Tauntefer
Essewalter not recorded 1 Robert de Karnidon
Tappelegh not recorded 1 Oliver de Wibbebury
Teyngcomb not recorded 1 Oliver de Wibbebury
Heales (alias Hehales) not recorded 1/2 Oliver de Wibbebury
Pydikwell and Gratton (alias Gretton) not recorded 1 1/2 Robert de Cruwes and Jordan le Vautort, co-heirs of Mauger de Sancto Albino
Boclonnd and Hurtelegh not recorded 1 Thomas de Fillegh
Estboclannd not recorded 1 Thomas de Fillegh
West Bray not recorded 1/2 Thomas de Fillegh
Bremelrugg and South Alre (Bremridge & South Aller) not recorded 1 John Tracy
Suttecombe not recorded 1 Richard de Merton
Merton not recorded 1 Richard de Merton
Hengestecote not recorded 1/3 Robert Crues and Jordan de Valle Torta
Pillonnd & Barlinton not recorded 1 Walter de Pillonnd and of him by Roger de Cornu and Mabel his wife for life of Mabel
Rowesbugh not recorded 1 Baldwin le Fleming
wanteslegh & Ebberlegh not recorded 1/20 John de Lodehiwich
Mollond Champens (Molland-Champson) not recorded 1 John de Whiteby
Est Stodelegh not recorded 1/2 Robert Marchaunt, which Thomasia relict of Robert his father holds in dower
Bonelegh & Little Hampteford not recorded 2 Walter Gaboun
Hwich (Huish Beaple) not recorded 1 Robert Beaupel
Wlrington (alias Wolrington) not recorded 1/2 Matthew de Crouthorn
Estbray (East Bray) not recorded 1/4 Matthew de Crouthorn
Mortehoo (Mortehoe) not recorded 1/2 John de Hardeshull
Bitteden (Bittadon) not recorded 1 Heir of Thomas de Bitteden, a minor
Bere & Puppecote not recorded 1 Nicholas Martyn and of him by John Chatri for life
Wlrington not recorded 1 Nicholas Martyn
Medeneford not recorded 1/21 John de Lodehiwish (alias Lidehewyssh)
Middleton not recorded 1 John de Wes(ton)
Hautebray (High Bray) not recorded 1 Baldwin le Flemyng
Little Bray not recorded 1/2 Baldwin le Flemyng
Matting(ho) not recorded 1 John de Penris & Philip ap Wylim
Kynewalton not recorded 3/4 John de Penris & Philip ap Wylim
Whetefeld (alias Whitfeld) not recorded 1/3 John de Penris & Philip ap Wylim
Roughlee not recorded 1/2 John de Penris & Philip ap Wylim
Pleystowe not recorded 1 Ralph de (Esse of) Thesbergh
Ans(ty le Moygne) not recorded 1 Robert de Stokhey
Combe Mounceaux not recorded 1/6 Heir of Nicholas Marchaunt, a minor
Coueleye not recorded 1/2 Henry de Ca(mpo Arnulphi)
Colrigge not recorded 1 Henry de Ca(mpo Arnulphi)
Lockesbere not recorded 1 (Thomas de Waunford)
westdoune & Dene not recorded 1 (Philip de Columbariis)
T(helebrugge & Chatemere) not recorded 1 Heir of John de Benelighe
Cloteworthy not recorded 1/14 Oliver de Clotew(orthy)
Horton not recorded 1/4 (Robert de Horton)
R(alegh & Choldecombe) (Raleigh, Pilton & Challacombe) not recorded 1 Thomas son & heir of William de Raleghe, a minor
Walworthy, Kuttenore, Trendeleshoo, Sevenash, P(acheshole, Northcote, Cambes)cote & Bridewik not recorded 5 Thomas son & heir of William de Raleghe, a minor
crakeweye not recorded 1/4 Robert Crus
Clistracy not recorded 1 Bishop of Exeter
Braunford Speke (Bramford Speke) not recorded 1/2 Robert de Curteny
Northcote Prior's not recorded 1/2 Prior of Pilton in frankalmoin
Coriton not recorded 1 Henry de Chambernoun
Wlvelegheye not recorded 1/4 Robert Beaupiel
Aylardesford not recorded 1/20 William de Aylardesford
Little Boy (alias Bovy) not recorded 1/2 Alwardus Homaz, William le Leche & John de Pount Jordan (Punchardon)
Peadehull not recorded 1/2 Thomas de Peadehull
Nether Exe not recorded 1/2 Baldwin Flemyng
Chaggeford not recorded 1 Oliver de Wybbebury
Surton, Milford, North Phrisshel, Thorne, Roude, Kymworthe & Neulond not recorded 2 William Spek
Combe Acastre & Combe Regni not recorded 1 "Whereof Oliver de Ess holds Combe Acastre & a certain tenant holds Combe Regni"
Croulegh not recorded 1 Prior of St James, Exeter, in frankalmoin
Farweye not recorded 1 Abbot of Quarera (Quarr Abbey)in frankalmoin
Westhorwode not recorded 3/4 Walter Gamboun of Merston


  1. ^ Sanders, p.104, notes 7,9
  2. ^ Lamplugh, L., Barnstaple: Town on the Taw, 2002, Cullompton, p.9
  3. ^ Lewis, Susanne, The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora [1]; and see The Matthew Paris Shields, published 1958 in series "Aspilogia II", MP IV No7, Boydell Press
  4. ^ Date of death of William II de Braose as given by Sanders, p.105
  5. ^ Sanders, p.105
  6. ^ Pole, p.14
  7. ^ Pole, p.14
  8. ^ Pole, p.14, "Tawstock" mis-transcribed in 1791 edition from 17th-century manuscript as "Tavistocke", see Pole p.xv re transcription errors
  9. ^ Pole, p.14
  10. ^ Sanders, p.105, note 9
  11. ^ Sanders, 1960, p.15, Blagdon, note 5
  12. ^ http://www.celtic-casimir.com/webtree/3/28875.htm
  13. ^ Douglas Richardson, Kimball G. Everingham. Magna Carta ancestry: a study in colonial and medieval families, Genealogical Publishing Com, 2005. pg 831. Google eBook
  14. ^ GEC Complete Peerage, vol.V, p.501, Baron FitzWarin, note a, inquisition post mortem of Nicholas Audeley (died 1391)
  15. ^ Identification as "Lady Margaret Audley (d.1373)" per information label by her effigy, Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon; Hoskins, p.489 "14th-cent. effigy in oak of an unknown lady"; Pevsner p.790: "Fine wooden c.14 effigy, one of those attributed to a Bristol workshop. Perhaps Eleanor or Margaret Martin"
  16. ^ Date of death per information label by her effigy, Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon
  17. ^ GEC Complete Peerage, vol.V, pp.500-1, Baron FitzWarin
  18. ^ Strong, H.W., History and Description of Tawstock Church, Barnstaple, 1889, p.8
  19. ^ "None of the lords of the borough" (i.e. of Barnstaple) "ever resided there, and this circumstance doubtless assisted the townsmen in their moves towards self-government", per Woodger, L. S., Borough of Barnstaple, History of Parliament, House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe, 1993 [2]
  20. ^ Thorn, Caroline & Frank, (eds.) Domesday Book, (Morris, John, gen.ed.) Vol. 9, Devon, Parts 1 & 2, Phillimore Press, Chichester, 1985, part 2 (notes), 1,40
  21. ^ Risdon, Tristram (died 1640), Survey of Devon, 1811 edition, London, 1811, with 1810 Additions, p.325
  22. ^ GEC Complete Peerage, vol.V, p.501, Baron FitzWarin, note a, inquisition post mortem of Nicholas Audeley (died 1391)
  23. ^ Risdon, p.291
  24. ^ pole, p.271
  25. ^ Risdon, pp.182,, 386
  26. ^ Risdon, p.334
  27. ^ Risdon, p.80
  28. ^ Pole, p.221 (near Crediton)
  29. ^ Fea, Allan, Nooks and Corners of Old England, New York, 1908, p.165
  30. ^ Lamplugh, Lois, Barnstaple: Town on the Taw, South Molton, 2002, p.165, note 2 of chapter 12
  31. ^ Lamplugh, Lois, Barnstaple: Town on the Taw, South Molton, 2002, p.165, note 2 of chapter 12
  32. ^ Lamplugh, Lois, Barnstaple: Town on the Taw, South Molton, 2002, p.106
  33. ^ Lamplugh, Lois, Barnstaple: Town on the Taw, South Molton, 2002, p.165, note 2 of chapter 12
  34. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus & Cherry, Bridget, The Buildings of England: Devon, London, 2004, p.154
  35. ^ Pole, Sir William (died 1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.16
  36. ^ Pole, Sir William (died 1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.16
  37. ^ Pole, p.17
  38. ^ Alexander, J. J. (1941), "Early Barons of Torrington and Barnstaple", Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 73: 173–4 
  39. ^ North Devon Record Office B1/1131 17th-century copy of 1483 grant to Thomas Everingham of the Castle and Borough of Barnstaple [3]
  40. ^ Alexander, J. J. (1937), "Sixth Report on the Parliamentary Representation of Devon", Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 69: 177–8, 182 
  41. ^ Risdon, Survey of Devon, 1810 edition, p.328-9
  42. ^ North Devon Record Office (Borough of Barnstaple Archives) B1/1938 1565: Abstract of Conveyance and reversion of Manor: Marrow - Chichester; & North Devon Record Office B1/A 28 1566: "Agreement, enfeoff, John Chichester to Mayor and Corporation Lands in manor of Barnstaple lately purchased from Samuel Marowe"; North Devon Record Office B1/1935 1560:Bond: Thomas Marrow bound to Burgesses (re sale of Manor)[4]
  43. ^ North Devon Record Office, Leases of property belonging to the Chichester family in Barnstaple, ref:48/25/11, 1571-1798 [5]
  44. ^ North Devon Record Office B1/1940 1566 Deed of Covenant
  45. ^ Gribble, Joseph Besly, Memorials of Barnstaple: Being an Attempt to Supply the Want of A History of that Ancient Borough, Barnstaple, 1830, p.110 [6] (Gribble established the “Barnstaple Iron Foundry” in 1822 (p.546))
  46. ^ North Devon Record Office
  47. ^ North Devon Record Office B1/3337 1732: Release: John Carew - Mayor and Aldermen 1/3 of Manor of Hogs fee
  48. ^ North Devon Record Office B1/3338 1734:Release: Thomas Saltren and John Weddon - Mayor and Aldermen 2/3 of Manor of Hogsfee
  49. ^ Watkin, Hugh R., History of Totnes Priory & Medieval Town, Torquay, 1917, pp.1068-1071


  • Sanders, I.J., English Baronies, Oxford, 1960