The Marland Family
Merlands of Orchardleigh, Somerset
The first appearance of the Merlands in the West Country is in Devon, where in 1207 Henry de Merland paid a levy of one mark to John de Poterne and William de Monte Acuto [i.e. Montagu] (Ref.1). An association with Peters Marland in north-west Devon is clearly suggested by the name, as is confirmed a generation later (1233) when Robert de Merland and Eudo de Merland are stated to have lands there (Ref.2), while the previous year Robert was suing in the King's Court for lands in Orchardleigh (Ref.3).
In 1236 Robert de Merland held half a knight's fee in Somerset, as well as land in Devon. In 1243 the latter was identified as Welcombe, and belonging to Orchardleigh (Ref.4); in the same year Robert was in dispute with Eudo de Merland over lands in Orchardleigh (Ref.5). Robert was the father of Henry de Merland, according to evidence given by the latter in a land dispute in 1280 (Ref.6).
This Henry is profiled elsewhere as a Knight of Edward I ; he appears in the rolls of the King's Eyre several times during the 1270s and 1280, often as an absent juror (Ref.7), no doubt while serving on campaign. In no contemporary record is he specifically referred to as "knight"; although he is said to have held a knights fee in Orchardleigh in 1284, this is listed as half a fee in 1303. There is also a Walter de Merland at this time, holding land in Yarnscombe, Devon; he was dead by 1346 (Ref.7). Henry died in 1318, when he was succeeded by his son Henry and survived by his widow Alice (Ref.9). The latter remarried John le Fleming in 1324 (Ref.10).
The younger Henry seems to have had a troubled youth; in 1315 he was refused the post of Verderer of Selwood Forest, and the following year was imprisoned at Windsor but released after paying damages (Ref.11). But he had married well, to Joan daughter and heiress of Thomas Braunche, of the family who controlled Frome Hundred (Ref.8). This couple were involved in litigation in 1313, and in 1335 (Refs 12,13). The latter case involved land in Orchardleigh, and the other parties were Edmund de Merland, a chaplain, and another chaplain, Richard de Wyrcester. The evidence mentions Henry's sons William, John, Henry and Edmund.
By 1339 Henry was evidently in decline; he now had the Verderer's post and was the county Coroner, but could not manage both jobs (Ref.14). In the same year his son William was in trouble, with several others, for raiding the property of Sir Alan de Cherleton (Ref.15), and following this in 1341 Henry was arrested, along with Edmund (now parson of Lullington) and William de Merland, and Henry's sons Henry and William (Ref.16). This evidently did not prevent the elder Henry from acting as a collector of wool for Somerset the following year (Ref.17)
By the time of Henry's death on 1st June 1346, his son Henry, aged thirty, was his heir (Refs.18,19); his widow Joan died 21st September 1349 (Ref.20). The younger Henry de Merland of Orchardleigh was King's Serjeant at Arms in the Forest (Ref.21); he died on 14 September 1371, leaving a widow, Margaret, and a son John, aged 22 (Ref.22). The widow Margaret died on 27 Jun 1385 (Ref.23). John Merland appeared in documents twice in company with Walter Silveyn (Refs.24,25), and died, apparently unmarried, on 22 September 1415 (Ref.25). His lands in Somerset and Wiltshire were divided amongst his cousins, the grandchildren of his father's sisters (Refs.26,27,28). Presumably this is the end of the Merland line at Orchardleigh. In 1428 his heirs John Flory and Walter Silveyn jointly held the half knight's fee which John Merland's father had held (Ref.29).
But can we explain the inheritance of the manor by the Champeneys? Contemporary documentary evidence has not confirmed a Merland-Champneys marriage, but if we accept the Champneys pedigree (Ref.30) as correct, the John Merland who is claimed to have married Joan Champneys would more likely be the grandson of Sir Henry than his great-grandson. The absence of any provision for a widow or her heirs in the disposal of the last John's estate would support this. However, the daughter and eventual heiress of Walter Silveyn, who had married Margaret (surname unknown), one of the heirs of the last John Merland, married Henry Wogan "of Orchardland" in Somerset, who died in 1499 (Ref.31). This property is not claimed by subsequent generations of Wogans.
So exactly how the manor came to the Champneys remains obscure; the first of this family to be styled "of Orchardleigh" was three generations later.
Note: This family's name is variously spelled Merland, Merland, Merlaund, Merelaund, Merlond or Marland, with or without a final "e"; often there are different spellings in the same document. Throughout this account, the version Merland is used.
For text of many of the cited documents, see Merland of Orchardleigh documentary sources.
For a pedigree based on this account, click here.