I am aware of two links to the South Hams ‘Bastard’ family/families.

My closest ancestor with the surname: Susanna BASTARD, a 5 x great grandmother One of the 11 children of William and Elizabeth who had married in Stokenham in 1739. The children, were all baptized in the same parish, between 1739/40 and 1760, Susanna being the youngest.

William seems to have been the great grandson of one Joseph Bastard and his wife Joane Pope, who married in 1639/40, Joseph being ‘of Charleton’ at the time of his marriage. Although there already were Bastards in Stokenham, Joseph does seem to have been baptized, and so probably born, in Charleton, in 1612. His father and grandfather were both called John; the latter married in Charleton, but his place of baptism was probably before the start of Parish Registers and so must remain a mystery.

There is a possibility that Manorial Court or other documents will enable us to get back further, but more likely this is as far as it will be possible to trace this Bastard line.

My other link is through Alice BASTARD, an 8 x great grandmother, though the name Bastard stayed in the family longer, being given as a second Christian name to her granddaughter, my 6 x gt grandmother, Alice (‘Ally’) Bastard SYMONS, baptised in Kingsbridge in 1732/33. The latter’s father was a wig maker / barber, who we may presume gave the name to draw attention to his link to gentry. For Alice was a daughter of Bevill BASTARD, a younger son of the large gentry family of William BASTARD and Johanna HELE of Gerston in West Alvington, i.e. Alice could be described as a gateway ancestor, though not apparently of gentry status herself, both her parents were.

I am adding a page about my gentry discovery and an explanation of what is on my tree and what to beware of.

Illustrious forebears?

Early in the novel Lorna Doone, in chapter II, R.D. Blackmore wrote “But others were of high family, as any need be, in Devon — Carews, and Bouchiers, and Bastards“. And Blackmore was not making this up – the Bastards have been an important family in Devon for centuries.

The first we know of a Bastard family in Devon is from the Doomsday Book, which records one Robert Bastard as a holder of land (“tenant in chief”) in the county in 1086. There is some suggestion that he was a son of William the Conqueror. The latter was himself illegitimate, and sometimes referred to as William the Bastard; one wonders if it was this that has led to the suggestion that Robert was his son, although if true it seems more likely that Robert had the “surname” because he too was illegitimate. He clearly was not the son of William and his wife Matilda, to whom William is believed to have been unusually faithful. But he may have had several pre-marital illegitimate offspring, including Robert. (source / more information)

An alternative family for Robert Bastard is provided on the Kitley House Hotel website which suggests that Robert was descended from the French Bastardiene line.

This depends on “Généalogie de la Maison de Bastard”, published in Paris in 1848; Victorian research was often not reliable and of course fraught with far more difficulties than we face today (and those can be bad enough!). It shows descent from:

  • Rahier, Lord of Bastardiene-sur-Sevre c.1040;
  • the name derived from an illegitimate son of Alan Short-Beard, Duke of Brittany c.950;
  • Alan Short-Beard was a descendant of Rivallon, Count of Poher in Cornwall c850.

It claims that Robert Bastard was a Breton follower of Alan Fargent who sailed with William, Duke of Normandy, and after the Conquest settled in Devon, later generations moving back to their ancestral homeland in Cornwall.

Although surnames were not usually hereditary at this time, R. A. McKinley in “The Surnames of Devon” (1995, main author David Postles) points out that the names of half a dozen of the 1086 tenants in chief became hereditary surnames of Devon land-owning families, Bastard amongst them.

A memorial to William Bastard

The largest of the Bastard family memorials in West Alvington Church

By 1275 one Sir Richard Bastard was Lord of Efford, on the edge of Plymouth. In that year a John Besilles, Lord of Alfyntone (now West Alvington), issued a quitclaim to Geoffrey de Wrockshale. The deed refers to messuages and lands etcetera at what was then called Garstone, thus indicating that the Bessilles also owned that property.

One of a number of shields at Kitley House (one time home of Bastards, see below) shows Bastard impaling Besilles. It was probably through the marriage that the shield represents that the Bastard came to be settled in West Alvington. (source)

It seems, though, that it is not possible to trace the Gerston estate with any certainty before John, 2 x great grandfather of the above Bevill. In the late seventeenth century William Bastard, son of Bevill’s oldest brother, also William, married Ann, heiress of the Pollexfen fortunes, and so the family home of the senior line of the Bastards became Kitley House at Yealmpton, although their son, given Pollexfen as a Christian name, had children baptised at West Alvington in the eighteenth century, the last in 1730, and his widow was still “of Gerston” when she died in 1774. (sources: Kitley House website, South Hams genealogy website, will ref on TNA website).

Thus the Bastard family, probable descendants of the 1086 tenant in chief Robert Bastard, and just possibly descendants of William the Conqueror, have had a home in West Alvington for at least some four to five hundred years, maybe as long as seven hundred. West Alvington is only about 8 miles from Stokenham, and it seems likely that my Stokenham ‘Bastard’ ancestors are also amongst those descended from the Gerston Bastards.

It seems to me probable that the concentration of Bastards in this part of the South Hams is due to some “younger sons” moving from West Alvington to other locations in the neighbourhood, and over the centuries losing their gentry status. Bevill is an example of how quickly this could happen: the brother of a knight, his daughters married a husbandman and a grocer, while a grandson was a barber.

Last updated: 22 May, 2016


Bastard — 4 Comments

  1. I was doing a little research and came across the name Robert Bastard. It was understood or claimed that he lived in a medieval village on Old Hazard Farm just outside of Totnes, do you know whether this is true or not?

    Warm regards


    • I’m afraid I haven’t heard this, but then most of my research is tracing my ancestors back, I only did very brief research into the Bastards of West Alvington etc. after coming across the monument in West Alvington Church by chance.

  2. Thank you for your response. I’m sorry for the huge delay in my response.

    I was wondering if you knew whether the Blakemore family are related to the Bastards?

    It makes sense if they were related. Blakemore Farm is to Hazard Farm and Robert Bastard owned Hazard Villages.

    What do you think?

    Best wishes

  3. Hi Teresa, I am a descendant of Joan Langworthy and Francis Hamlyn of Widecombe. They are mentioned on page 426 of the 1972 edition of Burke’s Landed Gentry. I am a descendant of their 5th son George who went to Churchstow and Aveton Gifford in the South Hams of Devon (below Dartmoor) and married there in 1715. I think Joan Langworthy may have been a daughter of Richard Langworthy and Joan Bastard. I have recently found on the National Archives site a record of the marriage settlement of this couple (1656), mentioning lands and houses in Widecombe, Loddiswell and Churchstow. My George Hamlyn leased from a William Langworthy of Hatch Arundell, Loddiswell, a tenement and orchard in Venn, in Churchstow parish in 1720 (i have a digital image of the lease document). I am researching the Hamlyn tree in the South Hams, but the Langworthy connection is fascinating, and more so the possible Bastard line.

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