• A snapshot of the family in 1821
    • A snapshot of the family in 1901
    • What happened to all the other Gorwyns?



   1821 is the earliest year for which reliable and reasonably comprehensive data is available for the Lambert Gorwyn family; and 1901 is the second latest year for which full census data is available. So snapshots of these two years give an interesting illustration of changes in the family over the generations.


A snapshot of the family in 1821


   In 1821 there were eight households of Gorwyns or Lambert Gorwyns, all actively farming on their separate farms. They totalled 32 people. This must have been one of the times when the family was at its richest and most successful, after the boom-time of the Napoleonic wars and before the subsequent depression had taken full effect. Probably the various members of the family owned between them some 3,000 acres. The eight households were as follows:


The Lambert branch


    • John Lambert Gorwyn (1746-1843) at Lambert (Cheriton Bishop). The senior member of the Lambert branch (Table 2), he was a bachelor living at Lambert with his niece Elizabeth Arden and six apprentices. He was the last member of the family to live at Lambert; after he died it went to his nephew William of Wallon, whose family first let it and then sold it.


    • William Lambert Gorwyn (1783-1853) and family at Wallon (Drewsteignton). William was the son of John’s younger brother (Table 3). He had inherited Wallon from his father and acquired other lands in Drewsteignton as well as inheriting his brother John’s estates in Cheriton Bishop, so he was pretty wealthy. In 1821, he was living and farming at Wallon with his wife and five children, and he lived there until his death. He was the last of his line to be a farmer; his surviving sons went into the professions in Exeter and London.


    • George Lambert Gorwyn senior (1763-1873) at Falkedon (Spreyton), the youngest brother of John Lambert Gorwyn of Lambert (Table 4). By 1821 he was a widower, living at Falkedon with a housekeeper and servants. He was an extremely rich widower, owning four farms in Spreyton (including Coffins, later the home of his great-grandson George Lambert MP); Medland Manor and other property in Cheriton Bishop, Drewsteignton and Hittisleigh; and Crediton Parks in Crediton.


    • George Lambert Gorwyn junior and family at Medland Manor (Cheriton Bishop). The 25-year-old son of the above (Table 4), he was living with his wife Mary and his two baby sons George and Richard (who were later to inherit their grandfather’s large estates) and six servants and apprentices. Medland Manor was sold four years later and George and his family moved back to Spreyton.



The Bradleigh branch


    • John Gorwyn (1782-1824) at Bradleigh (Crediton). He was a rich bachelor farming Bradleigh and Binneford in the parish of Crediton, and the senior member of the Bradleigh branch (Table 6).


    • William Gorwyn (1780-1845) and family at Honeyford (Cheriton Bishop), the first cousin of John Gorwyn. He moved to Bradleigh when his cousin John died in 1824. He was the ancestor of the later Bradleigh, Medland and Coxland Lambert Gorwyns (Table 7). In 1821, he was living at the rented farm of Honeyford with his wife, his seven children, three apprentices and a lodger.


    • George Gorwyn (1757-1825) and family at Mill (Cheriton Bishop). He was the uncle of John and William Gorwyn above (Table 6). As a younger son of the Bradleigh family, he had inherited no land and rented the farm of Mill. By 1821 he was in his sixties and a widower, living with his three unmarried children and three servants and apprentices. He was to leave no descendants in the male line.


    • Joseph Gorwyn (1764-1832) and family at Hole (Cheriton Bishop). Another uncle of John and William Gorwyn who had inherited no land and had to rent the small farm of Hole. He was living there in 1821 with four unmarried children and four servants and apprentices. His youngest son William subsequently became a maltster in Exeter and may have had descendants, but there is no trace of them in the later records (Table 6).




A snapshot of the family in 1901


   80 years later, at the time of the 1901 census (the most recent to be made available to the public), the picture had changed a lot. There were at least 60 people bearing the name Gorwyn, Lambert Gorwyn or Lambert and descended from (or married to a descendant of) one of the eight farming households of 1821. Almost all of the family were still living in Devon. But they were no longer concentrated in the Lambert-Gorwyn heartlands, and farming was no longer the sole activity. They were divided into 15 separate households, some of them headed by retired people or Lambert-Gorwyn widows, a sign of the break-up of the old system whereby elderly relations remained living on the family farm in an extended family set-up.


The Lambert branch

    • George Lambert MP (1866-1958) and family at Coffins (Spreyton) (see Table 4). George was the grandson of the George Lambert Gorwyn who was living at Medland in 1821. He was not yet married and was living with his mother and sister. He did marry three years later and had four children who have descendants alive today, although not in the male line. George remained an MP until 1945, when he became 1st Viscount Lambert. All his life, however, he remained an active farmer. His descendants finally sold Coffins in 1972.


    • The widow of Richard Lambert-Gorwyn (see Table 5) living in Topsham with her six children with names beginning in H, who are the ancestors of many of today’s Lambert-Gorwyns;


    • Stafford Lambert-Gorwyn (1853-?), the younger brother of Richard, with his wife and daughter in Portishead, Somerset, described as “living on his own means” (Table 5). It is not known whether he had any children other than his one daughter;


    • Charles James Lambert, solicitor, and his brother John Speare Lambert, retired naval surgeon, the last of the Wallon Lambert Gorwyns (Table 3), living together in Exeter. They died in the 1920s leaving no heirs.




The Bradleigh branch



    • William Lambert-Gorwyn (1850-1928) of the Bradleigh Family (see Table 7), who had moved to the smaller farm of Knowle, together with his wife and daughter;


    • Henry Lambert-Gorwyn (1835-1905), the illegitimate son of Mary of Bradleigh (see Table 6) now a widower living by himself in Torquay and working as a cellarman;


    • Albert Lambert-Gorwyn (1864-after 1948), Henry’s son, the manager of a branch of a brewery and living nearby in Tormoham with his wife and five children (see Table 6). His only son Cecil Gorwyn (he dropped the Lambert) has a number of descendants alive today;


    • William Lambert-Gorwyn (1844-1916) from the Hittisleigh family (see Table 8), farming at Medlake in Hittisleigh with his wife and six of their seven children. He has descendants alive today, some of whom may still be called Lambert-Gorwyn;


    • William Lambert-Gorwyn (1874-1919), the eldest son of the above William (see Table 8). He had married the schoolteacher at Hittisleigh and was living in the school-house with his wife and two daughters, but appears to have been working on the family farm;


    • The widow of John Gorwyn of Greystone, Gorwyn and Medlake (see Table 8 on the Hittisleigh family), by then aged 90, living in South Zeal with her two unmarried daughters;


    • Her daughter-in-law, the widow of John Lambert-Gorwyn of Fingle Mill (another descendant of the Hittisleigh family – see Table 8), living at East Netherton in Drewsteignton with her three daughters;


    • George Lambert-Gorwyn (1826-1927), the youngest son of the Hittisleigh family (Table 8) and the one who had inherited the leasehold of Medland. By 1901 he was living in a cottage in Dawlish with his wife, described as a retired farmer. He had no descendants in the male line;


    • William Lambert-Gorwyn (1880-1917) of the Coxland family (see Table 9) who had moved to Orsett in Essex and was farming there with his wife and five children, the ancestors of many of today’s Lambert-Gorwyns;


    • Albert Lambert-Gorwyn (1867-1931), also of the Coxland family, farming with his wife at Halse in North Tawton, although he subsequently moved to Sandford. He has a number of descendants alive today, although not in the male line (Table 9);


    • John Lambert-Gorwyn (c.1865-1932) and Arthur Lambert-Gorwyn (1873-1952), two other sons of the Coxland family, both still farming at Coxland (Table 9). John subsequently married and moved to South-East England and is the ancestor of several of today’s Lambert-Gorwyns.  Arthur remained unmarried and took sole charge of Coxland; he was the last Lambert-Gorwyn to farm in Cheriton Bishop;


    • Edward Gorwyn (1876-?), the youngest son of the Coxland family (Table 9), who was working as a grocer’s assistant in London. He had at least one daughter but whether he has descendants alive is unknown.



   There is of course a multitude of descendants of the original Lambert Gorwyns through the female line. Lambert Gorwyn daughters married liberally into other longstanding local farming and landowning families, including Arscott, Lee, Pitts, Haydon, Kingwill and Strong, as well as into families in trade in Crediton and Exeter, so the Lambert-Gorwyn blood flows in the veins of many Devon families.


   After 1901, the family really spread out, moving to many other parts of the United Kingdom as well as to South Africa, the United States and Australia. Very few are still in Devon and almost none are still farming. I could not hope to trace what happened to all of them. But from those with whom I have made contact in researching this study, it is clear that they are a far more varied lot than ever the Gorwyns were in the past, while retaining much of that spirit of persistence that enabled the Gorwyns to remain successful farmers in the seven or so centuries since they first carved a farm out of their muddy fen in deepest Devonshire.



What happened to all the other Gorwyns?


   In the 18th and early part of the 19th century, the parish registers of Cheriton Bishop and neighbouring parishes record quite a few births, marriages and deaths of other Gorwyns for whom I have not found a place in the tables annexed to this study, as well as some Gorvens who were presumably also of the family but kept an older spelling. It is not clear what happened to these families. There was a tanner called William Gorwyn/Gorrin/Goryen who appears in 19th century censuses in Dean Street in Crediton with his family, and who was presumably some relation, but that family seems to have tapered out.  Already by the time of the 1851 census, all the Gorwyns listed in Devon using that spelling were descendants of one or other of the two 18th century John Lambert Gorwyns, so it seems that the other Gorwyn families around in the early 19th century had no male descendants, and that the Lambert Gorwyns descended from the two 18th century Johns are the only surviving descendants in the male line of those Gorwyns who flourished so numerously in Cheriton Bishop and its neighbourhood in the 16th and 17th centuries.


   There are a number of Gorvens/Gorvins/Gorfins recorded in Monkleigh and other north-west Devon parishes (Littleham, Northam, Braunton, Frithelstock, Landcross, Appledore etc) from the 17th century onwards, still spelling their name Gorven or Gorvin in the 20th century. It is not clear whether they are related to the Cheriton Bishop Gorwyns, but it seems perfectly possible that they are all descendants of a 16th or 17th century Gorwyn who moved to North Devon1. At the end of the 19th century, one of the Monkleigh families appears to have moved to Glamorgan, establishing a Welsh colony of Gorvens.


   In addition, the records show a sprinkling of Gorfins along the south coast of the county and the Exe estuary (eg in Exminster, Lympstone and Malborough) and some Gorwyns in West Teignmouth. Again it seems perfectly possible that they were descended from a Cheriton Bishop Gorwyn who moved South2.


   There are a number of Gorwyns or Gorwins in the American records of the second half of the 19th century – for instance Polydore Gorwin (born 1841) and family are buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in New York state; and Robert and Samuel Gorwyn (born about 1847 and 1850) are recorded as arriving in New York on board the City of Brussels from Liverpool  in 1872. A William Robert  Gorwyn aged 20 is recorded as arriving in Sydney in Australia in 1890 on board the Brilliant. It is possible that these are members of the family who emigrated to the United States or Australia. There is also a sprinkling of Gorwins in current American records, who could be the descendants of such immigrants. But this is far from certain, given the tendency of immigrants to change their names on arrival (or have them changed by clerks who could not spell the original). But who knows? Perhaps new cousins in America and elsewhere will see this study on the internet and make themselves known.




1 As these parishes are not far from Hartland, the Gorvens and Gorvins of Monkleigh etc. could be descendants of the 13th century occupants of Gorvin in Hartland.  However, there are no Gorvins mentioned in the records between the early 1300s and the 1600s and according to Lysons’ Magna Britannia, the Prust family took over Gorvin probably in the 1500s (as is born out by the Hartland parish registers), when they married Holman of Gorven.  So it looks as though the original Gorvins of Hartland died out early in the 1300s.


2 Occasional Gorwyns pop up in the 17th parish records of Lincoln, but this seems to be a variant spelling of a Lincolnshire family called Garvin.


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