Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Mary Fraunceys the child bride

Peter Ploptson in Ontario, Canada, has sent me a huge package of material on the Ayshford and Fraunceys families, both of which are of particular importance in the history of the Cruwys family of Cruwys Morchard. It will take me some time to work my way through all the new information but I have made a start by looking at the tree of the Fraunceys family. Peter has sent me three inquisitions post mortem (IPMs) relating to the Fraunceys all of which provide valuable genealogical information.

The Fraunceys family are of French origin. In earlier records their name is often spelt Fraunceis, which is the Old French word for a Frenchman or Frank. The Franceis spelling is preserved in later generations in some branches of the family. Some time in the early part of the fourteenth century the Fraunceys acquired the manor of Killerington, later known as Killerton Franceis, in the parish of Broad Clyst. The family home in Killerington was known as Franceis Court. The house remained in the family until the beginning of the seventeenth century when it was purchased, along with the manor of Killerton, by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Baronet. Today there is a farmhouse on the estate but nothing remains of the old Fraunceis mansion.

Some time in the late 1300s William Fraunceys of Fraunceis Court made an advantageous marriage to Alice, the daughter of Nicholas Hele and Alice Florey of Hele in the parish of Bradninch, Devon. Alice brought to the marriage a considerable estate which she had inherited from her father. She subsequently received a substantial inheritance from her mother which included the manors of Combe Florey in Somerset and Tallaton in Devon. Later generations of the Fraunceys family moved to Combe Florey, and they reputedly held the manor for some twelve generations.

The Mary Fraunceys in whom we have a particular interest was the second wife of John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard. We know from the records at Cruwys Morchard House that their marriage took place some time in 1490. Mary was the daughter of John Fraunceys and Florence Ayshford. John Fraunceys died on 20th November 1485 and an inquisition post mortem was held on 5th October 1493. We learn from the IPM that John Fraunceys and Florence Ayshford were granted the manor of Hele Payne and various lands in Hele Payne, Bradnynch and Pounde by means of a charter dated 20 May, 17 Edward IV (1477). This transfer of land presumably coincided with their marriage, which would have taken place either that same year or perhaps one or two years previously. There is a medieval farmhouse in Broadclyst known as Hele Payne Farm which was quite possibly where John and Florence Fraunceys lived after their marriage. The farmhouse has been considerably extended and altered over the years but still retains some of its original medieval features. It is now designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building.

John Fraunceys' IPM provides no clues as to Mary's date of birth but her brother Nicholas is named as the son and heir and, at the time of the IPM, he was "aged 16 years and more", placing his birth at around 1476 or 1477. It is probably therefore safe to assume that Mary was born either a year or so before or after her brother Nicholas. They were probably both born at Hele Payne. At this time it was legally possible for a girl to marry from the age of 12 onwards so, in view of the 1490 marriage, Mary could not have been born any later than 1478. Whatever the truth of the matter it is clear that Mary Fraunceys was a very young girl, possibly as young as 12, and, if not, certainly in her early teens, when she married John Cruwys.

By the time of their marriage John Cruwys was about 41 years of age. He was a widower with six young children, three boys and three girls, all under the age of ten – a daunting proposition for any young woman, let alone a young girl who was probably only just in her teens. However, marriage at this time was very much a commercial transaction, and no doubt there would have been female servants to take care of the step-children. Mary bore her husband four sons: William, Thomas, Edward and Anthony. John died in about 1515 and Mary subsequently married John Acland of Landkey. The date of the marriage is not known but by this time Mary would probably have been in her forties. John Acland died in 1539. It is clear from his will that the marriage was not a particularly happy one and that Mary had caused considerable "vexation" in the family. The surviving Landkey parish registers do not begin until 1602 so there is no record of Mary's death. She was predeceased by her eldest son William who died in 1525.

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