Branscombe Timelines C15


The Fifteenth Century

The header for each year is preceded with an @ sign to facilitate searching


29 October, Westminster: Memorandum of acknowledgement at Branscombe before John Wadham.

Beijing;, the Ming dynasty capital, is the largest city in the world.

Collapse of the Khmer kingdom, and many of its' contemporaries, in South-East Asia.

About 1400: Completion of Saint Mary, Tyburn, church, on the banks of the Ty-burn. Later the location of the London suburb of Saint Marylebone. (St.Mary-le-burn.)

`The period 1400-1600 was one of very rapid development both in ship-building and in armament, but information is fragmentary, and the period as a whole has been termed a "gap" in nautical knowledge.'

`This was the century in which England moved from the ranks of the underdeveloped primary producers to the position of an industrial exporter. It was the century in which popular dissent began to become literate, the century in which English merchants made their first large-scale bid for overseas penetration, with women taking a newly active role in trade. It saw the beginning of a re-shaping of the English landscape by enclosure ... Homes without books or newspapers, shops and streets without advertisements: the almost total absence of reading-matter is probably the biggest yet least emphasised difference between modern and medieval society ... The average English man and woman of the fifteenth century confessed the Christian religion, acknowledged the spiritual supremecy of Rome and expected, if they proclaimed views contrary to the Church's accepted doctrine, to be interrogated, possibly under torture, and in the last resort to be burnt alive. Executions of all kinds were commonplace, of course, and provided men and women of all social ranks with a popular spectacle in an age when the entertainment industry was unknown. There was no organised sport; beer, introduced from Holland in the 1420s, was regarded as a new-fangled foreign invention and, as in most parts of Europe, foreigners were regarded with robust contempt ... even among the English themselves regional variations in the language were so great that, as Caxton tells us, a Northerner could be mistaken for a Frenchman by a Kentish woman.'

`Accounts of the overland journey to Rome from England have been left by several 15th century pilgrims and travellers, including that of William Wey, a Fellow of Eton, who journeyed through Flanders and Duchelond (Germany).' [Wey was from Devon, b.1407?-1476]

The Halsey family have been associated with Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, since the early 15th century.

`The deposed king, Richard II, comes to an obscure end in Pontefract Castle. He was probably starved to death. All that is known with certainty is a minute of the Council dated 8 February, which directed that Richard, if alive, should be placed in safe custody; if dead, should be shown to the people. It has been rightly characterised as a murderous suggestion.'

Geoffrey Chaucer dies, aged 60. `Historians agree that there is nothing in [his] career to suggest that Chaucer was anything other than a moderately successful London gentleman. Even his burial in Westminster Abbey, though it marks the beginning of `Poet's Corner' there, was evidently no more than a common privilege for courtiers and royal officials. Chaucer was not a professional poet: indeed, one may suspect that, like T.S. Eliot and Philip Larkin in our own time, he took a secret pleasure in keeping his profession distinct from his poetry.'

Approximate year when Sir John Wadham of Edge Barton, Branscombe, the judge, acquires Merifield, in Somerset.






15 May, Westminster: Order to Devon Escheator, Robert Frensshe to hand over the "liveries" of certain manors, including Honiton and Morton, to Philip de Courtenaye, knight. Manors held by Peter Courtenay, his father, deceased. Also the manor of Northpole, gift to Peter from Richard de Branscombe and William Chebesey.

Beginning of the Chinese maritime expeditions, which eventually reached the east coast of Africa, where Ming porcelaine was traded.


Sir Philip Courtenay, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, dies. (He began the building of Powderham Castle, Devon)

The statute de Heretico Carburendo says heretics are to be burned at the stake, if they do not confess their heresy.


Sir William Bonville of Shute dies. Buried at Newenham Abbey.





12 March: John Wadham makes his will. [cf:1473] Items listed bequeathed to Joan [Wriothesley], his [second?] wife, include:

`...all the stock of wines at Muryfeld...' [Merifield, Ilton, Somerset]


`Item, I bequeath for paying four chaplains to be hired for one year to celebrate for my soul, and the souls for which I am bound, 40 marks; and if this can be done at a less price, the residue shall be expended for the souls of Maude, late my wife, my father and mother, Richard Brankescomb, Margaret his wife, Cicely Turberuill [possibly John's sister] and all faithful deceased...

Item, I bequeath to the mending of the church at Brankescomb, 20s. Item, to the mending of the church at Knouston [Knowstone, Devon, pre-1377 home of the Wadhams], 20s...

Item, I bequeath to Bartholomew Pyle 40s...

Item, I bequeath to the mending of the muddy way between Clyst and Newton Poppleford £4.

Item, to the mending of the muddy way from Shaftesbury to Sherbourne, 100s...

Item, to the vicar of Brankescomb church, for tithes forgotten, and that he may pray for me, 6s this my will I have affixed my seal.

Given on Saturday, the Feast of Saint Gregory, 13 Henry IV'

`These endowed chantries, ranging up to periods of thirty or fifty years or perpetuity, and usually including the relatives of the donor, provided employment to the clergy and income to the churches. Unattached priests with no other function could make a living from the commissions and otherwise lead, as was popularly supposed, an idle and dissolute life.'

In Subsidy Rolls 13 Henry IV (1411-12), John Wadham's lands in Somerset are as follows:

Manor de Myryfeld (Merifield, Ilton, Somerset), land in Hardyngton, Gudeston, and Chilton, Somerset. [cf: 1412]

In a recess on the north wall of St. Paul's Chapel, Exeter Cathedral:

Hic jacet Willelmus Pylton, quondam Canonicus et Residentiarius hujus Ecclesie, Secretarius Regi Henrico quarto, et Archidianconus Eboracensis. [Henry IV 1399-1413]


Death of Sir John Wadham, Justice of the Common Pleas in the reign of Richard (1377-99)

12 August: Sir John Wadham's will proved in Somerset. Executors are his wife, Joan [Wriothesley], William Hankeford and Barthomomew Pyle. Commission to John Grylby, rector of Donzete and William Torporlegh, rector of West Dowlesh, diocese of Bath & Wells, to commit administration. [cf:1411 for will. Wyndham says this was Sir John the judge, and that he was probably buried in the north transept of St.Winifred's, Branscombe. He left two sons, William, & Thomas of Redworthy in Ashreigny. The eldest, William, was Sheriff of Devon in 1438 and married Margaret, daughter of John Chiselden of Holcombe Rogus. He is buried in Ilminster church]

25 September, Westminster: Joan Wadham has possession of Edge Combe (Edge Barton), in the manor of Branscombe. [neé Joan Wriothesley]


Reign of King Henry IV (Henry Bolingbroke of Lancaster) ends when he dies (since 1399). Henry V crowned (to 1422).



Portuguese capture Centa. This marks the beginning of Portugal's African empire.

25 October: Battle of Agincourt. `By October ... Henry's French campaign had run into trouble and he was attempting to lead his small army north-east along the coast to safety at Calais. The ford across the Somme at Blanchetaque (near Abbeville) was too heavily defended and he was forced to march almost 100 kilometers upstream before he could cross the river. From here, the army made direct for Calais, but meanwhile a force of about 50,000 under Marshall Boucicault and the Constable of France was advancing on the English. Henry's army, having marched over 400 kilometers in 17 days on inadequate provisions, was in poor condition: most of his men had dysentry, and Henry, having no wish to fight, offered to buy peace. The offer was refused, and so the two armies met at Agincourt. The battlewich took place in the afternoon ... was a remarkable one. Henry's army of no more than 6000 men defeated a better-rested army five to ten times larger, killing about 15,000 French soldiers while losing only 300 men. The French made virtually no use of archers, whereas the English army was almost entirely composed of longbowmen ... with 5000 English archers capable of shooting about 10 arrows a minute, the French would have faced a storm of around 800 arrows each second ... each arrow capable of piercing armour 1.5mm thick.'

Henry V's crushing of the French army. `... established an English occupation in northern France which endured close on forty years, and gave some Englishmen of all classes a continental interest and experience which fed back into domestic affairs andwhich is possibly underestimated by historians.'

`When Jan Hus was burned at the stake for heresy by the Council of Constance in 1415, Wyclif's bones were ordered dug up and burned at the same time. Even riddled by the schism, the Church was still in control. The cracking of the old and famous structures is slow and internal, while the façade holds.' [Wyclif d.1384]


A French fleet blockades Spithead and ravages the Isle of Wight.





Edge Barton, Branscombe, owned by William Wadham.

Beer is introduced to England for the first time, from Holland, in the 1420s.


Adam Branscombe and his wife Mabilla, flourish at this time.


Death of Henry V, in France (King since 1413). Henry VI ascends the throne for the first of two reigns (this one to 1461)

Birth of William Caxton (to 1491)


30 May: Genealogy in Fine Rolls of Adam Branscombe [son of Richard & Margaret of Edge Barton] and his wife Agnes [Doddescombe], and their daughter Ibote, with reference to a dispute over ownership of lands at Legh Peverel, Devon:

Adam Branscombe and Agnes, one of five daughters of John & Cecily Doddescombe (deceased). They had one child, Ibote, then Adam died. Agnes re-married, to Richard Champernon, and they had a son, Otes (Otho? - Visitation of Devon).

According to the Visitation of Devon, [which appears to have this all wrong] Agnes died on 10 January 1430. There was an Inquisition post-mortem 9 Henry VI #41. [1431?] Ibote Branscombe married Robert Brytte, and they had a son, Robert. He married, and produced two daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth. Margaret married Thomas Wyse [of age (17) in 1423]. Elizabeth married John Fortescue the Younger (a minor aged 13 in 1423). The Escheator of Devon decides Otes (Otho?) Champernon is heir to the lands, although it appears Otes died in 1422, according to the Visitation - Inquisition post-mortem 1 Henry VI #44. [1431?]

`Doddescombleigh was the inheritance and dwelling of Sir Ralph Doddescombe, knight, in the days of Henry I. This patrimony ended in the days of Edward III, in John Doddescombe, which by Cecily his wife, had issue of 5 daughters. One, Agnes, married Adam Branscombe. From Agnes, by Britt, Thomas Wise esquire is descended. Not any of their lineage at this time enjoys it, says Sir W. Pole.' [cf:1346 Branscombe/Britt/Wise]

`Stoke Damarel, separated from Stonehouse by a small creek, bears the adjunct of the Damarells, its hereditary lords from the Norman Conquest to Edward. In the 19th. year of Edward III (1346), Richard Branscombe owned it. He was succeeded by the Britts, whose properties were brought by marriage to the Wises.' [cf: 1360 Branscombe/Britt/Wise]






Adam de Barnecombe owns land in Tammerton, in the hundred of Colrigge and Rouburgh [Tamarton Foliot, Plymouth], ex Johannes Gagis. [cf:1346 Thomas Gorgys] Richard de Branscombe owns land at Aller, (Awre) in the hundred of Haytor [probably Branscombe's Aller, or Overaller, Abbotskerswell], and at Stoke Damarel, in the hundred of Rouburgh, and Colrigge & Rouburgh.

The Duke of Norfolk and several others saved, by residents of London Bridge, when their boat capsized, trying to navigate the narrow arches. Buckets on rope, used to collect water from open windows, hauled them up, but several of their companions were drowned.



According to the Visitation of Devon, which appears to have a few things wrong, (cf: 1423), Agnes Doddescombe - Branscombe - Champernon died on 10 January 1430. There was an Inquisition post-mortem, 9 Henry VI, #41. [1431?]


About this year, Thomas Courtenay, fifth Earl of Devon, marries Margaret, daughter of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. (Her tomb is at Colyton, Devon).





Congress of Arras. Convened under the auspices of Pope Eugenius IV and the Council of Basel to settle the disputes between England, France and Burgundy.




The Incas state of South America becomes a vast centralised empire.

Until the fifteenth century, the River Tamar is the boundary between the English and Cornish languages, but over the following 200 years, it will be pushed west and marginalised.

Sir William Wadham, son of the second Sir John, is Sheriff of Devon, and possibly residing at Edge Barton.


Plymouth obtains its charter. By now, it has long since outstripped Plympton as the principle town in the region. Branscombes who settled here in the early fourteenth century were probably direct descendents of the Branscombes of Edge Barton, as Richard and Adam Branscombe had extensive properties in (Rouborough?) Hundred. Adam & Thomas Branscombe represented the region in Parliaments.


King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster, at the age of eighteen, founds the King's College of Our Lady and St.Nicholas in Cambridge. [King's College]




Pevsner says the canopy over Bishop Walter Branscombe's tomb in Exeter Cathedral was new in this year.


Saint Bernadino dies.

`Europe had reached a turning-point in history. During the next hundred years, the medievel period was gradually emerging into that which can be termed "modern". Perhaps the most important single motive force which made possible this development was the preservation, the re-conquest, and the dissemination of Greek thought, especially that of Aristotle. The early monasteries had done most for the preservation of manuscripts. But it was mainly in the cathedral schools and the universities into which they developed, that the ancient learning was chiefly assimilated, and then enlarged upon. On these medievel foundations, the intellectual achievements, the work of scientists, the voyages of explorers, and the art of the modern age, were built.'


Gutenberg prints the first book in Europe.


25 July, Cambridge: King Henry VI (1422-61) lays the foundation stone for the Chapel of King's College. [completed 1544]





Approximate year in which a mural depicting the Seven Deadly Sins is painted on the nave walls of Saint Winifred's church, in Branscombe. Fragments still survive.

July: Jack Cade and 40,000 Kentish rebels advance on London up the old Kent Road.

Start of the "Little Ice Age" (to 1850).



Year of death of William Wadham, builder of the Wadham Aisle at Ilminster, son of Sir John the judge. [William b.1391, possibly at Edge Barton, Branscombe]


Byzantine empire falls to the Ottoman Turks.

End of the Hundred Years' War. (since 1337)



Germany introduces printing to Europe.

October: The Earl of Devon and his retainers stop the Justices of the Peace holding their sessions in Exeter, by force.

November: The Earl of Devon and his retainers force Exeter cathedral treasury to surrender valuables which the earl had pledged as security for a loan from the bishop.



Sandwich sacked.


Neville, Bishop of Exeter (to 1464) commissions a new east window at Saint Winifred's church, Branscombe, containing his arms.

William Wey of Devon undertakes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. [his diary survives]




First reign of Henry VI ends (since 1422), when he is deposed. Edward IV of York succeeds for the first of two reigns.

Germany introduces printed book illustration to Europe. (cf: 1455)


The Earldom of Devon, revived for Hugh Courtenay in 1335, is forfeited by attainder of Thomas Courtenay. Total to date: 6 earls. [earldom dormant until 1470. According to Worthy, Thomas's brother John recovered the earldom, but the editor of the Alphington ms in the DFHS library says he only recovered portions of the estates belonging to it]



Neville, Bishop of Exeter and Archbishop of York, dies.


Approximate year of death of Bartholomew Halsey Esquire, according to a monumental brass in St.Alban's Abbey. Two sons and two daughters also mentioned, and a (W. Florens?).






Humphrey Stafford of Southwick created Earl of Devon by patent. Title extinguished the same year, when he died. [the earldom has been dormant since 1462. Revived again in 1485]


First reign of Edward IV of York ends (since 1461). Henry VI regains the throne for his second reign, but doesn't last out the year. Edward IV is returned to the throne for his second reign (to 1483).


Manor of Tamerton Foliot [Plymouth] goes to the Coplestone family, of Coplestone near Crediton, by marriage. [cf: Foliot 1154/Branscombe 1346]


6 August: John Wadham's will made out prior to his departure for the Holy Land, on pilgrimage. "I will the churche of Brankescombe have 20 Ewen of the best of my ground and manoir of Egge, to the store of the same church, while it may ordain to hold an obit every year the Monday next after Palm Sunday, to pray for the souls of me, Elizabeth my wife, our children and ancestors.' [cf: 1411]

`When someone set out to see these places, the whole town assembled to see them off. Friends and well-wishers asked to be remembered in the prayers at the sacred places because a pilgrim was thought to enjoy special merit; the Bishop of Lincoln was not ashamed to ask Margery Kempe to pray for him when she set out for the Holy Land. The day of departure was time for high, devotional commitment and communal ceremony, but behind it lay months of preparation. A papal licence had to be obtained, for a fee, from the bishop. One's will had to be made, and creditors warned, probably by a pulpit announcement, to present their claims. Then there was the packing. Clothes obviously, but also books-perhaps John Poloner's Description of the Holy Land or the anonymous guide Information for pilgrims-and the practical fitted themselves out with a set of cooking utensils. William Wey, a Devon man, recommended `a little cauldron and frying-pan, dishes, bowls and glasses.'



Peace of Amiens signed, between Louise XI and Edward IV.

Otho Gilbert is sheriff of Devon.


5 December: John Wadham's will of 1473 proved. [cf: 1412]


The first engraved atlas of the world is published, based on the researches of Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria (100-178 AD). Published in Bologna.

The first printed book published in England by William Caxton.


Ivan III, the first Russian Tsar, subdues Novgorod and throws off the Mongol yoke.



Earliest known trade venture across the Atlantic, that of John Lloyd.


A catastrophe on London Bridge, when a block of overhanging houses collapses into the river.



Second reign of Edward IV of York ends (since 1471). Edward V ascends the throne, but doesn't last the year. Richard III is crowned (to 1485).


19 August, Westminster: Patent Rolls mention a place called Brannescombe in Worcestershire.


The Battle of Bosworth Field.

The reign of Richard III ends (since 1483), the last of the Norman and Plantagenet Kings (1066-1485). Henry VII succeeds (to 1509), the first of the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603).

`The name Hammersmith (London) occurs first in the Court Rolls at the beginning of Henry VII's reign.'.

The Earldom of Devon, dormant since 1470, is revived in favour of Edward Courtenay, then heir-in-law to the attainted Earl, Thomas Courtenay (1462). [forfeited by attainder as to succession, in 1502]



Cornish rebels supporting the Yorkist pretender, Perkin Warbeck beseige Exeter. Citizens led by the Earl of Devon drive them back.

Warbeck claimed to be the younger of the two princes supposedly murdered in the Tower of London, and thus the rightful king of England. He was captured, retracted his claim, and was hanged.



The "tenth" of this year reveals Henry Hull of Exeter is a tenant of Roger Brownscomb, who paid 2s 8d on his behalf. [this is the first Branscombe reference in Exeter after the last Richard de Branscombe, Sheriff of Devon, and the only one this century. The next is 1548, Walter]


`The indications are that Bristol fishermen had certainly reached Dogger Bank and Nova Scotia by the year 1490, convinced that the land on which they dried their nets was Brasil'.

The Worshipful Company of Weavers, Fullers and Shearers is incorporated, in Exeter. Regulations included a seven year apprenticeship and a fee to be paid to obtain the freedom to conduct business within the city walls.



The fall of Granada, Spain. Arabs and Jews are expelled. Spanish begin conquest of north African coast.

Christopher Columbus, an Italian, navigates the Caribbean, under the Spanish flag, and discovers the New World. His brother Bartholomew had unsuccessfully petitioned Henry VII to underwrite the scheme. Christopher had previously sailed from Bristol to Iceland, on fishing vessels, and there were well established tales of a far western continent.

12 October: Columbus makes his first landfall on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas.


The Incas empire of South America reaches its' height, extending 3500 kms North to South.

First Spanish settlement in the New World, at Hispaniola.

The Treaty of Tordesillas divides New World between Portugal and Spain.




`The responsibilities which the Freedom of the City of Exeter entailed are summed up in the oath sworn by entrants. The earliest surviving text dates from the reign of Henry VII, probably from 1496-7:

`Y [I] shall truly serve owr'sovrayn lord kyng Henry the vijth Kyng of Englond and of Fraunce and Lord of Yrlond, and his heirez kynges of Englond and the maier baillyvys and com'alte of the Citie of Excetour and their Successourz for the tyme beyng as a franchised man of the same. Also y shalbe Justisiable and Gildhable to all maner of tax' tallage or eny other comyn' charge of the said Citie as ought'tymys as y shall be tharto duly required and than and thare to geve my best mynd and Councell for the welth of the said Citie accordyng' after such witte and kunnyng' as god hath geve me, and all suche Councell as shall than happyn to be disclosed and shewid not to disclose ne shewe it to eny other person or persons to the hurt or preiudice of the said Citie. Also y shall colour no man ys godis beyng no franchised man of the said citie in my name to the hurt and preiudice of the same Citie. Also y shall not swe [sue] eny franchised man of the said Citie for eny mater determynable here in this Court but only in this Court except it be for lak' of right here. Also y shall support susteyne and Meynteyn the liberteis and franchesiesz of the said Citie in every rightful Cause ageyn' all other persons. Also y shall truly come to the election of every newe Mayer of the said Citie and than and thare truly geve my voyse to the same, and all other thynges that concernyth a franchesed man etc.'

With the possible exception of the requirement to come to the mayoral elections, all of these duties can be shown to have been incumbent on the freemen in the fourteenth century, and no doubt are considerably older. In the absence of a merchant guild, the obligations of the freemen, like their commercial privileges, were enforced in the city court, normally through proceedings by the mayors and bailiffs, ex officio.'

John Cabot's first, unsuccessful voyage from Bristol to find a western route to Cathay, on board the Matthew.


20 May: John Cabot departs Bristol the second time for the New World, on an expedition financed by the city. Sights land on 24 June, after a journey of about a month. Went ashore, probably somewhere in Newfoundland, and claimed it for England. A fleet of six ships, including the Matthew (50t), with a crew of 18, including John's son, Sebastian. Cabot thought he had reached the Orient, whose wealth Marco Polo had described as inexhaustible. By August, Cabot had returned to Bristol, and was fêted. A second expedition followed, in 1498. `The voyages of John Cabot laid the foundations of English claims to North America.'

Cardinal Morton, Bishop of Ely and minister of Henry VII, completes the construction of his palace at Bishop's Hatfield.


May: John Cabot's second trans-Atlantic voyage ends in failure. The discovery of world sea-routes by Columbus and Vasco de Gama sets the stage for integrated world trade.


16 April: Inquisition post-mortem on Margaret Holcombe, who died 7 April. She owned a tenement in Branscombe worth 40s, held of the Dean & Chapter of Exeter cathedral in free socage. [possibly refers to Hole House]

© 1996-1999 Ronald Branscombe

Email: genealogy (at) branscombe (dot) net