A Short History of the Iles Family

A Short History of the Iles Family

Information from the late Ronald Iles, secretary of the One Name Study Group

for the Names De Lisle, Lyle, Lyon and Iles

Descended from the Norman family of the de Lisle’s, who are based on Humphrey de Lisle a Knight companion of William the Conqueror. He was rewarded with 27 manor estates in Wiltshire, plus another 4 in Bedfordshire for his son Ralph, for his services in defeating the Saxons at the battle of Hastings in 1066.

Humphreys father was Neel St. Sauver (2), who was killed at the battle of Val-es-Dunes in 1047, when his grandfather Neel St. Sauver (1) Vicomte de Contenin led the Barons revolt against Duke William. The Barons were defeated and Neel St. Sanveur was a very lucky man not to be executed, he was instead sent into exile in Brittany, where he was to purchase a chateau and large estate that he named "de Lisle St Jouan" in memory of the Isle of Guernsey, the jewel in the crown of his former estates. Still lucky, he was forgiven in 1052 and restored to his title and estates. He retained de Lisle St. Jouan.

In 1248, Raoul de Lisle could see no future for the son of a second son in Wiltshire and so persuaded his uncle Gerard, the Vicomte de Contentin, to exchange his Wiltshire estates for de Lisle St. Jouan in Brittany. ( In fact I think Gerard was glad to be rid of it because it was so distant from the other estates of the Cotentin in Normandy). At this time Brittany was a separate state from France only becoming part of France in 1462 with the marriage of Anne de Brittany to King Louis XII.

In 1562 Richard Eyles a Breton farmer and descendant of Raoul de Lisle, crossed the channel to escape the Huguenot troubles and settle in the village of Yate near Cirencester, Gloucestershire. The family has farmed the same area ever since, although most of the family have changed the spelling of their name to the modern French Iles, you can still find some members using the old Breton spelling. The Bretons like their Kinsfolk, the Cornish, used a 25 letter alphabet (no i) so they were forced to spell our name Eyles.

The de Lisle family is still with us both here and in France, although some members have changed the spelling to Lyle, Lile etc. The famous French nineteenth century historian, Leopold de Lisle wrote a history of the main St. Sauveur chateau at St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte, halfway between the port of Cherbourg and the city of Coutances.

One member of the Eyles family, Sir John Eyles, was Lord Mayor of London in 1688. His son Francis was created a Baronet, the coat of arms of the Iles and Eyles is the same. 3 black fleur de leys over a black fesse on a white shield.

It seemed strange to me that in the telephone directory there are very few Eyles in Gloucestershire, whilst in Cornwall there are as many Eyles as Iles. I think the answer is that many of Richards children did not take to the English language and so they migrated to Cornwall where they could speak and understand Cornish.

After four years of researching the family history it was only a few months ago I realised I myself belonged to the branch of Richard Eyles. At present I am trying to discover the pedigree that was in the possession of Austin Iles of Kemsford in 1941. Austin ILes was an authority on our family, the pedigree was last seen in the care of his daughter Margaret in 1962 at Horcutt Fairford, Gloucestshire. At present I am trying to trace a grand daughter, Betty Williams believed to be living in the Westerham area of East Surrey. I have made contact with Brian Frith, a most respected genealogist of Gloucester, who knew Austin and has a collection of 70 proved wills of Eyles and Iles dating back to Richard Eylles of 1564. So I have a good chance, even if I cannot find Austin pedigree, of making my own.

I have also found the natural inclination of the Bristolians is to drop their aspirates and add the letter "H" in front of our name, so creating a family as "Hiles", who of course are still our cousins. They of course will trace their line back to the Bristol area. I am also looking into the family known as Eeles, to see if they are connected.

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