A Brief History of The Early Yeo Family

by Sheila Yeo

My decision to start putting my research on-line is quite a difficult one because I know it will raise alot of discussion. To the best of my ability, I think it is correct, but welcome any criticisms. Whereever pssible I have used original records and cross referenced these with other families. If I refrain from making the research public, then all the research could be lost in the event of anything happening to me and just as I have used other people's research, mine can be added to or disputed in future years.

William Yeo (1320) and Ann Esse

The Yeo Coat of Arms granted to William Yeo in 1346 by King Edward 111

The first mention of the surname Yeo was one William atte Yeo , who was Sheriff of Devon in 1359. The place Yeo (Yeovale) was in Alwington , North Devon and was owned by the Giffard family, who were related to William the Conqueror and were given the lands as part of the bounty King William the conqueror rewarded his family members with. So it is quite probable that the Yeo surname was originally Giffard . The proven pedigree of Yeo of Heanton Sachvile commences with the name of this William Yeo , who married Anne Esse, presumably by whom he acquired that estate, although he could have been given it by King Edward 111 . From this marriage descend the various branches of Yeo of Huish , Yeo of Hatherleigh, Yeo of Shebbear, and Yeo of Bradworthy ; the main line of Yeo of Heanton Sachvile running out in the 10th descent, in the person of a female heir, into the family of Rolle .

William was knighted in 1346 by King Edward III , who called him 'my beloved'. This was because of William's bravery and support in the Battle of Crecy.

English Longbowman against French short bows

In 1337, based on the strength of his claim to the French throne as a direct descendant of Philip IV through his mother, Isabella of France , King Edward III of England refused to do more than simple (non-liege) homage for Guyenne to the French King Philip VI.

The resulting war that started shortly afterwards between France and England continued, with periodic truces, until 1453.

The Battle of Crécy, fought on Saturday, August 26, 1346 was the first of several significant battles during which the longbow triumphed over crossbowmen and armoured knights and was an outstanding success, although the wars between France and England continued with periodic truces until 1453.It was also at the Battle of Crecy that Sir Hugh Courtenay , the second Earl of Devon became one of the Knight's Garter, so in all probability, William Yeo was part of Sir Hugh Courtenay 's retinue

In 1358, William was appointed as High Sheriff of Devon . The High Sheriffs were appointed by the king and were the king's representative in their county of jurisdiction. As such their powers were wide and often arbitrary. Their primary functions were those of chief law enforcement officer and tax collector, as well they were responsible for the security of the itinerant justices and raising armed forces for the King.

As tax collector, each Easter and Michaelmas (21 March, 29 September) the Sheriffs were required to appear before the officers of the Exchequer and render their accounts for the previous period. The sums owed were negotiable and the difference between what they collected and what they turned over to the Exchequer went into their own pockets. As well, the Sheriff was housed and maintained by the royal castles and manors.William's wife, Ann Esse was an heiress, as her arms, ESSE and those of possibly her mother, SACHVILLE and subsequent marriages of the heiresses of PYNE, JEW and BRIGHTLEY meant that the the Yeo family were entitled to quarter these with their own. William Yeo ,.was witness to a deed of John Holland for land in Sheepwash in the 24th year of the reign of King Edward III (1351), by the name of William atte Yeo ; as he had been the year before to a deed of Richard Hody to John de Chelsham , in Torrington."

In medieval England there were three main aims for the middle classes, the first was to gain as much land as possible through influential marriages, especially female heiresses or as rewards for fighting for the King, the second was to marry for prestige and increase the circle of influential friends and the third was to maintain the pedigree line and lands in tact through male heirs.

When King William I , conquered England, he divided all the lands amongst himself and his fellow supporters, many of them relatives. The only lands he didn't own were the monastic lands which were owned by the church. These wealthy Barons, then gave lands to other influential men in return for a knight's fee, which was the amount of money and/or military service a landowner was required to pay to support one knight.So, either a person could provide the service of a knight, or an equivalent amount of money to allow a lord to hire a knight. These lands were usually passed on as an entailment unless they were given on a life, in which case they would revert back to the owner or the king on the person's death.

Land was the keystone of social order and it was essential to develop laws that ensured that the land would continue to be controlled indefinitely by those who owed their loyalty directly to the monarch. So medieval laws were designed to deter disruption of land ownership patterns including entailment, which placed conditions or limitations on succession to property, by making it very difficult for the nobility to sell their land.

Under entailment, a family, not an individual, owned land and on the death of the current tenant, there would have been post mortem inquisitions where all the lands were listed and the next heir was named. This continued until the dissolution of the monastries, when the wealthy could buy these properties and land.

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Robert Yeo (1350) and Edward Courtenay

William's son, Robert Yeo was a retainer of Edward Courtenay , Earl of Devon , employed in his retinue (knight's service) in payment for the Heanton Satchville estate he had inherited from his father, William . Robert 's lands were held of the Earl of Devon and the Earl of Huntington , but he is mentioned in the Earl of Devon's Livery Rolls in 1384, as a long-standing and valued servant of the Earl of Devon and the wearing of a nobleman's livery was a public and symbolic demonstration that served to advertise a special bond between a 'good lord' and his 'well willers' or clients, and it gave members of the lord's affinity (or circle of supporters) some sense of corporate identity.

Edward Courtenay 's grandmother was Elizabeth Woodstock , daughter of King Edward I and Eleanor of Castille , and his mother Margaret Bohun . Margaret's marriage to his father, Hugh , the 1st Earl of Devon had brought many more estates into the family, including Heanton Satchville and Powderham. The Courtenays had come from France in the reign of Henry II and had acquired considerable lands and power in the South West by judicious marriages to wealthy heiresses and already had castles at Okehampton, Plympton, Tiverton and Colcolme near Colyton . uth West by judicious marriages to w

In 1385, the government expressed its confidence in Edward Courtenay by appointing him marshal of England. By virtue of his being both a kinsman of the king and the richest layman in Devon, the Earl naturally occupied a central place in west-country political life. Members of his affinity filled many of the important local offices and were regularly returned to represent the counties of Devon, Somerset and Dorset, as well as many of the local boroughs, in the various parliaments of King Richard II and King Henry IV . Indeed, the earl's affinity formed the single most significant source of recruitment to positions such as these in the last decades of the fourteenth, and the first twenty years or so of the fifteenth centuries.

Medieval Knights in Battle

Men were attracted to his 'good lordship' because it guaranteed them protection in times of distress or threat, afforded a means of promotion for themselves and their dependants, and helped enhance their standing in their neighborhoods. In return, the earl gained much from members of his affinity: their good counsel, their safeguarding of his local interests, and their attendance in his household on those occasions when it was necessary to maintain a respectable or prestigious court, on feastdays and on progress around his estates, or on journeys to London to attend parliament, or, as in 1385, to assume the largely formal and ceremonial duties of Marshal of England.

The Yeos were a good breed of fighters, and Robert would have been fighting under the Earl of Courtenay , alongside other familiar names such as William Bonville , John Brightley (Fitzwarren) , other Courtenay family members, John Damerel , John Denys , Ralph Sachville , John Prideaux and William Walrond .

In 1392, Robert's servant, one John Langdon , was involved in a murder, which nearly resulted in Sir Edward Courtenay being imprisoned by King Richard II, as he protected Robert from being brought before the King and this shows the strong bond they shared, and the power of the Courtenays in Devon.

During the previous year one William Wyke , who had property in Peter Marland, which adjoined the Heanton Satchville lands, had obtained writs against Robert, which Edward Courtenay had treated with contempt. Writs to the sheriff, John Grenville , were likewise ineffective because he was in league with the same Robert Yeo.

One day Wyke was caught in an ambuscade and horribly murdered at the instigation, it is alleged, of Yeo . Indictments of the persons implicated were obtained before the justices of the peace, who were in turn threatened by the Earl . And so the quarrel spread until it involved many of the gentlemen of Devonshire, and was likely to cause a civil war in the neighborhood.

It was clearly a case of maintenance, an attempt on the part of the earl to sustain the quarrel of another, coming under the statutes 20 Edw. III, c. 4 and 1 Richard H, c. 7.' There was also the offence known as embracery, an attempt to influence a jury corruptly, but this had not as yet been so fully laid down in the statutes. Sir Edward was accused of threatening behaviour and was only saved from being imprisoned when the "all the lords, spiritual as well as temporal, prayed our lord the king to do grace to the said Earl of Devonshire , having regard for the fact that he was of royal blood and one of his uncles"

In the 1392, post mortem for Margaret Courtenay , nee Bohun , Robert is recorded as holding Frotton, Meyneston and Westcote in South Molton (later West Anstey ) and Heanton Satchville for one knight's fee for each. The lord's main duty however was to his knight and then the king, and as such would provide arms and men whenever he was required.

When not summoned to fight Robert had his manors of Heanton Satchville & West Anstey to control. As Lord of his Manors he governed the local community under his control by appointing officials who made sure that the villagers carried out their duties. Most country people lived on a manor which consisted of a village, the lord's house or castle, a church and the surrounding farmland.

Typical duties for the villagers included farming the lord's land and paying rent to the lord in the form of produce. Criminals were also brought before the lord for swift justice. He had the power to fine those who broke the law. Manors were usually very isolated, ( Heanton Sachville and West Anstey were no exceptions), and as such the villagers had to produce everything they would need themselves. Few things such as salt (for curing meat) and iron for tools came from outside. The only visitors were travelling salesmen, pilgrims or soldiers and few people ever left their own village.

Some of Robert 's leisure time would have been spent hunting using hawks and packs of hounds with which to hunt for game on his private woodland and social entertainment would have been visits to friends, usually neighbours.

Lady of the Manor c.1400  

We are not sure who Robert married but the law gave a husband full rights over his wife, whether she was a noble woman or a commoner. She effectively became his property. The lady of the manor had to take over the running of the manor when her husband was absent. She was a figure of authority. And her word was literally law when her husband was absent and the lord of the manor could disappear for significant amounts of time during the violent times of unrest in the Middle Ages. In these instances the lady of the manor would be expected to look after the finances of the manor including the collection of rents, supervising the farming and settling all disputes.

At a very young age girls of the nobility were sent to the households of great ladies to receive a basic education in the duties of a lady in a wealthy household or in a nunnery. At the age of between twelve and fourteen she would enter society. She would have had no choice in her husband, marriages were to do with wealth and alliances, not love. As the lady of the manor she would have ensured adequate provisions were available at the manor, purchasing items such as expensive materials and spices. She would be expected to assist or supervise the preparation of various foods and ensure that sufficient meat and preserves had been prepared for the winter months and her major role was to provide children for the lord of the manor.

Large families were the norm in the Middle Ages as the mortality rate for children and babies was so high. Many woman made arrangements for the care of their children in case they themselves died during childbirth. The life expectancy of a woman in the Middle Ages was just forty years of age and most Medieval woman would become pregnant between 4 and 8 times and a woman might expect to lose at least one child.

The lord appointed many officials but the most important was the steward. The steward organised the farmworkers and kept records of the estate's money. Also if Robert had to go away the steward had control and presided at the manor court until his return. Stewards were the most well paid and powerful of all the lord's officials.

After the steward came the bailiff. The bailiff was usually a peasant who would wear the same style as the farmworkers but would have slightly better quality clothes. The bailiff was a freeholder who owned his own land and it was his role to allot the jobs to the peasants whilst taking care of running repairs to buildings for which he would hire in skilled labourers such as carpenters and blacksmiths.

Robert and his family lived at Heanton Satchville which was surrounded by stables and a wall, to protect the family. The manor house, with the exception of Petrockstowe church, would have been the centre of the community. The manor court would be held in the hall at Heanton which at other times would be used as the venue for feasts on special occasions such as Christmas and after the harvest. Just like the steward the bailiff also had a right hand man, he was called the reeve. The reeve was a peasant chosen by the other villagers and it was his job to check that everyone turned up for work on time and that no-one stole any produce from Robert .

Robert Yeo (1370) and Joan Pyne

Robert died before his father, on the 4 th August, 1408. His inquisition post mortem states he held in his demesne as of fee 1 toft and 1 ferling in Ringcombe of John, Earl of Huntingdon of his manor of South Molton by knight service, annual value 13s 4d; and 1 messuage and 1 ferling in Stockbeare of Nicholas Bromeford of his manor of Broomford by knight service, annual value 6s 8d.


In the right of Joan his wife, who survives him, he held 1 messuage and 1 carucate in Aylescott of John, Earl of Huntingdon of his castle of Barnstaple by knight service, annual value 40s; and the manor of Bradwell , of whom and by what service is unknown, annual value £10. John , his son and heir was aged 19 years and more at his father's death.

His father, Robert seems to have lands in Stowford, probably as part of the marriage contract, as when John Brightley died in 1406 in his inquisition, it states that he held of the lands of Robert Yeo.

Joan had quite a pedigree background, the Pyne family were an old established family, and the Pyne estates had passed on to her from her great grandfather Augustine Pyne . Her father, William Pyne had married Joan Brightley , the daughter of Sir William Brightley and Joan Stowford . Sir William Brightley was a descendant of the Fitzwarren family , another distinguished Norman family, and took the name Brightley when he inherited the estates from his father in law John Stowford .

John Stowford had inherited many estates on his marriage to Isabella Tracy . Isabella Tracy and her sister, Isolda were joint heiresses, of their father Henry Tracy .



The lands of Woolacombe Tracey and Mortehoe have an interesting history. King Henry I and Sybilla Corbet had an illegitimate son, William de Tracy , amongst many others !! He was endowed with the Manor of Bradnich & Moreton(hampstead) by Henry I. His only daughter married John de Sudeley , and their son William took the name of Tracy . This William was one of the murderers of Thomas a Becket (A.D. 1170) for which deed he went into exile and the barony of Bradnich and Moretonhampstead was forfeited and returned to the King. William is buried in Mortehoe , where he spent his last lonely years. William's daughter, Eva married William Courtenay and he took the name of Tracy. Their son Oliver inherited and then Henry and then it passed to Henry 's two daughters, Isabella & Isolda .


Isabella married John Stowford and Isolda married three times, one of the marriages was to Simon de Roche , ancestor of Alice Jeue, who married John Yeo . Isolda gave her share of the Tracy lands to her sister in a series of quit claims.






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John Yeo (1392) and Alice Jeue

Robert's son married the heiress Joan Pyne and their son John married Alice Jeue , a wealthy joint heiress. The Jewe family held many manors in Devon, Somerset & Dorset, which included the manors of Cotleigh, Chesewaye Spelcomb, Collebeare, Cliffe, Holcombe Jeu, Poltimore, Northcote and lands in Exeter, Colyford, Seaton and Plymouth . Alice 's sister married Edward St John and their only daughter married into the Arundel family so the inherited estates from the Jeue family were shared between the Yeos and Arundells for many years and made the Yeo family desirable marriage partners.

William 's main residence was at Cotleigh , which adjoins the Bonville estate of Shute . William Jeue was a friend of the Courtenays and Bonvilles and in Richard Courtenay 's inquisition post mortem in 1415, it is recorded that Richard granted by charter properties in Cadbury, Devon , i.e. in 1411 he gave them to William Jew esquire, to hold for life without rent, with reversion to himself. At the same time he granted William Jew for his good service a rent of £3. 13s 4d payable by equal parts at the 4 terms, from the manor of Honiton for life, with licence to distrain if in arrears by 15 days and in 1422 when Hugh Courtenay , the 4 th Earl of Devon died, he left letters patent, granting the manor of Whitewell , with all appurtenances to William Jeue for life with reversion to Thomas , his son and heir who was then a minor.

William Jeue is mentioned as being on William Bonville 's side during the quarrels he was having with the Brook family over his estates and was witness to many of Bonville's legal transactions, so it is possible he was a lawyer.

In 1412, John Yeo was retained to sail with Thomas the Duke of Clarence on the expedition to France and was there to abide in the king's service, but he feared that there would be 'disherison by subornation' by John Pyne , a relative of his wife in his absence so appealed to the Commissioners of the Peace to protect his interests and in 1434 he is named in the list of Devon Magnates, amongst the seventy seven people who took the oath to protect the county. John's name appears on many inquisitions during his life so he was obviously a leading member of the county's officials.

John and Alice's son William Yeo , married Ellen Grenville . Ellen 's mother was Phillipa Bonville , daughter of Lord William Bonville. The Grenville family also had a distinguished ancestry. William 's grandmother, Margaret Courtenay 's paternal pedigree went back to King Edward I and her maternal one through the de Vere family who were the Earls of Oxford. William Grenville 's uncle John Grenville was Sheriff of Devon , when Robert Yeo was accused of the murder. The Grenville family held Bideford Manor and Stowe in Kilkhampton , in Cornwall. Ellen 's brother Thomas married firstly Ann Courtenay , daughter of Philip Courtenay of Powderham and secondly Elizabeth Gorges , daughter of Theobald Gorges and Jane Hankford of Wraxell in Somerset . The Grenville 's were famous sea adventurers and fighters and in the 1600's after the civil war Sir John Grenville , a descendant of Thomas , was created Earl of Bath , Viscount Lansdowne and Baron Granville of Kilkhampton and Bideford and through this line, one of his descendants was Princess Diana and then her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry .

This was the time of the War of the Roses when there was great civil unrest in Devon with families divided on their loyalties to either the House of York or the House of Lancaster. Phillipa 's father, Lord Bonville was one of the wealthiest men in Devon, having inherited massive estates in Devon, Somerset & Dorset. He married. Margaret Grey , the daughter of Lord Grey of Ruthin .

William was also a member of the retinue for Thomas the Duke of Clarence , in 1418 and stood high in the Duke 's regard, for before Clarence died at Baugé in March 1421 he named Sir William Bonville as one of his mortgagers in certain of his estates. William continued to become more and more powerful. His second marriage to Elizabeth Courtenay , the daughter. of Edward Courtenay , Earl of Devon , by Maud , daughter. of Thomas, Lord Camoys , widow of John, Lord Harrington of Aldingham in Furness and Porlock , Somerset,which took place some time between then and October 1430, required the procurement of a papal dispensation, because his new wife, Elizabeth , was already a godmother of one of his daughters.

Gateway to Shute House

The marriage was later to have important political consequences, but its immediate effect was Sir William's acquisition of large dower estates and the increase of the range of his kinship among the nobility.

He was now connected with William, Lord Harrington (his wife's brother-in-law), and with Thomas Courtenay , Earl of Devon (her nephew). These ties were to be strengthened by the marriage of Bonville' s son and heir, William , to Lord Harrington 's only child, and of two of his daughters, Philippa and Margaret , respectively to William Grenville (a grandson of Sir Hugh Courtenay ) and William Courtenay (son of Sir Philip Courtenay of Powderham , Bonville 's friend and fellow MP of 1427, and grandson of Sir Walte r (now Lord Hungerford ). Bonville 's third daughter, Elizabeth , married outside these related families, her husband being Sir William Tailboys de jure Lord Kyme.


Map of East Devon Tudor Manors, showing relationships between Powderham Castle (Courtenay Family), Shute (Bonville Family), Tiverton and Colcombe (Culliton), Kylmington (Brian Family), Widworthy (Chichester Family) and Cotleley (Jeue & Yeo Families),

From the time of his second marriage Bonville 's local prestige and influence was increasingly taken into account by the Crown. Evidently a capable and industrious man of affairs, he became one of the most active of the country gentlemen of the south-west, often being charged to investigate reports of lawless enterprises on land and seaIt was in 1440 that first reports were heard of bad relations between Sir William and his wife's nephew , the Earl of Devon, perhaps caused by the latter's realization that the regional pre-eminence which he considered to be his birthright was being threatened by Bonville 's growing influence, exemplified by his tenure of the stewardship of the Duchy of Cornwall. Not surprisingly, as a result of these complex political maneuvers, during the autumn recess of the Parliament of 1455-6, open warfare broke out in Devon, where the Earl and his men proceeded to terrorize the neighborhood of Exeter from their castle at Tiverton . The Michaelmas term sessions could not be held in the city owing to this anarchic state of affairs, and in October the recorder, Nicholas Radford , one of Bonville 's closest advisors, was brutally murdered by the Earl 's sons in person.

The Courtenays, who held Exeter by force until 23rd December, ransacked the town houses of Bonville and Fitzwaryn , and then laid siege to Powderham Castle , seat of Bonville 's friend and their own distant kinsman, Sir Philip Courtenay . In retaliation Bonville sent a party of armed men to the Earl' s fortified house at Colcomb , which they looted on 15th November, and then tried to reach Powderham to raise the siege by crossing the estuary of the Exe . Pitched battle was joined on Clyst Heath , 'moche people wer slayn', and two days later the Earl' s men pillaged Bonville 's house at Shute , securing a great booty. Even so, in 1457 Devon and his sons were formally pardoned of all charges against them. Earl Thomas died in 1458, and his successor, Radford 's murderer, was an active supporter of the Queen's party.

Powderham Castle

Bonville remained outwardly loyal to Henry VI : he swore allegiance to the King at the Coventry Parliament of 1459, and in the following February he was appointed to a commission to raise the shires of Somerset, Cornwall and Devon against the attainted Yorkists. Yet he finally revealed his true colors by appearing on the Yorkist side at the Battle of Northampton in July 1460. After witnessing the deaths of both his son and grandson at the debacle at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 Dec. (when York, too, was killed) he joined the Earl of Warwick in London, where, in a chapter held on 8 Feb. 1461, the two of them were elected Knights of the Garter.

The futility of their elevation to the ranks of the military elite was soon made evident: nine days later they were defeated by the queen's forces in the second battle of St. Albans. Like Sir Thomas Kyriel , Bonville did not flee after the engagement because the King promised that their lives would be spared, but both men were nonetheless executed on Queen Margaret 's orders on 18 Feb, persuaded to do so by his old enemy, Sir Thomas Courtenay . Bonville , described by Bishop Neville, Warwick's brother, as a 'strenuous cavalier' , was then 68 years old.

His widow was assigned a large dower by Edward IV and survived until 1471. Bonville's heir was his great-granddaughter Cecily , not yet one year old, who was later to be married to the King's stepson, Thomas Grey , Marquess of Dorset , and, after his death, to Henry Stafford , Earl of Wiltshire , Cecily 's great granddaughter was Lady Jane Grey who in 1553, after the death of King Edward VI , was proclaimed Queen of England by her uncle the Duke of Northumberland and then a few hours later beheaded.

The Stained Glass Window in Petrockstowe Church


Phillipa had seen her brother and nephew killed at the Battle of Wakefield and her father beheaded and around 1465 she placed a stained glass window in Petrockstowe Church, (which can now be viewed in the vestry of Petrockstowe Church), celebrating the marriage of her daughter to William Yeo, which includes the Yeo, Grenville, Bonville & Jeue coat of arms .

Phillipa who lived at Shute & Alice Jeue at Cotleigh Manor, just five miles away, were neighbours and friends and it could well be that it was this association that brought William Yeo & Ellen Grenville together. There is another pane in the window which looks like a bleeding heart and certainly Phillipa had much to mourn, but the inclusion in the window of the this emblem, representing, the bendiction, "In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost', suggests a commemoration rather than a celebration of marriage and that the heart bleeding was that of poor Phillipa and the marriage was a new beginning.


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William Yeo (1428) and Ellen Grenville

William was elected as one of the County's Commissioners of the Peace from at least 1470 until he died in 1481. These commissioners were elected to provide law and order in the county. Serving with him in 1470 was George , Duke of Clarence , Richard , Earl of Warwick and Salisbury , Sir Hugh Courtenay , Sir William Courtenay , Sir Thomas Fulford , Philip Courtenay , Halnath Manleverer , John Halwell , Richard Chichester , Richard Hals , John Gybbis , John Denys , William Huddesfield and William Shillingford .

Justices of the Peace were "good and lawful men" who were appointed in every county in the land to "guard the Peace". JPs also administered the country at a local level. They fixed wages, built and controlled roads and bridges, and undertook to provide and supervise locally those services thought by the King and by Parliament to be necessary for the welfare of the country.

William was mentioned in several feoffments after his marriage. A Feoffment is where the owner would normally convey the land to a group of co-feoffees thus ensuring the land would not fall to the king or unlawful heirs through the death of the feoffee. The feoffees in turn would pass the land on to others before the last one of them died and so it would continually change hands through conveyance without ever passing descent. The feoffees had to be trusted friends, and William and Sir Thomas Fulford were two of the feoffees for John Speke in 1473 and in 1479 William & Otho Gilbert , the father of his nephew, Thomas Grenville 's wife, were feoffees for Joan Keynys , the widow of John Keynes. His Inquisition Post Mortem when he died on 24 th July 1481 names his son Robert Yeo aged 26 as his heir.

William and Ellen had two daughter and five sons. The eldest son Robert married Alice Walrond and the second son, Nicholas Yeo married a Ms Loveis of Tavistoke , from both of whom our ancestors descend, through the marriage of John Yeo of Hatherleigh to Rebecca Rolle, daughter of Henry Rolle and Margaret Yeo, the heiress, through whom the estates passed into the Rolle family.

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Robert Yeo (1455) and Alice Walrond

Robert Yeo , son and heir, of William Yeo & Ellen Grenville , married Alice , the daughter of John Walrond . Following in his father's footsteps he was also named in many feoffments, especially those involving the Beaumont estates, These lands were massive and stretch across the whole of the parish of Atherington and part of Highampton , and also included the Manors of Shirwell and Heanton Punchardon . The Beaumont's were neighbours as Atherington and Gittisham are just a few miles from Heanton and Cotleigh .

It seems that Sir Thomas Beaumont of Gittisham , who died in 1450, had five children by Phillipa Dyneham and four by Alice Stuckley and the lands in question were left, if the sons by the first marriage died without issue, to his daughters Joan and Alice as co-heirs. The Dyneham family were wealthy and influential and this was probably agreed as part of the marriage jointure. Joan married John Basset and Alice married Nicholas Cornu

The eldest son, William Beaumont married Joane Courtenay daughter of Philip Courtenay of Powderham , but after a few years he deserted her and moved to London. She started an affair with one Henry Bodrugan and had a son John , she then subsequently married Henry, and when Sir Thomas Beaumont died this " John the Bastard " put in a claim to the lands but lost, (he subsequently was given the Gittisham lands and took the name of Beaumont).

Sir Thomas 's surviving son, Philip Beaumont, succeeded. Philip 's chief concern was that the Beaumont name be left in possession and having no children, instead of allowing Joan Basset and her sister to succeed him as his father had wished, he conveyed the lands to his stepbrothers of the second marriage, Thomas Beaumont who died in 1488 and his executors were Thomas Grenville and John Yeo of Braunton, son of William 's brother, Richard . His son John died before his father and his wife was given as her dowry the Umberleigh estates for her life and she then married John Carew . Philip also left out the heirs of the eldest son because he had only a daughter married to Richard Chichester and a separate deal had been made with the Chichesters by John Basset with Lord Giles Daubeney 's help at the same time as the main one and the Chichesters were given Yolston & Sherwel l and other lands, to the value of 200 marks per annual rent. The Chichester family's main residence was Widworthy manor which adjoined Cotleigh and is near to Gittisham , so the Beaumonts, Chichesters, Bonvilles & Yeos were all neighbours.

With the help of Giles, Lord Daubeney , (Earl of Bridgewater) , John Bassett junior successfully opposed Philip Beaumont's will. (This is where the feoffment came in with John Bassett using his trusted friends, Thomas Grenville, Thomas Wood, Richard Chichester, John Dennis, John Moore, Nicholas Cokworthy, Robert Yeo esq and John Yeo of Braunton .). The intention of both families was that Daubeney 's son, Henry Daubeney , should marry one of the Bassett daughters, and in return for his having financed the recovery of the Beaumon t lands Bassett made over many of the manors, entailed upon the hypothetical heirs of this marriage. Henry, Lord Daubeney , never did marry a Bassett girl, instead he married first, Elizabeth Neville and secondly Catherine Howard , daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk , (whose niece Catherine Howard was to marry King Henry VIII and was then beheaded for being unfaithful), so he had only a life interest in the properties.

John Bassett jun died in 1485 and his son, John , married firstly Ann Denys , daughter of John Denys (one of the co-feoffees), and secondly Honor Grenville , daughter of Thomas Grenville (another co-feoffee). By Ann he had four surviving children, all daughers and Honor bore him three sons and four daughters. With her four step-daughters this made a family of eleven children to be fed, clothed, educated, placed in worthy positions of employment and married to financially and socially eligible partners. Honor was well up to the task. Sir John Basset t died on the 31st Jan 1529 and his tomb chest, with quatrefoil decoration is in the nave of St Mary's church, Atherington . In his Inquisition PM he appointed Hugh Yeo, son of John Yeo and Johan Asshe, his understeward of the manors for life, with an annuity of 20s a year, probably as an acknowledgement of his father's loyalty.

Within the year, Honor married Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle , the illegitimate son of King Edward IV , the last Plantagenet to survive the War of the Roses. As the illegitimate son of the handsome King Edward IV and Elizabeth Lucy between whom there had been a marriage contract, he was the uncle of King Henry VIII and sister of Elizabeth Plantagenet , who married William Courtenay . Whilst Arthur & Honor had no children of their own, Honor spent the next years until Henry Daubeney died in 1548, trying to protect the Bassett children's assets and there were battles with him to prevent him from either selling them for ready cash or ruining them by mismanagement. These papers and letters were all preserved and can be viewed in the Public Record Office in London and are called the Lisle Papers. There are numerous letters in the collection from Hugh Yeo to Honor and Honor to Hugh about the Daubeney conspiracy and also one from Leonard Yeo , (son of William Yeo & Ellen Grenville ) then a priest, asking for her to help his nephew, son of his brother Edmond Yeo, gain a similar position in the church.

Robert Yeo, his extended family and friends also contracted his daughter, Elizabeth Yeo, then only in her early twenties, to marry Sir John Crocker, of Lynham, Kt., an elderly but prominent man in his seventies. In return Robert and his associates were given lands in Plymouth for the term of her life. The marriage contract dated 4 th July, 1507 was between, 1 John Crokker, knight , 2 John Bassett, knight, Thomas Haycche, Roger Graynefeld, William Walrond, Edmund Yeo and Edward Yeo for the Manors of Hemmerdon and Bykeford for life of Isabel, daughter of Robert Yeo , esq and the witnesses were Humfrey Fulford , Thomas Graynefeld , knights, and William Yeo , & others, all well known names.

Sir John Crocker's son John had married Ann Arundell , a very wealthy heiress, whose inherited lands included Huish and manors in Stratton, Cornwall and no doubt the Yeo family were keen to share this inheritence. However Ann died, childless, on the 25 th August, 1507, just a few weeks after the marriage and all the estates were shared between other distant relatives so poor Elizabeth was sacrificed in vain.

Robert & Alice's other children were Philip , who died without issue , , William , son and heir, who married the daughter of his friend Thomas Fulford , Nicholas who married Elizabeth Monk , daughter of his friend John Monk , Robert who married Elizabeth Prideaux , daughter of Fulke Prideaux and Katherine Poynz and started the Shebbear Yeo branch, and Edward who moved to Cornwall.

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William Yeo (1481) and Joan Fulford

William Yeo , b. 1481, of Heanton Sachvile , married Joan Fulford , the daughter of Sir Thomas Fulford of Fulford and Phillipa Courtenay , whose parents were Sir Philip Courtenay of Powderham Castle and Elizabeth Hungerford, by whom he had issue Robert , Humphry, Alice , and Joan .

The tree below shows the close relationship between the Courtenays, Bonvilles, Fulfords and Yeo families

Joan Yeo nee Fulford 's cousin, William Courtenay was married to Catherine Plantagenet .

Catherine was Princess Catherine , youngest daughter of King Edward IV and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. She had been contracted to marry King Ferdinand of Castille 's son Juan when she was born in 1479, but following the death of her father in 1483, when his brother, King Richard III assumed the throne, and her two little brothers, 'the Princes in the Tower' , Richard and Edward were murdered, Elizabeth took her children into a sanctuary. When Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth and at the succession of Henry Tudor as King Henry VII , Catherine 's eldest sister, Elizabeth became the wife of the new Queen in an attempt to bring together the warring factions of Lancaster and York .

Tiverton Castle

In 1487 Henry V11 attempted to arrange a marriage for Catherine with James III of Scotland's second son James , but this did not come to fruiton, so three years later when she was sixteen years old she was married to Sir William Courtenay , the only son and heir of Edward Courtenay, eighth Earl of Devon . Initially, they were happy and involved with life at court but then when Henry VII 's sister Margaret married King James IV of Scotland, he was accused of conspiring against King Henry and was imprisoned, and Elizabeth and her children were confined to the castle. When Henry VIII was crowned, he took pity on one of his favourite aunts and released them, but before William could be reinstated as Earl of Devon , he died of pleurisy. Catherine was only 32 years old and she settled in Devon, using Colcombe Castle , in the Parish of Colyton, or else Tiverton Castle as her main residence. There would have been much entertaining and many of her close relatives would have been involved. She died in 1527 and was buried in St. Peter's Church in Tiverton . However, this royal marriage led to the Courtenays eventual downfall and the senior line died out in 1556 when her son Edward was beheaded.

William and Joan never lived at Heanton Satchville as William died before his father.

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Robert Yeo (1508) and Mary Fortescue

Robert Yeo , born 1508, son and heir inherited all the Yeo estates when his grandfather died in 1530 as his father William was already dead. He married Mary Fortescue , the daughter of Bartholomew Fortescue , of Filleigh and Ellen Moore . The Fortescues were another visitation family coming over to England with William the Conqueror , the name of Fort Escn , or strong shield was given him when he protected the Conqueror with his shield at the Battle of Hastings and the family was rewarded with many lands and high government positions. Bartholomew and Ellen lived at Buckland Filleigh , a little village very close to Petrockstowe , so would have known the Yeo family well. Mary 's sisters had married well, Elizabeth married Lewis Hatch , a very wealthy landowner, Joane married Humphrey Thorne , who had many estates, Gertrude married Sir Bernard Drake , a relative of Sir Francis , Ellen married William Carswell , another wealthy family, and Ann married John Raleigh , half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh , so the Yeo family had many influential friends and relatives. However, Robert and Mary failed to produce a male heir and their only daughter, Margaret , a wealthy heiress, was to take all of the Yeo estates on her marriage out of the family.

The Yeo estates were quite substantial as this Post Mortem Inquisition taken at the death of Robert Yeo , son of William & Ellen shows, seised, means 'in possession of' and 'moiety' means half share.

Rober Yeot's IPM taken 26 Nov, 1530

Devon delivered into court 15 May by John Pasmer. Inquisition taken at Exeter 3 May 1531 before John Hext esq., escheator after the death of Robert Yeo esq, by the oath of Roger Blewett, Anthony Pollard, John Carewe, Thomas Fortescue, Henry Denys, John Bydwell, Thomas Gibbs, John Pomerey, Thomas Hext, John Holway esquires and Roger Dene who say that Robert was seised of :-

The manor of Heaynton Sachevyle and 20s rent there held of Henry, marquis of Exeter of his honor of Okehampton by knight's service; worth by the year clear £20; The manor of Bradwyll held of the abbot of Clyff by fealty worth £20; The manor of Towne held of Humphrey Prideaux, Nicholas Denys, Richard Hals, esquires and James Bury , of the manor of Aysshe Raff worth £7. 10s; 2 messages and 100 acres of Bryghtmanyshays and Farley held of Lewis Avels esq ; worth 20s 1 messuage, 200 acres of land and 40 of pasture in Wodwille held of Richard Graynfild knt of his manor of Bediford by knight's service worth £2. 5s; 1 messuage and 20 acres in Hatherleigh held of the abbot of Tavistoke of the borough of Hatherleigh in free socage; worth 6s; 3 messuages and 100 acres in Lower Verley, (Petrockstowe) Buton and Wodehays held of the abbot of Buckfast -worth 20s; A moeity of 1 messuage, 100 acres of land, 40 of pasture, 10 of meadow and 100 of heath in Northcote held of the said marquis of the honour of Okehampton by knight's service worth £2 1 messuage and garden in Chepyngtoryton (Great Torrington) held of Henry Duke of Richmond and Somerset of his borough of Chepingtoryton in free socage worth 4s; 1 messuage and 40 acres in Sheftebeare (Shebbear) held of Ralph, Earl of Westmorland of his manor of Sheftebeare in free socage; worth 9s; A yearly rent of 7s 7d out of lands in Estgorkelegh; a toft and garden in Exilond (St Mary Major, Exeter) outside the west gate of Exeter held of the said marquis of his borough of Exilon, in free socage worth 4s :- 1 messuage and 100 acres in Marland (Peters Marland) held of Lady Seyntleger widow of her manor of Marland St Peter worth 16s; A toft courtyard and garden in Plymouth held of Hugh Pollard esq., of his manor of Sutton Valatorde in free socage worth 4d; 1 messuage, 10 acres of land and 40 of pasture in Wode held of Philip Stoford's manor of Stoford; worth 20s; 1 messuage and 16 acres in Crakeway held of the said marquis by 1/8 of a knight's fee; worth 6s; A moeity of 2 messuages and 100 acres of Colyford held of the said marquis of his manor of Colliton in free socage; worth £3; a messuage and 100 acres in Seaton held of the said manor of Colyton in free socage worth 30s; 1 messuage 100 acres of land 40 of pasture in Dunterton held of John Fitzwarren, lord Fitzwaren, John Zouche, John Arundell knt and Peter Compton of the manor of Dunterton worth 19s; the said Peter is a minor and the King's ward; 1 messuage, 100 acres of land, 40 of pasture, and 100 of heath in Bradstone held of the said manor of Dunterton worth 20s; 1 messuage and 100 acres in Stokebeare held of Francis Strchelyn, esq , worth 5s. By charter dated 20 Aug 1514 he enfeoffed thereof John Bassett, knt, John Chichester, Edmund Specote, Bartholomew Fortescue, Henry Beaumont, Hugh Pollard, John Cobley, John Whyting esqires, and Leonard Yeo clk, to fulfil his last will. John Bassett and John Whyting are dead; the other feoffees yet hold the premises. Robert Yeo also held a moiety of the manor of Coteley common with John Arundell, esq, held of the Lord Fytzwarren Lord Zouche, John Arundell and Peter Compton of their manor of Cardenham by 1/2 a fee mortain worth £12; 2 messuages, 200 acres of land, 100 of heath and 4s rent in Nymet St George held of Thomas Hacche, esq, of his manor of Nymet St George; worth 20s 1 messuage, 40 acres of land and 40 of heath in Dowelton, held of the said manor of Stowford , worth 20s; 1 messuage, 40 acres of land, 4 of meadow and 20 of heath in Sheepwash; held of John Holland esq., of his manor of Sheepwash; worth 5s 1 messuage, 300acres of land, 10 of meadow and 100 of heath in Crediton held of Humphrey Arundell esq of his manor of Tueton; worth £3

By charter dated 13 August, 1510 he enfeoffed thereof William Fulford, Thomas Hacche, James Chudleigh esquires, John Rawe sargeant-at-law and Roger Graynfild to the use of Joan wife of William Yeo, son of the said Robert Yeo, for her life ( her dowry). William Fulford, James Chudleigh and Roger Graynfild are dead; the other feoffees yet hold the premises to the use of Joan, who is yet living. William Yeo is dead.

Robert Yeo died 5 Jan 1529/3. Next heir Robert son of William son of said Robert Yeo, aged 21. (who married Mary Fortescue . Robert & Mary had one daughter, Margaret who married Henry Rolle .)

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Margaret Yeo (1534) and Henry Rolle

Margaret Yeo, b 1534, married Henry Roll, third son of George Rolle , of Stevenstone, from whom came the branch of Rolle of Titherleigh , and in direct succession from their oldest son, Robert Rolle, of Heanton Sachvile the properties passed to the Earls of Orford , the Walpole family, when Margaret Rolle married Robert Walpole , son of Sir Robert Walpole , then Prime Minister of England .

      • 1 Henry Rolle1521 -
      • . +Margaret Yeo died 1590/91
      • .2 Robert Rolle 1560 - 1633
      • .....+Joan Hele - 1634
      • .....3 Samuel Rolle 1575 - 1647
      • .........+Margaret Wise
      • .........4 Robert Rolle
      • .............+Arabella Fiennes 1643 - (Lady Clinton daughter of the 4 th Earl of Lincoln))
      • .............5 Samuel Rolle 1646 - 1717
      • .................+Frances Roy
      • ................6 Margaret Rolle 1708/09 - 1765
      • ....................+Robert Walpole 1701 - 1751 son of Sir Robert Walpole, then Prime Minister of England
      • ....................7 George Walpole1730 - 1791

George Walpole died without an heir so the estates and title, Lord and Lady Clinton, came back into the Rolle family, and Robert George William Trefusis, the son of Margaret's cousin, Bridget Rolle & her husband Francis Trefusis became the 17th Lord Clinton . The present, Lord and Lady Clinton use Heanton Satchville as their main home in Devon.

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Nicholas Yeo (c1457) of Hatherleigh

Stained Glass window in Hatherleigh Church commemorating the marriage of John Yeo and Ann Honeychurch

Nicholas Yeo , the second son of William Yeo and Ellen Grenville , was also involved in local politics as his name appears on many Devon Inquisitions Post Mortems, because of his role as an escheator.

This position, just one in a county, meant that upon learning the death of a tenant, the escheator would hold an "inquisition" to learn if the king had any rights to the land. If there was any doubt, the escheator would seize the land and refer the case to Westminster where it would be settled, ensuring that not one day's revenue would be lost. This would be a source of concern with land owners when there were delays from Westminster.

Nicholas married a Ms Loveis, and had a son, John Yeo and by his second wife Joan Lybbe, a son called Leonard . Both children were born in Tavistoke.

His second son, Leonard , seems to have prospered more than John , as he was a merchant and mercer in London and married the wealthy widow of his employer, John Broke . Leonard had control of her children's estates and made a considerable amount of money. He became Mayor of Totnes and purchased the manor of Huish from the Arundel descendants and through his children marrying well, the family progressed in status, eventually dying out with Edward Rooe Yeo, MP for Coventry.

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John Yeo (1499) and Anne Honeychurch

Inscription on the floor in the North Aisle of Hatherleigh Church.

Nicholas' s eldest son and heir, John , known as John Yeo of Hatherleigh , was born in 1499 and married Anne Honeychurch , by whom he had with other issue three sons, Robert Yeo, of Hatherleigh, William Yeo , and Leonard Yeo , of North Petherwin . John and Ann acquired properties in Hatherleigh , namely Littlewood, Kerswell & Reed .

It was the time of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monastries, when he took the lands from the church to finance his wars and exploration. The tenancy of the lands were then sold to bring in revenue.

On the 31 st July, 1536 there was a bargain & sale by Richard Rede of Hatherleigh, son and Heir of Thomas Rede deceased, to John Yeo of Hatherleigh, gentleman, of all his messuages, lands etc., in Hatherleigh and Sheepwash, by Thomas Yeo , gentleman and Edmund Stowell , attorneys. Thomas Yeo was the son of Edmond Yeo , John 's uncle and on the 15 th August, the same year there was regrant by John Yeo to Richard Rede and Elizabeth his wife of the above property to hold to them and the heirs of their bodies by rendering yearly a grain of wheat, if demanded, with reversion to John , who may re-enter should they dispose of the premises, William Whyte and Hugh Huchen appointed attorneys.

In 1551 a grant by the King to Edward Fynes , Lord Clinton of a farm called Bremridge wood lately held by John Yeo for 20s by lease from Tavistock Abbey and a farm called Littlewoode and Remden with a rent of 38s 8d. In 1587, just before he died, trouble brewed over the Reed estates. John sued for a writ of subpoena against William Hooper of Hatherleigh, who about six years past forcibly expelled him from a parcel of land in Hatherleigh, being part of lands and Tenements which he had bought from John Reade of Hatherleigh, by indenture of 1 st December, 1579 and William Hooper answers that John Hooper, his father was seised of the parcel of land in question, and not the said John Reade and a commission dated 10 th February, 1587 was formed to examine the defendant.

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Robert (1545) and Mary Giffard

Robert Yeo the eldest son, born 1545 married Mary Giffard , who was the granddaughter of Sir Roger Giffard of Tiverton Castle and Margaret Cobley , by whom he had a son, John Yeo , born 1572. Robert died young, in 1582 and is buried in Hatherleigh Church, where the inscription on the floor reads, "Here Lyeth Robart Yeo, The son of John Yeo, 1582" After his death his widow, Mary remarried Lewis Pollard .

John and Ann nee Honeychurch's second son Leonard acquired numerous estates in the North Petherwin area through his marriage to Gertrude Stapledon , the wealthy widow of Baldwin Acland , and these estates were the subject of many chancery causes, when Leonard appointed his nephew John Yeo of Hatherleigh , as trustee to prevent Leonard 's son Edmond from inheriting the properties. Edmond had married, against his father's will, Elizabeth Killigrew and they were living well beyond their means, and Leonard didn't want his money to be used to settle the debts.

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John (1572) and Rebecca Rolle

John Yeo b. 1572, married his distant cousin, Rebecca Rolle the youngest daughter of Henry Rolle , of Heanton Sachville and Margaret Yeo , by whom he had six daughters and eight sons.

      • John Yeo born 1600 in Hatherleigh and married Ann Harding
      • Jacquet Yeo born 1602 in Hatherleigh and married Rev. Thomas Finney , rector of Exbourne, Devon
      • Frances Yeo born 1603 in Ashwater and died in 1623 in Hatherleigh
      • Margaret Yeo brn 1605 in Ashwater
      • William Yeo born 1608 in Ashwater and married Sara Heathman and Elizabeth Griffin , rector of East Buckland, Devon
      • Leonard Yeo born 1610 in Ashwater and died in Elizabeth City, Virginia, USA
      • Samuel Yeo born 1612 in Ashwater, Devon and died in Virginia, USA
      • Robert Yeo born 1617 in Hatherleigh and died a week later
      • Bartholomew Yeo born 1617, twin to Robert, who was ejected from Merton as a non-conformist.
      • Susan Yeo born in 1619
      • Robert Yeo born c. 1621 died 1656 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, USA
      • Mary Yeo born in 1627 in Hatherleigh and married the Reverencd John Cary
      • Rebecca Yeo born 1625 in Hatherleigh

The trouble over the Reed property continued and in 1603, John appeals to the Lord Chancellor of England, unsuccessfully to win them back. He pleads that John Reede granted and sold his grandfather and his heirs the property and it was conveyed by deed to William Yeo, the second son of the said John Yeo, grandfather. John then pleads that he purchased it from William and did quietly live there until late, until one Wilmote Reed, wife of the said John Reede and her sons entered the premises and disturbed the peace and lawful possession of the property, maintaining that John Reede, long before the purchase by John Yeo, senior, made some of the estate to her and her sons. Wilmote seems to have won the case temporarily, as the next five children born to John and Rebecca were baptised in Ashwater and he didn't return to Hatherleigh until around 1617 when his next children were baptised and at these baptisms he was recorded as being of Reede.

Rebecca's family were staunch Parliamentarians and this must have caused a considerable rift in her family, as the Yeo family were equally staunch royalists . Rebecca is mentioned in her brother, William 's will dated 1651 as his loving sister, Rebecca Yeo and he left her a tankard pf silver of £4 price. He also left her the £30 she owed him and £4 to her son John Yeo which he owed to William.


Their first son and heir, John married Ann Harding , the daughter of Henry Harding of Long Bridy in Dorset and in Hatherleigh Church there is a once handsome monument to them both, with coats of arms surrounding the inscription. Unfortunately, it is now virtually impossible to decipher the arms, but in a handwritten book, written by a Mr Short in the 1800's, (a shopkeeper in Hatherleigh), are sketches of the arms which include Yeo/Honeychurch, Yeo/Gifford, Yeo/Harding. Yeo/Rolle and Harding/?. Ann's sister, Elizabeth married Hugh Prust of Gorven in Hartland.

John and Ann had one surviving son, Samuel born 1635 in Hatherleigh and they lived at Fishleigh in Hatherleigh. Samuel had four children, Samuel , John , Bartholomew and Rebecca and the Hatherleigh lands of Kerswell and lands in Virginia, USA were divided between them and eventually Rebecca was willed them all and married Samuel Selden of Meeth and moved to America.

She is mentioned in the will of her father as Rebecca Yeo , a minor in 1670, and in the will of her brother Bartholomew, 1689, as Rebecca Selden, and he left her his share in Kerswell. as executrix in that of her husband in 1720. Samuel, in his will, mentions property that Leonard Yeo sometime occupied.

Her will was dated 23 April 1736 and she was then of Elizabeth City, Virginia. In her will she mentions daughter Elizabeth , grandson Samuel Milner , Cary Selden , Samuel, Miles , Richard and Joseph Selden , granddaughter Eliza Selden ; cousin George Yeo , and son John , also money owed her by Mr Fortescue . The Seldon family continued to prosper in Virginia and there are records on the family in the American Genealogical-Biographical Index of the first American settlers.

John & Rebecca 's sons Leonard and Robert also settled in Virgina. Colonel Leonard Yeo settled in Elizabeth City and was prominent in county affairs and was a Burgess. He died in 1670 and his only daughter and heir, Rebecca married a Colonel Charles Morrison . The Virginia lands seem to have been jointly owned by both the Yeo and Seldon families as years after both Rebeccas had died members of the Selden family had a suit against Leonard Yeo in regard to Virginia lands inherited from the Morrisons.

Robert patented 650 acres on September 6th, 1654 and on October 11, 1646 Leonard Yeo of Elizabeth City County, brother and administrator of Robert Yeo , assigned the 650 acres to John Hallowes, by his attorney Nicholas Lansden. Robert having died without a will or issue sometime in 1656. Leonard made an assignment of this patent, as follows

'I do assign all right, title and interest of this within mentioned patent unto John Hallowes by virtue of letters of administration on my brother Robt. Yeo and his estate & do warrant this sale & title against all persons whatsoever.' (signed) Leonard Yeo, Teste WM. Wilkerson, Richard Browne. ("Historical Atlas of Westmoreland County, Virginia" by David Eaton, 1942)

Rebecca is mentioned in her brother, William 's will dated 1651 as his loving sister, Rebecca Yeo and he left her a tankard pf silver of £4 price. He also left her the £30 she owed him and £4 to her son John Yeo which he owed to William.

The second son, William Yeo , born 1606 in Hatherleigh, Devon (our ancestor) married Sara Heathman .

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William Yeo (1606) and Sara Heathman of Hatherleigh & East Buckland

William , the second son of John Yeo and Rebecca Rolle , was mentioned in his Uncle Valentine Rolle 's will, proved 1646. Like many second sons, his career was to be the church and he was sent off to Oxford University to study theology. His name appears in the Alumi Oxonienses 1500-1714 (Oxford University)


William Yeo son of John Yeo of Hatherleigh, Devon, pleb, Magdelen Hall, matric.12 December, 1628 age 20 ,B.A. 4 May. 1631, M.A. New Inn Hall 29 April 1634 and was Rector of East Buckland, Devon, brother of Bartholomew.

The rector was responsible for the supervision of his community, both spiritually and as chairman of the parish vestry. He was also responsible for the registration of baptisms, marriages and burials, as well as other areas of church life. The benefice was the living attached to a particular parish and usually included the vicarage or rectory and the land belonging to it (glebe land) as well as tithes (a proportion of produce or money paid by each parishioner towards the support of the incumbent or to another owner).

William married Sara Heathman and had three sons, John , Thomas and William and all were sent to Oxford University when old enough. John , the eldest, became vicar of Weare Giffard, Thomas was vicar of Swimbridge and William became vicar of Merton, when his Uncle Bartholomew was ejected from Merton rectory, on St Bartholomew's Day 1662 for preaching non conformist. Bartholomew then preached the gospel, (of course as a Non conformist) in the next parish to which, and in a kinsman's house, he resigned his soul to God in February 1693. This was doubtless at Dunsland Court, in Jacobstowe, the home of Thomas Lethbridge , whose son John Lethbridge was at this time rector of Jacobstowe, and married to the granddaughter of Bartholomew 's sister Jacquet Yeo . Dunsland nearly adjoins Deckport, and here Bartholomew Yeo was living within an easy walk of numerous friends and relations.

William married a second time, an Elizabeth Griffin and had two more sons, Samuel & Leonard . Unfortunately his will did not survive, but most of the money seems to have gone to the eldest son John , who was the vicar of Weare Giffard, and then to his children, who when dying at a young age appear to have been coerced into leaving it to their Uncle Ley and his family. However, John's wife was Mary Ley and it was an arranged marriage, as in her father. Alexander 's will, (dated 1668) who was then a clerk of Monkleigh, he leaves to his daughter, Mary Yeo, a bible with blue straps, and the portion of £200 (agreed on before her marriage) to be paid by his executors, according to articles of agreement between him and his son-in-law, John Yeo.


John's will

He left to the poor of Weare Gifford 20s. To his son John, his books and notes with his red presce and desk in which he was wont to keep them, also his small guns or burdinge peeces, also his mother's wedding ring and his clock and clothes. He was to have the profits of his fields of Westhayes and Blanchets Peece for four years if his estate so long continued and his son to remain a student at Oxford , and the said term to commence at his first going to Oxford . To his daughter, Rebecca , one mourning ring which he wore and all his last wife's clothing etc. To his exors in trust 13s 4d each for a small mourning ring. To his son Nicholas , the estate he had in Guttscott , ( Guscott in Huntshaw ) also furniture, but his daughter Rebecca to take profits except growing corn, for his maintenance until he is of lawful years to choose a guardian. ( Nicholas died before his father) If his said son died under age, then the above bequests were to remain to his children, John and Rebecca , to whom he also left his fields called West Hayes and Blanchets Peece after the expiration of the years aforementioned. To Arthur Gillings 20s To Francis Taunton 5s Should all his children die in their minority, (which they did), then all his goods and chattels were to go to Samuel and Leonard , sons of his honoured father, deceased, and to all the children of his brother Thomas Yeo , to be divided. Residue was to go to his brothers William and Thomas Yeo , brother in law,

Witnessed by Alexander Ley , clerk, cousin Nicholas Luttrell esq, whom he made exors in trust for the use of his children, John and Rebecca Yeo . Inventory Total £500.18s4d

Rebecca , John's daughter died first in October, 1690 at the age of 23 and John just four months later aged 22 years.. John matriculated from Oxford University (Exeter College) on the 18th March, 1686 and gained a B.A. from the same in1689. John was buried on the 30th March 1690/1. His will was written on the 10th March, 1690/1 and was dictated to Thomas Braddon .The original is a mixture of 1st and 3rd person, altered in most cases to make it read in the 3rd person.

John, junior's will

He was then of Monkleigh, gent, weak in body.

Said John Yeo doth give and bequeath to his uncle, Mr Alexander Ley of Monkleigh his little steele gun and all his books. And he bequeaths to his Aunt Ley of Monkleigh, a large mourning ring and to their five children 20s each, and he doth bequeath to Mrs Mary Luttrell , wife of Nicholas Luttrell of Hartland Abbey, esq, one broad piece of gould, and to his sister, my cosen, Mrs Eliza Luttrell of Hartland £10 to be paid within one year after his death. He doth give to his aunt Eliza Braddon of Monkleigh, a mourning ring and her daughter Mary Ley to have him after her decease.Residue of his goods he doth give to his loving sister, Mrs Rebekah Yeo , whom he doth appoint whole and sole executrix.

Rebecca's will

She was then of Monkleigh, gent., weak in body Date of her will was 30th November, 1688

To my uncle Mr Alexander Ley of Monkleigh and to my Aunt, Mrs Mary Ley , my two broad pieces of gould makt with the letters J.Y. To my uncle Mr Thomas Yeo , one small mourning gould ring, to my kinsman, William Ley , my mother's wedding gould ring. To my cosen Thomas Ley , a guinea in gold and to my cousin John Ley £20 to be paid by my executor within three months after my decease and one gold ring with 3 stones in him and 2 silver spoons with my name on them and my bible with my name in him and one feather bed and bolster, provided that if said John Ley happen to die before he is 21, all which I have given him shall be equally divided between my cosens William Ley, Thomas Ley , Mary Ley and Elizabeth Ley , sons and daughters of my uncle Mr Alexander Ley . To my kinswoman, Mary Ley , daughter of my uncle Thomas Ley , my fowered stuffe found and petticoate and my blue farranden petticoate with a gold and silver lace and my side saddle and pink coloured saddle cloth wrought with yellow. To Hannah Wadland my black plush mantel. To my cousen Elizabeth Ley my amber necklace. To Arthur Gillings and to his two children 5s each. Residue of wearing apparell to my cosen Mary Ley , the younger and Elizabeth her sister. My will is that I may be decently buried in the church of Weare Gifford. Residue to my loving brother Mr John Yeo , whom I appoint executor. I desire my uncle Thomas Braddon and my cousin Humphrey Viguers to see my will performed. .

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William Yeo (1639) and Francis Cliffe, Rector of Merton

All Saints Church, Merton, Devon

William Yeo born 1639, became the rector of Merton Church in Devon. He married Frances Cliffe , the daughter of Robert Cliffe , of Merton a gent.

In her father Robert 's will dated 15 February, 1659, leaves his two daughters Frances and Margaret Cliffe £250 each at 22, and £10 a year then a Codicil dated 1663, to his two daughters Frances and Margaret £50 in addition to former portions and £3 a year in addition to £10 above given for their maintenance.

He left his properties, which included Dunsbeare in Merton, to his son, John Cliffe , on condition that he paid his debts and legacies. John inherited Dunsbeare in 1663 and had to find the money for his sister's legacies, so he had to mortgage some of the properties.

In 1674 Frances acted as executrix for her Uncle, Francis Cliffe and in his will he mentions her as married to William Yeo . He was then of Symonds Inn, near Chancery Lane,,London and a gent, although he left money to the poor of Merton in Devon and left her £20.."to the daughter of my brother Clyffe married to one Mr Yoe a minister £20 Codicil : John Cliffe was to have been the executor but before probate was finalised he died so it was granted to Frances. Admon de bonis 1 July 1675 granted to Frances Yeo wife of William Yeo ,and executrix of Francis Cliffe decd.

In her brother John's will, who was then of Merton and a gent, he left numerous bequests, including £150 to his cousin Margaret Warmington , and the residue including Dunsbeare, the family home, was given to Frances, who was also his executrix. Frances was then faced with having to find the money to pay the legacies extremely difficult on a poor country vicar's pay. William died in 1687 and unfortunately his will has been destroyed when Exeter was bombed during the second world war, so we do not know if he had debts.

By 1699, Frances was cited in a chancery case, when she was obviously heavily in debt and her relative Margaret Warmington sold Dunsbeare to James Smyth for £164 to clear the debt owed to her. The result was catastrophic as Frances and her family were then homeless and this appears to be where the family lost its social standing.

Article Number c8/581/77 Public Record Office, London - dated 18th June 1699

Humbly complaying your orator Frances Yeo of Merton Co Devon that John Pollard Esq by his indenture of lease lately executed about the 10 th December 1687 (the year William died) for a valuable Consideration did devise and grant unto your orator certain mess's and tenements and lands with appurts of the yearly value of £100 in Dunsbere within the parish of Merton afsd then in the orators occupation for a term of 99 years if your orator or her two sons Robert and Francis Yeo should so long live and so on (writing poor and hardly legible)

In the answer of James Smyth gent a defendant to the Bill said that Frances Yeo , widow, by deed in 1694 mortgaged the premises for a debt unpaid to her kinswoman one Margaret Warmington of St Mary Week, spinster, in the sum of £164 and that this sum remaining unpaid she the said Margaret Warmington in May 9 th year of the reign William 111 (1698) demised and bargained the premises to the defendant for £164 for the residue of the tennure yet to run etc (poor writing). Also mentions another son of Francis Yeo , William Yeo then under arrest for non-payment of a bond taken out by one Roger Gist for £60, John Gilbert steward of Samuel Rolle esq.

The debts piled up and cattle are sold without permission. So Frances was penniless and there was to be no help from her relatives on either side. The Rolle and the Yeo families had become bitter enemies during the civil war when the Yeo were staunch Royalists and the Rolles Parliamentarians and her own close family had died. Robert Yeo , her eldest son had been sent to Oxford, just before his father died and matriculated as a clerk in 1686 but there was to be no more money to advance his education and he was needed at home to look after his mother.

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Robert Yeo (1668) and Margaret Brown of Merton, Devon

Robert Yeo , son of William and Frances was born in Merton in 1668. He matriculated as a clerk from Oxford in February, 1686.

Yeo, Robert, son of William of Merton, cler, BALLIOL COLL, matric 26 Feb 1685-6 aged 17

Robert married Margaret Brown in Merton, on the 21 st October, 1688, the year after his father died.

As a parish clerk he would have earned very little and subsidised his salary as a schoolteacher and shoemaker. When his mother, Frances became bankrupted he seems to have lost his living as parish clerk as when he was buried in the Merton burial records it was written, by his burial entry, sometime clerk of Merton.

Robert and Margaret had several children and the first son, William remained in Merton and became a shoemaker, most of the descendants of this branch emigrated to Canada in the mid 1800's. Their second son, Robert born in 1692 moved to the parish of South Tawton, just a few miles away and married Johanna Arscott .

Children of Robert Yeo and Margaret Brown who were all baptised in Merton were

      • Susanna Yeo , baptised 09 Jul 1687 .
      • William Yeo , baptised 26 Mar 1691. He married Mary Dunford 10 Jun 1729 in Merton and died there, aged 80
      • Robert Yeo, baptised 16 Mar 1692 . He married (1) Johanna Arscott, (2) Elizabeth Jordain in South Tawton.
      • Francis Yeo , baptised 25 Apr 1695 .
      • John Yeo baptised 20 Mar 1697 in Merton; died 19 Jul 1721. He married Mary Short 12 Feb 1720 in Shebbear.
      • Francis Yeo baptised 29 Jan 1700; died in . He married Lucy Young 21 Dec 1737 in Westminster St Danes, London.
      • Roger Yeo baptised 18 Jan 1703
      • Thomas Yeo baptised 17 Jul 1709


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  © 2003-6 Sheila Yeo | For more information on the Yeo family and the research contained in this site email sheila@yeosociety.com or call me on +44 (0)1626 360978