Th[is] marriage is recorded in the Lydford parish register: 2 Jul 1737 Ebsworthy Tapson of Bridestowe and Dionisia Burnaford of Lid ford by licence

In Mann’s transcript of Exeter Marriage Licences Ebsworthy is described as a yeoman and Dionisia as a spinster. In 1701 Dionisia’s father, Thomas Burnaford, had been appointed rector of Lydford, one of the parishes adjoining Bridestowe and geographically the largest in England, extending over nearly 60,000 acres to cover the greater part of Dartmoor; however, the village of Lydford is only three miles south of Bridestowe village. [The term clerk at that time meant Clerk in Holy Orders.] That Thomas Burnaford could afford £100 as his part of the marriage settlement suggests that he was a man of considerable means. Peter Burnaford was either Thomas’s very much younger brother or, perhaps more likely, his son; the register of Lamerton (9 miles from Bridestowe) shows Thomas, son of Thomas Burnaford , to have been baptized on 1 January 1671/2 and Peter, son of Thomas Burnaford, on 6 October 1692. The records of the Alumni Oxonienses and of the Alumni Cantabrigienses provide the information that Thomas matriculated on 22 March 1688/9 at Exeter College, Oxford, aged 17, and obtained a B.A. at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1692, and that Peter matriculated on 31 March 1710, aged 17, at Exeter College, Oxford, whence he graduated in 1713. Peter was appointed vicar of Colyton, Devonshire, in 1729 and rector of Bridestowe in 1734, where he remained until his death in December 1778;* Thomas was rector of Lydford from 1701 to 1740. Since it was customary in a marriage settlement for one of the feoffees to be on the bride’s side and the other to be on the groom’s side, it is likely that John Herring was a friend or relative of Nicholas. As a result of the 1737 marriage settlement Peter Burnaford and John Herring effectively held Little Bidlake in trust until the death of Nicholas, who would however continue to benefit from it during his lifetime.

Six months after Ebsworthy’s wedding Nicholas’s eldest son and heir, Nicholas died; he was buried at Bridestowe on 31 January 1737/8 close to the south wall of the church and just to the right of the south porch, this prime position perhaps reflecting the importance within the village of the Tapsons of Ebsworthy Town, the address given in Nicholas’s burial entry. Nicholas would have been just 34; that this burial was his is confirmed by the inscription on the headstone of his grave:


Here lies the body of Nicholas ye son of Nicholas Tapson Sen r & Anne his wife of this parish who died ye 29th day of Jany 1737 Aged 34

Although my flesh is gone to dust

I hope to rise again

And with the number of the just

For ever to remain


The settlement made by Alexander Ebsworthy at the time of the marriage of his daughter Agnes to Nicholas Tapson of Buckland Monachorum imposed an entail on the properties being conveyed whereby, in the event of Nicholas’s death without issue of Agnes, these properties would have reverted to the Ebsworthy family. It was probably this entail which the later Nicholas Tapson now sought to break so that, his eldest son and heir dead, his second son Ebsworthy might inherit all his lands without any legal complications. The legal device for breaking an entail was known as docking a tail, and from 1536 could be achieved by means of a Fine …Abstracts are now given of the Deed to lead to the uses of a Fine and of a copy of the Final Concord (DRO 189M Add 2/F6, 7). These documents are of particular interest in that they reveal that, of all the properties which Alexander Ebsworthy settled on Nicholas Tapson and Agnes in January 1633/4, only Gnattor was no longer owned by the family over a century later; they also give details of the extent and nature of the Tapson properties.