THE BIG RED BOOK 14: what goes up…


In 1800 Nicholas was living in Okehampton with his parents (page 143), but he had moved to Launceston by 1801 and was in Shebbear, near Holsworthy, in 1804 (page 145). However, he was back in Bridestowe for his marriage on 20 February 1810 to Mary Coombe, and the subsequent baptisms of their ten children are recorded in the Bridestowe parish register, as are the burials of four of them as infants: William on 9 February 1817, John on 25 July 1818, Elizabeth on 15 August 1819, and Dionysia on 23 May 1834. Nicholas himself was buried at Bridestowe on 4 January 1833, shortly before the baptism of Dionysia, whose baptismal entry names her father as the late Nicholas Tapson. In his burial entry Nicholas’s age was given correctly as 53.

A census of England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands has been held at ten-year intervals from 1801, except in 1941 during the Second World War. The first four censuses did not ask for the names of residents, so for the genealogist the first useful census is that of 1841. From 1841 the census returns list every person in each house on a given night (and night-workers who would return to the house in the morning)…

In the 1841 census exact ages are given only for children up to the age of 14; for adults ages are grouped into five-year bands: 15 is written for the band 15-19, 20 for the band 20-24, etc. In subsequent censuses exact ages were asked for, but not always forthcoming.


The 1841 census for Bridestowe (PRO HO107/231/6 Fo. 7) has the entry:


  • Mary Tapson 45-49 Labourer Born in Devonshire


  • Robert Tapson 11 Born in Devonshire


Mary must be Nicholas’s widow and Robert their youngest surviving child. The 1851 census provides much more detail, including marital status, occupation and place of birth (PRO HO107/1885 Fo. 262):


Bridestowe Village


  • Mary Tapson Head Widow 61 Pauper Devon, Bridestowe


  • John Tapson Son Un 24 Limequarry Lab Devon, Bridestowe


Mary had taken two years off her age in the earlier census in order to put herself into a lower age bracket; her age given here is consistent with her having been married at the age of 20, and dates her birth to about 1790. At 21 Robert had left home, but John was back with his mother. It is a sad observation that the widow of the eldest grandson of Ebsworthy who inherited all the Tapson lands is now classified as a pauper: a sorry tale of riches to rags in two generations.