THE STOWFORD PARISH REGISTERS
The parish of Stowford lies due west of Bridestowe parish, from which it is separated by Thrushelton parish. Immediately west of Stowford parish is the parish of Lifton, of which the western boundary is the river Tamar separating Devonshire from Cornwall. Just beyond the Tamar is the ancient Cornish market town of Launceston; this is the town towards which, as we shall see, many of the Tapsons of Stowford gravitated. The villages of Sourton, Bridestowe, Thrushelton, Stowford and Litton all lie close to the old A30 as it proceeds westwards from Okehampton, the nearest town for the Tapsons of Bridestowe, to Launceston.
The old name of Launceston, Dunheved, indicates that it was a fortified place in Celtic times; this is the purport of the Celtic word dun. Launceston has had a castle since Saxon times; there may still be some remnants of the Norman castle, but most of the present remains date from the time of Henry VIII. Launceston was formerly the county town of Cornwall, where the assizes were held; the assizes were later held at both Launceston and Bodmin until they were finally transferred to Bodmin in 1838.
Stowford has a fine church in the Perpendicular style. Its parish registers survive from 1707, but there are some fragmentary bishop’s transcripts from before that date; there is no mention of a Tapson in these fragments…because the Stowford Tapsons were, from an early date, moving out of and back into their parish much more.
The story of the Tapsons of Stowford actually begins in the parish of Marystow ten years before the earliest Tapson entry in the Stowford parish registers. Marystow is the parish immediately to the south of Stowford parish; its early registers are quite difficult to read, but the bishop’s transcripts which survive are highly legible.
By 1752 William and Elizabeth Tapson with their children, William, Elizabeth and Anne (Maty having already died), had moved to Stowford, where Robert, Nicholas and Ebsworthy were born and where their son William died at the age of 19. William seems quickly to have become involved in village affairs at Stowford: the bishop’s transcripts were signed William Tapson Churchwarden for the years beginning Ladyday 1753, Ladyday 1760 and Ladyday 1761. William died in 1785. He had married at the age of 39, had his last child when he was 57, and died at the age of 82.