Medieval Manors

The lordship of the manor of Moreton remained in royal possession until Henry I (reigned 1099-1135) gave it to his illegitimate son, William de Tracey. It then passed from William to his daughter Grace, and from her to her son, another William, who adopted the name 'de Tracey'. This man was the knight who assisted in the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. After the deed he went into exile and in 1173 divided off the manor of Doccombe from that of Moreton, giving '100 shillings of land in Doccombe' to the monks of Canterbury Cathedral. By this process of sub-infeudation, there became three manors in the parish: Moreton, Doccombe and Wray.

Of these three, the easiest to trace the lordship of is that of Doccombe, as it remained in the hands of Canterbury Cathedral throughout the middle ages. It was leased to the Gregory family in the nineteenth century.

The rest of the manor of Moreton was inherited from William de Tracey by his son, Henry the hunchback, who gave it to the Chief Justice, Geoffrey fitz Piers (d.1213), in return for assistance in regaining his inheritance after his father's disgrace. Geoffrey Fitz Piers changed his name to Geoffrey de Mandeville, and was granted the title Earl of Essex. IIt was he who in 1207 obtained Moreton's first charter and with it the right to hold a market and fair. In 1214 his second son William de Mandeville (d.1227) was deprived of Moreton for plotting against King John, who granted it to Henry 'son of the earl' in 1215; it was restored to William in 1219 shortly after the accession of Henry III. On William's death in 1227 it passed to his half-brother John Fitz Geoffrey (d.1258), whose third daughter and eventual coheiress, Aveliine (d.1274) married Walter de Burgh, Earl of Ulster (d.1271) in about 1257, bringing the manor of Moreton to the de Burgh family. In 1279 the lord of the manor was Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster. Shortly afterwards, however, there was a rival claim on the manor, which was only resolved when it was allocated to Richard de Burgh (d.1326), son of Walter and Aveline, in 1299. It was bought in 1309 by Sir Hugh de Courtenay (d.1340), later Earl of Devon, in whose family it remained until 1890. Interestingly, even as late as 1428 the manor was noted as being held in return for providing a sparrowhawk to the king, a duty which the Earl of Ulster had owed in the thirteenth century, and which he had probably inherited along with the manor.

The small manor of Wray was held in about 1285 by William de Chevereston (or de Wray), who held it of John de Humphraville, who held it of the King. It passed on the marriage of the co-heiress into the Abbot family in the fourteenth century; from them it descended as shown in the Visitations of Devon. Joan Abbot married John Norris; through their daughter Alice and her husband Richard Wray, the manor eventually passed to Alice's daughter, Christian Wray, who married Richard de la Ford. Richard and Christian's daughter Joan married William Corsett, in which family the manor remained until the sole heiress, Alice, married Thomas Southmeade in the late fifteenth century, in which family it remained until the Southmeads died out in the nineteenth century. See a history of Wray Barton for information about the later years.

For those who wonder why Moreton church is unadorned with heraldic effigies and coats of arms as with some other churches, the reason lies in the above descents. None of the manorial lords of any importance were resident. The Courtenay family and the lords of Moreton before them did not live here (although it is possible that one member stayed in Moreton for a few years in the early fourteenth century). The one manor with a resident lord, Wray, was of little value; indeed, it soon ceased to be regarded as a separate manor in the official rolls and became a freehold estate. Its owners later built Wray Barton and Hayne Manor.