BRYAN FAMILY HISTORY
The following extracts are copied from "History of Dorset" which is in the library at Bournemouth University. The pages were photocopied then typed out by Eardley W H Bryan in July 1990.
Wardesford, Werdsford, Wyrdsford.
"The antient name of this little vill," says Hutchins, "(of which the modern is a corruption) seems to allude to the river Varia or Frome, over which was a ford here." It stands on a rising ground, on the south side of that river, about two miles east from Stafford, and consists at present of two farms, East and West Woodsford. In Domesday Book it is surveyed in two parcels, by the name of Wardesford.......
In 1368 John Whitfield, knt. granted to Guy de Briane this manor and the bailiwick of the custody of the banks of the Stour.
"The first of this family that appears on record," says Hutchins, "occurs 1245; his chief seat was in the Marches of Wales." The origin of the family has not been traced, but they probably sprung from either Dorset or Devon, and appear to have risen to eminence in the wars against the Welsh.
In 1277 Guy de Bryan, with his bailiffs of Tallatharn was included in the list of those knights and magnates who received the King's writ, directing them to hold no communion with the Welsh rebels, charging them that neither they nor their bailiffs afford the said rebels any succour, nor furnish them with provisions oor supplies during the contention "between us and our rebels aforesaid." In the following year he was summoned with horses and arms to the general muster at Worcester in the octaves of St. John the Baptist, to the expedition against Llewellin ap Griffith Prince of Wales "our rebel, and his accomplices." In 1282 he was summoned to a like service to the muster at Ruddlan on Sunday the morrow of St. Peter ad Vincula. In 1287 he was directed to appear with horses and arms at a military council to be held at Gloucester, before Edmund Earl of Cornwall "our Lieutenant in England," in three weeks of St. John the Baptist, "to do what he on our part shall enjoin;" and by a writ tested at Westminster, Nov.14, in the same year he was commanded to reside in•his manors and lands in West Wales, until the rebellion of Rhese ap Meredith should be put down. In the following year he received a similar writ dated Nov. 30th, enjoining him to continue his residence on his demesnes in Wales, to defend them against the said Rhese and his accomplices, and diligently to pursue the same with horses and arms whether by night or day, wherever they shall be found, until this rebellion should be suppressed.
In 1297 he was included in the general summons to appear with horses and arms before Edward the King's son and Lieutenant in England to a council at Rochester, Sept. 8, there to confer "with our said son and his council," and to do that which shall be enjoined on our part; and was also of those required by another similar writ to appear at a like council to be held at London in eight days of St. Michael, Oct 8.
In 1298, by writ tested at Langley, Jan. 8, he was summoned to be ready to proceed in person with horses and arms to the parts of Scotland; and by another writ, dated March 30th, was directed to proceed to the muster at York, to march against the Scots.
In 1301 he was summoned as from the county of Devon to military service against the Scots. He does not appear to have held any possessions in Dorset, and died in 1307 seized of the castle and barony of Talacharn in Wales, as were several of his successors, leaving Guy his son 24 years old.
In 1316 Guy de Bryan was certified as lord of the townships of Nympton St. George, and Satterleigh, Neweton, Rocumb, Northaller, "Scheftrugg, and Inwok," also of Slapton cum Ingleborne, co. Devon, and in the same year was summoned pursuant to a special ordinance to the muster at Newcastle upon Tyne in eight days of St. Michael, Oct 6, for military service against the Scots. "We have no account of him," says Hutchins, "after 1332 when he was not in his right senses."
Guy de Bryan, the third of that name, was in the wars in Scotland in 1338, 1343, 1346 and 1347 and died in 1349 leaving Guy his son and heir 30 years of age.
The next Guy de Bryan was a person of very great note, and surpassed all his predecessors in military reputation.
In 1351 he had a charter for free warren in all his lands in Surrey, Middlesex, Devon and Wales, and in Rammesham, co. Dorset. He was employed by land and sea in all the wars in this reign. In 1362 the King granted him by letters patent out of the exchequer 200 marks a year for life, because of his valour in carrying the royal standard in a battle at Calais. In 1364 the King confirmed him in fee the manor of Northam, co. Devon. 1368 he had a grant of this manor as before relayed. About 1376 he was made Knight of the Garter. He founded a chauntry at Slapton, co. Devon, and was summoned to parliament from 1351 to 1390 inclusive.
In 1371 he had a licence for view of frankpledge in his manors of Rampisham and Wroxhale Deneys, co. Dorset.
1382 Guy de Brian and John de Rockes (Roches) were appointed by letters patent admirals of the King's ships against the "Western parts."
1389 Guy de Bryan enfeoffed Robert Ftizpaine in the manors of Werdesford Belet, Rammesham, Maperton, Wroxhale, and Chilfrome, and several manors co. Somerset, 'ad usus Guidonis de Bryan' for life; remainder to Guy, William and Philip, his sons.
The pedigree agrees with the records cited here, at Hasilbury Bryan, Sutton Poyntz, and Puncknoll; and also with a pedigree of this family in Mr. Dodsworth's Collection; but, in the latter, Elizabeth is made sister of G. de Bryan, who died in 1391. Mr. Pitt's MS. says, the daughter of the last Guy de Bryan married Robert Fitzpain, by whom he had Isabella, who brought the estate of that family to her husband Richard Poynings. But it does not appear that Fitzpain married a Bryan; and though the barony of Bryan came by Isabella to Poynings, none of the Bryans' lands, at least in this county came to him. Mr. Prince, in his Worthies of Devon, from Sir William Pole's MS. says, that Sir Guy de Bryan was styled of Torre Bryan, near Newton Bushel, temp. Henry II but gives different matches, and adds they had a great estate in Wales and Devon. How these two branches were related is by no means clear.
Not long after, Dr. Guidot says, it appears by a deed dated 1500 that Sir Humphrey Stafford of Hooke was concerned in this manor. 1457 Avice Countess of Wilts held the manor of Woodford Belet of John Latimer. 1462 James Botiler, late Earl of Wilts, who was attainted for high treason, held at his death this manor of Wirdford Belet of the Abbot of Milton. 1483 the King by patent granted this manor to Robert Spencer, knt. and Alianor his wife, late widow of James Ormond, Earl of Wilts, for life.
By the heiress of the Staffords, it came, as Dr. Holland says, in his Notes on Camden's Britannia in Dorset, immediately to Sir Edmund Cheney of Brook, and, by his daughter, to Thomas Strangways, esq. But this is a mistake; it never came to the Cheyneys, but immediately to Strangways by his wife. In this family it continued, and now belongs to the Earl of Ilchester.
The manor house, or, as it is popularly called, the Castle of Woodsford, is an ancient building, standing on a slight eminence about a quarter of a mile west of the River Frome, the earliest portions of which are probably five centuries old. It is mentioned by Leland, who says, "The castle of Woodesford, standing about three or four miles lower than Dorchester, upon the ryver of Frome, was sum tyme longging to Guido Briente, and after to Stafford, and now to Strangwaise in partition." Coker's notice of this building is more interesting. He wrires: "Woodford, where Guy de Brient, a baron, had a castell of his owne, which after became the possession of Hugh (Humphrey) Stafford, by one of whose heires it came to Thomas Strangwayes. The castell is nowe allmost ruinated, and the neighbour inhabitants have a tradition that it was beseiged and beaten downe with ordnance; as a testimonie wherof they will show you not farre offe in the warren, Gunhill, where they sawe the ordnance planted, and whence it tooke that name, which, if it were so, the greatest probabilitie is that it was done in Edward the Fourth's time, for the recoverie of Hugh Stafford, then lorde of it, who haveing received the earldom of Devonshire of the same King, immediatelie revolted from him, for which treacherie within three months after he lost his head."
The popular appellation countenanced by Leland and Coker is calculated to convey an erroneous notion of the former importance and extent of this building which a careful examination by no means supports. It is probable that it was never more than a strong post to guard the ford over the Frome, and the principal portion of the main building is still very fairly represented by the present remains.
The appellation, however, is not altogether inappropriate; the great strength of the building, the evident presence of defensive arrangements, the style of the windows and other openings, its fortress like aspect as viewed from the end towards the river, and the remains of towers below and of machicolations above, give the impression that it is not one of the commonest sort of old mansions, but something in a degree reminding one of the peels or guard houses of the northern counties, or of the old fortified houses in Scotland. Indeed, we might naturally account for these indications, since in early times in the neighbourhood of the coast domestic structures combined more or less of the military character, and to a later date, than in the more secure inland districts. Much of this is also not unlikely to be due to the warlike disposition of its founder.
Irrespective of modern alterations and other minor deatils, there appear to be two principal architectural eras to which the present remains may be referred. The older, and indeed the greater, portion was probably built under the auspices of Sir Guy de Bryan K.G. during the reign of Edward III.
Note; The writer then goes on to describe the castle and the various alterations that have been made in the ensuing years. There is no further mention of the Bryan name, so I have stopped here. •E.W.H.B.