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 & JELYS, but their descendants had settled on GILES by the mid 17th century.
They were early associated with the ancient Borough & market town of Totnes, where Rev William JELYS alias GELYS, M.A., was appointed Vicar on 7 Nov 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 Aug 8 Henry viii (1517), & whose Inquisition Post Mortem was held 16 Dec 16 Hen viii (1525) - she left an eldest son & heir named William, then aged 15 years (presumably at the Inq.p.m., & if so, b ca 1509).
Thomas & Joan GILES are also recorded, in a POMEROY web-site, as having had a son & heir, John GILES, who was received in wardship by Richard POMEREY - the date associated with this event was recorded as 26 Jan 1525 [Letters & 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 & Joan could hardly have had two sons & heirs, unless William died young, & his younger brother John, if he had one, succeeded him as heir.
[A] JOHN GILES (1) OF TOTNES.
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 & 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 & 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, & 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, & 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 & transactions found in indexes to holdings of the National Archives in Devon & Kew, as follows:
i. Of Totnes, his suit in Chancery, with John CORBYNE, date range 1504-1515, against John & Peter LEE, concerning detention of deeds relating to land in Cholyton, Abbottes Heathfield & 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 & 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 & William FURSDEN - defendants in a Chancery suit, same date range 1515-1518, brought by Jon HARRY & Crystyan his wife, heir of John TOLKE & 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 & 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, & 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 & 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, & Asprington.
viii. With son William, - their suit in Chancery, date range 1544-51, against Nicholas the grandson & heir of John CARSEWELL, Esq, & William WEBBER his father-in-law, for detention & forgery of Deeds relating to messuages & 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 Jan 1552-53; details of his marriage, to Eleanor TOWKERMAN, are not, as yet, forthcoming; she survived him; & 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?
[B] WILLIAM GILES OF BOWDEN.
William GILES was probably born ca 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 Oct 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, 2nd son; said to have been buried at Totnes, 16 Oct 1581, but query whether this was instead the father; married (no details yet found) with issue:
a. Jane GILES, baptised Dean Prior, 23 Dec 1563; married at Totnes, 3 May 1591, Ambrose LANGMEAD.
b. Agnes GILES, bapt Dean Prior, 30 Aug 1564, & buried there 31 Dec 1564, an infant.
c. Wilmot GILES, bapt Dean Prior, 30 Jan 1568-69.
d. Christopher GILES, bapt Dean Prior, 23 May 1571.
e. John GILES; buried Dean Prior, 28 Dec 1575, probably a child.
f. Samuel GILES, bapt Dean Prior, 10 Jun 1573.
g. Joan GILES, bapt Dean Prior, 12 Jul 1574, & bur there 19 Aug 1574, an infant.
h. John GILES (2), btapt Dean Prior, 12 Jan 1576-77, & buried there,7 Sep 1580, a child.
j. Richard GILES, bapt Dean Prior, 14 Jul 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 24 Feb 1588-89, aged 62, with issue, inter alia, a son Richard SAVERY, of Willing, Rattery, Devon, who died 6 Sep 1618, aged 58.
[C] JOHN GILES (2) OF BOWDEN.
John GILES, b ca 1530's, carried on his family tradition in Totnes & Bowden; M.P. for Totnes, 1586.
He also leaves a trail in Archival records:
i. On 18 Apr 1558, his several properties in Totnes are mentioned, as boundary limits to a messuage & garden "...outside the East gate" for the bargain & 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 & Richard EVERY.
ii. Of Bowden, Esq - his Covenant for a Conveyance in Trust, dated 1568, to Anthony COPLESTONE of Wake, Gent, concerning the manor & mansion place or house of Bowden, the manors of Ashprington, Dean Prior, & Tibbacombe, the rectory & parsonage, glebe lands & advowson of Dean Prior, the advowson of Ashprington, messuages & lands called Stanncomb Prior or the farm & barton of Stanncomb, messuages & land called Ayshbridge in Harberton & Dartington, and messuages & lands called Ayshbourne in Haberton & 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), & John COWKE of Broadhempston, Gent; and mentioning his son & 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 & Phillipa his wife, & John MERCER of Totnes & Rycharde his wife, concerning closes of land called Weykensparke alias Wyykensparke Tybbecombe alias Tybbecombe & Blawdon [TNA, Devon, 2779 11/1/5].
John was buried at the Church of Saint George the Martyr, Dean Prior, on 30 Nov 1606; he married Agnes STUKLEY (daur of Sir Hugh STUCLEY of Affeton by Jane POLLARD); they had issue,
1. Edward GILES, only surviving son & heir. See [D] below.
2. Jane GILES; married Richard STURE or STEARE of Morleigh (son of Philip STURE of Hewish, by the daur & 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 - Edward YARDE, who married Elizabeth NORTHCOTE, daur of Walter NORTHCOTE by Mary DREW (Mary was the wife of Sir Edward GILES); Giles YARDE (aged 39 in 1620); George YARDE; & Mary YARDE; & 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.
[D] SIR EDWARD GILES OF BOWDEN.
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).
[E] RICHARD GILES OF BOWDEN.
Richard GILES was baptised at Dean Prior, 14 Jul 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 & the manors of Ashprington, Bowden & Tybbycombe, naming his wife Dorothy, & sons John (his heir), Edward & Peter [TNA Index, Devon, 2779 M/1/12]; buried at Totnes, 6 Nov 1648; his will, dated 20 Jun 1648 with a codicil dated 25 Oct 1648, was proved P.C.C., 15 Jul 1652, naming his "...beloved wife Dorothie" sons John, Peter & Edward, & daughters Agnes STAPLEHILL & Dorothy GILES.
Richard married, by Settlements dated 1623, 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 Aug 1662; they had issue:
1. John GILES, born ca 1624, eldest son & heir. See [F] below.
2. Peter GILES; his will dated 29 Jun 1653, codicil 4 Jul & proved P.C.C., 22 Jul 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, Jun 1653, and in his grandfather Peter CAREW's will, Sep 1654; his own will dated 6 Apr 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 & 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, bapt at Totnes, 25 Oct 1638; bequests in the wills of her father (1648), brother Peter (1653), & grandfather Peter CAREW (1654) .
[F] JOHN GILES (3) OF BOWDEN.
John GILES; admitted into Exeter College, Oxon, Apr 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 & 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," Vol.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.
ARE THERE OTHER GILES FAMILIES FROM BOWDEN?
In Apr 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-daur 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).
The information she was recalling is very similar to that contained at the head of a family pedigree that came into my possession from my father (he was a grandson of Ellen GILES of Leeds, a grand-daughter of Rev William GILES), and it had been drawn up by Ellen's cousin Bertram Sands GILES (who had emigrated to N.S.W. in 1911, and married, as his 3rd wife, Ellen's youngest daughter Nellie ADAMS alias PIGOTT).
This pedigree was headed by:
"George GILES of Totnes, buried Monachorum. [Father of:]
"George GILES (not traced); John GILES (born 1730); & William GILES (drowned 1790 on a voyage to Newfoundland)."
Some of Bertram's information may well have been derived from the same family source, but for the most part it replicated details found in "Aegidiana; or Gleanings Among GILES's at Home and Abroad," by Arthur Henry GILES, published privately, 1910, & so unavailable to Mary Eliza GODFREY.
Clearly the family folk-lore had an awareness of a possible connection to a propertied family in or near Totnes, and even believed they may have had some entitlement to a claim upon what was left of that estate.
But there do appear to be some difficulties in Mary Eliza GODFREY's particular information, and a detailed analysis of it can be found in Rev William GILES's later blog - in short, it appears that the George GILES at the head of it was not himself from Totnes, but probably derived from several generations who had lived instead at Buckland Monochorum.
As to the potential for a Bowden GILES family connection, the following points might be noted:
1. The 1620 Visitation pedigree may not be complete. Herald's took an interest in families with property and/or title, and constructed pedigrees on the basis of information either provided by those families, or discovered independently, often from pedigrees of other established families into which marriages had been made.
2. John GILES, the early 16th century Mercer & Merchant Stapler became a rich man, and acquired extensive property holdings in the Totnes area. This alone determined his family's place in the Visitations - they were holders of manors, advowsons of Rectories, and the like, and their lineage was important, if only from the point-of-view as to how this substantial property portfolio was to be inherited & by whom.
3. In 1604, his gt-grandson Edward GILES was knighted, and this provided a further point of interest for the Heralds, and although his title was not hereditary, it gave him & his connections an incentive to inquire into, and indeed acquire, with the Heralds imprimatur, the "...noble escutcheons of his race."
But for the marshalling of information for a new member of the Knightly community, the Heralds usually only required the recitation of three generations of ancestors, and this did not therefore take them back any further than the first John GILES, Mayor of Tavistock.
4. Broader family connections did not interest the Heralds, but they may have existed, as cousin branches, descendants of original John GILES's immediate siblings (if he had any - and we see above a possibility) or cousins. These may have prospered, either in the vicinity of Totnes, or beyond. As far as I am aware, comprehensive searches of the parish registers of the district have not yet been done for the broader GILES family. We do see that a number of Parish Register entries appear in the 1895 Visitations pedigree, for Totnes & for Dean Prior, but these are limited to those in the direct Bowden line.
5. Perhaps of the greatest significance is this - the wills of most of the principal members of the Bowden family were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and their contents are now in the public domain. They appear to confirm that there were no other surviving male family members (barring any "random" acts of disinheritance); and therefore that any other GILES families can probably only claim a connection to it from before the time of the first John GYLES, Mayor of Totnes in 1518.
ANOTHER FAMILY IN AMERICA?
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 & Burials, & 1560 for Baptisms) .
THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS - TO BE CONTINUED.