Monthly Archives: March 2018


Ebsworthy moor farm road

[Marrying into money]

John Tapson of Bucklande Monachorum in the saide Countey of Devon yeoman WITNESSETH that the saide Alexander Ebbesworthie, as well in consideration of a mariage already had and solemnized between Nicholas Tapson of Bucklande Monachorum aforesaide yeoman the brother of the saide John Tapson and Agnes Ebbesworthie the eldest daughter of the saide Alexander Ebbesworthie, as also in consideration of the sume of Fiftie poundes of lawful money of Englande alreadie paide by the saide Nicholas Tapson unto the saide Alexander Ebbesworthie and of Twoe hundred and Twentie poundes more to be paide by the saide Nicholas Tapson unto the said Alexander Ebbesworthie, in manner and forme followinge, That is to saie Fiftie poundes parcel thereof on the xxjx th daie of October, one Thousande sixe hundred Thirtie nyne and Threeskore, and ten poundes more on the xxjx th daie of October one Thousande sixe hundred and Fortie and one hundred poundes residue of the same on the xxjxf th daie of October, one Thousande sixe hundred Fortie one, which Twoe hundred and twentie poundes is intended by the said Alexander Ebbesworthie as a portion for the advancement in mariage of Katherine Ebbesworthie the youngest daughter of the said Alexander Ebbesworthie. The saide Alexander Ebbesworthie shall and will before the Feast of the nativitie of St John Baptist next ensuinge the date hereof Levye one or more Fine or Fines with proclamations to be prosecuted in his majesties Courte of Common Pleas at Westminster unto the saide William Harrie and John Tapson of all that messuages, Landes, Tenements, and Hereditaments with Thappurtennances [the appurtenances] commonlie called by the severall name and names of

Ebbesworthie, Ebbesworthie Woode, and Easter Bidlake sett, lyenge and beinge within the said parishe of Bridestowe and abovesaid Countey of Devon and of all those messuages, Landes, Tenements, and Hereditaments with Thappurtennances commonlie called by the severall name and names of Blachford and Gnattor also Knattor with Thappurtennances sett, lyenge and beinge within the severall parishes of Sourton and Peterstavie, William Harry and John Tapson to be seised of the said properties.


Th[IS] 1633/4 marriage settlement explains how Ebsworthy and the other properties

came into the hands of the Tapson family. … The Exeter wedding had been held on 21 February 1632/3 in the church, tucked away in a comer of the Cathedral Close, of St. Martin. Although it is small, St. Martin’s was at that time regarded as a highly fashionable church, and without doubt the marriage was quite a social occasion, very county, with all the important gentryfolk arriving from the country in their coaches. … The early registers of St. Martin’s church were destroyed by bombing during World War II, but a transcript made by Nesbitt in 1926 has the entry:


21 Feb 1632 Nicholas Tapson and Agnis Elsworthy by licence.  The two errors in the bride’s name are not repeated in Mann’s transcript of Exeter Marriage Licences:


15 Feb 1632 Nicholas Tapson of Buckland Monachorum and Agnes Ebsworthy of Briddestowe.









About 13 miles to the north of Buckland Monachorum, in the parish of Bridestowe, lies a property known as Ebsworthy, which has played such an important part in the Tapson story that it seems appropriate to devote a whole chapter to it, to the family which by early in the Seventeenth

Century had owned it for many generations, and to the branch of the Tapson family to which it was then about to pass. On this property there had grown up a hamlet which became known as Ebsworthy Town; Ebsworthy Town is nearly a mile north-west of Bridestowe village down a long country lane which is little more than a farm track.


The ancient name of the farm known as Ebsworthy is said to come from the Anglo-Saxon Ecgbeald’s Worðig, meaning Ecgbeald’s Enclosure, the earliest recorded mention of the property being in the Domesday Book of 1086. [The Anglo-Saxon letter ð is pronounced as -th.]

Quickly after 1066 William, the Conqueror, had set in motion a very full survey of his newly-acquired realm; for the five western shires this Domesday survey is epitomized in his Exchequer Book and also

in another volume known as the Exeter Book. The following extract relating to the Manor of

Bridestowe is a translation from the Latin based on the Exeter Book….the six properties mentioned are all shown on modern Ordnance Survey maps.


A hide, referred to in this extract, was originally the amount of land considered sufficient to support one family; it was defined at an early date as being as much land as could be tilled by one plough, and it could measure anything between 90 and 120 acres, according to the type of soil and the lie of the land…a ferling was usually taken to be a quarter of a hide.


Extract from the Domesday Book of 1086




Baldwin has a manor called BRIDESTOU [Bridestowe] which Edmer held on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead [5 January 1066] and it paid geld for half a hide and half a ferling. This six ploughs can till. Now Ralf de Pomaria [Pomeroy] holds it of Baldwin. There Ralf has two ploughs in demesne and the villeins four. There Rjalfj has nine villeins, four bordars, eight serfs, one rouncey [pack-horse], six beasts, ten swine, one hundred and thirty Eve sheep, twenty goats, forty acres of woodland, twelve acres of meadow and thirty acres of pasture. Worth four pounds and was worth sixty shillings when Baldwin received it.


Along with this manor Baldwin holds the land of six thanes which did not belong to the aforesaid manor on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead. In King Edward]’s time it paid geld for half a hide and one and a half ferlings. This six ploughs can till. One of these six lands is called CARSFORDA [Kersford] which Sawin Topa held. Another is called BATESILLA [Battishill] which Dodo held. A third COMBA [Combe] which Dodo held. A fourth ETBOLDUS WRDA [Ebsworthy] which Godwin held. A Fifth FERNEURDA [Fernworthy] which Godwin held. And the sixth WEIA [Way] which Abbot Suatric held. These thanes could go with that land to any lord they liked. That land is worth sixty shillings all but twenty pence, and was worth thirty shillings when Baldwin received it.


The Conqueror granted lands to his barons conditional upon their providing knights for the King’s service. In turn the knights were granted manors under the barons, many holding as much land as some of the minor barons. By 1205 some 4000 knights had secured exemption from military service on payment of a fine or tax known as scutage, and knight service had been replaced by a paid army, the scutage being used to pay the fighting knights.


The Domesday manor consisted of demesne (the home farm of the lord of the manor), freeholders’ land, and villagers’ land. A thane was a freeman who could change his lord at will. A villein was a tenant of manorial land which he held on condition of particular amounts of labour service, known as socage, on the lord’s demesne; he was free in regard to everyone except his feudal lord, which meant that he could not be bought or sold but he was bound to his holding. A bordar was a villein of the lowest rank — a smallholder — and the status of serf was even lower, in that even his body belonged to his lord.


In England serfdom, common at the time of Domesday, soon thereafter became extinct, the division then being into freemen and villeins. However, the distinction was not absolute: a freeman might acquire land to which a liability attached for villein services, and intermarriage was frequent, though the offspring of a free woman by a villein was a villein. Between 1300 and 1500 the villeins’ obligation to work in the lord’s fields was by degrees abolished in favour of the payment of a money rent in lieu of socage. Before 1400 villeins were proving their legal right to their property by producing copies of the court roll (page 112) of the manor, this type of tenure therefore being known as copyhold, and on a villein’s death his eldest son became the legal heir to the property. At about the same period the terms husbandman and yeoman came to be applied to workers of the land. At first the husbandman was usually a villein, whereas a yeoman was always a freeman; but by the Sixteenth Century the distinction seems to have been more a matter of wealth, and the terms husbandman and yeoman might even be applied to the same person.


Until about 1400 the term gentleman was used to describe any man of noble birth — a baron, a knight or a squire, the title squire or esquire being given to an apprentice knight, usually a descendant of a knight, before he was dubbed on coming of age. But in the Fifteenth Century gentleman came to be used to describe a person who had not been knighted but was a substantial landowner whose status was higher than that of a yeoman in that he did not himself have to work with his hands.


By the Sixteenth Century many yeomen had acquired much land and could sometimes be far better off than their neighbouring gentry, who were gentry less by their wealth than by their status, their descent from an armorial bearing family, or their way of life. By the Seventeenth Century a humble tradesman could be a gentleman if he had descended from an ancient gentle family, whilst a successful yeoman could be leading the life of a gentleman, never needing to put is hand to the soil; and there was much intermarriage between the gentry and the yeomanry. Members of such professions as the army, the navy, the law and the church were regarded as gentlemen, some even being entitled to use the description esquire.



besides the property from which they took their name, the Ebsworthys also owned, by 1445, the adjoining property of Easter Bidlake (sometimes referred to in later documents as Lower or Little Bidlake) as well as Gnattor (on the moors a good half dozen miles south in Peter Tavy parish, mid-way between Buckland Monachorum and Bridestowe, variously spelt Nattor or Knattor) and Wadeston (perhaps Waddlestone in the adjoining parish of Lewtrenchard, spelt Wadeleston in the Book of Fees of 1242). And if Esterlake, mentioned in the 1317 deed, refers to Easter Bidlake, as seems probable, then the Ebsworthys must already have acquired that property by 1317.






One of the earliest of the Tapsons to make his home and to raise his family in the capital was George Tapson of Stepney. At that time Stepney was strictly not in London, but in Middlesex; it is now practically conterminous with the East End of London, the district containing the docks which line the Thames to its south. Richard and Mary (page 24) had lived at Whitechapel, the western part of Stepney immediately to the east of the City of London; George was married at Shadwell, the southern quarter of Stepney close to the docks, in the church of St. Paul (GLRO);

6 Jan 1697 George Tapson mariner and bachelder and Elizabeth Nedels spinster both of this parish by Licance both Liveing neer Shadwell Dock in Lower Shadwell.

George had joined His Majesty’s Ship the Victory as Master’s Mate on 25 May 1696. The Treasurers’ Pay Book for the Victoiy’s commissioning which Began Rigging Wages 8 th Oct b 95, Sea Wages 10 th Nov 95, Ended Wages 6 Dec 97 (PRO ADM33/185) gives the complement of the ship as 754 and has the entry:

25 May 1696 Geo Tapson Ma Mate to 20 Feb 96/7 D 5 Aug 97 Rochester then 5th Leiutenant Chest Greenwich Hospital Full Wanes Neat Wages 167 days at vf per diem.

Like the Chatham Chest (page 29), the Greenwich Hospital was a charitable foundation; as a home for infirm seamen it dated from 1694, and was supported by 6d a month deducted from the wages of both naval and merchant seamen. It employed seamen’s widows in its infirmary and provided a school for children of officers and men, especially orphans. George had received his first commission after nine months of apprenticeship as Master’s Mate: his wages for the 167 days which he served as Fifth Lieutenant at six shillings a day would have amounted to £50 – 2 – 0; perhaps the remaining £32 – 6 – 8 of his gross wages was pay due to him for the time he had spent as Master’s Mate.

George’s next commission was on the Rochester. The Treasurers’ Pay Book for the commissioning of that ship which Began Sea Wages and Victuals 1 Oct 94, Ended Wages 6 Dec 97 (PRO ADM33/192) notes that her complement was 226 and includes:

6 Aug 1697 Victory Geo Tapsonne 2 nd Licut. 2 – 3 30- 17 – 3 30- 15 -0

A further column reads Neglect and Fines 9 – 10. This commissioning of the Rochester ended just one month before George’s wedding, and his name does not appear in the Pay Book for her next commissioning (PRO ADM33/206), which Began Rigging Wages 23 Mar 1697/8.

It may be that George worked for a while on merchant ships, for he was not employed again on one of His Majesty’s vessels until two and a half years after leaving the Rochester, this time as a warrant officer, Midshipman Extraordinary (page 28), on the Dorsetshire, as we learn from the Pay Book for that ship (PRO ADM33/215) for her commissioning which Began Sea Wages as a Guard Ship in Portsmouth harbour … the 6 Febry 99/1700 and Ended Wages 17 Sep 1700:

George returned home to see for the first time the daughter who had been bom while he was at sea and who had been baptized at Shadwell St. Paul, the church where he had married:

18 Aug 1700 Mary dau of George Tapson and Elizabeth his wife being then Six days ould mariner in Spring Stret

The baptism at Shadwell St. Paul of a second daughter soon followed:

25 Nov 1701 Elizabeth dau of George Tapson and Elizabeth his wife being then Nine dayes old mariner in Spring Street

George and Elizabeth then moved to the Ratcliff district of Stepney, where further baptisms followed; these took place in the church of St. Dunstan, Stepney (GLRO), an ancient church of which the present buildings date mainly to the Fifteenth Century:

13 Jun 1703 George son of George & Elizabeth Tapson, Rate 1 . Matin. 13 days old

14 Jan 1706 Richard son of George & Elizabeth Tapson, Ratcliff, Mariner 2..? days old

20 Apr 1708 Elizabeth dau of George & Elizabeth Tapson, Rate. Marr. 17 days old

Although George is described in these baptismal entries as a mariner, there is no evidence of his further service in the Royal Navy after he left the Dorsetshire in 1700, so he must have worked on merchant ships.





This marriage occurred 17 June 1718:
John Tapson of Plymouth, Grocer, & Agnes Battishill of Ilsington, Spinster.

However, the marriage was to be short-lived, for only nine months after the issue of the marriage licence a burial was recorded in the Ilsington register: 10 Mar 1718 Agnes Tapson wife of John Tapson Gent

The original meaning of the word grocer implied a wholesale merchant and not, as nowadays, the owner of a small retail outlet, so it seems probable that John was an importer of foodstuffs and probably had warehouses on the quayside at Plymouth. In the Sessions Book of the Borough of Plymouth a list of jurors for the year 1711 includes the name John Tapson Grocer, which probably implies that John was a freeman of the Borough. Subsequently John’s name occurs several times in this context — certainly in 1724, 1726, 1727, 1729 and 1730.

John, as a master grocer, took on apprentices in 1712 and 1717.

The Receiver of Plymouth was a member of the Corporation appointed to the post for one year. The Receivers’ Book of Accounts IV gives the incomings and outgoings for each year; the list of receipts for the mayoral year 1719-20 begins:

Here followeth the acd of Mr John Tapson Receiver of the buri° of Plym. from the nine and twentieth day of September ….1719 to the nine and twentieth day of September …. 1720 in the Mayoralty of the R { Worshipfull W 771 Bartlett Gould This is followed by the fist of items received, totalling £1000 – 07 – 03%. The expenditure for the same year is headed:
Here followeth an acd of such charges as have been disbursed and laid out by the said Receiver Mr John Tapson for the said year….
The items listed total £874 – 01 – 03%; this left a balance of £126 – 06 – 00% to be paid by Mr John Tapson the late Receiver to MT Matthew Roe the present Receiver
Subsequently, in 1721, 1724 and 1736, John Tapson was one of the auditors. And the accounts for 1730-31 are introduced thus:
Here follows the Account of M r Michael Nicolls Receiver of the Burrough of Plymouth from the nine and twentieth day of September …. 1730 to the nine and twentieth day of September …. 1731 in the Mayoralty of the Rl Worshipfull John Tapson Grocer
So John had been elected First Citizen of the Borough.
The year after his mayoralty John bought a lease on land in the parish of Bickleigh, which is immediately to the south-east of Buckland Monachorum parish; the conveyancing indenture is dated 12 June 1732:

Assignment of Lease dated 12 June 1732
This indenture made the Twelth Day of June …. 1732 Between Madam Mary Dean of Maristow in the County of Devon Widow of the One part And John Tapson of Plymouth in the County aforesaid Grocer of the other partt Witnesseth thatt the said Madam Maiy Dean for and in consideracon of the sum of One Hundred and Eighty pounds of lav/full Brittish money to her in hand paid by the said
John Tapson …. Doth Demise Lease grant and to faim sett and left unto the said John Tapson his Executors and Assigns the Reversion of All thatt Messuage and Tenement with the Appurtenances comonly called …. Bickleigh town and Halshill situate lying and being within the Mannor and parish of Bickleigh …. and now in the possession of the said John Tapson …. And all Orchards gardens Meadows pastures feedings underwoods and other Appurtenances …. Together with common of pasture upon Roborough down and Woollwell down belonging to the said Mannor of Bickleigh for soe many Beasts Cattle and Sheep as the said premisses can keep in winter Excepting and always reserving outt of this demise and Lease unto the said Madam Mary Dean her heirs and Assigns all Timbertrees of Oake ash and Elm and all coppice woods now growing or hereafter to grow in and upon the premisses with free liberty to her and them att all times to …. fell down work up and carry’ away the same att all times. To lease …. unto the said John Tapson ….for and during the full term and time of Ninety Nine Years ….

Presumably John had bought the lease on the property at Bickleigh in preparation for his retirement.
Then, less than two years later, he remarried; the marriage entry in the parish register of Pitminster, near Taunton, Somersetshire, reads:

11 Feb 1734 Mr John Tapson & Mrs Hannah Webb of Bickleigh, by licence.

John’s burial is recorded in the register of Plymouth St. Andrew:

29 Jul 1738 M T John Tapson

Possibly because he had no children, John had failed to make a will. Administration of his estate was granted by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PRO PROB6/114 Fo. 124) on 18 August 1738 to his widow: