The Beaumont Family & The Bassett Estates

The full history of the early Beaumont family can be downloaded here, courtesy of the Beaumont One Name Study

My interest in the Beaumont family came through several Inquisitions listed in the Calendar of Inquisitions in the late 1400's. Thomas Beaumont had by indenture tripartite enfeofeed his lands of Umberleigh to several trusted friends which linked to my Yeo research. The co-feoffees were : Thomas Grenville, Richard Chichester, John Denys of Orleigh, Thomas Wode, John More of Columpton, Robert Yeo, Nicholas Cokeworthy and John Yeo of Braunton. Thomas Grenville & Robert Yeo were cousins and John Yeo & Robert Yeo were cousins and John Denys was the father of John Bassett's first wife. The Yeo family were neighbours of the Beaumont family.

A Feoffment is where the owner would normally convey the land to a group of co-feoffees thus ensuring the land would not fall to the king or unlawful heirs through the death of the feoffee. The feoffees in turn would pass the land on to others before the last one of them died and so it would continually change hands through conveyance without ever passing descent. So what happened?

These lands were massive and stretch across the whole of the parish of Atherington and part of Highampton, and also included the Manors of Shirwell and Heanton Punchardon. The Beaumont family were wealthy, the manor of Shirwell was granted by the Conqueror to Robert de Bellamonte, the first Norman Earl of Leicester. Richard, first Vicomte de Beaumont and Lord of Montrevaut accompanied Robert, Duke of Normandy to the first crusade in 1096-1100 and was probably created a Vicomte at the time he married Constance the natural daughter of King Henry 1 by Elizabeth daughter of Robert de Bellamonte. The King gave her the Manor of South Tawton, Devon as a dowry. Their grandson, the third Vicomte was born at Yolston and died before 1249. But it was William Beaumont, born 1366 and died 1422 who increased the family wealth. He married Isabel, sister and heiress of Sir John Willington of Umberleigh and she had inherited estates in Gloucestershire, Dorsetshire and manors in Wiltshire, Berkshire and Cornwall as well as Umberleigh. Sir William Beaumont was sheriff of Devon in 1399 and his P.M. Inquisition shows he was very wealthy. He accompanied Sir Henry Beaumont to the wars in Flanders in 1385 and was at the siege of Ypres. His heir was Sir Thomas Beaumont born at Yate, Gloucestershire on the 21st September, 1401. He also had a house in London, for at Christmas, 1449 he paid Thomas Pomeroy, the prior of the monastry of the Holy Trinity, 40s arrears of quit rent for a tenement and garden in the parish of St George, Eastcheap and St Andrews . By order of privy Council, 14th February 1436 he had to grant a loan of £40 towards the equipment of the army about to be sent to France. He married before 1428, Phillipa daughter of Sir John Dyneham and secondly Alice, daughter of Hugh Stuckly of Aston. William and Isabel had two children Thomas, his son and heir and Maude who was married to Hugh Courtenay of Haccombe, and supposedly mother of Margaret Courtenay who married Theobald Grenville.

It seems that Sir Thomas Beaumont of Gittisham, who died in 1450, had five children by Phillipa and four by Alice and the lands in question were left, if the sons by the first marriage died without issue, to his daughters Joan and Alice as co-heirs. The Dyneham family were wealthy and influential and this was probably agreed as part of the marriage jointure. Joan married John Basset and Alice married Nicholas Cornu. The eldest son, William married Joane Courtenay, daughter of Philip Courtenay of Powderham, but after a few years he deserted her and moved to London. She started an affair with one Henry Bodrugan, whom she subsequently married, and when Sir Thomas Beaumont died this "John the Bastard" put in a claim to the lands but lost, (he subsequently was given the Gittisham lands and took the name of Beaumont). Sir Thomas's surviving son, Philip succeeded. Philip's chief concern was that the Beaumont name be left in possession and having no children, instead of allowing Joan Bassett and her sister to succeed him as his father had wished, he conveyed the lands to his stepbrothers of the second marriage. Thomas Beaumont died in 1488 and his executors were Thomas Grenville and John Yeo. His wife was given as her dowry the Umberleigh estates for her life and she then married John Carew. John died before his father and the estates were left to Hugh. When Hugh died in 1507 his inquisition states he has no lands, but there remained one other small piece of the jigsaw puzzle, when Philip had left lands to the younger sons of his father's second wife he had left out the heirs of the eldest son because he had only a daughter married to Richard Chichester and Philip was only interested in the Beaumont name. A separate deal had been made with the Chichesters by John Basset with Daubeney's help at the same time as the main one and the Chichesters were given Yolston & Sherwell and other lands, to the value of 200 marks per annual rent.


With the help of Giles, Lord Daubeney, (Earl of Bridgewater), who was also distantly related to the Beaumonts through the Willington family, John Bassett, junior successfully opposed Philip Beaumont's will. (This is where the feoffment came in with John Bassett using trusted friends). The intention of both families was that Daubeney's son Henry should marry one of the Bassett daughters, and in return for his having financed the recovery of the Beaumont lands Bassett made over many of the manors, entailed upon the hypothetical heirs of this marriage. Henry, Lord Daubeney, never did marry a Bassett girl, instead he married first Elizabeth Neville and secondly Catherine Howard, daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk, (whose niece Catherine was to marry King Edward V11 and was then beheaded for being unfaithful) , so he had only a life interest in the properties. John Bassett, junior died in 1485 and his son John, married firstly Ann Denys, daughter of John Denys (one of the co-feoffees) and secondly Honor Grenville, daughter of Thomas Grenville (another co-feoffee). By Ann he had five children, their only boy died as a child and the four daughters were called Jane, Marjorie, Anne and Thomasine. As Sheriff of Cornwall in 1497 Sir John was a target for the Flamank Rebellion, the Cornish uprising lead by a group of rebels under Richard Pendyn of Pendeen, whose main grievance was heavy taxation, and who attacked and 'dismantled' Tehidy, the family home. John Basett was created Knight of the Bath by King Henry V11 in November, 1501 at the time of the marriage of Katherine of Aragon to the Heir Apparent, Prince Arthur. At the same ceremony was his best friend Sir Thomas Grenville and Sir John Arundel, Sir Thomas Grenville's son- in-law, being married to his daughter Jane. By 1515 Sir Thomas Grenville was dead and Sir John Bassett, a widower. In his will Sir Thomas had asked that 'his son Roger marry his sister' meaning that he should arrange a suitable match for her. Who could be more suitable than his father's best friend? So Honor, the youngest daughter who was about 20 or 22 years old to his 53 was taken care of by Sir John Basset. Sir John was sheriff of Cornwall in 1517 and 1522 and was the first Bassett to hold, in 1524 the office of Sheriff of Devon. He was Commissioner of the Peace for Devon from 1510-1515 and 1517, 1519, 1522 and 1524 and for Cornwall in 1520, 1521 and 1522. In 1520 he was part of the magnificent entourage which accompanied Henry V111 to Andrs near Calais where the King met Francis 1 of France as a lavish peace celebration which became known as the Field of Cloth of Gold. As well as talk of policies and international relations there was wrestling, dancing feasting and tournaments. In 1523/4 Sir John was one of the commissioners responsible for collecting the Subsidy in Cornwall & Devon and in 1525 attended the grand funeral of Catherine, Countess of Devon who was the daughter of Edward 1V. He was well apointed with the Court in a high administrative position. During these years Honor bore him three sons and four daughters. Phillipa was born in 1516, John on the 6th October, 1518, Katherine about 1519, Anne c 1521, George c 1522/3, Mary c 1525 and James the youngest in 1526/7. With her four step-daughters this made a family of eleven children to be fed, clothed, educated, placed in worthy positions of employment and married to financially and socially eligible partners. Honor was well up to the task

Sir John Bassett died on the 31st January, 1529 and his tomb chest, with quatrefoil decoration is in the nave of St Mary's church, Atherington. The monumental brass depicts him and his two wives and all their children, but this was added in the future. He provided for the keeping each year, on the anniversary of his death, of a solemn derige, and the morrow upon' three masses for his soul, his wife's, his Grenville father and his brother-in-law Roger's deceased first wife. In his Inquisition PM he appointed Hugh Yeo, son of John Yeo and Johan Asshe, his understeward of the manors for life, with an annuity of 20s a year, probably as an acknowledgement of his father's loyalty. The tree below shows the connection between John Yeo of Braunton and cousin Robert Yeo, of Heanton Satchville. . John's father, Richard was the elder brother of William and inherited all the Somerset Yeo properties.

Within the year Honor married Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle, the illegitimate son of King Edward 1V. The last Plantagenet to survive the War of the Roses. As the illegitimate son of the handsome King Edward 1V and Elizabeth Lucy between whom there had been a marriage contract, he was the uncle of King Henry V111. He served in the Royal Household, was Keeper of the Royal Forests and a close companion to the king who was fond of his inoffensive and unambitious uncle, 'the gentlest heart living'. Because of his illegitimacy he was no threat to the throne. Lisle's first wife, by whom he had three daughters, had been a Grey, Baroness Lisle in her own right (hence his own choice of title), widow of Edmund Dudley, the minister of Henry V11 and first victim of Henry V111. He was thus stepfather of John Dudley, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, who would be executed for seeking to place his family on the throne. Through her he acquired lands in ten counties. Whilst Arthur & Honor had no children of their own, Honor spent the next years until Henry Daubeney died in 1548, , trying to protect the Bassett children's assets and there were battles with him to prevent him from either selling them for ready cash or ruining them by mismanagement. These papers and letters were all preserved and are called the Lisle Papers. There are numerous letters in the collection from Hugh Yeo to Honor and Honor to Hugh about the Daubeney conspiracy. Daubeney needed cash and was trying to cut down trees on the estate to sell for profit. There is also one from Leonard Yeo, (son of William Yeo & Ellen Grenville) then a priest, asking for her to help his nephew, son of Edmond Yeo, gain a similar position in the church.

Whether the alliance between Honor and Lord Lisle was originally entered into by both parties as the usual Tudor business arrangement we do not know. What we do know from the letters they wrote as husband and wife, is that either before or after their marriage they fell as whole-heartedly in love with each other as the most romantic modernist could wish, The letters they exchanged, when absent from each other in 1538 and 1539, are, as a group, incomparable, the sixteenth century had nothing else of the kind to touch them. The intimacy of the writing is intensified rather than obscured by the formal phrasing, In the midst of what is apt to seem to us bewildering and terrifying brutality of age, these letters make as it were a point of rest, reassuring us of ultimate values, That the quality of their love shone through their lives and in their daily intercourse is witnessed by that most shrewd and cynical of observers, the notoriously dissolute Sir Francis Bryan, who, in a letter to Arthur Plantagenet, sends commendations to Honor, and writes, "unto whom and to your lordship, because ye be both but one soul though ye be two bodies I write but one letter".

Lord Lisle was over six foot tall, slim and had the easy-going agreeable attractiveness of his father, His handwriting was simple and confident and his words flowed easily. Honor had the forceful and determined personality of the Grenvilles and she was the dominant partner, it was easier to get round Lisle than his wife, though her friend, Sister Antoinette de Saveuses writes of her as a 'tender and delicate person'. Those in trouble turned to her instinctively, she elicited confidences. Sir Brian Tuke writes to Lisle "I think you have a ladyship as great a jewel as any nobleman could wish". However she knew what she wanted and was determined to get it. She knew all the details of her own estates and of her husband's business (her father and first husband's grandfather would have been proud of her)..For example, Lord Lisle specialized in quails, buying them up in vast quantities. They were a prime delicacy and could be used to sweeten requests, to attract attention or to turn away wrath. When Lady Lisle heard that two of her Arundell nieces had been accepted as maids of honor at King Henry V111's court, she decided to launch her daughters, Katherine and Ann in the same warm water. So she mobilised two dexterous dowagers, the Countesses of Sussex and Rutland and set the quails in motion. The moment to strike came when the two countesses were in waiting and the Queen, Katherine Parr, was actually dining off Lord Lisle's quails. The concurrent pressure of the ladies and the birds was irresistible, and Queen Katherine agreed to see both girls and choose one of them. She chose Anne, whom the King so fancied that at one time she was tipped for the dangerous honor of being the fifth queen of Henry V111. Katherine stayed on with Lady Rutland.

King Henry V111 had patronized and promoted Lord Lisle then knighted him. He made steady but unobtrusive progress at court, rising to be Vice-Admiral of England. His cause was helped, perhaps, by the fact that after 1533 he became the King's Deputy at Calais, then in English possession, and so was somewhat out of the way of the complex intrigues of the court. At court his affairs were looked after by an extremely dexterous agent, John Husee, whose letters in these volumes are one of the major delights. It was a good time to be out of England, plunged as it was in the early stages of the Reformation, with all the horrors of treason and execution. Yet Lisle ultimately fell afoul of the King; he was arrested for treason in 1540, thrown into the Tower, and escaped the block by a hair's breadth. He died, however, before he gained full liberty. All his papers had been seized, and miraculously they have survived. (The Lisle Papers) There were hundreds of them - household bills; children's letters; correspondence with agents and men of affairs; his wife's letters and his own, though the bulk of the correspondence is letters written to him or his wife.

Her eldest son, John Bassett married Frances Plantagenet, daughter of Arthur Lisle and Elizabeth Grey, (she then married Thomas Monk) and all the estates passed on to them and for many generations the Bassetts enjoyed the peace and tranquility of Umberleigh. Interestingly, a few generations later, their great grandaughter, Elizabeth Bassett married George Yeo of Huish, and the Bassett genes were passed onto the descendants of borth the Huish and North Petherwin Yeos through the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth Yeo to Paul Yeo of North Petherwin, another arranged marriage.


The History of Umberleigh Chapel by Miss Beatrix F. Cresswell

Tree of the Descendants of King Edward 1V

My thanks to Beth Meese who has studied and written about the Bassett family in great detail and helped to bring some of the characters alive.

Sheila Yeo, March, 2006

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