All posts by Sue Bridgwater

About Sue Bridgwater

SUE BRIDGWATER was born in Plymouth in 1948 and after 20 years in Hackney, East London has now retired home to Devon. She has generally earned her living as a librarian, and has been writing seriously since the early 1980s. (A list of publications is included below.) Sue read English at Bedford College, London, graduating in 1970. Her M. Phil. in Children’s Fantasy Fiction was done externally during her children’s pre-school years, and was awarded in 1984. She was a Tutor in Literature and Creative Writing from 1982-96 for the Workers’ Educational Association (London District) and the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of London (now a part of Birkbeck College, University of London). Sue has completed a Birkbeck College Certificate in Creative Writing, September 2002-June 2004, developing fiction techniques and skills. Her main interest is in Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is currently working on the third novel in the Skorn sequence and on non-fiction in the field of Mythopoeic studies. SKORN – THE BOOKS; Perian's Journey This is a short epic romance from the Third Age of Skorn, following the life of a man from childhood to death, how he "worked and loved and lived," how he achieved greatness, how his journey through life was long and hard, but good. It was first published in hardback in 1989 by Julia Macrae. Sue and co-author Alistair McGechie are delighted that the 2nd (paperback and eBook) edition is now available, from Eluth Publishing, 2014. Shadows of the Trees This longer mythological novel is set in the Second Age of Skorn and tells the story of two Immortals, a brother and sister who lose their powers and come to terms with mortality. Another jointly written work by Sue and Alistair, this is now available from Eluth Publishing 2015 The Dry Well This is in process of writing and is a sequel to Shadows of the Trees. It is set in IssKor, a desert land in the south of Skorn, where a cruel and oppressive priesthood hides the secret of the dry well and the silent god from the people. In addition to these, Sue and Alistair (individually and together) have outlines for a number of other works to be developed. These relate to different periods in the history and mythology of Skorn and take a number of forms. Shadows of the Trees will be ready for publication late in 2016. PUBLICATIONS Bibliographical note; between 1970 and 1987 Sue’s surname was Jenkins A) Articles and reviews •Reviews of "Norah and the whale", Hilda's restful chair", "Dig away two-hole Tim", "Harry's stripes" and "The greedy blackbird." British Book News Children's Supplement(Spring 1982) pp3-4. •'Spock, Avon and the decline of optimism.' Foundation 25 (June1982) pp 43-45. •Reviews of "Nandy's Bedtime", "Joseph’s other red sock", "On the way home” and "Mr. Pinkerton's Hat" British Book News Children’s Supplement (Autumn 1982) p12. •Review of "Vaneglory" Foundation 26 (October 1982) pp 106-107 • Letter to the Editor Foundation 26 (October 1982) pp 79-80. •Reviews of "A book of cats" and "Stories for a Prince", British Book News Children’s Books (Spring 1984) p14. • “Love, loss and seeking; maternal deprivation and the quest", Children’s Literature in Education Vol 15, No. 2 (whole number 53) (Summer 1984) pp73-83. • “Growing up in Earthsea”, Children's Literature in Education, Vol16, No .1 (whole Number 56), (Spring 1985) pp 21-31 •Review of "The canary-coloured cart" International Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship Vol 2, No 3 (Winter 1987) pp 138-199. •Review of "Bridging the gap” and "Teenager to young adult" International Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship Vol 3, N o.1 (Spring 1988) pp56-57. •'The sense of belonging; an introduction to the novels of Jane Louise Curry' International Review of Children's literature and Librarianship Vol 3, No. 3 (Winter 1988) pp 176-189. •Review of "The drama of being a child" International Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship Vol 4, No. 1 (1989) pp 52-53. •“Out of the doldrums and into the curriculum; De Beauvoir Junior School Library” School Librarian Vol 38, No.2 (May 1990) pp53-54. • “Beyond the personal” a review of And now you can go, byVendela Vida, in TLS, 15th August 2003, p 21 •“A past relived” – a review of Alison Uttley’s A Country Child for “Slightly Foxed”. Issue 5, Spring 2005, pp 82-85. •Review of The name of the wind by Patrick Rothfuss inhttp://www.mythsc.rg/assets/mythprint-341-suwxtkv2i4xmvv8v.pdf •’Stay or go; some reflections upon stasis and travelling in Tolkien’s Mythos.’ (Paper given at Tolkien Society Seminar No.22, June 2009, Published in Tolkien Society Peter Roe Booklets series, No. 16, September 2015) •‘Staying home and travelling; stasis versus movement in Tolkien’s mythos’ in Middle-earth and beyond; essays on the world of JRR Tolkien edited by Kathleen Dubs and Janka Kascakova. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010 •’Upon the world-tree: Death, transformation and return in The Lord of the Rings, The Dream of the Rood, and Havamal.’ TID=242971&FID=77&PR=3 •Review of Daniel A. Rabuzzi’s The Choir Boats. http://www.mythsc.rg/assets/mythprint-353-qqARKMDVfFBTNzFv.pdf B) Poetry and fiction; •“Woman”, WEA Women’s Studies Newsletter, 20 (1983), p8 •"When I'm a tree" Leaves in the wind (Spring 1983), p15. •"How do you meet" Leaves in the wind 2 (1984), prologue. •“Story”, Arachne, 2 (1985) pp 23-25 • Perian's Journey (with Alistair McGechie) London; Julia Macrae Books, 1989; 2nd Edition Eluth Publishing, 2014 • The last pear in the universe Good Society review Vol 1 N. 4, c1993, pp 37-47


The Will of Nicholas Tapson dated 18 September 1742


IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN I Nicholas Tapson of Briddestow in the County of Devon Yeoman being in Health of Body and of a sound and perfect Mind and Memory…do hereby make publish and declare this my last Will and Testament . And Whereas in and by certain Indentures of Lease and Release bearing date the first and second days of July One thousand seven hundred and thirty seven upon the conclusion of a Marriage which is since solemnized between Ebsworthy Tapson my Son and Dionissa Burnaford I the said Nicholas Tapson Did thereby convey unto Peter Burnaford Clerk and John Herring Gentleman and their Heirs All that Messuage or Tenement called Easter Bidlake otherwise Little Bidlake otherwise Lower Bidlake To the Use of myself and my Assigns during my naturall Life Subject to the Annuity therein mentioned And after my Death To the Use of the said Ebsworthy Tapson and his Assigns during his Life Subject to the Annuity therein mentioned And after the Deaths of me the said Nicholas Tapson and the said Ebsworthy Tapson To the Use of the said Dionissa during her naturall Life Subject to the Annuity therein mentioned And after the Deaths of me the said Nicholas Tapson the said Ebsworthy Tapson & Dionissa his wife Then to the Use and behoofe of the Heirs and Assigns of me the said Nicholas Tapson for ever Now I hereby Give Devise and bequeath the reversion and Inheritance of All and singular the said Messuage and  Tenement called Easter Bidlake otherwise Little Bidlake otherwise Lower Bidlake with their and every of their Rights Members and Appurtenances unto the said Ebsworthy Tapson my Son his Heirs and Assigns forever…I also Give Devise and bequeath unto the said Ebsworthy Tapson my Son his Heirs and Assigns forever All that my Messuage and Tenement with the Appurtenances called or commonly known by the name of Blatchford situate lying and being in Sourton in the said County of Devon now In the possession of Peter Pellow . I also Give and bequeath unto each of my four Grand Children John Nicholas Robert and Anne Sons and Daughter of my Son Nicholas Tapson deceased the Sum of Five Pounds apiece to be paid them severally when and as they shall respectively attain the Age of Twenty one Years by the said Ebsworthy Tapson…I also Give Devise and bequeath unto the said Ebsworthy Tapson my Son his Heirs and Assigns forever All that my Messuage and Tenement with all its Rights Members and Appurtenances called or commonly known by the name of Ebsworthy situate lying and being in the said Parish of Briddestow But Subject to and chargeable with the Maintenance Apparell Clothing and Education of my Grand Son Henry Tapson Son of my said son Nicholas for and during the Term of his naturall Life I do hereby order direct and appoint That he find and provide to and for Henry Tapson good and sufficient Meat Drink Washing Lodging and Apparell of every sort fit and convenient for a Person of his Degree…I Also Give and bequeath unto John Newcombe of Briddestow aforesaid Yeoman the Sum of Ten Pounds to be paid unto him By my Executor within one Year after my decease In trust to and for the only sole and separate Use Benefit and Behoofe of my Daughter Anne the Wife of William Coombe of Sourton aforesaid Yeoman separate and apart from her said Husband And to be disposed of as she the said Anne shall think fitt without His Controul or Intermeddling therein…I Also Give and bequeath unto Catherine my Daughter the Sum of Sixty Pounds…I also Give and bequeath unto the said Catherine my Daughter the Bed performed in which she usually lyes I also give unto Anne my Wife the Use of my best Bed performed in the Parlour Chamber The Table Board Cubboard and four Chairs in the Parlour, one Brass Pott, one Brass Pan Six Pewter Dishes and Six Pewter Plates such as She shall think proper to choose for her naturall Life And after her Death I Give and bequeath the same unto the said Ebsworthy Tapson my Son . And I do hereby order direct and appoint that the said Ebsworthy Tapson His Heirs Executors and Administrators do and shall at his and their own Cost and Charges maintain educate and provide for my said four Grand Children John Nicholas Robert and Anne until] they shall respectively attain their several Ages of Twenty one Years All the rest and residue of my Lands Tenements Goods Chattles Household Goods ready Money Bills Bonds and Mortgages not herein before given and bequeathed I Give Devise and bequeath unto the said Ebsworthy Tapson my Son And I do hereby make constitute ordain and appoint him the said Ebsworthy Tapson to be the whole and sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament He paying my just Debts Legacys and Funeral Expenses In witness whereof I have hereunto sett my Hand and Seal & published and declared this to be my last Will and Testament the Eighteenth day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty two     Nicholas Tapson




If you are always looking out for an original take on the standard murder story, look no further than Clare O’ Beara’s fast-moving tale of mystery. Here the conventions of the police procedural have to give way; the police don’t seem able to proceed very far in finding the murderer of Laurel Cabot. Instead they accept the advice and deductions of the members of a Mensa convention hosted by the Dublin Mensa but featuring people of high IQ from all over the world.

It’s always good to have plenty of background interest in a crime tale, and I enjoyed learning more about Mensa, IQ testing, horse-racing, Dublin, and tree surgery along the way.

The tale has pace and interest all through, and Cara Cassidy, the heroine of the investigation, is an engaging character who goes on to feature in the sequels to this book.

It’s also very humorous, if the portrayal is accurate then members of Mensa deeply enjoy jokes and especially puns. Who could fail to enjoy a book that features an estate agents company called ‘Mycroft Homes’?

The book is well presented, I particularly like the large font which makes it accessible to more readers. Don’t miss this if you like murder and detection stories.

Clare O’Beara



The Harleian Society edition of the 1620 Visitation to Devonshire states that Rafe de Combe had purchased Bidlake in 1309. This would have been Wester Bidlake, the next estate to Easter Bidlake owned by the Ebsworthys. His grandson John moved to Bidlake, built a house there and called himself John de Biddelake, whilst Rafe’s son William, the father of John de Biddlake, remained at Combe. By early in the Seventeenth Century a feud had developed between the Bidlakes, who were armigerous, and the Ebsworthys, who had still not registered arms even though they were an equally ancient landowning family, having lived at Ebsworthy for at least as long as the Bidlakes had lived at Wester Bidlake. In 1613 another William Bidlake and his wife, Agnes, who had become involved in several quarrels with neighbours, drew up charges against the rector of Bridestowe, Gilbert Germyn, which also implicated two Ebsworthy brothers, Peter and Paul, and their wives.

The rector had married a daughter to one of the Ebsworthys, thereby becoming involved in the quarrel between the Bidlakes and the Ebsworthys. William’s father, John, wrote a letter to William and Agnes urging them to seek peace and ensue it, warning them that suits of law are as variable as the turnings of a woadercock. Nevertheless, John and his son William pursued a lawsuit against some members of the Ebsworthy family who were living at Stone and also against Shilston Calmady of Leawood: Paul Ebsworthy’s wife, Catherine, was a daughter of Vincent Calmady of Wembury, a relative of Shilston Calmady of Leawood. Peter’s wife was Susan, daughter and heir of John Alford, a former town clerk of Okehampton.

Having detailed the charges against the rector, William and Agnes then accused Peter Ebsworthy “for usurpinge of place in the Churche, being a man of no discent, or parentage, and claiminge a Seate unfittinge for a man of his ranke and position.” It is true that the Ebsworthys had not become as wealthy as the Bidlakes, but they were nevertheless of comfortable means and had made several marriages into armigerous families. Then came the further charge “Next for his wief abusing of my wief in goinge to the Communion, by blowes and afterwards with disgrace full words.”

Then William and Agnes charged Paule Ebsworthy “for layinge of violent handes upon my wief in the Church yard: and his wiefs scouldinge, Katheren Ebsworthy using these wordes before the Parson unto her sister, Peter’s wief, that her sister might be ashamed to suffer such to goe before her as my wief was.”

The case against Parson Germyn was heard by the Bishop of Exeter at Okehampton in May 1613. William died in 1625, leaving a substantial personal estate of around £700; In 1641 Agnes moved to South Devon, where she died in 1651.



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.




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:



It is perhaps significant that Richard does not seem to have had any family near him during his illness; his bequests appear to be to four of his friends, a situation consistent with that of a young man far from home. Perhaps he had come up from Devonshire hoping to make his fortune in the capital, but fell instead an untimely victim to some foul and horrible disease, a grim lesson to any
other young man from home hankering after the excitement of the big city. It is interesting to observe that William Neate was also dead by the time the will was proved; this suggests the possibility of some epidemic disease. If an epidemic was responsible for the two deaths, it is unlikely to have been the bubonic plague,* which in Seventeenth-Century London peaked in 1603 (estimated 33,347 deaths due to the plague), 1625 (41,313 plague deaths recorded), 1636 (10,400 plague deaths recorded) and 1665 (the Great Plague with 68,596 recorded deaths), but from which there are no deaths recorded between 1610 and 1625. More likely it would have been smallpox, which became prominent in Britain in the Seventeenth Century, with 1614 being the worst year all over Europe and the East. Or possibly it might have been that unmentionable disease known euphemistically throughout Europe as the
French pox (except in France where it was attributed to the Spanish), which reached epidemic proportions in Europe for almost thirty years from 1494 and became widely prevalent again in England during the reign of James I (1603-25).