Wreyland Documents, Notes 191 & 192

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VI, (January 1910 to October 1911), pp. 202-207.


Oswald J Reichel & Cecil Torr

Prepared by Michael Steer

The following two notes continue an increasingly heated debate between Rev. Reichel and Mr Torr on the origins of Wreyland Manor. With parts dating back as far as the 13th century, Wreyland Manor is principally a 16th-century building that has been beautifully preserved. The house is situated at the edge of Lustleigh village in the Wrey Valley, within the Dartmoor National Park. It was originally part of Bovey Tracey Parish but in the Victorian period became linked with Lustleigh. Bovey Tracey and Moretonhamstead are the closest towns. The articles, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 191. WREYLAND DOCUMENTS (VI., PAR. 182, P. 190). - Mr. Cecil Torr traverses five statements made by me. In each case I think I shall be able to shew that he is in error.

1. It is a fact and not a matter of surmise that, previously to the disafforestation, the whole of Devon was included in the Forest, and that in 1086 only those portions had been brought under cultivation which had been given by the King to subjects as "boclands." The areas thus "booked" were far from being coterminous, and they do not necessarily extend over the same ground as the areas to which the corresponding modern names apply. Pullabrook, Woolley, Hawkmoor and Elsford are mentioned in Domesday as "boclands," but Wreyland in Bovey Tracey is not mentioned there. Wreyland must, therefore, either have been part of the unreclaimed forest in 1086, or it must have belonged to some other bookland, which is mentioned in Domesday as an appurtenance. It certainly was "held of the King as parcel of the manor of Kingskerswell" in 1369 by Hugh de Courtenay, who got it from his mother Muriel, daughter and co-heiress of John de Moelis. John de Moelis had succeeded to it by inheritance from his grandfather, Nicholas de Moelis, to whom Henry III. gave "the manor and hundred of Carsewille together with the appurtenances" (Hund. Rolls. 3 Ed. I., No. 20, p. 71) after an escheat to the Crown. The inference is obvious that Wreyland was included in Henry III.'s grant to Nicholas either as having been previously waste-land of the forest or else as having been appurtenant to Kingskerswell. There is no evidence that Wreyland ever belonged to the family of Umfravil or that it was ever held of the honour of Gloucester.

2. On the other hand, Wray in Moreton was held of the honour of Gloucester, nor is this mere conjecture. In 1086 Godwin held the following eleven estates: Limeta (identified with Natson in Bow), Citrementona (Chittlehampton), Ceritona (Cheriton Bishop), Lanford (now represented by Lambert Farm, Easton Barton and Trebbles in Cheriton), Midelanda (Medland in Cheriton), Wogewill (West Ogwell), Cume (Combe Borough or Borough in Drewsteignton), Wergi (Wray in Moreton), Colun (Culm Reigny, alias Combe Satchvil, now Silverton Park), Holebroch (Holebrook in Honiton Clyst), and Dune (Down Umfravil, otherwise Charton in Axmouth). Of these, Natson ¼  fee, Chittlehampton 1 fee, Cheriton ½  fee, Trebbles ½  fee, Easton ½  fee, West Ogwell ¼ fee, Culm Reigny ½ fee, and Holbrook 1 fee, are all enumerated in 1241 as held by divers lords of the honour of Gloucester through a middle lord (Testa de Nevill, pp. 177 b, 178a). The middle lord was Gilbert de Umfravil, for in 1243 Holbrook is stated to be held by Henry de Holbrook of Gilbert de Umfravil of the honour of Gloucester (Testa, 1191, p. 191a). A few years later the middle lord was John de Umfravil in succession to Gilbert; for in 1285 Down Umfravil was held by John de Humfravill of Gilbert, Earl of Gloucester, though not by knight service (Feud. Aids, p. 328), and at the same date Cheriton Bishop, Lamford, Trebbles, Easton, West Ogwell, Borough and Medland were all held by divers lords of John de Umfravil, who himself held them of the Earl of Gloucester (Feud. Aids, p. 315). In every recorded case, therefore, Umfravil appears as successor in title to Godwin of Domesday and as holding Godwin's estates of the honour of Gloucester. That Wergi or Werei was no exception Mr. Torr himself proves by quoting Feud. Aids, p. 339, "William de Chevereston holds Wrey of John de Humframvill for ½  fee." It is true it is not here stated that Umfravil held it of the honour of Gloucester, but the Fee-lists occasionally omit the honour. Thus, p. 324, the honour of Cardinan is omitted, of which East Allington was held. On p. 332 William le Peytevin, the middle lord of Yarnecumbe between William de Praulle and Henry de Pomeray, is omitted (Devon Fine 124 in Devon and Corn. Rec. Soc.) On p. 341 the honour of Hurberton, of which Godameevy was held, is omitted (Testa de Nevil, 177b, 177a). Umfravil being the middle lord, there can be no doubt that, like the rest of his estates, it was held by him of the honour of Gloucester.

3. As the g was sounded soft like y in the West, Leapgates being there sounded and written Leapyeats, there is no difficulty in accounting for the name being written alternatively Wergi and Werei - the final a is only a latinizing termination - and the name was pronounced WE-RYI or WE-REI. In time the first syllable was dropped altogether, and there only remained Ryi or Rei, with a W prefixed in writing in memory of what was lost. There is no transposition of Wra and Wer to hurt a philologist's feelings.

4. Wergi or Wray must certainly be in Teignbridge hundred, for Godwin had an estate in Teignbridge hundred in 1084, otherwise he could not have been allowed, as he was in 1084 (Geldroll, xxxviii, B. 9) one virgate free of geld in Teignbridge hundred. If Godwin had an estate in that hundred in 1084, what place could it be but the Wergi which he held in 1086, seeing that Wergi or Wray is the only one of his estates which could be in Teignbridge hundred, all the rest being in other hundreds? It is surely trifling with facts to dispute the aid which the Geldroll supplies for the identification of the Domesday boclands (see Trans. Devon. Assoc., xxix., 238). Far from being an exploded theory, the Geldroll has only recently been used for this purpose.

5. Mr. Torr is entirely in error in saying that the Black Book describes the 9 fees held by Gilbert de Umfravil in 1166 as being in Gloucestershire. The Black Book does no such thing. Its opening words on p. 161 are: "This is the roll of knights of William, Earl of Gloucester, exclusive (sine) of his knights in Kent." The knights in Kent had previously been enumerated on p. 53. The list on p. 161 includes all his other knights wherever their holdings might be, with the exception of those in Kent. Among others this list names Gilbert de Umfravil as holding 9 fees and Richard de Greinville as holding 7 fees. But we learn from the Red Book, ii., p. 558, under date 1210-1212, that amongst those *' who hold of the honour of Gloucester in this (Devon) County "were" Richard Greinville ½  fee in Bedeford" and "Henry de Umfravil 5 fees." And again in the same Red Book, ii., 607, among a list of knights holding of the honour of Gloucester in Devon and Cornwall" we find 44 Richard de Greinville 3J fees " and 4i the heirs of Henry de Hum- fravil 5 fees." To say, therefore, that there is no authority for stating that 5 of Umfravil's 9 fees held of the honour of Gloucester were in Devon is, in the face of the Red Book, an extraordinary presumption. What is more, I think we can, even without difficulty, identify the 5 Devon fees - Natson and West Ogwell each ¼  fee, Cheriton Bishop, Trebbles, Easton, Culm Reigny and Wray each ½  fee, and Chittlehampton and Holbrook each 1 fee, make together 5 fees. Neither Borough nor Down were held by knight- service, and Medland was held by Tewkesbury Abbey in free alms.

With reference to Mr. Torr's statement that "the account of this fine does not appear to be correct," he will find, "after looking up the original at the Public Record Office" (which he proposes to do) that the words quoted in the publications of the Devon and Cornwall Record Society referred to are the very words of the fine.

Oswald J. Reichel.

Note 192. WREYLAND DOCUMENTS (VI., PAR. IGI, P. 202). - In reply to Mr. Oswald J. Reichel's statements I may observe: As to Wreyland. He has confounded John de Moeles (ob. 1311) with his third son John de Moeles (ob. 1337). Kingskerswell belonged to the father, but it did not descend to this son who had Wreyland. That removes the foundation of Mr. Reichel's argument.

As to the identification of Wrey (alias Wreycombe) with the Wereia of Domesday. If the Domesday scribes had always used wer to represent the Anglo-Saxon wr, something might be said for this. But in Domesday there are some thirty names of places beginning with a WR, so that if Wrey were mentioned in Domesday it would presumably be spelled with a wr, just like these other places. The name Wereia can hardly stand for anything but Weare; and if the place was in Teignbridge Hundred, it would be Weare, near Newton.

Taking it for granted that Wereia (or Wergi) can stand for Wrey, Mr. Reichel says : "Wergi or Wray must certainly be in Teignbridge Hundred, for Godwin had an estate in Teignbridge Hundred in 1084. • • • What place could it be but the Wergi which he held in 1086, seeing that Wergi or Wray is the only one of his estates which could be in Teignbridge Hundred, all the rest of his estates being in other hundreds ?" But what is the evidence of all this?

The Inquest of the Geld says that in 1084 Godwin had the following lands free of geld: - 2 virgates in Axemuda Hundred, 1 virgate each in Budeleia, Sulfertona and Taintona Hundreds, and 3I virgates in Wenfort Hundred. Domesday says that in 1086 Godwin had the following lands in demesne: - 2 virgates at Duna, 1 virgate each at Holebroca, Colum, Wereia, Wogewil, and Midelanda, and so on. It is asserted that the 2 virgates in Axemuda Hundred answer to the 2 virgates at Duna, taking Duna for Down Umfravill; that the 1 virgate in Budeleia Hundred answers to the 1 virgate at Holebroca, taking Holebroca for Holebrook; that the 1 virgate in Sulfertona Hundred answers to the 1 virgate at Colum, taking Colum for Culm Reigny ; that the 1 virgate in Taintona (Teignbridge) Hundred answers to the 1 virgate at Wereia, taking Wereia for Wrey [alias Wreycombe); and that the 3 ½  virgates in Wenfort Hundred answer to the rest of Godwin's demesne lands. There is therefore no more ground for saying that Wereia was in Teignbridge Hundred because the rest of his estates were in other hundreds, than there is for saying that the rest of his estates were in other hundreds, because Wereia was in Teignbridge Hundred. It is arguing in a circle.

But the whole method is unsound, (i.) By reason of errors and omissions the figures in Domesday are untrustworthy ; see Round, Feudal England, pp. i6ff. (ii.) So also in the Inquest of the Geld the figures are untrustworthy, as is obvious from the fact that in six of the Hundreds the totals do not agree with the items, (iii.) The figures in Domesday often differ from the figures in the Inquest of the Geld; and this is so in Godwin's case. You do not get much out of the equation x = y, when x and y are not only of uncertain values, but unequal to each other. Yet this equation is the only basis for some of those strange identifications of Domesday estates in the Victoria History of Devon.

Mr. Reichel identifies some of the estates that were held by Godwin in 1086 with estates that afterwards were held of the honour of Gloucester through the Umfravilles as middle lords: and he supposes that all Godwin's estates devolved in the same way. Wrey (alias Wreycombe) was held by Umfravill in 1285; see Feudal Aids, p. 339. From this Mr. Reichel argues that it must have belonged to Godwin, and, being in Teignbridge Hundred, must be the place that Godwin held in that hundred. But the document, which says that Wrey was held by Umfravill in 1285, says that he held it of the king in chief, not of the honour of Gloucester. This, of course, would be impossible, if Mr. Reichel's argument were sound; and he meets the difficulty by saying that the document is wrong. Other people may be disposed to think that the document is right, and that the error is in Mr. Reichel's argument.

Cecil Torr