Feudal barony of Okehampton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"A view of Okehampton Castle and town taken in the park", 1772 drawing by Francis Towne (1739–1816), Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, USA
Remains of Okehampton Castle today

The feudal barony of Okehampton was a very large feudal barony, the largest mediaeval fiefdom in the county of Devon, England,[1] whose caput was Okehampton Castle and manor. It was one of eight feudal baronies in Devonshire which existed during the mediaeval era.[2]


First folio of listing of Devonshire manors held by Baldwin the Sheriff, forming the feudal barony of Okehampton, Domesday Book, 1086. Starting halfway down column 2, listing his first 7 holdings, namely: *19 houses in Exeter *6 destroyed houses in Barnstaple *Okehampton and its castle, Lifton hundred *Chichacott, Lifton hundred *Bratton Clovelly, Lifton hundred *Boasley, Lifton hundred *Bridestowe, Lifton hundred

The first holder of the feudal barony of Okehampton was Baldwin FitzGilbert (dead by Jan 1091) called in the Latin Domesday Book of 1086 Baldvinus Vicecomes, "Baldwin the Vice-Count" (of the County of Devon), which office equated to the earlier Saxon office of Sheriff of Devon. The Norman office of Viscount soon was replaced by that of Sheriff, thus Baldwin is known in modern times as "Baldwin the Sheriff", but also has several other aliases, such as "Baldwin de Moels", (or "Meules", "Moeles", etc.) "Baldwin FitzGilbert" and "Baldwin de Brionne". He was the younger son of Gilbert, Count of Brionne, and took his name "de Moels" from the manor of Meulles in Calvados, Normandy.[1] His fiefdom listed in Domesday Book comprised 176 land-holdings, mostly manors, but 2 of which, listed first, comprised groups of houses in Barnstaple and Exeter. The third holding listed for his fiefdom is Okehampton: Ipse Balduin ten(et) de rege Ochementone, ibi sedet castellum ("Baldwin himself (i.e. in demesne) holds Okehampton from the king, there sits his castle"). The nature of the feudal land tenure for feudal barons was per baroniam, that is to say they were bound to serve the king as one of his barons, which involved onerous duties not only of attending parliaments to advise the king but also of providing knights and soldiers for military service to the royal army for specified periods each year. The baron himself was frequently present in battle.

De Moels[edit]

The descent in the de Moels family was as follows:[3]

  • Baldwin de Moels (dead by Jan 1091), who married a certain Emma. All three of his sons died successively without children, and were succeeded by the children of their two sisters, about which surviving sources are obscure. However, his brother, Richard FitzGilbert de Bienfaite, Lord of Clare, had issue, one of whom was Walter de Clare, the founder of Tintern Abbey in Wales. [4]
  • William FitzBaldwin (died 1096)(son), died without children
  • Robert FitzBaldwin (died 1101) (brother), died without children
  • Richard FitzBaldwin (died 1137) (brother), Sheriff of Devon in 1096, died without children. He founded Brightley Abbey[5]
  • Robert d'Avranches (nephew), son of Emma FitzBaldwin, according to Pole (died 1135), the younger of Baldwin's two daughters,[6] the elder being Adela FitzBaldwin (died 1142)[7] According to Pole Adela married "a Kentish knight", but according to The Complete Peerage she was the amita of Ranulf Avenel, however both sources agree that she died childless. Emma however married as her second husband William d'Avranches (d. circa 1087), (her first husband having been Ranulf (or William[8]) Avenel (died 1128/9)), by whom she had a son Robert d'Avranches, who according to Pole was "loved"[8] by his uncle Richard FitzBaldwin (died 1137), feudal baron. Richard effectively handed over the barony to his nephew Robert d'Avranches by making all his tenants give homage and swear fealty to Robert in place of himself and as his heir.[8] Robert d'Avranches left England, never to return, and married the daughter of Godwin (or "Gelduin"[3]) de Dol, by whom he had a daughter and sole-heiress Maud (or Matilda) d'Avranches (died 1173).
  • Adela FitzBaldwin (died 1142), (aunt), the elder daughter of Baldwin, succeeded[8] to the barony following the successive deaths of Richard FitzBaldwin (died 1137) and Robert d'Avranches. As she was childless, she appointed as her heir Ralph Avenel, her sister Emma's eldest son.
  • Ralph Avenel (nephew), eldest son of Emma FitzBaldwin by her first marriage to William (or Ralph[3]) Avenell. His great inheritance prompted Reginald de Dunstanville, 1st Earl of Cornwall (1110–1175), the uncle of King Henry II (1154–1189), to offer him one of his daughters in marriage. Ralph turned down the proffered wife and married instead Matilda de Redvers, sister of Richard de Redvers, Earl of Devon. This angered the Earl of Cornwall, who swore to deprive Ralph Avenell of the barony of Okehampton. This he did by bringing an assize to question the validity of Ralph's tenure, which court ruled that on Robert d'Avranches having taken the homage and fealty of the tenants of the barony, at his uncle's wish, he had thereby become the legal holder of the barony. Thus the true heir, according to the decision of the assize, was his daughter and sole heiress Maud d'Avranches (died 1173). Thus Ralph Avenell was deprived of the barony of Okehampton.[9]
  • Maud d'Avranches (died 1173) (cousin), daughter and sole-heiress of Robert d'Avranches. She married firstly William de Curcy (died pre 1162), called by Pole "Lord of Ayncourt", by whom she had a daughter and sole-heiress Hawise de Curcy (died 1219), the heiress of the barony of Okehampton. On the suggestion of Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, the widowed Maud d'Avranches was given secondly in marriage by King Henry II (whose royal licence, and thus effective control, a female tenant-in-chief (or widow of a tenant-in-chief) needed in order to remarry) to the Earl of Cornwall's brother Robert FitzRoy (died 1172) (alias Robert FitzEdith and Robert de Caen), the king's uncle and a natural son of King Henry I of England. By her second husband Maud had a further daughter, Maud, Dame du Sap (died 1224). Maud du Sap, following her father's death, became a royal ward, and King Henry II married her off to Reginald I de Courtenay(died 1190), of the French House of Courtenay, a knight whom King Henry's wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had brought to England from France. No children resulted.
  • Hawise de Curcy (died 1219)(daughter by 1st marriage), half-sister to Maud, Dame du Sap, second wife of Reginald de Courtenay, whose son and heir by his first wife was Renaud de Courtenay (called by Pole "William"[10]), who "by the advice and command of his father",[10] married Hawise de Curcy, his father's half sister-in-law and heiress to the feudal barony of Okehampton. Thus, the barony came into the possession of the Courtenay family. Reginald's French possessions were confiscated by the French King Louis VII, but were given, together with the marriage of his daughter, Elizabeth de Courtenay, to the King's youngest brother, Peter, who adopted the name Peter de Courtenay. Thus, the Courtenay family thenceforth became dependent on its English lands and became Anglicized.


Arms of Courtenay, from about 1200: Or, three torteaux

List of constituent manors[edit]

The barony comprised originally the following manors held in-chief per baroniam by Baldwin the Sheriff, in order of Domesday Book listing:[16]

No. Name of manor Hundred Baldwin's tenant Pre-1066 tenant
1 19 houses in Exeter Hundred Unknown Lordship of King Edward the Confessor
2 6 destroyed houses in Barnstaple Hundred Unknown Unknown
3 Okehampton Lifton in demesne Osferth
4 Chichacott Lifton Roger Brictmer
5 Bratton Clovelly Lifton in demesne Brictric
6 Boasley Lifton Rolf Brictric
7 Bridestowe Lifton Ralpf de Pomeroy Edmer
8 Germansweek Lifton Rainer Ednoth
9 Lewtrenchard Lifton Roger de Meulles Brictric
10 Warson Lifton Roger of Meulles Waddell
11 Kelly Lifton Modbert Osferth
12 Dunterton Lifton Ralph de Bruyère Brictmer
13 Guscott Lifton Colwin Brictric
14 Sampford Courtenay Torrington in demesne Norman
15 Belstone Torrington Richard Osferth
16 Dunsland Torrington Cadio Wulfric
17 Monkokehampton Torrington Baldwin's tenant re 1066 tenant
18 Exbourne Torrington Roger Aelmer
19 Highampton Torrington Roger Brictmer
20 Lashbrook Torrington Roger Algar Long
21 Bradford Torrington in demesne Algar Long
22 Kigbeare Torrington Rainer Saewin
23 Inwardleigh Torrington Otelin Ingvar
24 Oak Torrington Richard Osgot
25 Gorhuish Torrington Bernard Alnoth
26 Broadwood Kelly Torrington Modbert Leofric
27 Honeychurch Torrington Walter Alwin Black
28 Middlecott Torrington Ranulf Alwold
29 Brixton Torrington Richard Wulfnoth
30 Middlecott Torrington Richard Alwold
31 Ashmansworthy Hartland Gilbert Brictmer
32 Yarnscombe Hartland Robert Godwin
33 Parkham Merton Richard Algar
34 Little Torrington Merton Baldwin's tenant re 1066 tenant
35 Heanton Satchville Merton Ralph de Bruyere Edwin
36 Potheridge Merton Aubrey Ulf
37 Stockleigh Merton Aubrey Colwin
38 Woolladon Merton Aubrey Saewin
39 Meeth Merton Bernard Alnoth
40 Landcross Merton Robert Aelfeva
41 Woolleigh Merton Colwin Alsi
42 Helescane Merton William Edric
43 Chawleigh Shebbear in demesne Siward
44 Dolton Shebbear William son of Wimund Ulf


  1. ^ a b Thorn & Thorn, part 2, chapter 16
  2. ^ Sanders, Contents, pp. ix-xi; the others being Bampton, Bradninch, Great Torrington, Barnstaple, Berry Pomeroy, Totnes, Plympton
  3. ^ a b c GEC Complete Peerage, vol.IV, p.317, pedigree chart "The Heirs of Richard FitzBaldwin", followed by Sanders (1960)
  4. ^ Sanders, p.69
  5. ^ GEC Complete Peerage, vol.IV, p.309
  6. ^ The Complete Peerage refers to Pole's "Emma" as "....... of Dolton, Devon"
  7. ^ "Adelise", in the Norman French, according to The Complete Peerage
  8. ^ a b c d Pole, p.2
  9. ^ Pole, pp. 2–3
  10. ^ a b Pole, p.3
  11. ^ Sanders, pp.70,138
  12. ^ a b c Sanders, p.70
  13. ^ a b Sanders, p.138
  14. ^ Pole, p.5
  15. ^ Historic England. "OKEHAMPTON CASTLE (440855)". PastScape. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  16. ^ Thorne & Thorne, part 1, chap.16


  • Thorn, Caroline; Thorn, Frank (1985). "chapter 16". Domesday Book. John Morris. vol.9. Devon: Phillimore Press. pp. parts 1 & 2, holdings of Baldwin the Sheriff.
  • Sanders, I.J. (1960). English Baronies: A Study of their Origin and Descent 1086-1327. Oxford. pp. 69–70, Barony of Okehampton.
  • Pole, William (1791). Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon. London. pp. 2–5, Barony of Okehampton.