Wreyland Documents

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VII, (1912-1913), Exeter: James G. Commin. 1913, pp. 34-37.


Cecil Torr

Prepared by Michael Steer

This Note is the final in an increasingly heated, perhaps vituperative debate between Rev. Reichel and Mr Torr on the origins of Wreyland Manor. The journal editors at this point now terminate the debate. 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. The article, 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 10. WREYLAND DOCUMENTS (VI., par. 181, p. 189; par. 182, p. 190; par. 191, p. 202; par. 192, p. 206; par. 215, p. 228.) - Mr. Reichel's remarks have all been based upon a blunder. He confounded one John de Moeles, who had Wreyland and died in 1337, with another John de Moeles, who had Kingskerswell and died in 1311. There cannot be any doubt about the blunder, for on p. 203 he speaks of John de Moeles as grandfather of Hugh de Courtenay and as grandson of Nicholas de Moeles, the former statement being true only of the man who died in 1337, and the latter being true only of the man who died in 1311. The blunder having been pointed out, he now says (p. 228) that Wreyland was "given to the younger brother" [John, ob. 1337] "when the elder brother" [Nicholas, ob. 1315] "inherited the manor of Kingskerswell" from their father [John, ob. 1311]. He does not adduce any evidence in support of this alleged gift; and, as a matter of fact, there is not any to adduce.

He says, "If Mr. Torr had only referred to," &c, "he would have found that," &c. If Mr. Reichel had referred to the documents himself he would not have made such blunders, e.g., he would not have taken Alice for the widow of Nicholas de Moeles. The widow of Nicholas was Margaret, who did not die till 1349. Alice, who died in 1338, was the widow of his brother Roger.

The fact is that Mr, Reichel has not made himself acquainted with the documents, and is arguing a priori. Seeing that Wreyland was at one time treated as a parcel of the manor of Kingskerswell, he assumed that it had always been a parcel of that manor, and therefore was included in the grant by King Henry III to the then Nicholas de Moeles. And then, when it was pointed out that the John de Moeles who owned Wreyland was not the John de Moeles who had inherited Kingskerswell, this assumption led him to make the wholly unsupported assertion that the one who had inherited Kingskerswell had inherited Wreyland also, and had given it to the other. As a matter of fact, the documents do not show how the younger John de Moeles acquired Wreyland. But they do show that he acquired Diptford mill by exchange with his sister-in-law Alice, and that this mill afterwards devolved, like Wreyland, with the manor of Kingskerswell. For my own part, I think it not unlikely that he acquired Wreyland also by exchange with her. She was daughter and heir of William le Preux, lord of the adjoining manor of Lustleigh, in which Wreyland may once have been included.

Mr. Reichel says that the Inquisition of 5 Sept., 1337, "clearly shows that the Wrey which descended in the Molis family [i.e., Wreyland] was not the manor of Wrey, but lands and tenements in Wrey appurtenant to the manor of Kingskerswell."There is no mention whatever of Kingskerswell in this document, or in the documents of 6 Oct., 1337, and 6 June, 1344, which also deal with Wreyland. And, to the best of my belief, there is not any evidence that Kingskerswell and Wreyland were ever in the same ownership before 18 March, 1349; nor is there any mention of Kingskerswell in connection with Wreyland until 14 Jan., 1363, at which date these properties had ceased to belong to the Moeles family.

His next statement is, "surely this is sufficient to dispose of the claim of Molis' Wrey to be the Domesday manor of Wergi or Wereia."  But has anybody ever put forward such a claim? I certainly have not.

My statement was that Wreyland, which is the Moeles' Wrey, "does not appear in Domesday" - Wreyland Documents, p. 8. His rejoinder is that "the Domesday Wergi or Wereia is now represented by Wrey or Wray barton in Moreton Hampstead." In other words, I said that one place does not appear in Domesday, and he says that another place in another parish does appear in Domesday. And he calls this "contesting a cherished illusion" of mine about my property. If it is an illusion of mine that Wreyland does not appear in Domesday, he certainly has not contested it: he has concurred in it.

The Domesday manor of Wergi or Wereia must be Weare. In Domesday there are some thirty names of places beginning with a wr, and this name would have a wr in place of the wer, if it were meant for Wrey. Mr. Reichel says that he cannot follow me "into other counties" about the orthography of Domesday, and wishes to keep to Devon. But I conceive that, in a matter of orthography, one must draw deductions from Domesday as a whole, not merely from a part of it. Still, taking only the four instances that he adduces, there is no change of wer to wr in Wera and Wermehel, for he admits that they are Wear Giffard and Warmhill. That being so, I fail to see what warrant he has for changing wer to wr in the other two instances, Wereia and Weringeurda, and trying to make them into Wrey and Wringworthy.

To identify Wereia with Wrey (alias Wreycombe), near Moreton, he has to do more than justify this change of wer to wr. He has also to equate the estates in Domesday with those in the Inquest of the Geld; and this, as I pointed out before (p 207), resembles an equation of x=y, where x and y are not only of uncertain values, but unequal to each other. And then he has to show that at a later date Wrey (alias Wreycombe) was held of the honour of Gloucester, in spite of the document in Feudal Aids, p. 339, which says that it was held of the King in chief.

He says, "Mr. Torr generously insinuates that I have declared a document to be wrong when it appears to tell against my argument." He explains that the document ought to have stated not merely that the place was held of the King in chief, but that "it was held of the King in chief through a middle lord (per medium) the Earl of Gloucester." And he adds that "to say this is not to say that the document is wrong, but only that some of the entries are incomplete."

It seems useless to criticize an argument of this kind. Beginning with an impossible change of WER to WR, and proceeding to something like a childish equation of x and y, it ends by interpolating a clause into a document; and with such methods there is nothing that could not be proved.

                                                    CECIL TORR

[This correspondence must now cease. - Eds.]