Family Conflict?
Book of Spoure


The Spoure family lived at Trebartha Hall from 1498 to 1729. Before that the seat was occupied by the Trebartha family. Today there remain two significant works by Edmund Spoure that help us understand the family's heritage. He constructed the splendid memorial to his son, Henry, that is in the church of St Torney's in North Hill, and he wrote "The Book of Spoure". The Spoure legacy was to pass on a viable estate that the Rodd family owned and worked for a further 240 years.

The Arrival of the Spoure Family and Growth of the Trebartha Estate

In the Book of Spoure by Edmund Spoure (1694) he says "The Spoures were also an ancient Famely, in the County of Summerset, nigh Crookarn [Crewkerne], and had Misterton their Mansion house from Edward Courtney Erle of Devonshire, in the first year of Henry The fourth [1399/1400]; and now nigh Bristoll, and in Shopsheir, are some younger branches of the Famely even to this day; but I finde anciently by old records, they were a Nottinghams Sheir Famely, and flourished for many descents in that County; but at what place in the County, I cannot finde, so darke, and obscure has ancient times left their Memorialls to us." Edmund's information regarding the Bristol connection appears correct. In The National Archive is the will of Morris Spoore of Easton in Gordano, near Bristol, dated 19 April 1588.

Nicholas Trebartha, the last male heir of that family, died in the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509) leaving his daughter Anne as sole heiress. She married in 1498 to Thomas Spoure of Misterton in Somerset. He was captain of a troop of horse and had been sent to Cornwall to suppress an uprising against the Crown, and there met and married Anne.

Thomas and Anne's son, also named Thomas, married Katherine Reskimer. He purchased from Sir George Carew the adjacent manor of Treveniel in North Hill as well as lands in Blisland. This Thomas' son, yet another Thomas, married Jane, daughter of John Jackman of Stoke Climsland. The Book of Spoure relates how their son, Henry Spoure esquire, married Mary Roose of Froxton, near Holsworthy, in the parish of Whitstone in the 11th year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1569). Because Mary was their sole heir to her father's estate, Froxton then became part of the Spoure estates.

Henry purchased additional lands in North Hill, notably Trewortha and Lemarne, and subsequently sold Misterton, the original seat of the Spoures. Lemarne is of particular interest because of the tin mine which provided so well that Henry was able to give 1000 pounds a piece to his five daughters. Apparently this was the first time that such a large sum of money had been given to a daughter by a private gentleman from his class in Cornwall. Henry built the great parlour and other rooms and buildings as additions to the existing Trebartha Hall.

The Spoures gradually purchased more land to add to their estates, including the neighbouring manor of Tolcarne (purchased from John Kekewich of Catchfrench), Coquernell and Trekernell in North Hill. They acquired by marriage with the family of Speccott various properties in Devon and in Launcells.

Edmund Spoure (1654-1696)

Edmund was born in 1654. His parents were Henry Spoure and Elizabeth, nee Speccott. Edmund was a scholar, an artist, a poet and an author as well as the master of the Trebartha Estate. His father had died when he was 12 years old and Edmund was the heir to the Trebartha Estate. His mother administered the estate until Edmund took it over in his own right. She died at Trebartha Hall in 1683.

In 1675 Edmund married Mary Rodd, the daughter of James Rodd of Oakhay, Stoke Cannon, Devon, and his wife Mary, nee Bampfylde. Edmund's sketch of Oakhay is shown here and has been taken from The Book of Spoure; click on the image for a larger image.

Edmund and Mary had two children, a son and a daughter:

  • Their first child was a son named Henry. he was baptised in St Torney's church on 1st November 1677. In the early spring of 1688 young Henry died when just nine years old. He is remembered on the Spoure Memorial. The entries of his baptism and burial, taken from the registers of St Torney's Church in North Hill, can be seen below (click for a larger image).

  • Their daughter, Mary, was born about 1680 (there is a gap in the North Hill baptismal register from 1678 to 1682 for individuals whose name commences with the letter 'M'). She first married Rentaus Bellot and then, after his death, she married Charles Grylls, and had a child by each of them. She survived them all and she died in 1729.

Edmund, probably being aware of his own impending death but certain that this branch of the Spoure line was to end with him, commenced two projects to help ensure the Spoure name lived on. Following Henry's death, Edmund commissioned the splendid Spoure Memorial shown above. This was as much a testament to the family as it was to Henry.

In 1694 he wrote the magnificent "The Book of Spoure" for his daughter, Mary.

Edmund died in 1696 when he was just 42.

Mary Grylls, formerly Bellott nee Spoure (c1680-1729)

Mary Spoure - this image from The Book of Spoure

Reproduced with the kind permission of National Trust Images

In 1697 Mary Spoure married Renatus Bellott of Bochym in Cury on the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall. The Bellott family had come to Cornwall during the reign of Elizabeth. Renatus was Member of Parliament for Mitchell in Cornwall in 1702. In 1704 he and Mary had a son, Renatus, but the child died in 1712, and was buried in North Hill churchyard. His father died a few years later, the last of his family. Bochym was sold, but some lands were acquired by Mary, in St. Neot and St. Cleer.

Around 1720 Mary married for a second time; her husband was Charles Grylls of Court in Lanreath. Their only son George died in infancy, and Charles died in 1728. Once again Mary was a widow without an heir. All Charles' lands were left in trust for Mary for her life and after her death to revert to trustees to the use of his kinsman William Grylls of Chaddlehanger, Devon.

There being no heir to her estate, had Mary not written a will, the beneficiary from her death would have been one of the descendants of Henry Spoure and Gertrude Bury or the relatives or trustees of Charles Grylls. It is clear that Mary had intended that such a transfer of ownership would not take place.

Mary, determined to secure an heir for the Spoure estate, became engaged to her cousin Francis Rodd, son of Bampfylde Rodd of Devon, and in 1728 she made a will leaving him all her property "provided he is not already married to, or shall not at any time take to wife, Jane Parker, now living in Covent Garden, London". This was to have been an expedient marriage because it ensured that the estate would remain in the family of Mary's mother, but it seems that Mary had a real affection for her cousin. Francis was the son of Bampfylde Rodd, the brother of Mary's mother. Before the wedding could take place Mary died of smallpox, and in 1730 Francis Rodd found himself the owner of considerable estates in Cornwall. From hereon the Rodd family occupied Trebartha Hall. read more ...

Mary was buried at St Torney's on 6th May 1729.

The Spoure Memorials in St Torney's Church

There are five memorials in the church displaying Spoure heraldry. On the church plan they are numbered 17, 18, 19, 21 and 23. The most significant is #19 - The Monument to Henry Spoure (1677-1688).

#17 - The three arched memorial to the infant Richard Spoure who died in 1653

Infans quid loquitae

[Spoken by the child]

This carved tombe
The sad inscription beares
Of my sooth death
And of my parents' teares
For my departure
Though that happy I
By that was freed
From future misery
And now instead of their
Fond dandling kisses
I now enjoy a heaven
A heaven of blisses
Waile not the before for me
But heavens implore
That God with other issue
You would store
Whose pious lives may cause
You joyful eyes
And tend your deaths
With sacred obsequies

"Here lyeth ye body of Richard Spoure ye son and heire of Henery Spoure Esq and Elizabeth; who was buried ye 20th day of April in Anno Domini 1653 - et aetatis suiae 3 moneth [aged 3 months]"

His mother was Elizabeth Spoure nee Speccott.

Click on the image for a larger version

#18 - The four plaques showing Spoure genealogy

In the Spoure Chapel in St Torney's Church in North Hill there are four square plaques showing various arms related to the Spoure family. The latest of these dates from around the mid 1650s when Edmund was born. It is possible that there were more plaques but some have been lost. The one which refers back furthest references a marriage around 1500.





The four plaques
1 and 3
2 and 4
The Trebartha arms are quartered with the Calloway (Kellaway) arms. The Spoure arms are in the escutcheon. The Spoure arms are quartered with the arms of Roose. The Spoure arms are impaled with the arms of Bury (Berry). The Spoure arms are quartered with the Speccott arms.

Dating the plaques. The style of the plaques would seem to indicate that they were created at the same time, probably by Edmund or his father, Henry. This would have been in the mid to late 1600s. It is interesting to note that the fourth plaque's base has been shaped, perhaps indicating that this was added after the others. In support of this theory is that the third plaque shows the Spoure arms, of Henry Spoure, being impaled by the Bury arms of Gertrude Bury. This would suggest that Henry and Gertrude were alive when the plaque was created. Gertrude died in 1657 and Henry died in 1670 and so it may have been that Henry commissioned the plaques and later his grandson, Edmund, added the final plaque after his own father's death in 1666 in order to complete the story of the Spoure family.


1. (c1475 - Trebartha and Kellaway) Around 1475 Nicholas Trebartha married Catherine Kelloway and they had a daughter Anne. If they had other children then they would have died as Edmund describes Anne as being the daughter and sole heir of Nicholas and Catherine. Both the Trebartha and the Kelloway families were armigerous and the arms on the plaque are Anne's as they show both her parents; she was the heraldic heiress. The escutcheon of pretence placed in the centre of her arms references her husband, Captain Thomas Spoure, whom she married around 1498. The heraldic convention is that if the wife be an heraldic heir or coheir, in lieu of impalement, the arms of her family are placed on an inescutcheon superimposed on the centre of her husband's arms, the inescutcheon being termed an escutcheon of pretence, because jure uxoris she being an heiress of her house, the husband "pretends" to the representation of her family. These arms, however, show the husband's arms in pretence. This is either unusual or, more likely, incorrect as a woman of this time was not legally capable of owning property and upon her marriage would not be responsible for her husband's estate.

Thomas Spoure and Anne Trebartha had a son Thomas who married Katherine Reskimer. Thomas and Katherine had a son Thomas who married Jane Jackman. Thomas and Jane's son, Henry, married Mary Roose. These marriages are not represented in the array of plaques and prompts the suggestion that there may be lost plaques.

2. (c1570 - Spoure and Roose) The Spoure arms are quartered with the arms of Roose of Whitstone. These would have been the arms of Richard the son and heir of Henry and Mary Spoure, mentioned above. Richard married Mary Courtenay and they had a son, Henry Spoure who was born about 1600.

3. (1622 - Spoure and Bury) Richard and Mary's son, Henry, married in 1622 to Gertrude Bury whose family hailed from Colleton Barton in the parish of Chulmleigh in Devon. Henry's arms are impaled by the Bury arms. See the note above on dating the plaques. Henry and Gertrude had a son, Henry, who married Mary Speccott.

When writing The Book of Spoure in the mid 1690s Gertrude's grandson, Edmund Spoure, makes almost no mention of the Bury family history. Edmund wrote the book to demonstrate the family's long heritage and influential social standing. Matters from the family history that contradicted the impression that Edmund created were not recorded by him. For that reason, the harrowing story of Gertrude's grandfather, John Bury, was left out. The story was told in 1915 in "Country Life" under the heading of "Colleton Barton" and you can read it by clicking on the image above.

4. (1654-1675 - Spoure and Speccott) The quartered arms of Spoure and Speccott are those of Edmund Spoure himself, before his marriage to Mary Rodd in 1675.

#19 - The Spoure Memorial in the Spoure Chapel in St Torney's Church, North Hill.

This is the monument to Henry Spoure (1678-1688), the son of Edmund Spoure and Elizabeth (nee Speccott). Edmund and Elizabeth are kneeling in prayer. Behind them are their children Henry, to whom the monument is dedicated, and Mary, each of them holding a book in their hand. Mary's book is open but Henry's is closed, signifying his death.


To read more about the heraldry, go to The Book of Spoure

Mary's ancestry is shown here and explains the source of many of the elements of the armorial plaque set at the very top of the monument.

The crest's blazon is a 'Demi-Heraldic Antelope Ermine, Erased Per Fess Gules, Crined And Attired Or, Holding In The Mouth A Broken Spear Sable, Headed Argent, The Head Downwards'. The families represented here are shown below.

Top Row
Spoure & Trebartha, Jackman, Spoure & Roose of Whitstone, Courtenay of Powderham

Second Row
Bury of Colleton, Spoure & Speccott, Rodd, Wallis

Third Row
Hay, Trebartha & Callaway, Giffard of Weare Giffard, Downe

Bottom Row
Strode of Newnham (Plympton), Walrond of Bradfield in Devon

#21 - this would appear to be an incised floor slab which has been moved to the wall.

Mary was born Mary Spoure and was the last of the Spoure line. She married Renatus Bellot around 1703 and their only son, named after his father was born a year or so later. Renatus senior died in 1710 and is buried at Cury. Renatus junior died when just eight years old and is buried in North Hill, probably beneath the nave or in the Spoure chapel.

Mary remarried at some point in the 1720s to Charles Grylls but he died in 1728, leaving Mary without a husband or an heir to inherit her estate.

#23 - is an incised tomb slab which has been lifted and now stands as part of the south wall of the Spoure chapel.

There is furniture preventing a single full length image. You can view the upper part, the lower part and some detail.

The arms shown are those of the Spoure and Trebartha families. The outer edge inscription reads
"Here lyeth the Bodye / of Henrie Spoure of Trebartha Esquire who departed this lyfe the / xviii daye of October, anno / domi 1603 who had issue v sonnes and vi daughters, his adge 61."

Incised into the middle of the slab between the skull and the coat of arms it says:
"As thou art, so was I
and as I am so shall thou be."

The area beneath the coat of arms is inscribed in Latin:

Me ego flos veris quondam mos mortis imago.
Sole novo iuvenis, sole cadente senex.
Vi viri morior vitam mors ipsa probabit.
Qui mortis mors est hic mihi vita fiet

Rich Spoure Armig
defunti filius et heres

I myself, once in the springtime of life will soon encounter the face of death.
A youth in the dawning sun, an old man in the setting sun.
I die with the honour of a nobleman, death itself will prove my life to be worthy.
This death, death is here for me and my life.

Rich[ard] Spoure Armig[er]
son and heir of the deceased


Family Conflict?

The Book of Spoure is a revealing document and gives us insight into the life and thoughts of Edmund Spoure, Esquire, gentleman and landed proprietor of Trebartha Hall. He was born in 1654 into a family that strongly supported the monarchy and the Church of England. He was aware of life under the Commonwealth and the Restoration of the Monarchy. Like the rest of his family recorded in The Book of Spoure, he was also a devout supporter of the Monarchy and the Established Church. He had been regaled with stories of daring and courage by members of the family. He was aware of lives lived and lives lost and of the leaders of those troops all performing their duty before God and the King. Edmund wrote this book and finished it in 1694 in celebration of the Spoure family who manifested these values.

Edmund also lived in the small, fairly isolated Cornish community that was North Hill. The relationship the community had with the outside world hadn't changed much over the centuries and, for most local residents of the parish, its people were the essential elements of their lives. Everybody knew everybody else and who lived where, who was in a relationship and who was working for whom. The minutiae of people's lives was the interest of all. Edmund would have been well aware of people living nearby.

Living in the parish, at the time that Edmund was writing his book, was another family that went by the name of Spoure. They may have worked the Trebartha lands as tenant farmers. It would have been extremely unusual for Edmund not to have known about them. It is probably no less likely that he knew how they were related to his own family; after all, he was very well informed on his family's heritage.

In 1694 the Spoure family that didn't live in Trebartha Hall consisted of 53 year old John Spoure, his wife Grace and their children. John had been baptized in St Torney's in 1641 just a few months after his father, Oliver Spoure, had married Temperance Vincent. Oliver had been born in 1607 in Ugborough in South Devon and seems to have come to North Hill around the 1630s. His father was Robert Spoure whose ancestry has not yet been identified.

The Vincent family lived at Battens at the time and boasted a coat of arms and so their social status was quite high in the community, just below that of the Spoures. Exactly how Temperance fitted into that family has also been lost over time but when Edmund was writing his book John and Grace were living in the parish. They had had six children and at least three of those (Richard, John and Peter) were probably living with their parents in 1694. Richard married and had two children baptized in St Torney's in 1702 and 1705.

Not one of John and Grace's family is mentioned in The Book of Spoure, as written by Edmund Spoure. John's father and grandfather are not mentioned either. This begs the question of why this was the case and what was the relationship between Edmund's family and John's family?

The header image shows the family coat of arms and three members of the Spoure family, taken from the Book of Spoure.