General history: Principal landholders

Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1814.

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Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons, 'General history: Principal landholders', Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall, (London, 1814), pp. lxiv-lxxii. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons. "General history: Principal landholders", in Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall, (London, 1814) lxiv-lxxii. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

Lysons, Daniel. Lysons, Samuel. "General history: Principal landholders", Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall, (London, 1814). lxiv-lxxii. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

Principal Landholders at various Periods.

It was some time after the Domesday survey, that the Prior and convent of Launceston, and the Prior and convent of Tywardreth, became possessed of considerable landed property, which, after the dissolution of religious houses, was annexed to the duchy of Cornwall. The earliest record, after the Domesday survey, which furnishes us with any account of the principal landholders of this county, is the Liber Niger Scaccarii, a record in the Exchequer, drawn up in 1165. At this time, Ralph de Valletort, grandson, it is probable, of Reginald, held fifty-nine knights-fees in Devonshire and Cornwall; Robert Fitzwilliam (the descendant of the Fitzrichards, and of Ricardus, whose name appears in the Domesday survey,) held fifty-one knights-fees, besides twenty others of the fee of Walter Hay. Richard de Lucie, justiciar, and some time regent of England, who is said to have built Truro Castle, held ten knights-fees of the old enfeoffment, and nine of the fee of Adam de Malherb; William de Boterell or Bottreaux, twelve fees; Geffrey, son of Gralan, seven; Baldwin, ten; Erkenbald Fitz-S— (a descendant, probably, of the Erchenbald of the Domesday survey), eight; Richard Fitz-William, five; William, the Earl's brother (fn. n2), and Roger de Mandeville (fn. n3), four each; Henry de Pomeroy, Hoel, and Jordan, three each; Ralph de Borchard, and Ralph de Tremoderet, two each; Richard FitzAlured, William de Dun, Richard Fitzosul, and Eiulph, one each.

Towards the close of the twelfth century, about five and thirty years later than the Liber Niger (fn. n4), there are two scutage-rolls in the Exchequer, which give us the principal land-holders of that period, and so fluctuating was then the state of property, that although they must have been within two or three years of each other (fn. n5), yet they exhibit a considerable change. Robert de Cardinan, by far the greatest land-holder, is, in both of these, stated to hold seventy-one knights-fees. These appear to have been the same which were held by Robert Fitz-William, in 1665; and it is evident from this, and other circumstances, that he married the heiress of Fitz-William. In the Liber Niger, Fitz-William is said to hold twenty of his knightsfees under Walter Hay. In one of the scutage-rolls before-mentioned, Walter Hay is said to hold forty knights-fees, in right of Agnes his wife. We have not been able to find any thing further relating to this great land-holder, or who his wife Agnes was. Reginald de Valletort, in one of these rolls, is stated to hold fifty-nine fees, in the other only fifty-one. Half of the fees which had belonged to Richard de Lucie are said to have been held, 8 Richard I., by Geffrey de Lacell (fn. n6). Robert Lord Fitz-Walter (who was not many years after, generalissimo of the barons army, at the celebrated convention of Runnemede), is stated, in one of the rolls, to have been possessed of eleven knights-fees, which had belonged to his uncle Richard de Lusti (Lucy). This Robert, in 1198, succeeded his father, Walter Fitz-Robert, who had married Maud (fn. n7), one of the daughters and coheirs of the Justiciary. Nine other knights-fees are said, in the same roll, to have been held by Robert Peverell, as trustee, probably, for Rohesia de Lucy (fn. n8), the other coheiress. Robert Fitz-Walter's lands, in Cornwall, were seized by King John, and given to the custody of his own son Henry, and were perhaps never restored, as we find no mention of his posterity possessing lands in Cornwall. Rohesia afterwards granted all her lands, in Cornwall, to William de Briwere (fn. n9). In one of the rolls, Nicholas FitzGeoffrey is said to have held ten knights-fees, being, no doubt, son of Geoffrey Fitz-Baldwin, who held the same number in 1165; and it seems to have been the same property which, according to the other roll, was held by Thomas de Middleton de honore de Middleton. These fees were granted by King John, in 1203, to William Briwere above-mentioned. This property, of course, we trace no farther. William de Botterell, or Bottreaux, continued to hold twelve knights-fees in the reign of Richard I., as his ancestor had done in that of Henry II.; and this property continued in the family till the reign of Edward IV., after which it passed, by successive female heirs, to Hungerford and Hastings, and was sold to various persons by the Earls of Huntingdon. Robert de Tintagel and William de Albemarle are stated, in one of the rolls, to hold five knights-fees each. The latter possessed his estate in right of his wife, the relict of Robert de Bikehat. These names do not occur in the other record, but, in their stead, appear those of William Fitz-Richard and Gervase Fitz-William, holding the same number. Ralph Bloyon (Bloyowe), and Archenaund Flandrensis (Fleming), according to one of the rolls, held seven knights-fees each. In the other roll, these fees are stated to be held by Alan Blund (Bloyon or Bloyowe), and Stephen Flandrensis. The Flemings had their chief seat in Devonshire, and large property in Ireland, where they were, at an early period, barons of Slane. They continued to possess property in Cornwall as late as the sixteenth century, and are supposed to have given name to the parish of Botesfleming. The possessions of the Bloyowes, whose seat was at Polrode, in St. Tudy, passed, by female heirs, to the families of Tinten, Carminow and Courtenay. William Earl Reginald's brother, when the entry respecting him on one of these rolls was made, continued to hold the four knights-fees which he held in 1165; and we are of opinion, that this circumstance will determine the priority of the two rolls, if Henricus Fil-Willielmi of the other roll, holding the same number of knights-fees, should be supposed to be, as is very probable, the son and heir of this William, whose name does not appear in the other roll (fn. n10). It is not unlikely that he was ancestor of the Fitz-William family, whose heiress married Mohun. Ralph de Rupe, who held three knights-fees in the reign of Richard I., was ancestor of Odo de la Roche, whose name appears in the record of Edward III., hereafter mentioned. In one of the rolls, Richard Wallensis and William de Bosco Roardi held two knights-fees each. Among those who held one knights-fee each were Henry Fitz-Count, afterwards, for a time, Earl of Cornwall: Simon Pincerna, the heiress of whose family married Arundell; and in one of the rolls (which we believe to be that of prior date), Alan, and in the other Walter de Dunstanville. Alan's daughter brought an estate in Cornwall, as a marriage-portion, to the Bassets, whose landed property, in this county, appears to have been considerably larger than the Dunstanvilles had been, before the 17th year of Edward II., when they were returned in the first class of land-holders. In what we suppose to be the latter roll, we find, for the first time, the name of Henry de Pomeroy. The number of knights-fees which he held is not specified. In the 40th of Henry III., this family was returned among the first class of land-holders, and they continued to possess considerable landed property in Cornwall for several generations, their chief seat being at Tregony.

The next record which furnishes us with an account of the principal Cornish land-holders, is one of 40 Henry III. (1255.) It includes all those who were possessed of fifteen librates of land, or more, and held by knight-service. Richard de Grenville, whose family now appear on record for the first time, as possessed of landed property in Cornwall, appears to have been then the largest land-holder, being possessed of fifty librates of land. Thomas de Tracy, in right of his wife, heiress of the Cardinans, had forty librates (fn. n11) and more; the Valletorts, forty; the Pomeroys, thirty; the Carminows, whose property, as well as the family, spread far and wide, both continuing to be esteemed among the first in the county, till the reign of Queen Elizabeth, appear on record here for the first time, being stated to have held sixteen librates of land; the Flamancks, whose name still continues, although most of the landed property has passed to the heiresses of elder branches, held the same quantity. Roger de Mesy, and William Wise, held also sixteen librates each. The Beauchamps still remaining, and possessed of considerable landed property, had fifteen librates; William de Draenas, and Henry de Dones, fifteen each; and Jordan de Hacumbe, fourteen librates. This estate passed, by successive female heirs, to the Archdeknes and Carews.

In the 17th year of Edward II. (1323), we have a list of knights and esquires (the latter somewhat mutilated), all of whom held forty librates of land. Among these, we find, for the first time, the name of Champernon, as a great Cornish land-holder, having by marriage with Joan Plantagenet, a natural daughter of Richard, King of the Romans, acquired large estates (fn. n12), which were dispersed among coheiresses in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; the Blanchminsters (De albo monasterio), whose estates passed successively to the Coleshills and Arundells; the Archdeknes, representatives of the Hacumbes, a part of whose estates passed to the Carews of Anthony; the Bodrugans, whose large possessions were forseited in the reign of Henry VII., and granted to Edgcumbe, Trevanion, and Pawlet; the Dawneys, whose estates passed to the Courtenays; the Ferrers family (fn. n13), whose estates passed to the Vyvyans; the Bassets, before-mentioned, whose estates, considerably augmented by heiresses of later date, are inherited in a direct line by Lord de Dunstanville; the Dinhams, who appear to have acquired, by grant or purchase, a part of the large property of the Cardinans, and whose estates were divided among coheiresses in the reign of Henry VIII.; the Mohuns, whose large estates having been purchased by his Lady's ancestor, are now, in her right, vested in Lord Grenville; the Reskymers, whose estates passed to coheiresses in the sixteenth century; the Prideaux family, whose male-line still continues possessed of considerable property, although the original estate of their ancestors passed, with the heiress of the elder branch, to the Herles, about the reign of Richard II.; the family of Serjeaux, or Cereseaux, whose estates were about the same time divided among coheiresses; the Lambourns and the family of Le Sor or Sore of Talverne, the heiresses of which brought their estates to two branches of the Arundells; the Petits, whose estates were divided among coheiresses, in the fifteenth century; the Tintens, whose estates passed, by a female heir, to the Carminows, in the reign of Edward III.; the Beauprés (Bello prato), whose estates passed, through female heirs, to the Trevanions; the De Pyns or Pynes, long since removed into Devonshire; and the families of Bendys and De Peng, of whom we have found no other notice. The sheriff of the county at the time of this record, John de Trejago, was among the first class of landholders (fn. n14); the heiress of this family married Mynors in the reign of Edward IV.

In a record of the year 25 Edward III. (1351), containing the names of all such persons as held twenty librates of land, or more, besides families already mentioned, as Denham, Bottreaux, Champernon, Beaupré, Carminow, Prideaux, Lambourn, Bloyhon or Bloyhow, Pomeroy, Grenville, Archdekne, De la Roche, Petit, Fleming, Serjeaux, and Tinten; we find, also, the name of two Arundells, John, founder of the Lanherne family; and Ralph, son of Oliver, founder of that of Trerice. The former had been some time settled in Cornwall, and had married the heiress of Trembleith, but had then lately acquired considerable estates, by marrying the heiress of Lanherne. By matches with other heiresses, their landed property increased to so large an extent, that they obtained the appellation of the Great Arundells. The greater part of these estates descended to Lord Arundell, of Wardour, as will be hereafter explained more at large. Most of this property has, of late years, been sold. The estates of the Arundells of Trerice, upon the extinction of that family, passed, under a settlement, to the Acklands of Devonshire.

In this record also appear, for the first time, the following names:—Cornwall, descended from a natural son of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and King of the Romans, whose estates passed, by successive female heirs, to Hendower and Tanner, and have since been alienated; Hewis or Hiwis, whose estates passed, by inheritance, to the Coleshills; Peverell, of Park, whose estates were divided between the Bassets and Hungerfords; Cheynduit, whose estates were divided between the families of Trejago and Roscarrock; Beville, whose estates were inherited by the Grenvilles; De Kan (De Cant of Cant, in Minver); the baronial family of Lansladron, whose heiress married Govely and the heiress of Govely Trerice; the Kymyells, whose estates passed to the St. Aubyns; Meules (Moyle of Bake), whose estates are now possessed by their immediate descendant, Sir Joseph Copley, Bart.; Killigarth, whose estates passed, through female heirs, to the Grenvilles; Thurlebere, whose estates were inherited by the Arundells of Trerice; Bret, whose heiress married one of Lord Falmouth's ancestors; St. Winnow, whose estates passed, by successive heiresses, to the Uptons and Lowers, and the families of Fysac, Quoyhyn, Trom, Trewythen, Del Estre, Kellerion, Le Brun, Waunford, and Cole, of whose estates we have not been able to obtain any information.

Among families of later date, who have been considerable land-holders (exclusively of those of the present day), may be mentioned the Tregians, whose large estates were seized by Queen Elizabeth, and granted chiefly to the Hunsdon family, when Francis Tregian was convicted of concealing Cuthbert Mayne, a popish priest. The greater part were purchased of Lady Hunsdon, thirty years afterwards, by Francis Tregian the younger, but were soon afterwards sold either by himself or his brother; Ezekiel Grosse, Esq. became possessed of most of this property by purchase, and it is now, by inheritance from his daughter, vested in the Buller family. The Godolphin family, whose estates have descended to the Duke of Leeds, are not mentioned among the land-holders of the periods before spoken of. The Robartes family acquired their large possessions, now vested in their descendant, the Hon. Mrs. Agar, in the reign of James I. The family of Treise became possessed of large landed property in the last century, which passed, with the heiress of Sir Christopher Treise, to Sir John Morshead's father. A great part of this has been alienated.

Exclusively of the duchy estate (fn. n15), which is still of considerable value, although much diminished by the sale of several manors, under the act for the redemption of the land-tax, the three principal land-holders in the county are Lord de Dunstanville, who, besides what remained of the ancient patrimony of his ancestors, after the losses sustained in consequence of their loyalty in the civil war, inherits large estates from the families of Hele and Pendarves; Lord Eliot, whose valuable estates, comprising two-thirds of the large and fertile parish of St. Germans, were acquired chiefly by an exchange, in 1565, for lands in Devonshire; and Lord Falmouth, whose paternal estates have been from time to time augmented by matches with Cornish heiresses, of the families of Tregothnan, Albalanda, Bret, Tregarrick, Halep, and Carminow.

Among the greater Cornish land-holders of the present day, we may reckon also Earl Mount-Edgcumbe, who possesses the ancient patrimony of his family at Cuteel, and the large forfeited estates of the Bodrugans, and, by inheritance, the Dernfords' estates, the more valuable part of which is on the Devonshire side of the water, comprising the town of Stonehouse, and the Mount-Edgcumbe estate; the Hon. Mrs. Agar, who inherits the large estates of the Robartes family, in point of extent larger, perhaps, than any in Cornwall; Sir William Lemon, Bart., M. P. for the county, whose estates were acquired by purchase, chiefly by his grandfather; the Rev. Sir Carew Vyvyan, who had a large paternal inheritance, enriched from time to time by matches with several Cornish heiresses, as Ferrers, with whom his ancestor got Trelowarren, Trethurse, Robyns, Erisey, &c.; the Right Hon. Reginald Pole Carew, M. P., who inherits the estates of the Carews of Anthony; Lord Grenville, who possesses, in right of his lady, the estates of the Mohuns, purchased by Her Ladyship's ancestor, Governor Pitt; Sir Christopher Hawkins, Bart., whose estates were acquired, partly by purchase, partly by inheritance, from the Tredenhams and Scobells; Sir William Call, Bart., whose estates were chiefly purchased by the late Baronet; Francis Gregor, Esq., of Trewarthenick, whose estates have been acquired, partly by inheritance, and partly by purchase (fn. n16); Francis Glanville, of Catchfrench (purchased in the early part of the last century); William Rashleigh, Esq., M. P., of Menabilly, most of whose estates were purchased by his ancestor, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth or that of James I.; James Buller, Esq., M. P., of Downes, near Crediton, (not resident in the county,) whose estates are inherited from Trethurse (who married a coheiress of Courtenay, Earl of Devon), and Grosse; Sir John St. Aubyn, Bart., whose ancestor first settled in Cornwall by a match with the heiress of Heligan, and whose ancestors have since married the Cornish heiresses or coheiresses of Tremere, Godolphin, Jenkin, Trenowth, and Whittington, (who inherited a portion of the estates of Hiwis and Coleshill); Sir Arscot Ourry Molesworth, Bart., whose estates were acquired chiefly in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, partly by purchase, and partly by a match with the coheiress of Hender, of Bottreaux Castle; Francis Hearle Rodd, Esq., of Trebartha-Hall, whose estates were acquired, partly by bequest, about a century ago, from the heiress of Spoure of Trebartha, and partly by a match with the coheiress of Hearle; John Tillie Coryton, Esq., whose estates are possessed by bequest from the Corytons, whose ancestor married the heiress of Ferrers, of NewtonFerrers; John Rogers, Esq., of Penrose, whose estates have been acquired by purchase from the heirs of Penrose, the Arundell family, &c.; E. J. Glynn, Esq., whose estates are partly the ancient patrimony of his family, and partly acquired by purchase, and the Rev. Henry Hawkins Tremayne, whose ancestor, the descendant of a family which, several generations before, had gone from Cornwall into Devonshire, made considerable purchases in St. Ewe, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, augmented by subsequent purchases, and a match with a coheiress of Hearle.

Sir John St. Aubyn has a most valuable property at Plymouth Dock, and Sir A. O. Molesworth, Bart., J. T. Coryton, Esq., and Mr. Tremayne, have considerable estates in Devonshire.


  • n1. Published by Hearne.
  • n2. Brother of Reginald Fitz-Henry, Earl of Cornwall, and of course one of the illegitimate sons of King Henry I. by the daughter of Robert Corbet.
  • n3. Roger de Mandeville's estate must have been that which belonged to Queen Matilda, and was parcel of the honor of Gloucester.
  • n4. Printed in Carew's Survey, f. 44, b. and 49, b.
  • n5. It is difficult to say which is the earlier of these: one of them, referring to the date of 8 Rich I., could not have been earlier than 1196; the other could not have been before 1198, as in that year Robert Fitz-Walter succeeded his father, Walter Fitz-Robert. (Dugdale.)
  • n6. Probably Geffrey de Lucy, Bishop of Winchester, on whose death (1204) Robert Fitz-Walter, his nephew, had livery of his lands. (Dugdale.) — The spelling of names in these ancient records is very erroneous.
  • n7. She married to her second husband, Richard de Ripariis.
  • n8. The mother of Fulbert de Dover, who married Rohesia de Lucy, was one of the coheiresses of Pain Peverell of Cambridgeshire.
  • n9. Namely, Trewrok, Menely, Trenant, a moiety of Treglasta and Truro with its advowson, and nine knights-fees, which William de Boterell held of the honor of Richard de Lucy. William de Briwere left five sisters coheiresses, but it does not appear what became of his Cornish estates. One of the coheiresses married Reginald Mohun; but we do not find these manors among the possessions of the Mohuns.
  • n10. We think it more likely also, that Walter should be the successor of Alan, than Alan of Walter de Dunstanville.
  • n11. A small part of this seems to have passed to the Traceys, for we find John Tracey holding a small estate in Cornwall, in the 20th of Edward III. It is probable that this was John Tracey, the last heir-male of the Traceys of Wollecombe Tracey. (See Sir William Pole's Collections for Devonshire, p. 512.)
  • n12. In the record of 20 Edw. III., hereafter described, the Champernons are stated to have possessed seven knights-fees and a half in the hundred of Penwith, and about seven in the hundred of Powder.
  • n13. In the record of 20 Edw. III. appear the names of two families of Ferrers; one holding seven knights-fees in the hundred of Lesnewth, the other about six knights-fees in the hundred of East; among which was West-Newton, afterwards called Newton-Ferrers.
  • n14. There is a record of nearly the same date (20 Edw. III. 1346.), printed in Carew's Survey (f. 39—45.), being a feodary made out for the purpose of an aid for knighting the Black Prince; in which, besides those mentioned in the record of 25 Edw. III., occur, as land-holders, the names of Bray of Bray; the baronial family of Tyes, whose estates passed to the Berkeley family; the Rames holding the great fee of Sheviock, which passed successively to the Dernfords and Edgcumbes; the Cobhams, holding four fees; the St. Colans, whose estates passed, by coheiresses, to the families of Blewet and Trefusis; the Bodranes, holding three fees; the Helligans, the Killigrews, the Hamelyns or Hamelys. The date of this record has been mistaken for 3 Hen IV., because the record, in which it is recited, bears that date; but it is clear, on reading the preamble, that 20 Edw. III. is the date of the feodary. Many of the families there mentioned were extinct before 3 Hen. IV.
  • n15. See p. vi. The duchy estate, considered as landed property, (exclusively of the coinage-duties and other profits,) is far from being the largest in the county, as we have seen it represented.
  • n16. Trewarthenick was purchased in 1640.