The Honour of Plymton and the Whitchurch Fee

Devon Notes & Queries, vol. I, (January 1900 to January 1901), pp. 77-79.


O.J. Reichel

Prepared by Michael Steer

The feudal barony of Plympton (or Honour of Plympton) was a large feudal barony, headquartered at Plympton Castle and manor, Plympton. It was one of eight feudal baronies in Devonshire existing during the medieval era. It included the so-called Honour of Christchurch in Hampshire (now in Dorset), which was not however technically a barony. The de Redvers family, first holders of the barony, were also Lords of the Isle of Wight, which lordship was not inherited by the Courtenays, as was the barony of Plympton, since it had been sold to the king by the last in the line; Isabel de Redvers, 8th Countess of Devon (1237–1293). Reichel’s note attempts to clarify the relationship of Whitchurch to the Honour. The extract, 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 52. THE WHITCHURCH FEE (par. 38, page 63). THE HONOUR OF PLYMTON AND THE WHITCHURCH FEE. The list of "Fees of the Honour of Plymthon of the Earl of Devon" given by Testa de Nevil, p. 181, shews that the Earl about the year 1240 held the overlordship of the following Domesday estates: i, The Earl's lands of North Tawton, Witheridge, Tiverton, Beaford, Topsham, Bradston, and the crown-lordships of Plymton, Ermyngton, and Blackawton; 2, All the estates of Ruald " the dubbed Knight," here called " the Whitchurch Fee," excepting Poughill; 3, All the estates of William de Pollei; 4, All the estates of Robert de Albemarle; 5, The lands of Robert Bastard and Harvei de Helion's wife; 6, The lands of the Frankling Knights, viz.: Osbern de Salceid, Ralph Pagan, and Girard; 7, The lands of four of the King's military thanes, viz.: Godbold, Fulcher, Nicolas, and Haimeric de Arcis; 8, The lands of the King's civil thanes not held by serjeanty; 9, The land's of the English thane Ode Edric's son; 10, Four of Baldwin the Sheriff's estates, viz. : Whiteway, Little Torington, Wooladon, and Hele Poure; u, Three of Judhel's, viz.: Egbuckland, Compton Giffard, and Hooe; and 12, One of Odo Fitz-Gamelin's, viz.: Plym- tree. According to the amounts of the collectors of the King's aids in Testa de Nevil, pp. 187 b, 195 a, the honour included 89 Fees, and in Devon was second only to that of Okhamton with 92^ Fees. The Earldom of Devon was created in the person of Baldwin de Redvers, some time after the year 1123 and before 1155, in which year Baldwin died; for as Mr. Round has shewn (Feudal England, pp. 486, 473) in 1123 Baldwin attests a Charter of Henry I., signing simply as Baldwin de Redvers. The great territorial lordship constituting the honour of Plymiton appears, however, to date from a much later time. There is no trace of its existence in the Black Book of the Exchequer, in 1166 A.D. At some time or other between 1166 and 1243 consequently, after the death of Baldwin de Redvers all the estates enumerated above, which in Domesday times were held direct of the King, must have been granted to Baldwin's successor in the Earldom, not as property but to be held as superior lord, this grant constituting the honour of Plymton. Now the Giffards (from the statement of H.F.G.) appear to have held "the Whitchurch Fee" before the grant of the honour to the Earl, which should dispose of the suggestion that they may have obtained it in frank marriage from the Earl. Besides, as Baldwin de Redvers had only two daughters one Matilda, stated to have married Ralph Aveneli, the other Hedwisia and only one granddaughter Mary, through whom the Earldom eventually came to the Courtnay family the only way in which a Giffard could have acquired estates in frank marriage from Baldwin, had Baldwin been possessed of the honour early enough, would have been by marrying Hedwisia. As to this there is no information. It seems more probable that the Giffards obtained "the Whitchurch Fee" by grant from the crown when Ruald "the dubbed Knight" entered religion at St. Nicholas' Priory (Oliver Mon., p. 119). Thereby his estates would escheat to the Crown saving Poughill, which he gave to St. Nicholas and the Crown would grant them to whom it pleased. Note also that the Hundred Rolls of 4 and 5 Edward I, have this entry: " Osbern Giffard has a warren at Hechebocland, Cumton, and Havetnolle, by charter from King Henry." As Egbuckland, Compton, and Hooe, are the only three of Judhel's estates belonging to the Honour of Plymton, it looks as though Giflard brought them to the Honour of Plymton, not vice versa.             O. J. REICHEL.