Lords of the Manor

Rep. Trans. Devon. Ass. Advmt Sci., 148, 63−88 © The Devonshire Association, June 2016 (Figures 1–5)
The Lords of the Historic Manor of Bovey Tracey
Frances Billinge B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc., Ph.D. Devonia, Ashburton Road, Bovey Tracey, TQ13 9BZ. fbillinge@btinternet.com

The Lords of the Manor of Bovey Tracey are traced from Saxon times. The manor has had over sixty lords including the Crown. The family name Tracey was added to the manor in medieval times. During the Wars of the Roses the reigning monarch granted the manor to various of his supporters in quick succession. Tudor and early Stuart monarchs fi rst leased out then sold the manor. Lords then included lawyers and public officials. The lordship was inherited by the Courtenays, then purchased by the Bentincks and finally by Bovey Tracey Town Council in 1984. The manor flourished despite frequent changes of lordship.


Bovey Tracey is a small town in Teignbridge on the south-eastern edge of Dartmoor which in the medieval period became one of the earlier new towns in Devon. As local writers had only ever listed a dozen lords of the manor this study aimed to establish who the rest were.1 It was found that the lords were initially nobility, then untitled nobility, but later the manor frequently had a royal lord. A half-brother, sister and mother of the sovereign were all lords as well as Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, and James I. From Tudor times the lordship was sometimes vested in those with royal contacts who were developing land holdings. The seventeenth century had aristocratic lords and this continued until the twentieth century when the lordship was eventually vested in the local town council. Further research has found the actual number of lords, or lessees acting as lords, is just over sixty and a list of these lords is presented. Frequent changes of lordship did not inhibit the development of the town.


‘Bovi’, ‘Boui’, or ‘Suthbovy’ nowadays called Bovey Tracey, had been held by Edric before 1066. By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 the manor had the land of fi fteen theigns added to it and included Adeneboui (Little Bovey), Wermehel (Warmhill),Scobatora (Shaptor), Brungastone (considered to be outlying land in what is now Widecombe in the Moor parish), Ailauesfort (Elsford), Olueleia (Wooleigh), Hauocmora (Hawkmoor), Harleia (Hatherleiugh), and Polebroc (Pullabrook)and had been given to Geoffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of Coutances as part of the honour of Barnstaple (Thorn and Thorn, 1985). Bovey [Tracey] in the Teignton (Teignbridge) Hundred was the southernmost manor of the Barnstaple honour. As a counsellor of William the Conqueror, the rewards Geoffrey received made him one of the ten wealthiest men in England. On the death of Geoffrey de Mowbray, in 1093, his nephew Robert Mowbray inherited his lands. Robert de Mowbray had been Earl of Northumberland since 1086 and with this inheritance he became one of the most powerful barons in the kingdom. He was a companion of Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s eldest son. Curthose led an uprising to depose his younger brother, King William II, which Robert de Mowbray joined. Through his support for Curthose, and his continuing defi ance to the king, Mowbray forfeited his estates to the Crown in 1095.2 This is the start of an often repeated pattern of the lordship of the manor of Bovey [Tracey] reverting to the Crown. The next lord of the manor was Judhael/Juhel/Judahel of Totnes who received it between 1095 and 1100. Judhael had been given the barony of Totnes as a reward for being a supporter of William the Conqueror. Like Robert de Mowbray, Judhael had also supported Robert Curthose against William II. Consequently Judhael had been exiled and lost his estates to the King in 1087. There is a suggestion that Judhael kept some interest in Totnes and hence continued to be called ‘of Totnes’.3 On the death of William II in 1100, Henry I recalled Judhael from exile and gave, or had already given, him the honour of Barnstaple which still included Bovey [Tracey]. Some historians havebeen of the view that Judhael inherited the manor before 1100, but Chibnall (1994) has proposed that the estates remained with the king until 1100. Judhael died c.1130 and his son Alured inherited the barony of Barnstaple, including the manor of Bovey [Tracey].4 Gesta Stephani informs us that during the ‘Anarchy’Alured supported Baldwin de Redvers and Matilda against King Stephen at the siege of Exeter (Sewell, 1846, pp. 104–5). It is possible that Alured had his estates escheated for this treason c.1136 and that King Stephen held the manor of Bovey [Tracey] until Alured died in 1139.


Alured had no issue so, in 1139, the Barony of Barnstaple was inherited in two moieties by his sisters as co-heiresses. One sister had
married, or did marry, Henry I de Tracy, and the other sister, Aenor/ Eleanor, had married Philip de Braose/Briouse. This is the fi rst reference to the manor of Bovey being connected to the name Tracy(Sanders, 1960, p.104). It is unclear exactly when the manor of Bovey [Tracey] passed from Henry I de Tracy to his son Oliver I de Tracy. It has been suggested that Henry I de Tracy died between 1139 and 1165 and that King Stephen seized Henry I de Tracy’s lands because in 1165 the then King, Henry II, charged Oliver I de Tracy a heavy fi ne of fi ve hundred marks to release them.5 The manor was inherited by Oliver II de Tracy on his father’s death in 1184.6 William II de Braose was now lord of the other moiety of the honour of Barnstaple, and his son William III de Braose inherited from him in 1192.7 In 1196 William III de Braose sought royal confi rmation of his moiety and then he reached a fi nancial agreement with Oliver II de Tracy that William III would have both moieties of the honour of Barnstaple.8 Oliver had, therefore, only been lord of the manor for twelve years before selling it. William III de Broase was not lord for long. He forfeited his share of the inheritance of the honour of Barnstaple when he could not honour the Crown for considerable debts he had accumulated when expanding his land holdings in the Welsh and Irish marches. There was more to this as William had served King John successfully for many years and for this he had been well rewarded, but not only was he becoming too powerful a magnate,the King started to distrust him. There was concern that William might no longer keep silent about the circumstances surrounding the death of Arthur of Brittany, the King’s nephew and rival for the Angevin inheritance. An indiscretion by William’s wife Matilda lead the King to lose confi dence in William, particularly as Matilda refused to allow the King to take her son as a hostage as a guarantor for the family’s continued loyalty. King John responded by taking Braose’s lands in 1208, and leaving Matilda and their son to die of starvation. This was at the time when the King was building up his resources to fi nance his proposed military campaign to regain his Normandy lands. 9 King John was then lord of the manor for the next fi ve or so years. Oliver II de Tracy died in 1210 leaving his widow Eva de Tracy and their son Henry II de Tracy. In 1213 King John conferred both moieties of the barony of Barnstaple on Henry II de Tracy so once again a de Tracy was lord of the manor. By selling such privileges King John was adding to the funds he needed for his proposed military
campaign.10 In 1219 Eva, Henry II de Tracy’s mother, as lord of the manor of Bovey [Tracey] obtained a charter for its weekly market for which she had to pay King Henry III a palfrey.11 The market cross survives on the original market site which is now Town Hall Place (Fig. 1). Grants of charters for markets were a continuation of the Crown’s policy for raising money for the exchequer. Devon had fi fty-seven markets established by the mid-thirteenth century, an unusually high number in comparison with the rest of the country. This growth is explained by the size of the county, its transport diffi culties over hilly terrain, diversity of the local economy, and lords of manors wishing to establish a fi nancially productive urban life (Kowaleski, 1995, pp. 42–43). By 1227 Henry II de Tracy had taken over the lordship as shown in a charter which confi rmed a previous grant of the church of ‘ Suthbovy’ to Bishop Brewer which Brewer used to endow St John’s Hospital Bridgwater.12 Such granting of a church to a religious foundation was in response to the 2nd Lateran Council of 1139 ruling that tithes of churches were forbidden to be in the possession of laymen, and unless laymen restored them to the church they committed
sacrilege and risked eternal damnation.13



Figure 1. Bovey Tracey Tithe Map 1841, showing central market place where three roads meet. Reproduced with the kind permission of Devon Archives and Local Studies Service.

An important date for the manor of Bovey [Tracey] was 1260 when the next lord Henry III de Tracy, son of Henry de Tracy obtained a charter reconfi rming its weekly Thursday market and also granting permission for an annual three day July fair.14 Bovey [Tracey] is thought to have become a borough about this time. Establishing a borough and developing its fairs and markets was happening elsewhere in Devon which had seventy boroughs by the middle of the 1300s (Letters, 2010; Billinge, 2012). In this way residents were becoming part of a developing trading community. The earliest documentation yet found for the use of the term ‘town’ for Bovey Tracey is in the state Calendar Rolls of 1509.15 The earliest use of the description ‘borough’ for Bovey Tracey has been found in seventeenthcentury documents, a land transfer deed of 1662 uses the word, and the Borough Law Court proceedings of 1665 refers to the borough as having earlier customs.16 When Henry III de Tracy died in 1274 he had anticipated that his daughter Eva II de Tracy of Torrington would succeed him, but she died shortly before him. His heir was his grand-daughter Maud de  Brienne. By then Maud was married to her second husband Geoffrey de Camville so the honour of Barnstaple, which still included the manor of Bovey [Tracey], went to him (Sanders, 1960, p.104). On Geoffrey de Campville’s death in 1308 he was succeeded as lord of the manor by his step-son William III Martin. William III was the son of Campville’s wife from her first marriage to Nicholas II Martin, and as such he was Henry III de Tracy’s great grandson. William had already inherited the Martin lands which included the manor of Dartington and lands in Somerset. This is the start of the link between the manors of Bovey [Tracey] and Dartington.17 He instigated changes in land tenure so that more of his tenants held their land by conventionary tenure thus enabling them to negotiate their leases and rents. Such tenure changes were seen as a tool of economic regeneration (Burls, 2002, pp. 84–85). William III Martin was not lord of the manor for long as by 1324 he had died and was succeeded by his son William IV Martin.
However William IV Martin had an even shorter tenure than his father and died two years after he inherited. His Inquisition Post Mortem shows that by then he had 133 different types of tenants in Bovey [Tracey].18 As he had no children, his heirs in 1326 were his elder sister Eleanor and James de Audley, the son of his younger sister Joan. Eleanor thus inherited half the barony of Barnstaple and her second husband Philip VI de Columbars became lord of the manor of Bovey [Tracey] (Sanders, 1960, p.105). Like her brother before her Eleanor died without issue. Her husband Philip died in the same year of 1342. On his death Philip, as lord of the manor, was allowed to transfer his rights and lands to his nephew James de Audley (Sanders, 1956, p. 148). James de Audley had already inherited half of the barony of Barnstaple through his mother Joan Audley née Martin, and he was given these lands in 1329. In 1337 he was re-granted his aunt
Eleanor’s lands which included Bovey [Tracey] but these were to remain with his aunt and uncle until their deaths.The grant of these lands in 1337 is the fi rst to give names of the clerks of the manor who were William de Brotton and John de Egemondon. This is also the fi rst reference to the word Tracey being added to the manor thus making it Bovey Tracey.19 In 1343, after both Eleanor’s and Philip de Columbar’s deaths in the same year, James de Audley came into theirlands and once again the barony was under one lord and his estates included Bovey Tracey, Dartington and other Devon manors. During de Audley’s lordship the Patent Roll of 1344 refers to part of the manor of Bovey Tracey in connection with Yarnoure (Yarner). This was hunting land below Haytor and James de Audley was given power to obtain one mark compensation from intruders on this land who hunted and took deer and severely assaulted Audley’s servant John le Sawere.20 The intruders included Philip Vautort, parson of ‘Merton’. Nowadays we might be surprised to hear of a parson committing such an offence but it was not so unusual then. Among his co-offenders were Jordan Vautort and his sons William and Philip, Warin Vautort, Richard Talbot. Phillip de Vautort/Valletort was vicar in Moretonhampstead, and, perhaps, he was not a popular one as in 1355 the Bishop of Exeter John Grandison had to pronounce upon a serious dispute with his parishioners over Vautort charging them excessive fees.21


In 1353 Edward III purchased and conveyed the reversion of de Audley’s Devon manors, including Bovey Tracey, to feoffees intending them to endow the Cistercian Abbey of St Mary Graces near the Tower of London when de Audley died. Edward III had founded this abbey in 1350.22 James de Audley had settled the barony of Barnstaple on his male heirs, but as there were none when he died all his lands reverted to the King.This was to be the end of the almost two hundred and fi fty years of de Tracy family connections being linked with the lordship of Bovey Tracey. There then followed over three hundred and fifty years with several changes of lordship or distant ownership by the Crown.

Despite Edward III’s intention, when James de Audley died in 1384 Richard II gave Bovey Tracey and other lands to his half-brother John de Holland Earl of Huntingdon.23 This was against Edward III’s wishes and subsequent court rolls show that St Mary Graces frequently demanded that the manor of Bovey Tracey was rightly theirs. De Holland had various administrators for his Devon estates.24 In 1385, during Richard III’s expedition to Scotland, de Holland was involved in the brutal murder of a member of the Stafford family and, as a result, Richard II took back de Holland’s lands. Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was then granted them to maintain his status as Marquis of Dublin.25

In 1387 John de Beauchamp of Holt, a member of the King’s household, was given the manors of ‘Bovytracy’ and Holsworthy for life when he was elevated to the peerage. There was the proviso that if these lands were taken out of the King’s hands then de Beauchamp would receive fi nancial recompense from the exchequer.26 De Beauchamp did not hold Bovey Tracey for long. This was the time when powerful lords, including the Duke of Gloucester, and Earls of Arundel and Surrey, Warwick, and the Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Nottingham, rose up against what they saw as the rule of a tyrannical King. Following the defeat of the royalists at the Battle of Radcot Bridge the ‘Merciless Parliament’ condemned de Beauchamp to death and he was beheaded for treason in 1388 (Woodger, 1993).

After only five months of de Beauchamp’s lordship, on 18th March 1388, Philip de Courtenay was granted Bovey Tracey and other Devon manors which were previously de Audley’s lands. De Courtenay was the King’s second cousin as his mother Margaret de Bouhun was grand-daughter of King Edward I. The grant explained that the land had been forfeited for certain reasons and would be within the King’s gift ‘so long as they remain for those reasons’. The patent also gave de Courtenay the power to execute the office by deputies.27

There is a legend in Bovey Tracey that de Courtenay, as lord, gave the borough two parcels of lands for the use of the Portreeve, and that traditionally the profi t from these lands was used to fund the beating of the bounds at Rogation-tide. The gift was said to be in celebration of de Courtenay’s marriage. No title has yet been found but the borough’s ownership was not queried until charity commissioners working under the Municipal Corporations Act wanted the land in 1883. The Crown was not successful and Bovey Tracy Town Trust has continued to use the profi ts from the later sale of this land to fund social and educational needs of local people (Billinge, 2013).

The grant of Devon manors to Philip de Courtenay only lasted four months. By July 1388 John de Holland, now back in favour with the King, was created Earl of Huntingdon and the manor of Bovey Tracey and other Devon lands were given back to him.28 In 1390 St Mary Graces made an application to the King to confi rm that the manor of Bovey Tracey was rightly theirs. They explained that Edward III had endowed them with it but the present King had given it to others and now to John de Holland and they wanted fi nancial recompense. The King agreed to this.29

John de Holland became Duke of Exeter in 1397. In late 1399 and early 1400 de Holland was part of the ‘Epiphany Rising’ rebellion supporting Richard II against the future Henry IV. Miscellaneous Inquisitions of 1399 inform us that Holland had weapons distributed in various places which, after his fall, were considered to have been amassed in anticipation of the rebellion, and that a cache was found at Bovey Tracey.These inquisitions also tell us that de Holland’s stewards for his Devon estates were Sir Thomas Shelley and Richard Shelley, and his Devon chaplain was another John Holland. Following his rebellion, de Holland fl ed and was captured, then beheaded on the orders of his captor the Countess of Hereford. In 1400 de Holland’s property reverted to the Crown. We also learn from the inquisitions that the Crown’s agent found de Holland’s bulls in Bovey Tracey had been stolen and sold before they could be appropriated (Emery, 1970, p. 52).

With this reversion to the Crown, at last in accordance with Edward III’s wishes, St Mary Graces obtained the manor of Bovey Tracey, but this was still to be a contested gift.30 St Mary Graces considered it necessary to emphasise their claim again in 1403. This was because Elizabeth, the widow of John de Holland, managed to get back nearly all of her husband’s Devon estates. St Mary Graces’ plea ensured that she did not get Bovey Tracey.31 In 1425 the barony passed to her second son, John II Holland, as her first son had died soon after his father. We learn that John II’s steward for Bovey Tracey was William Burlestone who also had important public offi ces as a J.P., M.P. and escheator for Devon. Holland’s bailiff was John Toller.32 John II Holland was made 2nd Duke of Exeter in 1439 and at some time seized the manor of Bovey Tracey back from St Mary Graces. The abbot complained to the King about this in 1447, stating that the manor was meant to be theirs until John’s son Henry reached his majority.33


John II Holland died in 1447. His son, Henry Holland 3rd Duke of Exeter, then held the barony of Barnstaple, including Bovey Tracey. Henry was a reckless and violent man who rebelliously supported Queen Margaret and the Lancastrian cause. He fl ed to Scotland after the Lancastrian defeat at the battle of Towton in 1461 (Hicks, 2004). As a consequence he was attainted. His wife, Anne Duchess of Exeter and sister of the King, then sought the manor of Bovey Tracey and other Devon lands known as ‘Exeter’ lands in her own right. King Henry VI granted this to her for life in December 1461.34 Again this was not to be a long lordship as in 1469 Edward IV took back these lands of the Duchess of Exeter, which included Bovey Tracey, and gave them to his consort Elizabeth.35 This was during the time of the dynastic power struggles of the Wars of the Roses and, very quickly, the lands were returned to the Duchess of Exeter when Henry VI regained his throne in 1470. Anne, Duchess of Exeter divorced Henry Holland and, in 1472, married Thomas Saint Leger. After she died in 1476, while giving birth to her daughter Anne St Leger, her ‘Exeter’ lands –including the manor of Bovey Tracey – passed to her husband Thomas St Leger. He remained lord of the manor until 1482 when he lost his estates through his rebellion against Henry VI. St Leger was beheaded in 1483 (Driver, 2008, p. 213).

In 1482 Edward VI granted Thomas Lord Stanley and Margaret, his wife, Countess of Richmond (also known as Lady Margaret Beaufort) and heiress of John late Duke of Somerset, as tenant in chief of the ‘Exeter’ lands and all other lands previously belonging to the late Duke of Exeter, to enter freely in her own right. These also became known as ‘Richmond’ lands and this description was still in use in a 1571 lease of land in Bovey Tracey.36 King Richard III seized these lands in March 1484 and granted them to Thomas Everingham, for his support in usurping the previous King. The castle and borough of Barnstaple and several manors were given to Thomas Everingham. These were the lands of the late Thomas St Leger; that is the ‘Exeter’ lands.37

In December 1484 Richard III gave his councillor, John Lord Scrope of Bolton and his male heirs, the manor of Bovey Tracey. This, too, was a reward to Scrope for his good service against the rebels during the Wars of the Roses. The annual value of Bovey Tracey was then listed as £66 13s 4d. The lands Scrope was given had previously been the lands of the late Countess of Richmond.38


After Henry VII came to the throne he made the ‘great grant’ to his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby in 1487 giving her the barony of Barnstaple. Lady Margaret now had Barnstaple, Richmond and Exeter lands and later documents in Bovey Tracey continued to describe her previous land holdings there as ‘Richmond lands’ even after they had passed into the ownership of local landowners.39 Lady Margaret is commemorated by her coat of arms in a World War II memorial window in the parish church (Fig. 2). On her death in 1509 the manorof Bovey Tracey reverted to the Crown. Henry VIII then became lord of the manor and he appointed John Braban, a local tin-merchant, to be bailiff of the manor and the town of Bovey Tracey.40 In 1517 the lease of the manor of Bovey Tracey and extensive other ‘Richmond lands’ were granted to Miles Birkhead.41 This was the time when the Crown was selling leases on its lands to raise money, and the lease holders were likely to be royal administrators, merchants or lawyers who were able to hear of such opportunities, or who were being rewarded for their loyalty to the Crown. In 1537 William FitzWilliam was enobled and became 1st Earl of Southampton and Admiral of the Fleet, he was granted the lease of the manor of Bovey Tracey and other Devon lands (Swales, 1982). When FitzWilliam died in 1542 Henry VIII granted the lease of Bovey Tracey for twenty one years to John Wychalse of Chudleigh.42 As Wychalse was a local man he might have lived in the manor.

Edward VI succeeded his father in 1547 and, according to a later patent roll of Queen Elizabeth, that year he granted the manor to William, Earl of Pembroke.43 By 1553 he had granted the lease of the manor of Bovey Tracey to John Southcott for a fee of £243 8s.44 Edward VI was continuing his father’s method of leasing Crown lands to raise money which continued to be a method favoured by monarchs for the next century. The Crown had become aware that giving away lands meant the asset was lost, but leasing it might raise more revenue in the longer term.45 Southcott and his heirs held the rectory and advowson of the church and the manor by fealty only, in free socage and not in chief. As with the previous lease holders Southcott was in effect lord of the manor. Southcott was a lawyer and Clerk of the Peace to the Crown, and had also been an auditor and commissioner during the Dissolution. Through his links with Torre Abbey, Buckfast Abbey, St Nicholas Priory Exeter and St John’s Hospital Bridgwater at the time of the Dissolution he had accumulated extensive property in Devon. This included the estate of Indio in Bovey Tracey where he built his seat, so he is likely to have been a resident lord.46




Figure 2. Coat of Arms of Lady Margaret Beaufort, part of WWII memorial, Church of St Peter, St Paul, and St Thomas of Canterbury, Bovey Tracey. Frances Billinge 2016, by kind permission of the Vicar and Warden

Elizabeth I continued to lease out the manor of Bovey Tracey to the Southcott family with Thomas Southcott becoming lord on the death of his father John in 1556.The lease changed hands to Sir Christopher Hatton in 1569.47 Hatton was a courtier and politician favoured by the Queen (MacCaffrey, 2004). The manor returned to the Southcotts again in January 1571.48 Isaac Burgess then bought the lease in 1598.49 An added advantage to the Crown was that each change of lease provided a fee. The Crown was now developing a method of fund raising through the London money market, using city lawyers and merchants.50 In 1610 James I leased the manor to London trustees for the benefi t of his son Prince Charles.


Throughout the latter part of the sixteenth century the Crown had starting selling its land and in 1614 it sold the manor of Bovey Tracey to Nicholas Everleigh, a lawyer and steward of Devon stannaries (Hoyle, 1992, p. 254). Eveleigh had been living on the Parke estate of the manor at least by 1599 as this is stated in his will of that date.51 He died suddenly in 1618 when he was killed under the falling Court House building in Chagford while doing his stannary duties. There is an impressive monument to Everleigh in the chancel of the parish church (Fig. 3).



Figure 3. Monument to Nicholas Eveleigh, St Peter, St Paul, and St Thomas of Canterbury Church Bovey Tracey. Frances Billinge 2016, by kind permission of the Vicar and Warden.

Eveleigh’s widow Alice, née Bray, then became lord of the manor. When she remarried, her second husband Elizaeus Hele J.P. obtained the lordship. Hele was thought to have rebuilt Parke c.1620 (Molland, 1995). It would have been an impressive estate with its grand entrance drive, and panorama of the river for fi shing and woods and distant moorland for hunting.The current mansion was built in the early 1800s on the footprint of the previous house, it is an impressive residence set in fi elds and woodland. Hele died in January 1636, and he too has a monument in the parish church (Fig. 4). Hele is remembered for his many charitable contributions in Devon as he bequeathed money to be used for pious purposes.52


Figure 4. Monument to Elizaeus Hele, St Peter, St Paul and St Thomas of Canterbury Church Bovey Tracey. Frances Billinge 2016, by kind permission of the Vicar and Warden.

On Hele’s death his widow, Alice, continued briefl y as lord of the manor until her death later in July 1636. As she and Elizaeus had no children, she left Parke and the manor to John Maynard of Inner Temple.53 Elizaeus and Alice Hele were both buried in Exeter Cathedral. The Hele executor and heir was Sir John Maynard. He was a Sergeant at Law and M.P. for several Devon constituencies. The 1641 map of the manor of Bovey Tracey, drawn by Guliemus, confirms Parke as John Maynard’s land.54 Like Elizaeus Hele, Maynard was a philanthropist and with Hele’s bequest he helped establish the Blue Maid’s Hospital in Exeter (later known as Maynard’s School), Hele’s schools in Exeter and Plympton, and Totnes Grammar School. Just as James I and Charles I had done, Maynard also raised money on the manor through the City of London Corporation. He sold the manor to John Stawell in 1658.

John Stawell then moved to Parke from his nearby home at Indio. Stawell was knighted in 1663 and when he died in 1669 he was buried in the parish church.55 John Stawell’s son, William Stawell, inherited and became lord of the Manor. We know that his house was prestigious as, by 1674, the Devon Hearth Tax shows that Parke had fi fteen hearths, ten more than the next largest house. William Stawell was elected as M.P. for Ashburton twelve times.56 He gave an impressive silver plate to the parish church (Fig. 5). He never married and mortgaged Parke to Christopher Bale.57


Figure 5. Church Plate presented by William Stowell c 1670 , RAMM Exeter, Frances Billinge 2016

According to Lysons’ Magna Britannia, Sir Thomas Putt, M.P. for Honiton became lord of the manor until 1686. The only reference for this was given as Chapple’s manuscript which was written in 1785 as a review of part of Risdon’s survey of Devon, and no supporting evidence has yet been found (Lysons, 1822, pp. 47–61).

After William Stawell’s death, in 1702, a bill went through the House of Lords allowing Stawell’s property to be put up for sale to pay his debts. These were estimated to be £15,000. Christopher Bale was the purchaser and he was said to be Stawell’s nephew. The property Bale purchased included the lands [manor] and borough of Bovey Tracey, also Parke and Richmond Lands, and Indio.58 Bale then started to sell parts of the manor but he retained Parke as shown by his entries in the Devon and Exeter Oath Rolls 1719– 1723.59

At the start of the Manor Rental of 1735 ‘Christopher Bale Lord of the Manor’ is crossed out and ‘Charles Heath Gould’ written in.This suggests the document was pre-written in advance of the manor rental session and that Charles Heath Gould had recently purchased the manor. In the 1737 Court Baron rolls Charles Heath Gould was still lord of the manor.60 This was a brief tenure as shortly afterwards the manor was purchased by John Langdon.

Parke and its privileges were then leased by John Langdon to both George Hunt, his step-brother, and John Huxmore. Langdon was married to the sister of Sir William Courtenay of Powderham and he had one daughter Mary. John Langdon died in 1742.61 On Langdon’s death his daughter Mary inherited and William Courtenay, her uncle, was her guardian and heir. When she died in 1747 William Courtenay inherited the lordship. It is from this date that the estate of Parke was dissociated from the Lordship of the Manor.62 William Courtenay’s seat was the impressive Powderham Castle estate on the western banks of the Exe Estuary.

A period of stability then ensued as the lordship was now to remain with one family for over a hundred years. The manor court rolls and presentments 1748–56 confirm that William Courtenay, later Viscount and 7th Earl of Devon became lord of the manor.63 The manor roll of 1755 described Sir William Courtenay under the quit rent for ‘The Royalty’. William Courtenay’s sister and George Hunt, her husband by her second marriage, were then living at Parke. In 1751 we learn that Courtenay’s steward in Bovey Tracey was William Chapple, and James Wreyford was his Reeve.64 The manor rent rolls of 1756 show the complexity of its land holdings by this date listing the rents of the manor as Chief rent, rents payable by copyholders in fee, former copyholders and conventionary rents of tenements moving to Lord’s hands, free tenants paying quit rents, conventionary tenants, copyholders paying chief rents, and free holders paying chief rents. 65 Manor Rentals and the tithe apportionment continue to show the Courtenays as lords until 1855.66 This long tenure coincided with the growth of the local pottery business from 1750 (Adams and Thomas, 1996).

After the Courtenays’century of lordship until 1855, the next family similarly kept the title for over a hundred years. An article in The Western Times in July 1855 confi rmed that Charles 1 Aldenburgh Bentinck had bought the Lord of the Manor from the trustees of the Earl of Devon.67 The Bentinck family were of Dutch origin and had arrived in England with William of Orange in 1688. Charles Bentinck was married to Harriet of Great Fulford and lived at Indio. The Fulfords were distantly related to the Courtenays (Burke, 1882).

Charles Bentinck was to keep the ancient rights and customs of the manor until the Municipal Incorporation Act of 1883 and the establishment of Newton Abbot Rural District Council (Billinge, 2012). The duties, rights and responsibilities of Bovey Tracey Borough and its Manor, previously administered through the Court Leet and Court Baron respectively were taken over by this new authority. After this time the title Lord of the Manor of Bovey Tracey was honorary. Charles was succeeded by his son Henry Aldenbugh Bentinck in1891. Henry was married to Alma the daughter of Lord Clarence Paget. A newspaper article of 1904 the article described Charles’ widow as Lady of the Manor, but strictly speaking she was the dowager lady as Henry had inherited and his wife was ‘Lady’ of the manor.68

Henry Bentinck became High Sheriff of Devon in 1918 and was also a J.P. He died in 1938 and was succeeded by his relative Charles II Aldenburgh Bentinck. A newspaper article together with a land registration document confi rm that Charles II Aldenburgh was still lord of the manor in 1965.69 The honorary title of Lord of the Manor continued with the Bentinck family until they put it up for sale in 1984.This was a unique opportunity for Bovey Tracey residents, led by the enthusiasm of the Town Council, to raise the funds to purchase this title and have holder of the lordship of the manor within their domain as the Bentincks no longer lived in Bovey Tracey. Count Henry Noel Bentinck 11th Earl of Portland and 7th Count Bentinck und Waldeck Limburg sold the lordship of the manor of Bovey Tracey to Bovey Tracey Town Council. Local Councillor George Gribble collected the deeds.70 Bentinck lordship is commemorated by the family’s coat of arms being incorporated in the logo of the Town Council.


This study aimed to find who the lords of a Devon rural manor were as no previous writer had listed them. Over sixty different lords held the manor. It was found that the Tracey family had dominated the lordship for just over two centuries in medieval times. From 1384– 1737 there were thirty-seven lords representing twenty-nine different families whose tenure was often short-lived, sometimes as little as months. After this the Courtenays and Bentincks each held the lordship over some decades. A brief look at other manors in the county shows that there is no typical pattern of tenure. For example, South Molton had several similar changes of lordship in late medieval times, but even so the number of families involved throughout its history was only eighteen (Saunders, 1904). In contrast the manor of Paignton, which was originally held by the Bishops of Exeter, passed through a mere seven families after it was sold by the church (Lane, 1884). Chudleigh was also held by the Bishops of Exeter and then passed to one family in the 1590s before being held for centuries by the Clifford family.71

The frequent changes of lordship did not prevent Bovey Tracey continuing to develop as a town. Tracey lords from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries gave their name to the manor and were the ones who established the markets, fair and borough. Following them the lordship was often in the hands of the King and granted by him to reward his close kinsmen and followers. It was not until the sixteenth century that the lord was known to have resided in the manor. In the seventeenth century the manor was sold by the Crown and then held mainly by the landed gentry or those who held high office within the County. In this way Bovey Tracey was linked with families of high status within the land.

Throughout the centuries the various lords were able to sustain the administration of a borough within their manor, and this lasted until changes in local government in 1883. The lordship is now vested in Bovey Tracey Town Council and each year a resident who has made a particular contribution to local life is invited to fulfi l ceremonial functions. In this way some duties of the lord of the manor continue, and link Bovey Tracey with its historic past. Bovey Tracey Town Council has been lord of the manor now for thirty two years. This is already a considerably longer tenure then many previous lordships and also the lord now lives within in the parish.


I would like to thank Dr Ian Mortimer of Dartmoor National Park Authority for his advice on an earlier version of this paper; Scott Pettitt, Manorial Documents Archivist at the Devon Heritage
Centre,  for his interest and guidance during this research; and Thomas  Cadbury, Curator of Antiquities at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter, for his assistance in photographing the church plate.


CCR – Calendar of Close Rolls CPR – Calendar of Patent Rolls

DHC – Devon Heritage Centre

LPFD – Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic

TNA – The National Archives

NOTES 1. Tregoning, Lance, 1993, pp. 14–16, 19, 24, 27–28, refers to eleven lords; Kennedy, Veronica (Ed.), 2004, p. 10, refers to three lords.

2. Page, William (Ed.), 1906, pp. 557–8, and Reichel, O.J.,1917, p. 377, both describe Mowbray’s inheritance and forfeiting of his lands; Aird, William M., 2004, provides a more recent summary. 3. Judhael’s inheritance described variously in Reichel, O. J., 1917, pp. 377–8; Sanders, I. J., 1960, pp. 89,104; Williams, J.W., 1993, pp. 271– 88; Coulter, J., 1996, pp. 20–21.
82 The Lords of Bovey Tracey
4. Alured’s inheritance confi rmed in Hunter, J. (Ed.), 1833, Pipe Roll 31, Henry I, 1129–30, Devonshire, 153; and explained in Reichel, O. J., 1917, p. 378; and also in Sanders, I. J.,1960, p. 104.

5. Reichel, O. J., 1917, p. 383, describes Henry de Tracy’s link with de Broase; Sanders, I. J., 1960, p. 104, gives a fuller explanation; Dugdale, William, 1693, v, p. 198, also describes the ownership; Pipe Roll, 11 Henry II, 1164–5, pp. 80,81, lists Oliver I de Tracy’s payment of a fine.

6. Pipe Roll, 28, Henry II, 1182, p. 28; and 31, Henry II, 1185, p. 16, both refer to Oliver II de Tracy and the Barony of Barnstaple.

7. Pipe Roll, 28, Henry II, p. 28; and 31, Henry II, p. 164 show that William de Braose inherited half of the barony of Barnstaple from his father Philip; discussed in Reichel, O. J., 1917, p. 383.

8. Feet of Fines, 28th January 1196, p. 8, (Pipe Roll Society, 1894).

9. Braose’s fall from grace described by Turner, Ralph V., 2004; with a fuller explanation given in Turner, Ralph V., 2009c, pp. 48, 169; also described in Barlow, 1988, pp. 404,407–9, 422.

10. Turner, Ralph V., 2009, pp. 89-92, describes King John’s methods of raising funds from his subjects.

11. Fine Rolls, Henry III, Roll C 60/11, p. 430, 23rd October 1219.

12. CCR Henry III, 1226–1257, 20th June 1227.

13. 1229 Grant of Advowson of Bovey Tracey parish church by Oliver de Traci acknowledged to church of Wells 14th May 1219, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300, 7,(130), Bath and Wells; discussed in Reichel, O. J., 1907, p. 367.

14. CCR Henry III, 18th July 1260.

15. Calendar Patent Rolls Henry VIII, 5th and 28th July1509, 1,i.

16. DHC 608A/PZT 36, 1662, Ford and Beare, Fine for indenture for land transfer Borough of Bovey Tracey; DHC 1508 M, Devon Manor, 1665, Bovey Tracey, 1 and 2, Borough Jury of the Law Court.

17. Calendar Inquisitions Post Mortem Ed II, ii, 1309, p. 75; Sanders, I.J., 1960, pp.15, 104–5, describes the inheritance and family links.

18. PRO C134/39, 1326, Inquisition Post Mortem.

19. CPR, Edward III, 11th January 1337, 4th May 1337, p. 202, confi rm Audley’s inheritance of Bovey Tracey; Burles, Robin J., 2005, p. 163, discusses Audley’s inheritance.

20. CPR, Edward III, 16th August 1344, p. 403.

21. Neck, J.S., 1896, p. 351, confirms the name of the vicar of Moretonhampstead; Hingeston-Randolph, H.C., 1899, Register Bishop Grandisson, 25th April 1355 records the bishop’s intervention. 22. CPR, Edward III, 23rd April 1353 confirms Audley’s possession of Bovey Tracey; Stansfield, Michael M., 1987, pp. 78–80, describes the grant to St. Mary Graces.

23. CPR, Richard II, part 2, 18th December 1384, pp. 433, 515, reversion of Audley’s manor of Bovey Tracey to John Holland; this is described by Burles, Robin J., 2005, p. 163, and Tyldesley, C. J., 1978, pp. 56, 72, 83.
The Lords of Bovey Tracey 83
24. Emery, Anthony, 1970, p. 43; Tyldesley, C. J., 1978, pp. 56,72, 83, both describe the estate administrators.

25. CPR, Richard II, 1385-9, 12th October 1385, p. 115, Robert de Vere given Bovey Tracey ; confi rmed in CCR, Richard II, 28th May 1386 , p. 70; also discussed in Burls, Robin J., 2005, p. 163; Mortimer, I., 2007, p. 385; and Tyldesley, C. J., 1978, p. 146.

26. CPR, Richard II, 11th October 1387, p. 364, and 24th October 1387, p. 444, grant to Beauchamp.

27. CPR, Richard II, 18th March 1388, p. 413.

28. CPR, Richard II, 1385-9, 16th July 1388, pp. 494–5.

29. CPR, Richard II, 15th December 1390, p. 364. 30. CPR, Henry IV, 13th March 1400, p. 274, request, 20th October 1400, p. 397 confirmation; discussed in Burls, R. J., 2005, p. 163, and in Stansfield, M. M., 1987, pp. 78–80.

31. CPR, Henry IV, 26th July 1403, pp. 266–7, 342–3; explained in Stansf eld, M. M.,1987, 265–276; and Tyldesley, C. J., 1978, pp. 56, 72, 83.

32. Tyldesley, C. J., 1978, pp. 56, 72, 83; and Stansfi eld, M. M., 1987, p. 265, describe Holland’s administrators for his south west estates.

33. CPR Henry VI, 24th October 1447, p. 109.

34. CPR, Edward IV, 1st May 1461, p. 7; 16th July 1461, pp. 9–10; 22nd December 1461, p. 163; discussed in Driver, J. T., 2008, pp. 213–5.

35. CPR, Edward IV, 26th August 1467, p. 32; 12th February1469, pp.137–8.

36. CPR, Edward IV, 8th November 1482, p. 326; DHC 312M/TH, pp. 542– 99, 1571 lease of ‘Richmond Lands’ to Thomas Southcott.

37. CPR, Richard III, 5th March 1484, p. 429. The roll does not make it clear that all Barnstaple manors were included, but as the grant of December in the same year does include Bovey Tracey the assumption is that it was also in the parcel of land granted in March.

38. CPR, Richard III, 6th December 1484, p. 502.

39. CPR, Henry VII, I, 22nd March 1487, pp. 154-5; DHC 312M/TH, pp.149–163, 1629 sale of Barton Farm and Undertown Barton ‘Richmond lands’ in Bovey Tracey.

40. CPR, Henry VIII, 28th July 1509, concerning Richmond servants, and John Braban to be bailiff of the lordship and town and keeper of the park; LPFD, Henry VIII, Pardon Roll part II, 1509, informs us that John Braban was a tin-merchant of Bovey Tracey.

41. CPR, Henry VIII, 17th March 1517.

42. LPFD, Henry VIII, 17th July 1542, p. 19.

43. CPR, Elizabeth I, 29th January 1569, p. 586 refers to Court of Augmentations 6th April 1547, 1 Edward VI, granting the manor of Bovey Tracey to William Earl of Pembroke.

44. CPR, Edward VI, 7th April 1553, p. 39.

45. Leasing of Crown lands in the sixteenth century discussed in Kew, J. E., 1967a, pp. 194, 299-303; and in Youings, J., 1984, pp.161, 174–5.

46. Youings, J., 1955, pp. 13, 16, 22, 49, 54,113, and 137 show Southcott’s extensive Devon holdings following the Dissolution.
84 The Lords of Bovey Tracey
47. CPR, Elizabeth I, 29th January 1569, p. 586, lease of manor of Bovey Tracey to Christopher Hatton for thirty years.

48. CPR, Elizabeth I, 10th January 1571, p. 2272, and 2 February 1571, p. 2284, confirm lease of Bovey Tracey manor to George, Thomas and Peter Southcott, the sons of Thomas Southcott.

49. DHC 312M/TH, pp. 542–590, 1598, Parke Richmond lands Bovey Tracey granted to Isaac Burgess for a fee farm rent.

50. Ashton, R., 1960, pp. 26, 63,118–9: and Kew, J.E., 1967a, b, discuss lease and sale of crown lands, and use of the City of London Corporation to accept land conveyances as payment of Crown debt for loans.

51. John Everleigh’s will written in 1599, proved 1618, http://www.ancestry. co.uk, accessed 15th April 2015.

52. Hele’s bequest described in www.exetermemories.co.uk.

53. Will of Alice Hele proved 4th November 1636, http://www.ancestry. co.uk, accessed 17th May 2015.

54. DHC 2890/Z/Z1, Gulielmus Map of the Manor of Bovey Tracey, 1641.

55. Molland, S., 1995, describes Stawell and his time at Parke; DHC 312M/ TH, pp. 542–599, particularly p. 546 lists the owners of the Parke; TNA, PROBI, 16th November 1670, will of John Stawell.

56. DHC 312M/TH, pp. 38–79 William Stawell ownership of Crownley part of the Manor of Bovey Tracey; Stoate, T.L. (Ed.), 1982, information on the Hearth Taxand Stawell’s property; Chritopher Bale M.P. for Ashburton http://www.thehistoryofpaliamentonline , accessed 15th May 2015.

57. Christopher Bale’s land ownership, Molland, S., 1995; DHC 312M/TH, p. 598, Christopher Bale and manor lands 58. Molland, S.,1995, describes Bale as William Stawell’s nephew; DHC 312M/ TH, p. 550 lists Bale’s property transactions in Bovey Tracey; House of Lords Journal, Vol. 17, 9th December 1702, lists bill for sale of John Stawell’s property to pay his debts.

59. Friends of Devon Archives, Devon and Exeter Oath Rolls, QS/17/1/17/e, 1719; QS 17/1/17/1e, 1721; QS 17/2/4/61, 1723; DHC 312M/TH, pp. 164–179, 1704, Christopher Bale sale of Moorhays as part of the Manor of Bovey Tracey; 1705, Christopher Bale sale of Luscombe which was part of the manor of Bovey Tracey DHC 312M/TH, pp. 91–132; 1712 Christopher Bale sale of Cuckolds to Elizabeth Heath.

60. DHC 3861/M/1-88, 1735, manor rentals Bovey Tracey; DHC D1508M/M/1,2 Court Baron rolls manor of Bovey Tracey 1737.

61. Will of John Langdon DHC D1508M/F/W/57, 1742.

62. Lysons, D. and Lysons, S., 1822, p. 57, describe the links between the Langdon and Courtenay families; Brendon, William, 1914, Calendar of Wills and Administration, DHC 929.3. Dev. describes the Courtenay involvement with the Langdons and subsequent inheritance.

63. DHC1508M/M/M 1748 –1756 Court Rolls; DHC Bovey Tracey Manor and Court Leet 3861 M Photos/Courtenay papers; DHC 1508M/M/2.1748 Presentments, Court Leet and Court Baron Sir William Courtenay.
64. DHC 3861M/2 Bovey Tracey Manor.

65. DHC 3861M /88, Manor rentals of all tenants Bovey Tracey, 1756.

66. DHCBovey Tracey Manor Rentals 3861M, 1819; DHC3861M-1/PB 1 Bovey Tracey Tithe Apportionment 1841; Halle, F. and Cocker, J. G., 1851, p. 33, were local authors who referred to the Courtenays’ lordship of the manor.

67. The Western Times, 7th July 1855, p. 5 article.

68. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 12th February 1891, obituary p. 6; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 13th February 1891, obituary p. 3; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 30th January 1904, obituary p. 2.

69. The Western Morning News, 29th July 1938, article p. 6; 1965, land registration of heath between Bovey Tracey and Hennock under the Commons Registration Act refers to Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck ‘said to be Lord of the Manor of Bovey Tracey’.

70. DHC 3861M/177, 1984; Copy of Title of Lord of the Manor, Bovey Tracey Town Council.

71. Chudleigh – described by Lysons, D. and Lysons, S, 1822, British History on-line www.britishhistoryonline, accessed 19th April 2016.


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