Langford (part 4): Old Sowtontown

In an earlier post, I found links between my 12xg grandfather Roger Langford of Broadwoodwidger in Devon, the ancestor of the Langfords in Antrim in 17th Century Ireland, and five brothers from the Manor of Langisford near Peter Tavy on the western edge of Dartmoor. Two of the brothers, Henry of Thrushelton and Roger of Germansweek, lived in parishes adjacent to Broadwoodwidger, and in addition Roger of Broadwoodwidger was an overseer of the will of the widow of Henry’s eldest son.

Old Sowtontown
The 16th Century farm at Old Sowtontown

I recently gave a concert in Tavistock, only three miles from Peter Tavy. I had the great pleasure of spending the night at the farm of Old Sowtontown where three of the ancient barns have been converted into holiday cottages by my very welcoming hosts Chris and Ruth Boswell. This was fascinating for me, because it is in various records in the Devon Archives and National Archives relating to Old Sowtontown that we can find further evidence to link Roger of Broadwoodwidger with the five brothers.

  • In 1594 (35 Elizabeth) Roger Langisford of Broadwoodwidger gent conveyed by feoffment to Robert Ferris all the Langisford lands in Sowton Town in the tenure of Walter Sawdey for £86 13s 4d. (Devon Archives)

And here are some earlier records where three of the five brothers bought and sold land in Sowtontown, with a Sawdey or Sodye also being mentioned in one of them.

  • In 1533 (24 Henry VIII), Harry Langgysford of Thrushelton, francklin (a freeholder who is not landed gentry) bought some land in Peter Tavy from Stephen Sowton for £17 13s 4d. (Devon Archives)
  • Two years later, Richard Langisford of Langisford in Peter Tavy gent bought Sowtontown itself from Stephen Sowton for £13 6s 8d. (Devon Archives)
  • In 1542 (33 Henry VIII) Henry Langesford paid an additional 46s 8d for additional rights in the land he had purchased. (Devon Archives)
  • At some time between 1538 and 1544 Stephen, son and heir of John Souton brought a case in the Court of Chancery against Richard and Henry Langefford concerning property in Petertavy. (National Archives)
  • In 1544 (35 Henry VIII) Roger Langesford bought the rights in Sowtontown for an unspecified sum. (Devon Archives)
  • At some time between 1551 and 1553 Roger and William Langyfford brought a case in the Court of Chancery against John Sodye concerning lands at Sowton in Petertavy. (National Archives)
  • At some time between 1556 and 1558 Luke Serret brought cases in the Court of Chancery against Harry Langyfford, William, nephew and heir of Richard Langifford, and Stephen and John Sowton concerning land at Sowton in Petertavy. (National Archives)
  • In 1559 (1 Elizabeth) Henry Langisford of Thrushelton, yeoman conveyed by feoffment the land he had acquired in 1533 to William Langisford. A consideration of £20 was paid by Roger Langisford, recently of Germansweek. (Devon Archives)

The Inquisition Post Mortem (required for anyone who held land directly from the crown) and the Court of Wards proceedings (required when the heir was under age) for Richard Langisford, the eldest brother, took place in 1544 and we see from Luke Serret’s suit that his heir was a nephew named William. 

Now I am no expert on mediaeval inheritance law, but I would have thought that if William’s father had been alive at this point, he would have been the heir. So as Roger seems to still be living, by process of elimination I think his father must have been the bad lad, Walter, whose crimes stop appearing in the records after about 1538. From the above records it seems to me that William’s uncle Roger of Germansweek probably dealt with the affairs of the Manor of Langisford during his minority. It makes it very likely that he was the Roger Langisford who had the biggest house in Peter Tavy in the 1545 Subsidy Rolls and got beaten up by Sir Francis Drake’s father in 1548 [described in Sir Francis Drake: The Queen’s Pirate by Kelsey (1998)]

The Langfords of Langford Hill, Marhamchurch

The only subsequent IPM held for a Langford in Devon was for William Langsford in 1561. I believe that this was Richard’s heir and it was this William who moved the senior branch of the family to Cornwall to live at Langford Hill in Marhamchurch (which is only 15 miles or so from Broadwoodwidger.) I don’t know who his mother was, but it is possible she brought William up in Cornwall after Walter’s demise.

Their pedigree is recorded in the Visitation of Cornwall of 1620 and shows that family descending from a William, son of Walter. I think he is the William Langford who married Mary Carnsew, who appears on the pedigree of the family Wills with her second husband Richard Wills. The eldest child from that marriage is given as 1563/4 on page 557 of Vivian’s edition, which seems consistent with Mary being widowed in 1561, and their son Digory Wills mentions “John Langeford my brother William Langefords sonne” in his will. As the Wills family lived in Botus Fleming, it is very likely that the George Langford who died there in 1606 and the Mary Langford who married John Dingell there in 1579 were also children of William and Mary.

Mary’s brother William Carnsew (1534-1588) of Bokelly was an MP whose diary survives along with the correspondence of his three sons (some of which mentions their cousin William Langford). William Carnsew married Honor Fitz of Tavistock, the sister of Grace Fitz Langford Eliott (whose will was overseen by Roger Langford of Broadwoodwidger). So the fact that John, the son of William Langford in the Marhamchurch pedigree, baptised a daughter Honor in 1583 (not named in the pedigree as she died two days later) gives a modicum of support to the theory that he was related to the Carnsews.

The Langford Hill line ended with Humphrey Langford MP who died in 1685 and is buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. (Vivian’s continuation of the pedigree is wrong on p277 of his edition, conflating Humphrey’s father with his son-in-law and consequently omitting two generations.) The coat of arms on Humphrey’s memorial matches that of the Irish Langfords. Humphrey was survived by two daughters. One married a murderer named Wyke Parker (hanged in 1693) and the other married Walter Langford of Bratton Clovelly to keep the name going. That marriage too only produced surviving daughters so the Langford name in Marhamchurch expired for good when Walter died in 1723.

Both editions of the Visitation of Cornwall say that the William son of Walter who founded the Langford Hill line had his IPM at Bodmin in 1551 when his eldest son John was aged 10. This presents a problem to my theory, because William is supposed to have been underage in 1544. But as John’s children were all born in the 1580s, it seems unlikely that he was born as early as 1541. I think that either the IPM has been misdated or the pedigrees have associated it with the wrong people.

Langsford Farm is immediately E of Harford Bridge. Old Sowtontown is just SE of that.

Sowtontown again

Returning to 16th Century Devon it would seem that the lands in Sowton were inherited by another Richard, presumably another son or younger brother of William. Here are the records I’ve found about him.

  • 1582 Thomas Libbe quitclaim to Richard Langford Colaton, Whitchurch (Plymouth and West Devon Record Office)
  • 1597-98 Richard Langforde sells Collaton to Robert Moore of Mooretown (ibid)
  • 1598 Richard Langford of Mooretown, Whitchurch, gent sells Southtowne, Peter Tavy to Hugh Elforde of Tavistock (ibid)
  • 1598-99 Hugh Elforde, Esq sells Southtowne, Peter Tavy to [brother-in-law] Robert Moore, Esq (ibid)
  • 1600 Richard Langforde of Mooretown, gent sells Manor of Longford (sic) to Robert Moore of Tavistock, gent (ibid)
  • 1606 Richard Langsford of Moorstown, Whitchurch, gent sells Donnathorne, Whitchurch to Robert Moore of Tavistock, gent (ibid)

All these places can be seen on the map above. It’s not clear to me whether the Manor of Longford is the original Langisford east of Harford Bridge, or the place named Longford north of Moortown.

Hugh Elford was a lawyer son of Margery Langford, the daughter of Roger of Germansweek. He was educated at Clare College, Cambridge; Exeter College, Oxford and the Middle Temple and the admission records give his birth year as 1561. His brother John was the first husband of Sir Francis Drake’s sister-in-law and his sister Joanna had married Robert Moore. So Richard was some sort of cousin of Hugh and Joanna.

There are no more Inquisitions Post Mortem for Langfords in Devon. I suppose after all the transactions above, Richard no longer held any lands directly from the crown. There is, however, a record of his burial in the Bishop’s Transcripts at Exeter according to the Visitation of Cornwall and a very intriguing entry it is too:

  • 1608 Ric Langford son-in-law of Francis Drake buried Tavistock

This is very surprising because Sir Francis Drake the mariner is not supposed to have had any children despite having two wives! And although there were several more Francis Drakes descended from the great sea captain’s brother, the first of these was born in 1588 so could hardly have had a son-in-law dying in 1608. Is it possible Sir Francis was predeceased by a daughter who had married a Langford?


The records of Old Sowtontown link Roger of Broadwoodwidger to three of the five brothers – Richard, Henry and Roger – and indirectly to Walter too if my inference about Richard’s heir being Walter’s son is correct.

But it’s still hard to pinpoint exactly where he fits in. His connection is with lands in the tenure of Walter Sawdey. The 1551-3 case against a man with a similar name suggests that these are the lands bought by Richard and inherited by his nephew rather than those bought by Henry, but it doesn’t prove whether Roger was a son of Roger of Germansweek or Walter of Whitchurch.

But I’m not giving up. In the next post I will look at the ecclesiastical lands owned by the Langford brothers to see if they can shed any further light on Roger’s parentage.


Author: doublebassy

Double bass player in London

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s