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Vautort, de, familylocked

(per. 1086–1274)
  • Robert Bearman

Vautort, de, family (per. 1086–1274), barons, were descended from Reginald [i] de Vautort (fl. 1086–1123). His family, prominent in the service of Robert, count of Mortain (d. 1091), is traditionally said to have originated from Vautorte (Mayenne), some 20 miles south of Mortain, though Torteval (Calvados) now seems more likely. By 1086 Count Robert had granted the Vautorts substantial estates in the west country, then in the tenure of Reginald [i]. They comprised some fifty-five manors in south Devon and south-east Cornwall (with a further two in Somerset), of which Trematon, with a castle and market in evidence by 1086, became the natural centre. Reginald is later found in the retinue of Count Robert's son, William, and he lived on until at least 1123, witnessing a royal charter in that year in the company of other west-country barons. By 1129 he, with a brother Ralph, had founded the Benedictine priory of Modbury, Devon, dependent on the abbey of St Pierre-sur-Dives (Calvados). If evidence of 1212 is correct, it was probably about this time that Henry I granted to the family the manors of Maker, King's Tamerton, and Sutton Vautort, Devon.

Reginald's son and heir, Roger [i] de Vautort (d. c. 1163), in evidence from 1129, confirmed the foundation at Modbury, adding to its benefactions the church of St Stephen near Trematon (now in Saltash). At the beginning of Stephen's reign he may have given his allegiance to the new king but when Reginald, one of Henry I's illegitimate sons and a leading supporter of the Empress Matilda, was made earl of Cornwall in 1140, Roger became subject to his lordship. He was Reginald's principal subtenant, holding his estates for the service of fifty-nine knights, and is found witnessing the earl's charter in favour of the borough of Truro and two others, in favour of Launceston Priory, in the earl's company. His heir was Ralph [i] de Vautort (d. 1171/2), the son of Roger and his wife, Emma. Ralph issued two charters in favour of Modbury Priory; the wardship of his son and heir, Roger [ii] de Vautort (1164x6–1206), was granted in 1171 or 1172, when Ralph [i] also paid scutage. Until Roger came of age (in 1186 or 1187), his estates were in the hands of an uncle, Johel de Vautort, from whom descended a cadet branch of the family holding lands of the earls of Devon.

Roger [ii] de Vautort is found in the retinue of William de Vernon, earl of Devon, in the early 1190s and then in Richard I's army in Normandy. He found favour with King John, receiving from the king the royal manor of Callington, Cornwall, on his marriage to one Alesia. Shortly before his death, in November 1206, he substantially increased the family's estates by obtaining from the king a promise of the Nonant family's share of the honour of Totnes, Devon, known thereafter as the honour of Harberton, which was to escheat to the crown on the fall of William de Briouze.

Roger [ii]'s heir was his son Reginald [ii] de Vautort (d. 1245) who came of age about 1211. He appears to have remained loyal to the king in the mounting political crisis of John's reign and, on Henry III's accession, was witness to the first reissue of Magna Carta. It was doubtless in recognition of his loyalty that, shortly afterwards, he was confirmed in the honour of Harberton. He was sheriff of Cornwall in 1221 and 1224 and later served the king in a number of minor ways, but including, in 1242, a successful mission against the rebel William de Marisco, who had seized Lundy island. He assumed the Nonant family's role as principal patron of Buckfast Priory and took a great interest in the fortunes of Modbury Priory, on one occasion, in 1240, removing a dishonest and disreputable prior from his post. He also issued charters in favour of the priories of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, and St Nicholas, Exeter, and confirmed to his burgesses of Saltash (first in evidence in 1201) the privileges conferred on them by 'his ancestors'. He married Joan, one of the three daughters of Thomas Basset of Headington, Oxfordshire. This brought him a claim to land in Colyton, Devon, which was disputed over a long period by Walter de Dunstanville.

Under Reginald [ii] the family reached its apogee, his joint tenure of the honours of Trematon and Harberton making Reginald one of the leading landholders in that part of the west country. Thereafter the family went into decline. Reginald [ii] had no surviving children and his estates therefore passed to his brother Ralph [ii] de Vautort (d. 1257), who seems to have initiated a process of alienating the family estates. His heir, Reginald [iii] de Vautort (d. 1269), the son of Ralph and his wife, Joan, succeeded as a minor. Reginald [iii] may, in fact, never have come of age, for though he married one Hawise during his minority, he is otherwise scarcely recorded. When he died childless in 1269, he was succeeded by his uncle Roger [iii] de Vautort (d. 1274), a man allegedly of weak intellect who immediately alienated large parts of the family estates. The honour of Trematon passed in that year to Richard, earl of Cornwall, and at the same time other extensive grants were made to the bishop of Exeter and Alexander of Okeston, who had married Joan, the widow of his brother, Ralph [ii]. Roger [iii] died, childless, late in 1274, and his remaining estates escheated to the crown, encumbered with debts, mostly incurred before 1269, totalling nearly £500. These lands remained in the king's hands for thirty years, being eventually partitioned between Peter Corbet and Henry Pomeroy, descended from Roger [ii] de Vautort's two sisters.

Though one of the leading landholders in south-east Cornwall and adjoining parts of Devon, the Vautort family, with no other estates outside the west country, remained generally remote from national politics. Although they achieved considerable local status after the acquisition of the honour of Harberton, they were also intermittently overshadowed by the earls of Cornwall, and when the male line faltered the family was unable to resist Earl Richard's expansionist ambitions.


  • Modbury Priory deeds and cartulary, Eton
  • ‘Buckfast Abbey cartulary’, Reg. John de Grandisson, bishop of Exeter, ed. F. C. Hingeston Randolph, 3 (1899)
  • Curia regis rolls preserved in the Public Record Office (1922–)
  • P. L. Hull, ed., The cartulary of Launceston Priory (Lambeth Palace MS. 719): a calendar, Devon and Cornwall RS, new ser., 30 (1987)
  • A. Farley, ed., Domesday Book, 2 vols. (1783)
  • H. C. M. Lyte and others, eds., Liber feodorum: the book of fees, 3 vols. (1920–31)
  • M. Beresford, New towns of the middle ages (1967)
  • I. J. Sanders, English baronies: a study of their origin and descent, 1086–1327 (1960)
  • R. Bearman, ed., Charters of the Redvers family and the earldom of Devon, 1090–1217, Devon and Cornwall RS, new ser., 37 (1994)
  • P. L. Hull, ed., The cartulary of St. Michael's Mount, Devon and Cornwall RS, new ser., 5 (1962)
  • [W. Illingworth], ed., Rotuli hundredorum temp. Hen. III et Edw. I, RC, 1 (1812), 56
  • K. S. B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday people I (1999)
Chancery records (Public Record Office)
, PRSoc. (1884–) [pipe rolls]
Eton College, Berkshire
Record Commission