Ley of Devon: Lord Chief Justice Sir James Ley, Earl of Marlborough 1550 - 1629
The manor of Ley in the parish of Beer Ferrers was long held by a family of the name Ley. Beer
Ferrers, which is north of Plymouth, and near Tavistock, on the edge of Dartmoor, was once an important miners' settlement. Bere Ferrers is on a peninsula created by the rivers Tamar and Tavy in an area of outstanding natural beauty. It has gone by several names in the past, Beer Ferris, Beer Ferrers and was more generally known as Beer Town, and in the tax book of England was called Bire.The Manor was held in the reign of Edward II by Henry Ferriers, who had a castle here, which has now disappeared. William de Leigh of 'Byreferrero', Devonshire had a son Henricus de la Leigh, whose son, Henry de Ley, had a son Walter de Ley, whose son, Thomas Ley, lived in the time of Edward III, and who had a son Henry Ley, who had three sons, John Ley, who served in India and Ireland; Matthew; and Roberte Ley, his heir. Roberte had a son Henry, of Feffont Ewyas, Wilts, who died in 1580, (or 1574) and had six sons, of whom the youngest, James, served as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was baptised at Berford, Wilts.
His sister, Mary, married Richard Orpen, and they had a son, Robert, born 1637, who lived in Killorglin, in Kerry.
James Ley attempted to enforce the Established Church on the aldermen of Dublin city, from about 1600 onwards, by means of prosecutions for failure to attend church.
He was notorious for refusing to supply defendants with particulars of the indictments against them.
He jailed any who failed to take the Oath of Allegiance.
He was 'generally hated throughout the kingdom', and frequent petitions were sent to Dublin castle, complaining about the harshness of his administration of justice.
Attorney-General Sir John Davies and Chief Justice Sir James Ley travelled to London in the autumn of 1608 to discuss the proposed plantation of Ulster with the king, James I. The king was so impressed by Ley, that he retained him at court, and he became lord high treasurer. James later made him Lord Ley of Ley in Devon, in 1624, and Earl of Marlborough in 1626.
He married three times, and by his first wife had three sons. The eldest, Henry, was his heir, and became second earl of Marlborough, succeeded by James, Henry's son, the third earl, who was succeeded by Henry's brother, William. William died in 1679, and the title became extinct.
An unconnected title, of the Duke of Marlborough, was granted to the Churchill family.
The arms are the same as those of the Lee family of Cornwall and Devon.

Wiltshire Worthies - Wiltshire Notes and Queries 1 Feb 1929


Sir James Ley, Earl of Marlborough.-At the end of his Curious Discourses, Hearne gives a List of Members of the Society of Antiquaries in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and his notice of Sir James Ley is as follows:

"Sixth son of Henry Ley of Teffont Evias in Wiltshire. After his removal from Brazen Nose College in Oxford , where he received his academic education, he became a student of the law in Lincoln 's Inn , and being called to the bench there in the 22nd year of Queen Elizabeth, was in her 44th year chosen Lent reader. In the following reign he was raised to sundry honours and employments; in 1 James I he was called to the degree of sergeant-at-law, and in the year following constituted Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in Ireland . The 6th of James, being then a knight, he was made King's Attorney in the Court of Wardes and Livery in England . On the 20th July, 17th of James, he was created a baronet, and on the 29th of January in the following year he was constituted Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench in England, and Counsellor of State, and eleven days after advanced to the dignity of a baron of this realm, by the title of Lord Ley of Ley, in the county of Devon. King Charles the First, on the 5th of February, in the first year of his reign, advanced him to the title of Earl of Marlborough, and soon after appointed him Lord President of the Council. Wood, in Athenae Oxon., says he was a person of great gravity, ability, and integrity, and the same in all conditions. He married three wives, first, Mary, daughter of John Petty, of Stoke Talmage, in the county of Oxford, Esq.; secondly, Mary, widow of Sir William Bower, Knt.; and lastly, Jane, daughter of John lord Boteler, and dying on the 14th day of March, in the year 1628, lies buried in the Parish Church of Westbury, under the plane, in the county of Wilts, under a mag­nificent monument erected to his memory by his eldest son Henry, who succeeded him in his titles and honours. Exclusive of several discourses printed in these volumes [the Curious Dis­courses] he was author of a collection of Reports of divers cases in law, tried in the time of King James, and in some part of the reign of King Charles the First, which were printed in the year 1659, fol.; of a treatise of Wardes and Liveries, printed in 1642, 8vo; and of some law tracts, which are likewise printed. He also collected, with an intention to publish, The Annals of John Clynne, a Frier Minor of Kilkenny (who lived in the time of King Edward the Third); The Annals of the Priory of St. John the Evangelist of Kilkenny ;  The Annals of Multifernan, Rosse, and Clonmell, etc., and some other of the historical writers of Ireland.”


Or Devon and Cornwall Note-Book. Volume 3

Edited By W.H.K. Wright - 1884.



These memoranda about the family of Ley of Beerferris are taken from a manuscript of the time of the early Stuarts, preserved at Oxford, in the possession of Professor H. N. Moseley. They contain interesting notices about Old Plymouth, its mayors, its leading families, and old mansion houses. Incidentally, the Cornish parishes of Altarnun, Lanteglos-by-Camelford, and St. Enoder occur, and some arms are described as existing in old painted windows of the churches which have probably now perished. Any additional ' information on these matters -from your readers will be acceptable, particularly with regard to the painted windows in old Cornish churches and Plymouth houses.

Exeter College, Oxford. Charles W. Boase.

The landes of Leigh within the parish of Beerferris within the hundred of Rowborrough in the countie of Devon and situated between the rivers of Tamer and Tavy, and is the westernmost parte of Devon borderinge uppon Cornwayle.

This lands descendinge in the name of the Leys from the raigne of K. H. iii. unto thend of the raigne of K. H. viii at which time Henry Ley Esquire sold the same unto John Servington, from whom it descended unto Richan Servington and from him to his sonne arid from tha aonne to his sister who married George Eveleigh who sold the same unto Sir James Ley beinge the iiiith sonne of the said Henry Ley, and Sir James Ley exchanged the sam with Charles Erie of Devon'for other lands lyenge in, Westbury and Brooke in Co. Wiltes.

i. William de Leigh lived in anno xxiiii E. 1 and is founde by Inquisition to hold his lande of Leigh by th service of half a knight's fee of Reginald de Ferrariis wh held the same and the whole tythinge of Byre of the-Erl of Cornewaile who held the same of the kinge : which Inquisition is recorded'in the booke calleds Feoda Militum in thexchequer.

It appears also by a record of the Chancerie in the Tower that in anno li H. 3 the kinge by letters patent at the request of the Bishopp of Sarum granted unto William de Leigh of the Countie of Devon that he shold not be Sheirif Escheator Coronor or put in jurys or inquisitions.

ii. Henricus de la Legh lived in anno xxxiiii. E. 1 and was one of the Enquest for findinge of an office after the death of Reginald de Ferrariis lord of Byre which was founde at Byre iiii Septem. anno xxxiiii E. 1.

iii. Henry de Ley lived in anno xx R. ii and had to wife Elizabeth.

iiii. Walter de Ley lived in anno x and xii. iiii and anno viii" H. v of whom it is recorded in the booke of Knights Fees in the time of H. 6 remayninge in the Exchequer, that Alexander Champernori Thomas Bonvile Richard Hoper Valter Legh and Roberte Heath did hold one knights ree in Byreferrers and Legh which they held severallie etwene them and none of them held a whole fowerth jarte and that of anncient time John Ferrers did hold the mo. v. Thomas Ley lived in anno xix H. vi and in the time of E. iiiith He enfeoffed of his land John Champernon Esquire lord of the manner of Byreferrers who in anno ii E. iiii gave it againe to Thomas Ley and the heires of his bodie begotten, the remainder unto Roger Ley his brother and to the heires of his bodie begotten, the remainder to he heires of the bodie of Johan late the wife of Nicholas Parker sister of the said Thomas begotten.