Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The GILES family of Totnes in Devon

[Bowden House, near Totnes. Probably the 1700-04 remodelling, for Nicholas TRIST, of the original John GILES mansion built in 1509. Photograph taken by the author in December 2010.]

A very prosperous family named GILES lived in Devonshire during the 16th century and into the 17th. There are several variants to the surname, being GYLES, GELYS and JELYS, but their descendants had settled on GILES by the mid 17th century.

They were early associated with the ancient Borough and market town of Totnes, where Rev William JELYS alias GELYS, M.A., was appointed Vicar on 7 November 1505; he was succeeded by Rev Christopher CANNON in May 1537, but whether by the death of William is unknown; as also it is unknown whether William was married with lawful issue (virtually impossible under the pre-Reformation order of matters clerical).

Another, one Thomas JELYS, had a wife named Joan, who died on 10 August 8 Henry viii (1517), and whose Inquisition Post Mortem was held 16 December 16 Henry viii (1525) - she left an eldest son and heir named William, then aged 15 years (presumably at the Inq. p.m., and if so, born about 1509).
Thomas and Joan GILES are also recorded, in a POMEROY web-site, as having had a son and heir, John GILES, who was received in wardship by Richard POMEREY -  the date associated with this event was recorded as 26 January 1525 [Letters and Papers, Henry VIII], which indicates that, as he was born after 1504, he could not have been the Mayor of Totnes in 1518 (see below) who did indeed have business dealings with the POMEROY family - and Thomas and Joan could hardly have had two sons and heirs, unless William died young, and his younger brother John, if he had one, succeeded him as heir.


The first substantial merchant of Totnes named GILES for whom we have records was John GILES, who is estimated to have been born in or before 1487, and who heads the several published pedigrees of the family of GILES of Bowden in Totnes.
It is not impossible, perhaps even likely, that he was related to the above-mentioned Thomas GILES, perhaps as a brother, or as a cousin.
The most detailed pedigree I have yet encountered is the one which was published in London in 1895, under the title of "Visitations of the County of Devon, Comprising the Herald's Visitations of 1531, 1564 and 1620, with additions by Lt-Col J.L. VIVIAN."
This states simply:
John GILES, of Bowden, in Com Devon, will dated 24 Jan 1549-50, proved 6 Feb 1552-53, P.C.C. (Tashe 3); married Ellinor, daur and heir of TOWKERMAN, with issue a son Martin GILES, dead in 1550, a son William GILES of Bowden, sole executor of his father's will, and a daughter Joan.

John GILES was a Merchant in Totnes, and did very well for himself; he is noted in several sources as having been the wealthiest man in Devon in his time, and his occupation listed severally as Mercer, and Merchant Stapler; he was Mayor of Totnes, 1517-18; and he was first Member for the Borough of Totnes in the Parliament of 1529.

He is recorded in a number of deeds and transactions found in indexes to holdings of the National Archives in Devon and Kew, as follows:
i. Of Totnes, his suit in Chancery, with John CORBYNE, date range 1504-1515, against John and Peter LEE, concerning detention of deeds relating to land in Cholyton, Abbottes Heathfield and Areton Gifford, Devon [TNA, Kew, C 1/143].
ii. With Eleanor GYLES his wife - defendants in a Chancery suit, date range 1515-1518, brought by Alice DYGON, widow, the daughter and heir of John DYBBE of Totnes, Brewer, and his wife Johane, concerning the detention of deeds relating to land in Ayscherysche in the Lordship of Dartington [TNA, Kew, C 1/402].
iii. With Allen HACKWELL and William FURSDEN - defendants in a Chancery suit, same date range 1515-1518, brought by Jon HARRY and Crystyan his wife, heir of John TOLKE and of Anastasia his wife, concerning detention of deeds relating to tenements in Great Totnes claimed under the will of Walter TOLKE [TNA, Kew, C/1/414].
iv. Of Totnes, Merchant - his suit in Chancery, date range 1538-1544, against John WYLKEY and Thomas JOHNS, Taylors of Tregawney, concerning the price of goods supplied [TNA, Kew, C 1/995].
v. Of Totnes, Merchant - his suit in Chancery, same date range 1538-1544, against William TREWYNNARD, Esq, and William TRETHAKE, Chaplain, concerning the price of corn sold to Martin HAMLYN [TNA, Kew, C 1/995/38-39].
vi. With son William, 1542, acquired by bargain and sale, from Francis KNOLLYS, Esq, the premises of Ashprington Manor, for consideration of £800.
vii. With his son William - acquired from Richard POMEREY, 1543, premises in Magna Totnes, Bowden in Totnes, Tybecombe, and Asprington.
viii. With son William, - their suit in Chancery, date range 1544-51, against Nicholas the grandson and heir of John CARSEWELL, Esq, and William WEBBER his father-in-law, for detention and forgery of Deeds relating to messuages and lands called Bowden.
ix. With William GYLES, Hilary Term, 1548, prosecuting a charge of trespass against William SYNG of Dene Pryor, Husbandman [C.P., 40/1135, 226f].

John died at Totnes, 10 January 1552-53; details of his marriage, to Eleanor TOWKERMAN, are not, as yet, forthcoming; she survived him; and they had issue:
1. Martin GILES; died before 1550.
2. William GILES; surviving heir. See [B] below.
3. Joan GILES; said to have married Richard SAVEREY, but query whether this may have belonged to a later generation?


William GILES was probably born about 1507, as he is said to have been aged 44 when he proved his father's will, 1552-53, although this age detail is more likely to have been noted in an Inquisition Post Mortem for his father, which I have not yet seen.
William carried on his father's trade as a Merchant in Totnes, although it is apparent that his activities had spread beyond the cloth trade; in 1538-44, his cargo of Tin, bound for Bordeaux on the Barque owned by Robert COLYNS, was "...confiscated on the outbreak of war"; and the extent of the wealth they generated, as evinced from their increasing property investments, makes more sense backed up by this sort of wider entrepreneurial activity .
William purchased from the Crown the manor of Dean (Prior) and the Advowson of the Church of Saint George-the-Martyr there; he, or perhaps his son John, erected a fine mansion, surrounded by a large park. He is further mentioned in the Archives:
i. Late of Totnes, Merchant, as defendant in a suit in Chancery, date range 1551-1553, at the suit of Thomas DREWE, concerning the manor of Ashprington [TNA Index, Kew, C 1/1297].

William was buried at Totnes, 16 October 1581 (unless this was instead his younger son); married Joan BLACKALL (daughter of John BLACKALL or BLACKALLER of Great Totnes); issue:
1. John GILES. See [C] below.
2. William GILES, second son; said to have been buried at Totnes, 16 October 1581, but query whether this was instead the father; married (no details yet found) with issue:
    a. Jane GILES, baptised at Dean Prior, 23 December 1563; married at Totnes, 3 May 1591, Ambrose LANGMEAD.
    b. Agnes GILES, baptised at Dean Prior, 30 August 1564, and buried there 31 December 1564, an infant.
    c. Wilmot GILES, baptised at Dean Prior, 30 January 1568-69.
    d. Christopher GILES, baptised at Dean Prior, 23 May 1571.
    e. John GILES; buried at Dean Prior, 28 December 1575, probably a child.
    f. Samuel GILES, baptised at Dean Prior, 10 June 1573.
    g. Joan GILES, baptised at Dean Prior, 12 July 1574, and buried there 19 August 1574, an infant.
    h. John GILES (2), baptised at Dean Prior, 12 January 1576-77, and buried there, 7 September 1580, a child.
    j. Richard GILES, baptised at Dean Prior, 14 July 1581; succeeded his cousin, Sir Edward GILES. See [E] below.
3. Joan GILES; possibly married Nicholas SAVERY of Great Totnes (son of Richard SAVERY of Great Totnes); he died on 24 February 1588-89, aged 62, with issue, inter alia, a son Richard SAVERY, of Willing, Rattery, Devon, who died on 6 September 1618, aged 58.


John GILES, born about the 1530's, carried on his family tradition in Totnes and Bowden; M.P. for Totnes, 1586.

He also leaves a trail in Archival records:
i. On 18 April 1558, his several properties in Totnes are mentioned, as boundary limits to a messuage and garden "...outside the East gate" for the bargain and sale of it to Luke SERRETT of Totnes by a number of John's probable relations, including John BLACKALL the elder, Christopper SAVERY the elder, Richard SAVERY and Richard EVERY.
ii. Of Bowden, Esq - his Covenant for a Conveyance in Trust, dated 1568, to Anthony COPLESTONE of Wake, Gent, concerning the manor and mansion place or house of Bowden, the manors of Ashprington, Dean Prior, and Tibbacombe, the rectory and parsonage, glebe lands and advowson of Dean Prior, the advowson of Ashprington, messuages and lands called Stanncomb Prior or the farm and barton of Stanncomb, messuages and land called Ayshbridge in Harberton and Dartington, and messuages and lands called Ayshbourne in Haberton and Halwell; appointing as Trustees - Edward BLACKALLER of Totnes, Merchant (probably his mother's relation), Nicholas WHYCHALSE of Barnstaple, Merchant, Ames STUCLEY of Mewshatt, Gent (probably his wife's relation), and John COWKE of Broadhempston, Gent; and mentioning his son and; heir Edward GILES, brother William GILES, and wife Agne GILES (she was permitted to cut down an acre of wood in Langham Wood every year for use only in the mansion house of Bowden).
iii. Defendant in Chancery, dated 1589, at the suit of John CROWTE of Wythecombe and Phillipa his wife, and John MERCER of Totnes and Rycharde his wife, concerning closes of land called Weykensparke alias Wyykensparke Tybbecombe alias Tybbecombe and Blawdon [TNA, Devon, 2779 11/1/5].

John was buried at the Church of Saint George the Martyr, Dean Prior, on 30 November 1606; he married Agnes STUKLEY (daughter of Sir Hugh STUCLEY of Affeton by Jane POLLARD); they had issue,
1. Edward GILES, only surviving son and heir. See [D] below.
2. Jane GILES; married Richard STURE or STEARE of Morleigh (son of Philip STURE of Hewish, by the daughter and heir of DARKE); they had issue - Agnes STURE, wife of Wiliam BIDLAKE.
3. Christian GILES; married George YARDE (son of Edward YARDE of Churchston, Esq, by his 1st wife Agnes STRODE); they had issue:
     a. Edward YARDE, who married Elizabeth NORTHCOTE, daughter of Walter NORTHCOTE by Mary DREW (Mary was the wife of Sir Edward GILES).
     b. Giles YARDE (aged 39 in 1620).
     c. George YARDE.
     d. Mary YARDE.
     e. Henry YARDE.
4. Joan GILES; married John LUSCOMB.
5. Agnes GILES; married William WOTTON of Inglebourne (son of Walter WOTTON of Inglebourne, by Silvester GIBBES).
6. Anne GILES; married Phillip LOWMAN of Whitstone, Devon (son of John LOWMAN of Brokeland, by his 1st wife Elizabeth BULSTRODE); they had issue.


Edward GILES, baptised at Totnes, 21 July 1566; admitted Exeter College, Oxon, 1 February 1582-83, aged 17; Middle Temple, 1584; served as a soldier in the Low Countries for Queen Elizabeth; M.P. for Totnes, 1597-98, 1621-28, and M.P. for Devon, 1614; created Knight, 1604, at the Coronation of James VI of Scotland as James I of England; buried at Dean Prior, 28 December 1637, where there is a pictorial memorial, with an epitaph by the poet Robert HERRICK, who enjoyed Sir Edward's patronage:

"No trust to metals nor to marbles, when These have their fate and wear away as men;
Times, titles, trophies may be lost and spent, But virtue rears the eternal monument.
What more can these tombs or tombstones pay? But here's the sunset of a tedious day;
These two asleep: I'll be undress'd. And so to bed: pray wish us good rest."

Edward married at Newton Saint Cyres, Devon, on 28 January 1587-88, Mary NORTHCOTE (a daughter of Edmund DREW of Hayne), the widow of Walter NORTHCOTE (by whom she had issue, including Elizabeth, the wife of Sir Edward's nephew Edward YARDE - see above).
Sir Edward died without issue, whence his estates went to his cousin Richard GILES (son of his father's younger brother William GILES - see next).
His pedigree was published in the Herald's Visitation of Devon, 1620, naming his parents (John GILES of Bowden, and Agnes, daughter of Sir Hugh STEWKLEY of Awfton), and his five sisters (Ann, wife of William WOTTON of Inglebourne; Jane, the wife of Richard STEARE of Marley; Christian, the wife of George YARD of Churston; Agnes, the wife of Phillip LOWMAN of Netherton; and Johanna, the wife of John LUSCOMB of Luscomb).


Richard GILES was baptised at Dean Prior, 14 July 1581; he was assigned a Lease, dated 1634, to Peter CAREW of Duvale, Esq, for 21 years, for land in the Manor of Totnes (Little Totnes), for £100; of Totnes, Protestation Return, 1641-42; made a Deed of Feeoffment, dated 1648, concerning the capital messuage of Bowden and the manors of Ashprington, Bowden and Tybbycombe, naming his wife Dorothy, and sons John (his heir), Edward and Peter [TNA Index, Devon, 2779 M/1/12]; buried at Totnes, 6 November 1648; his will, dated 20 June 1648 with a codicil dated 25 October 1648, was proved P.C.C., 15 July 1652, naming his "...beloved wife Dorothie" sons John, Peter and Edward, and daughters Agnes STAPLEHILL and Dorothy GILES.
Richard was married, by Settlements dated 1623, at Bickleigh, on 4 May 1623, to Dorothy CAREW (daughter of Peter CAREW of Bickleigh by Elizabeth CHUDLEIGH - he died 1654, making bequests to his GILES grandchildren); Dorothy was buried at Totnes, 11 August 1662; they had issue:
1. John GILES, baptised at Bickleigh, 21 March 1623[-24?], eldest son and heir. See [F] below.
2. Peter GILES, baptised at Bickleigh, 16 June 1626; his will dated 29 June 1653, codicil 4 July and; proved P.C.C., 22 July 1653, appointing his mother as sole executrix, naming his cousin Richard ERISLEY of Ware, and witnessed by Mary BLACKLER, the wife of Richard BLACKLER of Warland.
3. Edward GILES; of Bowden; named in his brother Peter's will, June 1653, and in his grandfather Peter CAREW's will, September 1654; his own will dated 6 April 1669, proved P.C.C., 31 May 1669, naming his wife Mary GILES, who proved the will as Mrs Mary BURTHOGGE; they had issue - a daughter Mary GILES, named in deeds in 1674 and 1683.
4. Agnes GILES; married John STAPLEHILL, Merchant in Dartmouth; issue - a daughter Margaret STAPLEHILL (in 1668-69, the wife of John WOLSTON of Blackler, Staverton), who was named in a Deed of Recognition, 1668-69, having received £400 due out of her mother's share of monies raised by her uncle Edward GILES to pay his debts by conveyancing divers lands [TNA, Devon, 2779 M/1.21].
5. Dorothy GILES, baptised at Totnes, 25 October 1638; bequests in the wills of her father (1648), brother Peter (1653), and grandfather Peter CAREW (1654) .


John GILES; admitted into Exeter College, Oxon, April 1641, aged 17; sole executor of his father's will, 1648; of Bowden, Esq; his bill in Chancery, dated 2 May 1657, concerning his marriage to Frances TREMAYNE, of the Parish of Tamerton, Spinster, claiming that he had been tricked into the marriage, and citing an alehouse or other mean and obscure house not far distant from Richard ARUNDEL's house at Marstoe, Tamerton Parish [TNA Index, Cornwall, T/1479].
John is said to have died in 1676, with his heiress being then the wife of Sir Richard GIPPS [see "Magna Britannia," Volume 6, by Samuel LYSONS, 1822]. This, if correct, indicates that he had no surviving sons, although there is no guarantee that the heiress was his daughter.

Arthur Henry GILES, in his "Aegidiana, or Gleanings Among GILESes  At Hme and Abroad, By One of them" (Private Printing, 1910), records the above families. See:


In April 1884, Mrs Mary Eliza GODFREY, of Prince's Park, Liverpool, a widow aged 84, wrote the following reminiscence:
"My paternal grandfather died many years before my birth. He held an estate in Totnes, Devon, leaving his estate to his eldest son, my father's eldest brother. Their mother, therefore, with her young family, left Totnes and took them to Horrabridge where her own family resided."
[From the notes of Mary Eliza GODFREY, courtesy of her great-grand-daughter Mrs S. CLARKE of Sutton Coldfield.]

Mary Eliza was born a GILES, the eldest daughter of my own ancestor, Rev William GILES (1771-1846), by his wife Elizabeth PIKE of Tavistock (see his more recent blog on this blog-page); so her paternal grandfather was John GILES (born ca 1730).

This claim of a landed connection does suggest her ancestors may have derived from the Bowden Branch of the GILES family. But I have been unable to find any corroboration or documentary evidence of this assertion, and therefore of the connection.

I originally discussed this at some length, but have now published a new post, specifically relating to the GILES family of Buckland Monachorum, Horrabridge and Tavistock, which I believe are the ancestors of above-mentioned Rev William GILES.

This may be seen at this link:


George GILES, of Jump, was buried at Bickleigh on 22 March 1859, aged 74 years. His memory was commemorated in a tablet, erected on the south wall of the Bickleigh church by Sir Massey LOPES, Baronet, and M.P., "... as a token of his regard and respect for one who for upwards of half a century and during three generations of his family faithfully and honestly discharged the duties of Steward on the Maristowe estate."
Unfortunately, this plaque recorded his age, incorrectly, as 94 years - unless the error was in the transcriptions made later (and included by A.H. GILES in his Aegidiana).

This George appears to have been born in Walkhampton, Devon, in December 1784, a son of John GILES, of Walkhampton, Carpenter, by his wife Sue; George was Agent to the LOPES family estate at Maristow, and of their other estate at Buckland Abbey, as well as being a clerk to the Commissioners of Taxation, and a Conveyancer.
But the service of three generations of his family does not appear to be verifiable either, or at least not yet - perhaps his father did some work as a Carpenter for the LOPES family? Or I have the wrong family? Or perhaps George served three generations of the LOPES family, which does make sense, as George is associated with Sir Ralph LOPES as well as Sir Sir Manassah LOPES (perhaps the same as Sir Massey?).

John GILES, the Carpenter of Walkhampton, was married there on 14 July 1774, to Sue GILES, also of the parish (one of the witnesses was Elias GILES); they had issue:
1. Susannah GILES, baptised at Walkhampton, 5 August 1775.
2. Ann GILES, baptised at Meavy, Devon, 2 November 1777, "...daughter of John GILES of Walkhampton, by trade a carpenter, and Sue his wife"; she was with her brother George in 1841, aged 60; and again in 1851, aged 73, Unmarried, born Walkhampton.
3. Elias GILES, baptised at Walkhampton, 15 December 1779.
4. John GILES, baptised at Walkhampton, 28 April 1782.
5. George GILES, baptised at Walkhampton, 12 December 1784; at House in Jump, parish of Bickleigh, 1841 Census, aged 55, Conveyancer, born Devon, with two sisters and a probable niece; at Village of Jump, Bickleigh, 1851 Census, aged 66, Land Agent and Conveyancer, born Walkhampton, with his two sisters; as recorded above, he died in 1859.
6. Abraham GILES, baptised at Walkhampton, 10 April 1787.
7. Jenny GILES, baptised at Walkhampton, 1 March 1789; probably Jane, aged 56, with her brother George in 1841; and again in 1851, Unmarried, aged 62, born Walkhampton.


There is another GILES family, whose ancestor emigrated to America, settled early in Massachusetts, and was resident in Salem from about 1633. Some of his descendants now believe that a connection exists between the emigrant Edward GILES and the family of Bowden, in Totnes.
A scholarly publication, "The GILES Memorial: Genealogical Memoirs, etc," by John Adams VINTON, was published in Boston in 1864 - VINTON looked into the possiblity, and could only conclude that the likelihood was based not on a proven connection, but that an imported Coat-of-Arms associated with the emigrant was identical to the Bowden Arms, which in itself did not establish the proof of a connection.

So it appears that there are at least two families who believe it possible that their ancestral connections point back to the GILES family of Bowden in Totnes.
But it is clear, to my mind at least, and being a "not disinterested" member of one of those families, that it can only remain that - a possibility - until documentary proof is established.
And that any connection is likely to pre-date John GYLES, Mayor of Tavistock in 1518, and so take us well into the era preceding Parish Register records (earlier Registers for Saint Mary's in Totnes, now housed at the Devon Records Office in Exeter, commence in 1556 for Marriages and Burials, and 1560 for Baptisms).


Daniel Hirsch said...

Thanks for your great information. We all appreciate your
information. Keep posting these kind of nice blogs.
Conveyancing Sydney

A. LaFrance said...

You are probably correct in that the older "son and heir,' William Giles died prior to 1525, making his under-age brother, John, the heir apparent.

The record is from Letters & Papers of Henry VIII:
January, 1525:

26. Ric. Pomeroye. Wardship and marriage of John, s. and h. of Thos. Giles and Joan his wife. Del. Westm., 26 Jan. 16 Hen. VIII.—S. B. Pat. p. 1, m. 24.

Powley, page 102, suggests that this is the Richard Pomeroy who was at Sandridge, 1523.

annieP said...

re that record -
26th Jan 1425 Richard Pomeroye. Wardship and marriage of John Giles, s. and h. of Thos. Giles and Joan his wife. Del. Westm., 26 Jan. 16 Hen. VIII.—S. B. Pat. p. 1, m. 24.
Richard Pomeroy who died 1496 had a daughter Blanche mentioned in his will but her husband is un named as is her son

...PROBATE: Will written 24 Aug, proved 20 Oct 1496. (P.C.C. [Horne 1]).
Besides various bequests of money to churches, his daughter Elizabeth,( who married Barnhouse) and servants, and jewels to his wife and sons,
his daughter Blanche was to have custody of her son by her deceased husband, and a farm he had received from his sister Agnes/Anne Budockshide/Stukely/Maleverer was to go to Sir William Nicholl.
Elizabeth his wife was appointed sole executor, Sir John Sapcotes and John Kirkham to act as overseers, the former on 10 Feb 1497, being made guardian of the estate of Edward, eldest son and heir, then aged 18.

Chris PIGOTT said...

Annie P.
I do not understand.
The year xvi (16) Hen VIII is, to the best of my knowledge, 1525.
Was this a record that was somehow "formalised" 100 years later?
And if the year was 1525, how did the Richard POMEROY who died in 1496 fit into the picture?
Chris PIGOTT, Potts Point, N.S.W.

annieP said...

Yes sorry Alma just pointed out that the dates were all wrong..