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John Lerwill's
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21 Sep 2015

The History of an
800-years old Devon Family
About The Lerwill's Original Home...:

 
The property acquired by the family in the 1200s is shown here by way of a montage based on photos taken in 1992 showing a roadsign near to the property called Lerwell Farm and a picture of the farmhouse as it was then.
 
The farmhouse originates from 1870 and is a grade II listed building. The picture below the montage is of the farmhouse as it was in 1908 and was kindly provided by Bryan Roby of Canada who is related to the Grimshire family that held the farm until about the end of the 20th c.
 
The farm buildings (including surviving outbuildings from the 17th c.) were acquired for holiday homes conversion in 2000.
 
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The Origin of the Lerwills: essay last updated 13 Sep 2015.
(This is a brief history: please click on a button (below) for more details)

Having become first documented in around 1200 AD, the family name started to become stabilised in the 1600s as Lerwill (or more rarely Lerwell) and certainly became the standard spelling by the mid-19th c. Up to that point, the written records give a variety of spellings resulting, to a large extent, from the effects of dialect and the problems of transcription from verbal statements. These are the most common forms of the name prior to the mid-19th c. (note the prefix 'de' that was in use until about 1400 AD): I agree with a fellow Lerwill family historian (the late Christopher Lerwill) that the instigator of the Lerwill name came from a place east of Paris (perhaps Picardy) and that the first Lerwill in England was part of the second-wave Norman influx.
 
The earliest records in England seem to relate to Vincent, who was in the Chittlehampton area of North Devon from about 1200 to 1251. In about 1200 Vincent de Luriwille acted as a witness for one Alicia de Staunton (of no known family connection). In 1218 Vincent Luriwell appropriated a freehold in Fileslee (Fillleigh) from Nicholas de Fileslee. Vincent de Luriewell occurs in the Devon Assize Roll of 1219. By 1228 Vincent had married Agnes and was involved in the transfer of land near Ilfracombe to Archibald de Fleming. The fact that a marriage is not indicated until ca. 1228 causes me to suspect that we may be talking about two Vincents - father and son - spanning the period ca. 1200 to 1251.
 
It is recorded that. in 1241, Vincent de Loliwell was a half-tenant in the farms of Newton and Weston at Chittlehampton. In 1249 Vincent de Loriwell was involved in a legal transaction relating to land at Whetteston (Chittlehampton) which seems. nevertheless, to have stayed within the family. Vincent seems to have been succeeded by Bartholomew. It is recorded that Bartholomew de Loryewell was renting land (Nyweton and Whitstone at Chittlehampton) from John Mohun in 1280. Similarly, in 1284, Bartholomew de Loriewell held Wetteston and Newreton from John de Mohun, and in 1285, Bartholomew de Loriwell held Wetteston. By 1303 however, the family property had temporarily reverted to John de Mohun because of a Lerwill heir who was younger than the age of majority (21). This may indicate that his father had died in the Scottish Wars ca. 1296 or 1297.
 
In 1331 Bartholomew de Lurewyll held Lurewyll Manor (Chittlehampton) from John de Mohuno and in 1332 Bartholomew de Lirewell held Lirewell from John de Mohun's wife Sibyl. The property referred to is today named Lerwell.
 
There are records of a William Loryawill/de Loriawell in the Chittlehampton area in 1332, 1334 and 1353 as a Commissioner of Subsidy. William was one of the twelve oath-takers at the formation of the Borough of Barnstaple, and appears in the Lay Subsidy Rolls for South Molton Hundred.
 
For the fifteenth century, very few records of the family seem to be available. In 1423 Baldwin do Lorewille held land at Newetone and Wettestone as a tenant of Anne Courtenay, and in 1428 John Larywell/Lorywyll was named as one of the freeholders of Lerwell farm at Chittlehampton. There is also a Henry Lorawill mentioned as living around this time.
 
A major event seems to have occurred around 1470. About this time, a William Lerywell is mentioned of having title to the Lerwill properties, but they were somehow transferred to a below-age member of the Colebroke family under the guardianship of John Culme, merchant (and former mayor of Barnstaple). This Colebroke appears to have been William, whose daughter and heir married Henry Bellew, who thus came to acquire the old Lerwill holdings. They later passed into the Yeo family, etc etc. The loss to the Lerwills was most likely as a result of the change of hands of property in the Wars of the Roses. These are the last records of Lerwills in the Chittlehampton area apart from a family that appears at nearby Tawstock and is there until the middle 17th c.
 
It seems that the main descendants of the Lerwill clan migrated ca. 1470, probably in 1471; three Lerwills appear in the Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1524-27 for the north Devon coast. These were Richard Lerywell (Kentisbury), John Lerywell (Combe Martin), and Thomas Lerywell (Combe Martin). John is of particular interest: in 1507 he was Deputy Reeve of the Borough. In 1531 he was a witness in a hearing recorded by the royal Commissioners when he was aged 83 (he was therefore born about 1448) and legend has it that he obtained favours from the king in respect of service, perhaps in respect of the Battle of Tewksbury in 1471, when John was about 23. At this time, the Yorkists regained the crown of England and hence Lancastrian sympathisers (the Lerwills appear to have been such) would have had to surrender their property. Henry V11, when he came to the throne in 1485, had the great challenge of re-unifying the country, and had cause to be sympathetic to both causes.
 
The Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1543-45 list the following in the most northern Devon area: John Lerewill (Combe Martin), Richard Lerwill (Kentisbury), John Lerewill (Kentisbury) and John Lerewill (Arlington).
 
It seems certain that all present day Lerwills are descended from those mentioned in the preceding paragraph, Combe Martin and Kentisbury being the primary focal points for the Lerwill family.

THE GENEALOGY
In 1996, I published a history of the Lerwill Family. With many updates, the genealogy is now available in GEDCOM form. Please click on the Family Tree button for further information.
 
Note: That each button loads its page into a new window.

 

 
My own branch of the Lerwill family moved to Birmingham from Braunton ca. 1854-55.
The youngest male member of that family, William, was my gt-grandfather.
He created a business as a clockcase maker, and the following link is about him.
William Lerwill, clockmaker.
 

2002 -
John Lerwill.

Formerly registered with the
Guild of One Name Stdies.

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