Penhallam Manor in the Country of Cornwall
My initial interest was not with Penhallam itself but with another pre conquest manor known as Hele which, along with Penhallam and Poulza made up what is now the aforementioned Parish of Jacobstow. Before the conquest of England the land of Hele was owned by Colo who also held the manors of Week St Mary’s. Both Hele and Week St Mary’s were held by my direct ancestors from the middle of the 13th century. My ancestors marriage between the female heir of Weeks St Marys and male heir of Hele links my family with that of the manor of Penhallam, although not linked by blood my ancestors would have been directly involved with the family that held the manor. Unlike Penhallam, the home of my ancient family at Week St Mary’s and Hele was probably a timber structure of which there are no remains, this and their land were lost simply due to the lack of male heir.
At the time of Edward the Confessor the people of Cornwall lived a more or less quite life in small settlements and their living earned from land and the sea, they had little or no knowledge of what was going on in the rest of the county let alone England itself. By 1068 the town of Exeter was in the hands of the Conqueror, the people of that city had not given up without a fight and neither had the inhabitants of Cornwall but by at least 1072 William had total control of England and Cornwall. William held a number of manors in Cornwall himself such as the Manor of Brannel in the south of the county which incidentally becomes the property of the descendants of my family at Week St Mary’s by early in the 13th century. On the whole most of Cornwall was held by the conquerors half brother, Robert, Count of Mortain. Under Mortain in the north of Cornwall there were three other powerful men. Turstin the second most powerful man under Mortain who was Sheriff of Cornwall, Richard Fitz Turold, who was his steward, and Reginald de Vallatort.
It is Richard fitz Turold who we are interested in in connection with Penhallam. It is probable that fitz Turolds father was in Mortains entourage and was said to have been in command of the troops that secured Cornwall and was for this reason he was rewarded with Penhallam. It is probable that he built the foundations and moat which circled the later building. By 1087 Richard Fitz Turold succeeded his father at Penhallam still holding it under the family of Mortain. Due to the exploits of Mortains son and the loss of his the families lands Richard Fitz Turold was given Penhallam which he held directly from the king thus setting the family on the road to being one of the most powerful family in Cornwall.
Richard Fitz Turold son William received from his father the manor of Penhallam along with twenty seven other manors that made up the great Honour of Cardinham. Richard’s greatest achievement was the amassing of power and lands and William’s was getting his family through the doors into the royal court, albeit by the back door. William married his daughter to Reginald, Earl of Cornwall who was son of Henry I and his mistress Sibyl Corbett. By 1166 the manor had passed to Robert fitz William who held a vast amount of land in his own right, the manor of Bodardle and parts of the manor of Restomal all of which were the lands of the above named Tursin whose family had become extinct on the death of Walter Hay, who was Roberts brother in law. On his death Robert held these lands through that of his wife. It is more than likely that Robert built the stone keep at Restormal Castle.
Roberts son, also Robert was the first to use the name of Cardinham which was how the family were later known. Probably Robert built most of the house but it was his son Andrew de Cardinham who built the hall and western parts of the house. Andrew is named in a charter to the priory of St Michael’s Mount which was dated c 1223. Andrew had no sons to carry on the line of his ancestor Turold who conquered Cornwall for his Norman lords and when his nephew died so did the male line of Cardinham. Andrew did leave a daughter, Isolde. She had married into the de Tracy family but by him had no children. She later married William de Ferrers and had two sons. On the death of Andrew de Cardinham, Isolde became a wealthy heiress and seems that she held her lands and had control of them herself, whether this was due to her being widowed for the second time or that she was in fact an independent and strong willed woman I don't know. Eventually the lands that had been in her family for nearly two hundred years passed into the Champernowne family. The exact relationship of the Champernowne family to the Cardinhams is not known but there would have been some family connection, there may have been some family ‘in fighting’ among the Cardinhams that caused Isolde to gift the land else where but even so it is unlikely that the lands of Isoldes ancestors would have passed out of the family into the hands of complete strangers. After Isoldes death and the transference of Penhallam to the Champernowne it is not known who exactly lived there. The Champernownes were tenants in chief directly under the king and who held much land in Devon so it would be more than likely that Penhallam was held by a Cornish family under them. It is known that the manor was held by the Beaupre family for a considerable time and they may have lived there but by mid 14th century the Cardinhams, Champernownes and Beaupres were extinct their blood intermingled with that of the wealthy land owning Cornishmen who once were their vassals.
And of Penhallam, that too as we have seen is gone, it is now a protected and cared for ruin, a shell of what it once was. Even today, as mentioned in the first chapter, its remains are a good distance form ‘civilisation’ so its is fair to say that this may have been the reason that it fell into decay.