FRAUNCEIS, John (c.1578-1636), of East Chevithorne, Devon; formerly of Combe Flory, Som.
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Family and Education
b. c.1578, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of John Fraunceis (d. c.1620) of Combe Flory, and Margaret, da. of Sir John Windham of Orchard Windham, Som.1 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1596 aged 18; L. Inn 1597.2 m. by 1612, Susan, da. of George Luttrell† of Dunster Castle, Som. 9s. 4da. admon. 20 May 1636.3
The Fraunceis family were resident at Bolham in Tiverton, and Broad Clyst near Exeter, Devon by the early fourteenth century, and provided Members for both Devon and Exeter in the 1337 Parliament. In around the 1390s they acquired additional property through marriage, including the barton of East Chevithorne, three miles north-east of Tiverton, and Combe Flory manor, Somerset.6 The latter became their main seat, and by the seventeenth century they were well established among the Somerset gentry.7 Nevertheless, they retained a strong connection with the Tiverton area, and in this respect they were similar to the Bluett family of Holcombe Rogus, Devon, who also owned property in both counties, and supplied one of Tiverton’s Members in 1628. The two families were certainly on close terms. In around 1611 the Bluetts aided Fraunceis’ father during a dispute with a Somerset rival, John Ley, in the course of which Fraunceis senior destroyed a church window commemorating the Leys at West Buckland, Somerset, allegedly because it contained Catholic imagery.8
After receiving a typical gentry education at university and the inns of court, Fraunceis made an advantageous marriage alliance with one of Somerset’s principal families, the Luttrells of Dunster Castle. However, in around 1620 he settled in Devon after his father bequeathed him the East Chevithorne estate.9 He thereby became a neighbour of the borough of Tiverton, as the house at East Chevithorne was near enough to be visible from the town. Fraunceis was now relatively well heeled, and was rated at £9 in the subsidy in 1625-6, the second highest assessment in Tiverton parish. His relative wealth and the proximity of his lands to the borough account for his election at Tiverton in 1625, though he may also have relied on the backing of the Bluetts. He made no known contribution to the proceedings of the House, and like most Tiverton Members in this period, he sat only once.10
In the years following his parliamentary service, Fraunceis remained a prominent figure in Tiverton. In May 1626 he was appointed to help manage the trust that distributed certain tolls from the town’s market among the local poor. Three years later, he was appointed to another trust for applying market profits to charitable ends.11 He served as churchwarden in 1627, while in 1633, along with John Bluett*, he was elected a feoffee of Tiverton grammar school. As a further mark of his local status, he was reportedly the first person in the parish to own his own coach.12
Fraunceis made his will on 19 Jan. 1636, in which he requested burial at Combe Flory. He left 1,000 marks to each of his four daughters, and arranged for his eight younger sons eventually to receive £40 a year each. His property included mills at West Buckland, the ancestral seat of Fraunceis Court at Broad Clyst, and lands in Cornwall. His elder brother William, now head of the family at Combe Flory, retained a life interest in part of this estate, but Fraunceis’ eldest son stood to benefit in due course.13 The Combe Flory line supported Parliament in the Civil War, but the subsequent history of the Chevithorne branch is obscure. Fraunceis was the last member of his family to enter the Commons.14
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 37; Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 90; PROB 11/135, f. 451.
- 2. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
- 3. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 37; PROB 11/171, ff. 112v-13.
- 4. M. Dunsford, Hist. Mems. of Tiverton, 442.
- 5. P. Blundell, Donations of Benefactors to Free G.S. at Tiverton, app. i. p. xlii
- 6. J.J. Alexander, ‘Exeter MPs’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. lix. 298, 305; D. and S. Lysons, Devonshire, pp. cxcvi. 512; W.H. Wilkin, ‘Notes on Membury’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. lx. 176; J. Collinson, Hist. Som. iii. 248; Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 122.
- 7. T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p. 18.
- 8. STAC 8/196/20.
- 9. PROB 11/135, ff. 449v-451.
- 10. Dunsford, 288; E179/102/468.
- 11. Dunsford, 47; Devon RO, 257M/T4-5.
- 12. Lysons, 512.
- 13. PROB 11/171, ff. 112v-13.
- 14. D. Underdown, Som. in Civil War and Interregnum, 35, 47.