Richard Gorwyn or Lambert (1693-1764); his son John Lambert alias Gorwyn (1719-1765) and John’s wife Mary Cann


    Two of the three sisters who ended up owning the freehold of Lambert in the early 1700s had no surviving children. They left their shares of the freehold to their “kinsman” Richard Gorwyn, although he could not take possession of it until Moalle’s 21-year lease came to an end. He seems to have moved to the neighbouring parish of Drewsteignton (just south of Cheriton Bishop), possibly purchasing a farm in Drewsteignton called Wallon (he figures on lists of Drewsteignton freeholders, so he must have owned property in the parish and Wallon later belonged to his descendants). He also held also the leaseholds of at least two other farms in Drewsteignton and appears to have played a full life in the affairs of the parish. According to a list of churchwardens in the church of Drewsteignton, Richard was the churchwarden there in 1721. In the 1737 deed which renewed the leasehold of Bowden (another farm the family had long leased in Cheriton Bishop), he is described as “gentleman”, so he seems to have been regarded as a man of some social status.


   At the end of Moalle’s 21-year lease (in about 1837), Richard took possession of Lambert. This seems to have been the trigger for Richard and other members of the family to begin using the name Lambert in a serious way. In 1742, Richard’s son John (who became known as John Lambert alias Gorwyn, 1719-1765) married Mary Cann, the daughter of John Cann of Fuidge in Spreyton, a rich landowner from an ancient Devon family, a branch of which had lived in Spreyton from early times.  Richard seems to have given them Lambert, which became their family home, and he probably moved in with them himself in his old age, as his will describes him as ‘of Cheriton Bishop’.


    John and Mary had nine children who survived to adulthood (Table 2). But when the eldest was twenty-one and youngest was only two, John died, leaving his widow Mary to bring up the children and to manage the estate. Although technically Lambert now belonged to her eldest son John, he was only nineteen and there is no doubt that she was the dominant figure. She was faced almost immediately with a row over the one-third of Lambert that still remained in other hands – those of a couple called Richard and Mary Stone, Mary Stone being the descendant of the third sister who had inherited a share of the freehold.


   It seems that Richard Gorwyn, Mary Lambert Gorwyn’s father-in-law, had managed to get hold of the deeds of Lambert, which were the vital documents in those days for proving ownership. Richard had nevertheless been paying the Stones some rent for their share of Lambert, as had Mary’s husband John.  The row seems to have blown up when Mary wanted to continue this arrangement, and the Stones wanted both to raise the rent and (not unreasonably) to have a sight of the deeds to see exactly what their interest was. Mary obviously feared that this could lead to problems and refused to let them or their lawyer see the deeds. The legal documents in the case subsequently brought by Richard Stone1 survive and give a fascinating glimpse of Mary and her son. Witnesses describe how, when Stone turned up at Lambert with his two lawyers to arrange to see the deeds, she “flew into a passion”. She told one of the lawyers that he could “kiss her backside” before the Lambert Gorwyns released the deeds without a court order, whereupon her son John chimed in, telling the other lawyer that he could kiss his (John’s) backside. Mary added that Stone ought to be “shot with a blunderbuss”, and suggested that they had come to the house to rob her. In the end, however, the Lambert Gorwyns presumably reached some accommodation with Stone whereby they acquired the whole of the freehold, as by the time of the death of Mary’s son John Lambert Gorwyn in 1823 he was the sole owner of Lambert.


   Mary lived on until 1797, surviving her husband by 32 years. She was obviously a woman of spirit and energy, although the experience of the Stones shows that she must have been pretty difficult to deal with. It cannot have been an easy life for a widow with nine children and a substantial estate to manage (as the family also held the leaseholds of a number of other farms). She did get some help in the early years of her widowhood from her three influential Cann brothers – indeed the Stones called in the Canns when Mary became too difficult to deal with. But generally she seems to have become an admirable manager of the family affairs, making provision (in terms of land) for her sons; and arranging suitable marriage settlements for her daughters. It seems likely that her husband left her a fair amount of cash as well as land, as all her sons appear to have ended up well provided for. Among other things, she purchased the freehold of various properties2 that the family was already leasing. She remained living at Lambert with her bachelor son John until her death and is buried with her husband in Cheriton Bishop.



The children of John Lambert alias Gorwyn and Mary Cann


   The following are some notes on the most interesting of the five daughters and four sons of John and Mary who survived to adulthood.




   The eldest son John  (1746-1823) was generally known as ‘John Lambert Gorwyn’, the standard form of the name in the Lambert branch of the family from then on. He inherited Lambert (where he lived) and several other properties, to which he added by purchase. In 1800, for example, he purchased the farm of Higher Budbrooke adjoining Lambert3. When he died he left substantial holdings in the parishes of Spreyton, Hittisleigh, Cheriton Bishop and Drewsteignton. As he had no children, he left his property mainly to his nephews and nieces. He clearly had sentimental feelings about Lambert, as in his will he gave specific instructions that the piece of land called Woody next to what he called the Manor House should not be coppiced, so that the timber “should stand and grow there forever”. He directed that Lambert should thereafter go in line with the primogeniture, so it ended up with his nephew William, the eldest son of his next brother. William was by then well established at Wallon, a good farm tucked away in a remote valley in the parish of Drewsteignton, and presumably had no desire to uproot himself to move to Lambert, so Lambert was let and ultimately passed out of the family, probably in the late 19th century.




   William Lambert Gorwyn of Wallon (1750-1797) died of a drowning accident at the age of 47, and his son William took over Wallon, farming there until his death in 1853 (see TABLE 3 for their descendants). This second William of Wallon married a rich wife from Exeter, and seems to have been a man of some substance, not least because of his inheritance of Lambert and other property from his unmarried uncle John. He is described in the 1851 census as a farmer of 350 acres with 13 employees, a quite substantial estate for those days. In his will, he describes himself as ‘William Lambert Esquire’ (i.e. one up on “gentleman”), so socially this branch of the family had moved sharply upwards. His children were not interested in farming and both went into the professions: one son became a solicitor in Exeter and another a surgeon in London.


   William clearly hoped that the next generation would come back into farming, as he entailed Wallon and forbade leases of it longer than 21 years (so that it would be available for any grandson who wanted to farm it). But the surgeon was childless and although the solicitor had two surviving sons, one a solicitor in Exeter (who was a chess enthusiast and became Devon County champion) and one a naval surgeon, both appear to have been bachelors, and when they died in the 1920s this branch became extinct in the male line. Wallon and Lambert were let out and finally sold in 1890.


   The Williams of Wallon had a number of daughters who mostly married into other local yeoman farming families, so there are no doubt many descendants of this line living. One daughter of the family was adventurous enough to marry a Lieutenant-General in the East India company, the son of an admiral, and went out to live with him in Bengal. Their only son became a judge in India at a young age, but died while sailing back to Britain. Table 3 in the family tree pages describes the Wallon branch in greater detail.




    The fourth son of John and Mary, George Lambert Gorwyn (1763-1837) gave rise to a dynasty of Georges, including the George Lambert who became an MP in 1891 and was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Lambert in 1945. The Georges and their descendants are described in more detail in the next chapter on the Lambert Gorwyns of Spreyton and Haven Banks and in Table 4 and Table 5.




    As regards the daughters of John and Mary of Lambert, Elizabeth (1752-1819) appears to have been the unfortunate one who got stuck at home at Lambert looking after no doubt first her aging mother and then her bachelor brother John.  She was not without enterprise, however. She inherited the Golden Lion Inn in Crockernwell from her uncle George Cann in 1804, and was the licensee from 1804-1809. The inn was extremely busy at the period as it was where coaches between Exeter and Okehampton (and parts beyond) changed horses. During her tenure, the Golden Lion was one of the coaching inns at which Lieutenant Lapotiere, who brought the news of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1806, changed horses on his way from Falmouth to London (he was riding in a post-chaise, a very speedy two-horse carriage that required a change of horses every ten miles or so).


Joan and her son John Lambert Arden Gorwyn


    The three other daughters all married. Joan (born 1757), married George Arden, a mercer in Exeter, and had thirteen children. Her brother John Lambert Gorwyn of Lambert bequeathed various properties to one of her sons, John Lambert Arden, including Higher Budbrooke in Drewsteignton), provided that he added Gorwyn to his name on reaching the age of 21, which he did, thus adding to the difficulties of the family historian in sorting out the 19th century Gorwyns. The Arden family seem to have been an enterprising one, as another son of Joan and George Arden (called George) went to India, probably with the East India Company. His uncle John Lambert Gorwyn obviously disapproved, as in his will he left George £100, but only on condition that he returned from India.





1 Stone v. Gorwyn, National Archives ref: C12/1529/14 and C12/1319/18


2 The only really big landowners in that part of Devon were the ancient Fulford family of Great Fulford, a huge, mainly Tudor house in Dunsford (south-east of Cheriton Bishop). They owned many thousands of acres in Devon and Dorset and many manors (and are still big landowners to this day). Among their holdings were several farms in Cheriton Bishop and Drewsteignton. All these farms were leased to tenant farmers, including members of the Lambert Gorwyn family. Owing to the extravagance of the then head of the family, by the last  part of the 18th century the Fulfords had run up substantial debts and were forced to sell the freeholds of several of their farms. These freeholds were usually purchased by the incumbent tenant farmer. An indenture of 7.12.1771 (in private hands)  records that  John Fulford and his trustees conveyed to Mary Lambert otherwise Gorwyn the properties of North Bowden, Newton’s Tenement, Portford Cottage and Gribble’s Cottage in Cheriton Bishop. John Cann of Fuidge (probably her father or brother) acts as her trustee. She seems to have acquired the freehold of Honeyford or Honeydown in Drewsteignton (another Fulford property leased by the family) at about the same time.


3 Deed of 29.9.1800, by which Juliana Hole (widow of the Rev. Richard Hole of Exeter) and her son the Rev. Robert Hole conveyed for the sum of £1, 120 8s 1½d to John Lambert Gorwyn  their freehold interest in Higher Budbrooke in Drewsteignton. At the same time the Holes conveyed to John various small properties in Spreyton, and also the rights to the high and chief (manorial) rents payable out of properties in the Manor of Spreyton (including Spreyton Barton, Downhayes, Fuidge, South Beer, Woodhouse, the Bigbeers, Puddicombe Park, Coombe, Heath and Bush); the Manor of Lamford (Lambert, Eastbeer, Westbeer, Spirelake and Halfacre); and the Manor of Fursham (West, Middle and Little Fursham, Chapple, Narraway, Flood, Thornbury and Fursdon). However, John sold these on immediately to his uncle George Cann of Spreyton, presumably by prior agreement.


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