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The Family of Pyne

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VII, (1912-1913), Exeter: James G. Commin. 1913, illus. pp. 233-236.



Prepared by Michael Steer

The Note’s author responds to queries and suggested corrections to his original submission (pp.134-138 of this volume). The Pyne surname has its origins in Devon and from the Norman family of 'De Pyn' which settled in and around Upton Pyne to the West of Exeter from the 12th Century. 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 165. THE FAMILY OF PYNE (VII., p. 134, par. 109; p. 155, par. 118.) - In my note on the origin of the Pyne family, which appeared in the October number, through a mistaken identification I was guilty of an error to which Mr. Reichel has kindly called my attention in the January issue.

In stating that Herbert de Pine was settled in Devonshire in 1147, I relied upon the fact that he witnessed a grant made by Robert fitz Roy, and I erroneously assumed that this Robert fitz Roy was Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who died in 1147. But since the Robert fitz Roy making this grant, as Mr. Reichel very justly says, was not the Earl, but his younger brother, another son of King Henry I. by a different mother, who lived until 1172, it is clear that the date when Herbert de Pine came to England may have been considerably later than I stated.

There do not seem to have been any of the family of Pyne or Pine resident in England until the middle of the 12th Century, the first one whom I have been able to discover being Herbertus de Pinu (as the name appears in its Latinized form), who was witness to a grant of Robert fitz Roy and his wife, Matilda d'Avranches, to Bricius, Chaplain of the Empress Maud, conveying land for a chapel in Sampford in Devonshire (now Sandford Courtenay), which grant is confirmed by King Henry II. (1). Robert obtained the Honour of Oakhampton by his marriage with Matilda d'Avranches, who died in 1173, and as Henry II. was crowned December 19th, 1154, and Herbert's son. Sir Simon, was lord of the fief in 1166, it follows that the grant which Herbert witnessed must have been signed some time between 1155 and 1166.

The next mention of the family is found in the Pipe Rolls of 1164-5, where Alexander de Pinu is entered as holding a knight's fee in Devonshire, and Simon Fitz Herbert de Pine is returned in the Cartae of 1166 as holding a knight's fee of Robert fitz Roy of the Honour of Oakhampton. (Vide both the Black and Red Books of the Exchequer.) This must have been Brampford Pyne or Upton Pyne, for we find his descendants in possession of this manor for over 300 years, and this Sir Simon de Pine is said by Pole to have been living in King Richard's time, 1189-99. In the Pipe Rolls of 1176-7, also, Brampford Pyne is called Brampford Sim [onis] .

The name Upton Pyne now appears for the first time. Previously, it had been a part of the Manor of Brampford, under which latter title it appears in Domesday. A portion of Brampford about that time seems to have been held by the Speke family, and has since been known as Brampford Speke. Brampford Pyne and Upton Pyne seem to have been the same manor, for Pole speaks of "Upton Pyne, otherwise Brampford Pyne," and Westcote says "Upton Pine, sometimes called Brampford Pine, which addition of Pine comes from the ancient tribe of great reputation of Pine." Upton Pyne remained in the Pyne family until 1487, when it passed to William Larder, who had married Constance, daughter and sole heiress of Nicholas Pyne. (Inquistiones Post Mortem for 1487.)

There is nothing impossible in Mr. Reichel's theory that Herbert may have obtained the manor by marriage with the daughter of the previous holder, but it is practically certain that the manor took its second name from the family, not the family from the manor.

Brampford Pyne (Upton Pyne) was included in the Honour of Oakhampton, which passed to Sir Reginald de Courtenay upon his marriage to the daughter and heiress of Robert fitz Roy and Matilda d'Avranches. Sir Reginald came to England in 1154 with Queen Eleanor, who was accompanied from Aquitaine by numerous other knights, and among the reasons which seem to justify the belief that Herbert de Pine was one of the number are the following: -

In 1154 there existed in Aquitaine an ancient noble family of the same name as Herbert de Pine and bearing the same arms, alike both in colour and structure, viz., Gules, three pine cones or, which arms are borne to-day both by the Marquis de Pins, the present head of the French family, and by the English house of Pyne, except that the English family at a very early date added a chevron.

Until after the middle of the 12th century we find none of the name in England; then, simultaneously with the arrival of Queen Eleanor, who was Duchess of Aquitaine and overlord of this Aquitaine house, there appears in Devonshire a family bearing the exact name and arms of the Aquitaine family. Herbert de Pine received from Robert fitz Roy, uncle of King Henry II., a grant of a manor which then for the first time received the distinctive title of Pyne, and he has always been recognised as the first of the English family (vide Pole, Westcote, Risdon, etc.) For centuries his descendants held their chief manors of the Courtenays, whose first English ancestor came over with Eleanor.

These facts seem to render it more than probable that Herbert was a cadet of the Aquitaine family, which was bound, as shown by the records as early as 1100, to render military service to the Dukes of Aquitaine (vide Archives Historiques de la Gironde), and that, like Reginald de Courtenay, he followed Eleanor, his Duchess and Sovereign, to England.

It is true, as Mr, Reichel remarks, that the science of heraldry did not come into being until the First Crusade in 1096, but it is well known that by 1154 it had become fully established and that family arms were in common use by the nobility at that time both in France and England, so that the identity of the arms borne by the Pynes of Devonshire and the family of the same name in Aquitaine may properly be regarded as strong circumstantial evidence that they belong to a common stock.

The author of The Norman People says: - "In pursuing the process of identification of names, most important aid has been derived from the independent and most satisfactory testimony supplied by the examination of the evidence furnished by armorial bearings. ... In numerous instances families have preserved their armorial bearings under all the changes which their names have undergone in the course of ages; and hence a means presents itself of identifying names and families which would not at first sight be supposed to be correct." And again: "The circumstances that an existing family bears a name which may be identified with one borne by some ancient Norman" house and also bears the arms which are attributed to that house, might possibly be considered a mere coincidence, but the occurrence of such circumstances in hundreds of cases is altogether inconsistent with the notion of casual coincidence and the evidence of consanguinity becomes morally certain." M.T.P.


(1)    This grant and confirmation is recited by King Henry V. in an Inspeximus dated 1414. (Vide Patent Rolls for 1414.)