Early days

From Jean de Saiville / John de Sayvill to Simon Savil in Broxted in 1515. Traceable roots to Edmund Savill the First of Takely in 1532.

King Stephen’s accession in England caused the Civil War which lasted from 1135 to 1153, as the Empress Matilda, Countess of Anjou, contested her claim to the English throne. Count Theobald of Blois, Stephen’s elder brother, was not pleased at how things had turned out, so was not supportive of Stephen in the war and sent no troops. However, Stephen’s second brother, Henry, who had gone into the Church, had become Abbot of Glastonbury and at the same time Bishop of Winchester, both of which were extremely important positions in the kingdom and he played a major role in the conflict.

The war raged on for most of Stephen’s reign, and included two sieges of Corfe Castle. First King Henry’s illegitimate son Robert Earl of Gloucester occupied it in 1137 and held it for the Empress until Stephen recaptured it. Then in 1149 the renegade Earl of Devon, Baldwin de Redvers, who landed at either Swanage or Studland and took the royal castle and held it against Stephen. Then Stephen constructed a contra-castle just west of Castle Hill and tried to re-take his own fortress, at first without success.

When the war eventually ended in 1153 Stephen granted lands in Yorkshire to his former adviser Jean de Saiville, one of one whose younger sons then came south to fight for the king. The senior branch of the family continued as trusted royal administrators, being often Sheriffs of Yorkshire, until they were ennobled. The first mention of them in records appears in the Yorkshire Court of Fines in 1246, when a John de Sayvill is mentioned. This branch of the Saville family still lives in Yorkshire, though the present holder of the title ‘Lord Dewsbury’ was not born a Saville, but a Lumley. The younger son who came south fought for King Stephen and helped to put down the rebellion of Geoffrey de Mandeville, the first Earl of Essex, in 1144. When the Earl was defeated, captured and executed, his lands were forfeit to the King and some of these lands were then granted to his loyal troops.

So a Sayvill obtained a small farm in north-western Essex in the Parish of Broxted. The first mention of this southern branch of the family is in the Essex Sessions of the Peace in 1377, by which time the surname had been anglicised to Savil. That was a troubled year when the strong king Edward III died and was succeeded by the weak boy-king Richard II, so that real power lay with Prince John of Gaunt and much unrest followed. In 1434 the Feet of Fines reveal that the Savil family was still at Broxted, for in that year another John Savil was engaged in a dispute over land in that parish. Again in 1515 a Simon Savil disputed the same holding. However, the genealogy of this early period cannot be traced because the Parish Registers of Broxted have not survived for the years before 1654.

The first glimmerings of the early pedigree of the Langton Matravers family are derived from the parish of Takeley, next to Broxted. These are delightful rural place-names: Broxted means ‘badger’s hill’ and Takeley means ‘pasture for young ewes’. Edmund Savill the First would have been born c1532 and could have been a son of Simon Savil of Broxted. On July 14th 1551 Thomas Josselyn, Knight, conveyed land including two crofts called Granges Mead and Meggs Hall to Edmund. He had a son, also called Edmund, who would have been born c1570 and who in turn had two sons, Edmund the Third and Henry.

Henry was baptized by Vicar John Janewaye on March 13th 1596 at the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Manuden, which is a nearby parish further west. This church is a fine building, dating from the 14th and 15th Centuries, with a mediaeval choir screen. The family was still farming at Takeley, so this baptism probably means that the second wife of Edmund Savill the Second came from Manuden. In 1619 Edmund drew up a Last Will and Testament, leaving the two crofts called Granges Mead and Meggs Hall to his son Edmund, but only four years later the son conveyed a croft which had at one time been two, called by the same names, to his brother Henry for £60.

Henry Savill married a wife called Mary and had seven children: Mary (who died in infancy); Edmund the Fourth; Timothy; another Mary; Sarah; Henry the Second; and Gertrude. Henry the Second was baptized at Manuden Church on April 3rd 1625.

Henry Savill the First drew up a Last Will and Testament in 1652 which reads:


To my son Henry Savill £40 to be paid within 3 months of my decease;

To my son Edmond Savill £30 to be paid as follows: £10 within one year and £20 within three years of my decease;

To my daughter Sarah £20 to be paid as follows: £10 within two years and £10 within four years of my decease;

To my son Henry Savill one chest standing in the close chamber with all the linen which is in it, 8 pair of sheets, 3 pair pillow boards, two board clothes, four table napkins, one great kettle which was my grandfather’s, one porridge pot (the best) and 2 blankets.

All the rest and residue of my goods, chattels and moveables to my wife Mary, who shall be Executrix."

The bequests of money were obviously to come from the profits of the farm, and therefore could not be made all at once, but gradually, as the profit came in. It would appear that the other children had died before 1652. It seems strange that the son Henry obtained the chest of linen, which usually went to a daughter. This probably means that Sarah was already married and set up with sufficient for her needs, whereas Henry had just got married and was only in the process of setting up house.

Henry the Second married Elizabeth Swallow at the beautiful and large 14th Century Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Church End, Great Dunmow. Dunmow was the parish next east from Takeley, and was the place where Elizabeth had been born and raised. Henry and his new wife went off to live in the nearby parish of Little Easton, where stood the great house of the Maynard family, leaving his mother and his elder brother Edmund on the farm at Takeley just as King Charles II fled abroad and England became a Republic.