The Will of John Tapson dated 13 June 1862


This is the last Will and Testament of me John Tapson of Cannon Barn in the parish of Thrushelton in the County of Devon Farmer and being now of sound mind I make the following disposition of all my property as below. I t To my Sister Mrs Ann Rice I bequeath All my leasehold Cottages situate in the Village of Lew Down in the parish of Lewtrenchard in the County of Devon. 2°ndly To my Sister Mrs Mary Hamley of Higher Mills I bequeath All my Cottages situate on Holster Yard in the parish of Marystowe in the County of Devon together with the sum of Fifteen pounds in money of the Realm. 3rdly To each of my Nephews (to wit) George Rice, John Rice and John Hamley I bequeath respectively the sum of Twenty five pounds and to each of my nieces (to wit) Catherine Hamley, Mary Hamley, Joanna Hamley, Ann Rice and Catherine Rice I bequeath respectively the sum of Twenty five pounds. 4thlyy To my neice Mary Rice I bequeath all my Goods and Chattels together with my real and personal Estate subject to the above conditions and I hereby appoint her whole and sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my name this thirteenth day of June One thousand eight hundred and sixty two. John Tapson


We learn from this will that each of John’s two sisters had children. George Rice, whose name appears in the 1841 census for Cannon Bam, was one of Ann’s sons, and two of her daughters, Mary and Catherine, are listed in the 1861 return for Cannon Bam. Ann and her husband, George, lived in Lewtrenchard, the parish immediately to the south of Thrushelton parish, in which were situated the cottages which John bequeathed to Ann; the hamlet of Lew Down, the address of the cottages, is on the old A30, less than a mile north-west of Lewtrenchard village. The cottages which John bequeathed to his other sister, Mary, were at Holster Yard in Marystow, the address in the 1851 census of John’s second cousin Elizabeth Doidge.


John died on 19 June 1862 at the age of 58, six days after making his will; his death certificate* records that he was a farmer and that he died at Lifton of heart disease. John’s body was taken back to Stowford where he was buried on 24 June 1862. Two months later, on 26 August 1862, his will was proved at Exeter by the oath of Mary Rice, Spinster, Niece of the deceased, and his effects were valued at under £600. John’s was only the fourth Tapson will to be proved in the civil probate court, which took over probate matters from the ecclesiastical courts on 11 January 1858. The opening formula of the earlier wills, committing the soul of the testator to God and his body to a decent burial, has now been abandoned, the language has become more concise and the layout considerably more logical. It is interesting that, like his father and baby brother and then his mother, John was buried at Stowford. His father, although born in Stowford, had moved to Thrushelton when he was 17 years old, or soon afterwards, and the others were all born in, and spent their lives in, Thrushelton; yet they still retained an attachment to Stowford. Also taken back to Stowford for burial were William and Ann of Launceston and John and Mary Ann of Tamerton Foliot.

Headstones survive for Robert Tapson of Cannon Bara (died 13 November 1808), his widow Catherine (died 18 July 1856), and their sons Robert (died 23 February 1810) and John (died 19 June 1862).


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