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ST. LEGER de WESCOTE

Revised: July 15, 1999




        St. Leger Wescote was born in the field or enclosure of Wescote, in the parish of Marwood near Barnstaple in Devonshire, about the year 1275. Of his paternal ancestry, it can only be surmised, as related by Judge Bullock in his history, that they "are to be found of that old nobility who ruled England prior to the Conquest."

        His maternal ancestry is believed to have reverted to that ancient and distinquished family of St. Leger, or Leodegar, the earliest mention of whom is in the year 1670. In this year, the Burgundian nobles rose up under Leger, Bishop of Autun--the old town in France now so enticing to tourists because of its ancient Roman walls and gates, remains of an amphitheatre, and the cathedral and chapelle of St. Lazare--and defeated Ebroin, the Frankish "mayor of the palace," who wished to impose the authorityof Neustria over Burgundy. Soon, Leger was himself defeated, October 12, 1678; after his eyes had been put out and he had endured prolonged torture, he was put to death. The church honeurs him as a saint, and thus the name Saint Leger.

        The family early established itself at court in England and was honeured down to the 16th century, when in 1537, Henry VIII appointed Sir Anthony St. Leger president of a commission of inquiry into the condition of Ireland. Following the marriage in the 13th century, of a daughter of the Wescote line, Sir Thomas St. Leger in the 15th century, married the Duchess of Exeter, sister of Edward IV, and their grandson, Sir George, in 1531, was sheriff of Devon, the ancestral shire of the Wescotes. Two of his daughters married sons of the allied Wescote lines, Mary becoming the wife of Sir Richard Grenville of Bedford, and Frances the wife of Sir Jon Stucley of Affeton.

        St. Leger Wescote, the earliest of the paternal family of whom there is positive record available, in the year 1300, married a daughter of the line descending through the titled families of Wadham and Cantelupe.

        The Wadham family originally came took its name from Wadham, or Wadeham, in the parish of Knowstone in northern Devon, where it settle during the reign of the Elder King, Edward I, of the West Saxons (900-925). Thence it migrated to Egge, or Edge, near Saton, same shire. A descendant, Sir John Wadham, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Hugh Stucley of Affeton. Their son, Nicholas Wadham (1532-1609), founded Wadham College at Oxford. His wife, Joan, was the daughter of Robert and Ann (Young) Hill of Taunton in Somerset. Ann Young and a sister, Jane, who married William Hill of Poundsford in Somerset and became the parents of Rosanna Hill, (in 1932 known as Stukely's wife), believed to have been the wife of Stukely Westcott, the Founder of this family in America, were the daughters of John and Joan (Cottingdon) Young of Axminster in Devon, and granddaughters of Walter Young, a younger son of the house of Bassildon in Berkshire, who was fined by the first Queen Mary for not taking the order of knighthood.

        The Cantelupe family had risen by devoted service to the crown. William de Cantelupe, who died in 1251, was the second Baron, one of King John's ministers. His son, Thomas de Cantelupe, 1218-1282, English saint and prelate, with his father, is named by Roger of Wandover, as being "among the 'evil Counsellors' of John, apparently for no other reason than they were consistently loyal to an unpopular master." Walter de Cantelupe, nephew of Thomas, who died in 1265, was Bishop of Worcestershire.

        Mention of the Stucleys, or Stukelys, first appears in the Huntingtonshire records before 1199 -- in the reign of Richard I. Richard Stucley, married Katherine, only daughter and sole heir of Sir John Affeton of Affeton Castle in northern Devon, whose wife was a daughter of Thomas Bratton. Sir Hugh and his wife settled on the Affeton estate, to which she was the sole heiress, and he became Knight and sheriff of Devonshire.

        "Affeton, the seat of the worshipful family of Stucley," according to Thomas Westcott's "View of Devonshire" (1630), "came to a grandson of St Leger Wescote who also owned Wescote wherein lived a tribe of the name." Thus, it is learned that this grandson of St Leger Wescote was Sir Hugh Stucley, whose mother, wife of Richard, was a daughter of St Leger.

        The second Sir Hugh Stucley, son of the preceding Hugh, lived in Affeton Castle in 1545 (died 1560), owned Wescote, and had a daughter Damaris, the name given by the Founder to his eldest daughter. The wife of this second Hugh was Jane, second daughter of Sir Lewis Pollard. It was their son, John, who married, as has been stated, Frances St Leger, "through whom he was related to all the leading families of the West of England."

        A little American color may be added here, in passing, by stating that Sir Lewis Stucley, son of John and Frances, was knighted by James I in 1603; in 1617 was appointed guardian of Thomas Rolfe, infant son of John Rolfe and his American Indian wife, Pochantas. In June 1618, he was ordered by the king to arrest his cousin, Sir Walter Raleigh, the first Governor of Virginia. Sir Lewis died in 1620. Pocahontas through the Rolfes, Randolphs, Fowler and James Morris families, is a direct ancestor of Mr Whitman's two grandsons.