The Turbeville Family 1202 - 1780

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Although this family figured so largely in Bere Regis affairs from the 13th to the early 18th centuries, exercising a powerful influence as lords of the manor, they had entirely disappeared by 1780. By the first half of the 16th century they had become so numerous that it seems to have been necessary to establish new branches at Wool and Winterborne Whitchurch, but in spite of this, male descendants had become very scarce by the end of the 17th century. Although this complete extinction of a family and name seems to lend a certain air of unreality to them, it does at the same time add interest to a study of their history for they were real enough, particularly no doubt, to any who may have had reason to oppose them. At the present time, perhaps, the fictional D'Urbervilles of Hardy's well-known novel may seem more real than the factual Turbervilles upon whom they were based.

All the Turbervilles are said to have descended from Sir Payne de Turberviile who came from France at the time of the Norman conquest of 1066. As a reward for his services in connection with the conquest of Glamorganshire he was granted the lordship and castle of Coity in Wales, which remained in the possession of his descendants until the end of the 18th century when that particular branch became extinct. Other branches became subsequently established in Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire early in the 13th century.

John Turberville of Bere who occurs in the 13th century records is the earliest ancestor referred to in old heraldic surveys, and he is therefore generally considered as the founder of the Bere Regis family, but John de Turberville is recorded in 1202 as being one of three `viewers' or surveyors engaged in connection with building work on King John's houses here. He may of course have been already living at Bere, but it is equally possible that he may have been sent here specifically for this work, and could account for the establishment of the family here.

The following notes on various members of the family are dealt with under the heading of each successive heir or lord of the manor.

1. Sir John Turberville. Referred to in a document of unspecified date during the reign of Henry III (1216-1272), and could be the same John Turberville recorded earlier as a viewer in connection with building work on King John's houses in 1202.

2. Sir Brian Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Sir John (1).

3. Sir John Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Sir Brian (2). John Turberville is named as lord of the Hundred of Bere in 1274, but this could refer to his son, Sir John (4). Married Ellen (or Elianora).

4. Sir John Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Sir John (3), married Isabel. Early in the 14th century John Turberville and Isabel his wife were jointly holding land in Bere, and were paying an annual fine of 4 shillings due to the king each Michaelmas. This fine had been incurred by one of his ancestors for illegally enclosing in his own land a portion of the forest of Bere belonging to the Earl of Hereford. Notwithstanding this, he was Sheriff for Dorset and Somerset in 1303 and 1304, and knight of the shire for Dorset in the parliament of 1305. He died in 1309.

5. Sir John Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Sir John (4). He married Joan (or Joanna) and succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1309. He died at some time before 1346.

6. Sir Richard Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Sir John (5). His first marriage was to Eleanor, daughter of Sir Thomas Norris during which time his eldest son Robert was born. His second marriage was to Cecilia, sister of John, Lord Beauchamp of Hatch, when his daughter Juliana was born. Sir Richard is referred to in 1346 as holding land in Bere as successor to his father, and a Richard Turberville is mentioned in 1362 as one of two collectors of tenths and fifteenths in Dorset. He died in 1362.

7. Sir Robert Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Sir Richard (6). He was born in 1356 and succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1362 at the age of 6. He married Margaret, daughter of Lord Carew of Bedington, was knighted in 1403 and died in 1424 aged 68.

8. William Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Sir Robert (7). He was born in 1394, and succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1424 at the age of 30. His first marriage was to Joan, daughter of Nicholas Toner during which time his four sons, John, Richard, Hugh and Robert were born. Three further children, Humphrey, John and Joan were born during his second marriage, to Edith, daughter of John Newburgh. In 1434 he was "named among the gentry of this county who could dispend £10 per annum". He died in 1451, and a floor slab formerly in the south aisle of the church bore the fragmentary inscription `Orate pro a'i'a' Will'i-.' It probably marked his tomb as there seem not to have been any prominent William Turbervilles occurring after him.

9. John Turberville. Eldest son and heir of William (8). He was .born in 1431 and succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1451 at the age of 20. He married Alice, daughter of Hugh Bramshott, but their only child or children died, and at his death he was succeeded by his brother Richard. In 1485 he was "Constable of oure castell of Corff, portershipp of the same, tributes these posts to his nephew John (11), but this would make him both a very young Sheriff and a very old man at death, either of which would be unlikely, especially as such posts were more often held by a `reigning' lord of the manor. In 1486 John (9) would have been aged 55, which seems a reasonable age at which to be Sheriff.

10. Richard Turberville. Brother and heir of John (9) and second son of William (8). His first marriage was to Joan when a daughter, Alice was born. During his second marriage to Joan, daughter of Thomas Benham of Wiltshire, four further children were born -John, Thomas, Richard and Edith. He died in 1505, and a floor slab formerly in the south aisle of the church bore the following fragmentary inscription - Ricardus Turbervyle arm. Quondam Dorninus de Bere Regis, et Johana uxor eius; qui quidem"Richard Turberville, arm bearer, lord of Bere Regis, and Joan his wife; which said".

11. John Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Richard (10), he succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1505. He married Isabel, daughter of John Cheverell and had 5 sons-George, James, Roger, Humphrey, and Henry; and 3 daughters-Elizabeth ' Edith and Mary. His second son James, born at Bere, was educated at Winchester School, subsequently became a monk, and was admitted a fellow of New College, Oxford in 1514, being made a D.D. in 1532. From 1521 to 1524 he was registrar of Oxford University, and whilst prebendary of Winchester in 1555 was elected Bishop of Exeter and consecrated as such on 5 September the same year, As Bishop he endeavoured to recover the financial position of his church which had deteriorated under his predecessor Goverdale, and acquired the manor of Crediton in Devon. After opposing in Parliament the bill to restore first fruits and tenths to the Crown, and then refusing to take the oath of supremacy of the Sovereign, he was deprived of office in 1559. (Queen Elizabeth was a protestant Queen, and the Turbervilles had always been staunch catholics). In addition, together with other bishops who had been similarly deprived of office, he signed a letter of remonstrance to the Queen, and as a result spent a short time in the Tower of London. He died an ordinary citizen in 1570. John Turberville died in 1536 and ordered his body to be buried in Bere Regis church in one of the tombs in which his father Sir Richard had been buried. He left a farm at Winterborne Whitchurch to his fifth son, Henry, thus starting this branch of the family.

12. George Turberville. Eldest son and heir of John (11), he succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1536. He married Audrey, granddaughter of Sir John Matthewe, Lord Mayor of London, and there were 4 sons and 6 daughters-Robert, Nicholas, Thomas, William, Elizabeth, Edith, Mary, Jane, Dorothy and Lucy. Audrey was also great niece of the martyr John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, who was executed in 1535. At Georges death in 1547, he left property at Wool, including the Woolbridge manor house, to his third son Thomas, thus starting this branch of the family.

13. Robert Turberville. Eldest son and heir of George (12), he succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1547, and died in 1559. He married Mary, daughter of Roger Maudelyn of Nunny, Somerset and had one son Thomas and one daughter Maudlin.

Before 1547 the lords of the manor of Bere were entitled to only half of the rents and profits from it, the other half or moiety as it was called, having gone to the successive Abbesses of Tarrant Abbey until its dissolution in 1539. In 1547, Robert Turberville purchased the other half for £608 16s. 8d. so that from this date the Turbervilles held the whole manor. It is perhaps noteworthy that this point seems to mark the beginning of a decline in the family fortunes. Before the middle of the 16th century succession had been almost without exception by eldest son and heir, but after this time male heirs seem either to have been lacking or dying at an early age, and succession fell to cousins and other relatives from Wool, until the complete extinction of the family and name in 1780.

Robert Turberville's floor tomb slab still exists in the south aisle of the church, but the brass plate originally fixed to it has now been removed to a safer position on the wall nearby. It bears this latin inscription engraved in gothic lettering:

Hic iacet Robertus Turhervyle Armiger qui tempore suo procuravit alteram dimidiatam partem huius manerii de Bere Regis (post dissolutionem Abbatie de Tarrant) et eandem adjecit ac univit hereditario patrimonio antecessorum suorum ad longa tempora dominorum huius manerii. Qui quidem Robertus obiit quinto die Aprilis Anno Domini 1559. Cuius anime propicietur clementissimus Christus Jesus. Amen. TRANSLATION: Here lies Robert Turberville, arm bearer, who in his time united the part of the manor of Bere Regis belonging to Tarrant Abbey before its dissolution, to the part which he had inherited from his forefathers who had been lords of this manor from ancient times. Which said Robert died 5 April, 1559. Be merciful Christ Jesus. Amen.

14. Thomas Turberville. Only son and heir of Robert (13), he succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1559. He married Thomasin, daughter of Robert fitz James of Redlinch, Somerset, and died in 1587. There were no children and he was succeeded by his cousin John from Wool.

15. John Turberville. Cousin and heir of Thomas (14), being the eldest son and heir of Thomas of Woolbridge and grandson of George (12). He was born in 1557 and became lord of the manor of Bere in 1587. He married Lady Anne Howard, daughter of
WHO DECEASED THE FIRST OF JANVARY 1633 AND A'vTv HIS WIFE DAUGHTER TO THOMAS LORD HOWARD VICOVAT BIKDON WHO DECEASED THE 21 OF NOVEMBER 1633. There were no children and he was succeeded as lord of the manor by his great nephew.

16. Sir John Turberviile. Great nephew and heir of John (15) being a great grandson of the original Thomas of Woolbridge. Born in 1614 or 1619 he succeeded his great uncle as lord of the manor in 1633. He married Joan, daughter of Thomas Strode in about 1640 and was knighted at some time between 1655 and 1666, probably in 1660 as he was a staunch royalist and would therefore not have been popular with the parliamentary government in power before 1660. He was Sheriff of Dorset in 1652 and died in 1672. Again, there were no children and he was succeeded by his brother. During the civil wars and commonwealth (1642-1660) the Turberville family ac a whole, who had always been catholics, were decidedly on the king's side, and the manor house at Woolbridge was in 1644 said to have been used as a garrison for the king's forces. On 18 January, 1644 the parliamentary forces set fire to a house belonging to Mr. Turberville, and the king's forces retaliated by setting fire to the house of Sir Walter Erle, a staunch parliamentarian. The house of Mr. Turberville referred to could have been the manor house at either Wool or Bere, but it was probably the latter, as according to Hutchins the rear portion of the Bere house bore the date 1648 denoting that this portion had been rebuilt in that year. In such troubled times no building work would have been carried out unless in the nature of urgent repair work, such as might have been necessary after a fire. By 1648 the parliamentary forces had virtually gained control, and those who had entirely supported the king were brought to trial, and were in most cases heavily fined or their property was sequestered. In November 1648 John Turberville of Bere was accused of `having supported the king's cause by taking up arms himself, and providing four men and horses besides; to have caused Lulworth Castle to be made a royal garrison, to have led a foot company and to have quartered there: to have been in arms at Sherborne and incited others to join the king's side; and to have raised a horse troop in 1645 and to have served in Wareham garrison'. He was said at that time to be worth £600 a year, and £200 a year unsequestered. In June 1651, presumably on being pressed for further payment, he claimed that he had already paid £300 in 1643, and £400 since in cattle, corn and other goods. He was questioned by the County Commissioners on matters relating to the first war, was discharged and said to have lived quietly afterwards. His official discharge was granted on the 20 May, 1652. After Charles II had been restored to the throne in 1660, an order of Knights of the Royal Oak was proposed as a reward for those who had remained loyal to the king, but the scheme did not materialise. Altogether 617 men were to have been given this honour, of whom 13 were from Dorset. This 13, the annual value of whose estates ranged from £600-£5000, included Sir John Turberville, knight, of Bere Regis, whose estate was said to be worth £1500 per year.

17. Thomas Turberville. Brother and heir of Sir John (16). Born in 1621 he became lord of the manor in 1672. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Baskett of Dewlish, and there were three children-Thomas, Robert and Elizabeth. He was patron of the incumbency of Milborne St. Andrew in 1680 and Sheriff of Dorset in 1686. In 1692 he was a churchwarden of Bere Regis, and it appears from the accounts of that year that he overspent by some £19 during his term of office, when a large amount of repair work was carried out on the church. He died in 1701.

18. Thomas Turberville. Eldest son and heir of Thomas (17). He succeeded his father as lord of the manor in 1701, and married Mary, daughter of Thomas Trenchard about 1695. His four sons all died at an early age-Thomas in 1699, John and Robert in 1701 and George in 1702, but his three daughters Mary and twins Frances and Elizabeth survived him. He died on 3 February, 1704.

19. Mary, Frances and Elizabeth Turberville. Daughters and coheiresses of their father Thomas (18). Mary married Major William Duckett in 1721, and died in 1749. In the churchwardens' accounts the rates of parochial duties customarily received from the lord of the manor are, after 1704, attributed to "The Widow & Coheirs of Esqr Turberville". Neither of the twins Frances and Elizabeth married and they were never known to have lived apart. They (including their sister Mary) sold the manor to Henry Drax in 1733 and later the twins moved to London, probably in 1739 on the death of their mother. They died within a day or two of each other, aged 77, at Pursers Cross, Fulham, and were buried together at Putney on the same day in February, 1780.

And so ends the Turberville saga. Although in the foregoing notes the name has been spelt Turberville-as used by later members of the family-in earlier times when spelling was as individual a matter as handwriting, it appeared in a variety of forms: Turbervill and Turbelvill (1186), de Turbvill (1202), Thorberisle (1297), Townberfyld (1552), Turbervyle (1559) and other variants.

Below you can see 2 more Turberville Coat of Arms; both for Thomas Turberville (Goldsborough (l) & Knight (r))

From early times the Turberville family as lords of the manor used the south aisle of the church as their family chapel, and were buried in the vault beneath it. They were probably responsible for the 14th century rebuilding and enlargement of the aisle, some parts of which still remain. There are two canopied altar tombs of the 16th century, the brasses of which situated in the south aisle and are undoubtedly Turberville memorials. The floor slabs which exist, and those that are known to have previously existed have already been dealt with under the notes on the individuals concerned, but there is a large stone floor slab some 7 feet (2.1m) by 3ft. 6in. (1.05m) bearing this inscription in incised Roman lettering:


24 JUNIIl, 1710



Robert Turberville, younger brother of Thomas (18) the last lord of the manor, seems to have outlived his brother and was probably the last to be buried in the family vault in 1710.

Perhaps the extinct Turbervilles of Bere Regis owe much of the interest subsequently taken in them to Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles which has already been referred to. In the novel, Tess's father, John Durbeyfield, a poor north Dorset carrier, is told by his vicar who had been studying the derivation of surnames, that the name Durbeyfield had probably derived from D'Urberville (the fictitious form of Turberville) and that he is probably a descendant of that once powerful Kingsbere (Bere Regis) family. This thought so intrigues John Durbeyfield and his family that they become convinced that they have some real affinity with the D'Urbervilles in their "gr't family vault at Kingsbere," and go to Kingsbere with a vague idea of claiming some sort of inheritance. This idea in the novel is based on actual instances where the names of once powerful but now extinct families have persisted in corrupt form. In fact, in the middle of the 19th century there was a poor family of Torevilles living in Bere Regis, one of whom, believing himself to be a rightful heir of the Turbervilles, was said to have insisted on calling himself "Sir John".

There is a tradition concerning the bricked up doorway in the south wall of the south aisle of the church. It is said that a Turberville when lord of the manor had a difference of opinion on some matter with the vicar at the time, and as a result vowed that he would never again enter the church doors. But they later became reconciled, and the lord of the manor, in order to resume his attendance at church and at the same time not to break his vow, arranged for a new door opening to be made. More probably the opening was a "mason's door", made as a temporary opening to facilitate some extensive building work.


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