The first documentary record of the name de Haweia comes in 1166 when a Thomas de Haweia held a fee for the manor. In 1243 a dispute was recorded over the right to sell land to another Thomas de Halweia. This Thomas’s son (also Thomas) inherited the estate in about 1275. His son, John of Halsway, is listed as owner in 1284/5, the property eventually being inherited by his sister Joan. and it was about this time that the family, already owning Alric’s estates in Somerset and Devon, inherited the estate of St Donat’s, in Glamorgan. With the marriage of Joan de Haweia of St Donat’s to Sir Peter Stradling the long Stradling association with Halsway Manor began.
The family originated in Straetlingen in Switzerland (hence the family name). Sir Peter’s father came from Savoy with Sir Otto Grandison who was prominent in the campaign against the Welsh and subsequently became “Justiciar” or Viceroy of North Wales for Edward I. The Stradling’s support was also recognised and Sir Peter himself was given command of Neath Castle in 1297 and acted as agent for lands in Ireland. Marrying this wealthy heiress put Sir Peter into the ranks of the gentry and the family on the road to prominence in the social and administrative life of Glamorgan, Somerset and Devon.
After Sir Peter’s death in about 1300 Joan married John of Penbrigg, a half owner of Halsway. In 1316 Joan’s younger son Sir Edward Stradling succeeded to the whole estate. This Sir Edward, the first of the five Edward Stradlings in the dynasty, fell out of favour with King Edward II in 1321, for his complicity in a power struggle in Glamorgan against the King’s favourite, Hugh Despenser. He forfeited land and had to pay an annual tax on Halsway. In 1327 when the the punishment was remitted he was made a knight of the Shire in Parliament and Justice of the Peace of Somerset and Dorset In 1337 he made homage to the King for Halsway “of a Great Knight’s Fee.”
Succession continued from father to son for over three hundred years through Sir Edward (2) 1363, Sir William 1394, Sir Edward (3) 1407, Sir Henry 1453, Sir Thomas (1) 1476, Sir Edward (4) 1480, Sir Thomas (2) 1535 and Sir Edward (5) 1571. In 1609 Sir John, a cousin, inherited. He died in 1637 and his widow, Elizabeth, sold the estate to a James only Cade of Devon
Sir Edward (2) was more oriented towards Glamorgan but his son, Sir William, although remaining a leading gentleman of Glamorgan, often resided in Somerset. After a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he became a knight of the Holy Sepulchre. It is with Sir William’s son, Sir Edward (3), that the story of Halsway Manor becomes more real to us. The third Sir Edward’s principal estate was St Donat’s castle on the Bristol Channel coast but he spent much of his early time at his West Country manors. There is no trace of any building on the site prior to the fifteenth century. However, as mentioned before, Watchet, the most convenient landfall from Wales is only eight miles away from Halsway and it is reasonable to suppose that there must have been an earlier family dwelling somewhere in the manor. In any event it was here that the new manor house was built.
Sir Edward’s military career brought him into contact with influential members of the aristocracy. He fought at Agincourt in the retinue of the Duke of Gloucester. In about 1423 he married Joan, the natural daughter of Henry Beaufort, newly created Cardinal Bishop of Winchester and brother to King Henry. This royal patronage brought the family to its peak of wealth and influence. The new manor (there is no trace of the site of the earlier one) was probably built with the Bishop’s money, in later years local legend would call it Duke Henry’s hunting lodge.
Sir Edward held many profitable offices in his career suffering only one set-back when his son Henry, on a journey across the Bristol Channel from their manor of St Donat’s, was captured by a notorious Breton pirate, Colyn Dauphin. The ransom demanded was 2200 marks and two manors in Oxfordshire were sold to raise the money. Retribution came swiftly. A watchtower was built at St Donat’s and when the pirate ship next appeared it was captured. Family legend has it that Colyn Dauphin was buried alive up to his neck in the sand at low water leaving him to the mercy of the next tide.
Following the example of his father Sir Edward made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem but died there of the plague. Sir Henry in his turn made the pilgrimage also to succumb to the plague in Famagusta in Cyprus on the return journey. The family fulfilled its administrative duties in subsequent generations but with waning influence and inclining more to Welsh affairs. The last of the direct male line, the fifth Sir Edward, had an honoured place among Welsh scholars.