William Helyar

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Arms of Helyar: Azure, a cross flory argent between four mullets pierced or[1]

Reverend William Helyar (8 January 1559 – 21 November 1645), Doctor of Divinity, of Coker Court, East Coker, in Somerset, was Archdeacon of Barnstaple and a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth I.[2]


He was the son of William Helyar by his wife Alice Veale and was baptised on 8 January 1559 at St. Budeaux, Devon. He graduated M.A. from Exeter College, Oxford in 1587. His later clerical appointments included:

  • Vicar in 1577 of Bickleigh, Devon
  • Rector in 1582 of Dunchideock, Devon
  • Rector in 1588 of Charlton, Devon
  • Canon of Exeter Cathedral in 1596
  • Vicar in 1602 of Heavitree, Devon
  • Archdeacon of Barnstaple from 1605
  • Rector of North Tawton, Devon, between 1610 and 1645

In 1616 he purchased Coker Court, the manor house of East Coker, Somerset, from Sir Edward Phelips.[3] He started the construction of the Helyar Almshouses in East Coker in 1640, but died before their completion. They were finished by his grandson William Helyar.

During the Civil War,on 19 January 1642, he was dragged at midnight from his bed in Exeter by Roundheads and carried on board a ship, where he was detained until he consented to pay the sum of £800 (equivalent to £136,335 in 2018).[4] He received a copy of the protection thus purchased:

"Whereas Archdeacon Helyar has submitted and sent eight hundred pounds to the parliament upon the propositions. These are therefore, to require all the forces of the parliament to take notice thereof and to protect him in his person, family, and goods, strictly charging and commanding that no man henceforth, molest or trouble him. January 19, 1642, signed, Jo. Northcote, Sam. Rolle” etc etc[5]

Marriage and children[edit]

He married Mary Cary (died 1607), daughter of William Cary of Cockington, Devon,[6] by whom he had children including:

  • Henry Helyar (died 1634) who in 1621 married Christiana Cary (died 1634) daughter of William Cary (1576–1652), lord of the manor of Clovelly,[7] Devon, JP for Devon, MP for Mitchell, Cornwall, in 1604.[8] He predeceased his father. His son William Helyar (died 1697) thus succeeded his grandfather to the manor Coker Court in 1645.
  • Elizabeth Helyar (christened 12 May 1591), who on 29 April 1606 married John Bridgeman, son of Thomas Bridgeman and later Bishop of Chester.


  1. ^ Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 15th Edition, ed. Pirie-Gordon, H., London, 1937, p.1089
  2. ^ The Complete Baronetage. Alan Sutton Publishing, Gloucester, 1983, volume 3, page 27.
  3. ^ Batten's South Somerset Villages, John Batten, F.S.A, Somerset Books, 1994. ISBN 0-86183-270-1
  4. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  5. ^ A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, enjoying territorial possessions, or high official rank, but uninvested with heritable honours. John Burke. Colburn, 1834
  6. ^ Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 15th edition, (London, England: Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1937), page 1088.
  7. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.159
  8. ^ History of Parliament biography of Cary, William (c. 1578 – 1652), of Clovelly Court and Exeter, Devon[1]