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Tainton 1524 – 1600s Family Names

by Rowena Bradnam | Families, People

A short history of the Parish of Bishopsteignton including a summary of surnames that appear in official records for Bishopsteignton from the time of Henry VIII. From a copy held by the Bishopsteignton Museum, first compiled in 1978. Transcribed and updated 2014.

A Short History of the Parish

The history of the Bishopsteignton Parish can, in a brief form, be divided conveniently into three time divisions –

First – before the Bishops of Exeter received it,

Second – the 500 years during which they successively owned it,

Third – the centuries after the Bishops delivered possession to King Henry VIII.

PERIOD ONE – From time immemorial to the Bishops.

In early A.D. the area was called Tainton, or Taintonia, meaning, land by the water.

The earliest indication of human habitation is at Castle Dyke and Little Haldon Moor where Neolithic families apparently settled.  Haldon, in a later dialect of Anglo-Saxon derives from Hael = heather and Don = Hill.  A stone tumulus was excavated there in 1780; it was within two concentric circular dykes and was located near the centre itself.  The excavators assumed “the tomb to be of a person of dignity”.  Later Roman coins were found there, and elsewhere in the parish by enthusiasts using metal detectors.

A recent authoritative aerial survey reveals the outline of a very early long house typical of the dwellings made by the Saxons.

In a land transfer deed of 960 between the King and the Canons of Exeter Cathedral part of the boundary crosses Little Haldon.  The deed, in fact divides Bishopsteignton and Teignmouth from Dawlish.  The Haldon part of the boundary is denoted by a series of standing stones across the moor where no path or natural feature existed.  Such lines of standing stones are to be found on Dartmoor but experts are not yet fully agreed as to their uses.  What is certain is that they were man-erected.  A search of gateways around Haldon will reveal such stones being now used as gate posts.

In the Roman Age, trackways existed over both South Devon from Exeter westwards.  One crossed Great Haldon when divided with one track crossing the Teign at Hackney Marsh – a derivative of Hackneield Way – to lead to Paignton.  Another followed the coast via Exminster and Dawlish to pass along the Tainton side of the estuary.  Yet another was used to carry salt – a valuable commodity – from Flow Point where the salterns were, to Little Haldon to join the common track, called the Porte Way, that led to the ports, or authorised market, at Exminster.

After the Romans where recalled to Italy, there were many, many years of Dark Ages when records were few.  This was Celtic Time, when ownership was a matter for the tribe, not for individuals; hence, there were no personal names in landed areas, just descriptive names taken from natural features.

This changed when the Saxons (and later the Danes) came to Devon, or Dumnonia as it was then called.  They were valley farmers and preferred to settle in generations, giving their homesteads the name of the family or clan leader.  Their traces remain around Luton, which name originates from Leverton, or Luneventon, which was the family name of Leoffa – i.e. it was Leoffa’s settlement.  Several other Saxon derived names are found there, including Hayes meaning burial ground.

In those centuries stone as a building material was used only for important churches or fortified strongholds. So the name Ryxstiniel, of which the second syllable, stiniel, means a stone house, gives to the Luton area some significance.  The ‘Ryx’ can mean – by the reeds – or it can refer to Rex, a leader  The whole has contracted to Rixdale, or sometimes Rixtail, and has endured.

The Saxons, and then the Danes, subdued between AD 600 and 1000 large areas of Southern England under a number of ambitious leaders into miniature States until Athelstan consolidated the whole of the South and South West into one Kingdom.  He developed big estates of which he was the Lord in all senses.  Each estate comprised a number of holdings, each under a sub-lord who settled in his own demesne and provided lesser areas to be held in fealty to him.

Thus Athelstan, early in the 11th century, was able to endow 26 of his estates with proper homes for his chosen Benedictine Monks.  This gesture was a thanks-offering to God for his victories in war, of which one was said to have been at Little Haldon Hill, on whose southern slope he installed monks at Radway.

So it came about that when Edward the Confessor became King in 1042 he owned large tracts of Royal land. Land was far more important than money, so Edward endowed, in part, his new Bishopric at Exeter with a large estate that stretched from West Teignmouth through Ideford to Chudleigh.  This was some measure of the importance of Radway/Tainton before the Norman Invasion.

The Bishops of Exeter – Lords of Radway and Tainton

During the 11th and 12th centuries, the prudent Lords of Radway and Tainton placed the demesne lands in the centre of the ‘Estate’, and formed sub-manors around it as a protection.

The Bishop’s demesne would have been run by a steward, while other estates would have a family in residence who held the property in fealty to the Lord, and may have been considered sub-manors.

These sub-manors were Ware, Wood, Lindridge, Luton/Ryxtail, Venn, Combe and West Teignmouth.  The last named grew in importance and was granted full manor status by Bishop Blondy in 1250, about the same time as Lindridge is said to have been granted actual sub-manor status.

When William the Norman had conquered England in 1066 he needed to know the extent to which he could tax his new kingdom.  This was to be the basis of the Doomsday Book in 1086; from this we can see some extent of the Bishop’s Estate.

Doomsday Book described the property here as containing 18 family holdings of which 5 were held in the demesne and 13 in services in which there were about 130 servile men.

The demesne holdings probably were

  • Ashhill
  • Parke
  • Green
  • Cockhaven
  • Shute
  • While the 13 held for services could have been
  • Ware
  • Wood
  • Lindridge or Lentridge
  • Luton or Luneventon
  • Rixdale or Ryxteniel
  • Venn
  • Coombe
  • West Teignmouth
  • Humber
  • Radway
  • Clanage and two others.

Some confirmation of this arrangement is recorded in the lists of Sir John Lear’s debts in 1732 when ‘Free’ tenants are shown as having tenure at very small, inherited rents.  Thus:

Free tenants were shown as:

  • Thomas Balle at Rextell for a rent of 1s 8d.
  • Thomas Narramor at Higher Rextell for a rent of 2s 0d
  • Richard Wilkyns at Higher Rextell for a rent of 4s 10d
  • Thomas Balle at Lower Rextell for a rent of 1s 6d
  • John Pidsley at Holwell for a rent of 12s or 2lbs of wax with 2s
  • Thomas Narramore at Higher Venn for a rent of 1 ½d
  • Thomas Narramore at Lower Venn for a rent of 1 ½d
  • John Pidsley at Ware for a rent of 3s 4d
  • Mary Bulley at 2-acres in West Teignmouth for a rent of 4d

It should be noted that Sir John Lear held Lindridge and Wood in his own hands.

In 1332 a lay subsidiary roll for the year lists 66 people i.e. local taxpayers whose personal property in Tainton and Teignmouth were assessable.  The values range from 8d to 2s, with one at 10s.  Recognisable properties in Taintona are:

  • Vicarage                               (Rector) Kaignes   valued at        8d
  • Combe,                                Gilbert                                                    10d
  • Humber,                              Henry                                                      12d
  • Swynepath,                        Walter                                                     8d
  • Rixthnell,                             Martin                                                    12d
  • Shurracombe (Luton),   Christine                                              12d
  • Humber,                              John                                                         12d
  • Wolysgrove,                       Thomas                                                18d
  • Were,                                   Williams                                                 12d
  • Uppehill (Venn?),            Richard                                                  12d

By this time Bishop Bronescombe had built his ‘Palace’ at Radway, and Bishop  Grandisson was only 16 years from his re-building there.  Desmesne stock had increased at the Radway manor, as shown in the will of Bishop Stapledon, in fact it had doubled since Doomsday.  But prosperity was to be weakened when the Black Death crossed England in 1347 to 50.  Yet Tainton recovered sufficiently to add to the north chancel in the parish church during the closing years of the century.

About this time a change occurred to provide for the locals who were not landholders, that is they were tradesmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters who needed a craftsman freedom to work for any client; in addition, ‘Gods Poor’ found refuge there, the halt, the poor, the blind, the aged and widows.  Such an area was called Towne or Town.  In Tainton, the core of Town was the triangle bounded by modern Clanage, West Street and Forder Lane.

The 16th century was dominated by King Henry VIII and his younger daughter Elizabeth.  The reformation arrived, Bishops were forced to handover properties and churches were ordered to keep lasting records of Baptisms, Weddings and Burials, while rolls were prepared, often on slight occasions, to ensure that taxation was complete and easily collectable.

In the 1550’s arrangements were concluded to transfer – a polite word for handover – certain church properties in Devon to the Crown.  These properties were then sold for the enrichment of the Exchequer which was then the Sovereign’s property.  They went to lay families who had, or could borrow big money with the incentive that honourable duty past to the Monarch earned a substantial reduction in cost.

Bishopsteignton back in Lay Hands

Bishop Veysey executed his deed of renunciation for Radway and Bishopsteignton Manors in 1563 in favour of King Edward.  It had been prepared while King Henry was still alive and it conveyed the whole of the property to Sir Andrew Dudley, Knight.

The succession of ownership of these manors was as follows:

  • Sir Andrew Dudley, Knight
  • Richard Duke Esq.
  • Christina, his daughter, married to Gregory Sprint.
  • Duke Brooke, or Peter Brooke, as heir to Christina’s manors, but not until Gregory died.
  • Charles Brooke
  • Richard, Duke of Otterton,
  • The first Earl of Salisbury, related to the Brooke family through marriage.

The second Earl of Salisbury sold a number of holdings freehold.  This selling started in 1612 and the records of the sales are firm indications of the families who were living in Bishopsteignton at that time.  In 1614, the 2nd Earl of Salisbury sold Lindridge and West Teignmouth to Richard Martyn, whose family lived at Lindridge until 1659 when the last heiress married the 1st Lord Clifford of Chudleigh and took West Teignmouth as her dowry.

In 1617 the manor of Luton was sold to Nicolas Cove of Bishopsteignton by the 2nd Earl of Salisbury and then surrendered to Richard Martyn in 1638.

Here follows an analysis of family names from various records available between 1524 and the end of the 1600s.

Official Records

A Devon Subsidy Rolls – A tax guide                                        1524-27

B Devon Subsidy Rolls                                                                    1543-45

C Church records                                                              from      1559

D Devon Muster Roll – a record of men and armour         1569

E Devon Protestation Return – a list of men who upheld ‘the true Protestant Religion’ 1641

F Devon Hearth Tax – a record of the number of hearths in Parish houses 1674

G Church Records                                                            around 1700s


Alford a b c d e
Avenant   a b c d e g
Babbe  a b c d e g 
Balle c d e f g
Beste b c e g
Bickford a b c d e f g
Comyns a b c d e f g
Cornelius b c e f
Cove c d e f g
Coysh g
Eascott b c e
Eastchurch b c d f g
Eston a b c e f
Ewyne or Even a c d e f g
Geale a b c e f g
Hart b c e
Hellyer a b c d e g
Hewett b c d
Langley a b c e f g 
Lear f g 
Lyall a b c d e g
Mardon, Martin c e
Narramore b c d e f g
Paddon a b c d e f g
Phippen e
Pidsley e g
Pinsent e g
Steer f
Tappley a b c d f g
Tottell b g
Way f g
Whitbourne a b c d e f g
Wylkyn  a b c d e f g

Alternative spellings include; Cornelys, Comminge, Cosh, Eastrott, Easton, Eson, Goale, Hollier, Hewytt, Nowell, Neele, Lyle, Mattervers, Pidgley, Starr, Tapley, Totthill, Waye, Whidbourne, Wilkin, Wilkinge.

In 1600 there were about 115 families in the parish and they represented a population of some 350 adults.

The 2nd Earl of Salisbury sold a fair amount of land, but it still left him with a reasonable estate which he sold with advowsons etc. to Sir William Strode, who in turn bequeathed it to his second son, also William.  In turn this William bequeathed it all to Sir Edward Barkham of Tottenham in 1645.

Thirteen years later, Sir Roger Hill bought the manors just before the end of the Commonwealth and restoration of the monarchy. All these people were absentee landlords, as far as we know, but when Sir Peter Lear bought Lindridge, followed by the remainder of the tenanted land of the parish, then a resident landlord appeared and set a fine example of local interest which took root and flourished for many generations.

The Lear dynasty lasted for three lives during which the records and papers recorded history effectively.  The progress of owners through the 18th century was no different from that of the agricultural communities with first the Comyns family and then, at Lindridge the Templers, while Comyns settled at Wood.  These two families were the largest landowners.

The 19th century brought changes among the non-agricultural population.  The gentry from up-country with ample money to sustain their families, settled in South Devon and needed good houses with servants and tradespeople to satisfy their needs.

As a start, it was farmsteads that were enlarged because here was a reliable water supply that could be guaranteed to be constant.  Then came the ‘filling-in’ arrangements that ensured a solid nucleus of large, medium and small establishments.

John Comyns, vicar here for 50 years, liked the way that Teignmouth developed (West Teignmouth was a chapel of Ease in his cure) and probably needing a little extra cash, worked with the famous architect John Nash – reputed to have lived at Cross while he planned Luscombe Castle and designed houses in Torbay in the early 1800s and a capable local builder and speculator, Thomas Boone, to encourage village expansion.  After Nash came Andrew Patey, who, with Boone, reconstructed the parish church in 1816.

Thus, the years 1798 to 1820 witnessed a change in Bishopsteignton village from a collection of farms to a recognised Village.  From then, the information made available about it increased as directories were printed, censuses held, surveys produced, ever-improving maps became available.


a Devon Subsidy Rolls – A tax guide                                        1524-27

b Devon Subsidy Rolls                                                                    1543-45

c Church records                                                              from      1559

d Devon Muster Roll – a record of men and armour         1569

e Devon Protestation Return – a list of men who upheld ‘the true Protestant Religion’ 1641

f Devon Hearth Tax – a record of the number of hearths in Parish houses 1674

g Church Records                                                            around 1700s