This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.

I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)




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WILLIAM SAMPSON was the fourth child of Richard Sampson, agricultural labourer, and Mary Mathews . He was baptised in Meshaw on 23 March 1833. His mother died before he was 8.

The family moved to Cheldon, near his father’s birthplace of West Worlington, where they shared a house with his aunt Anne and her husband and children. William’s older siblings Mary and John were by then working on farms in Chulmleigh, where they were born.


1841 Census: Cheldon, Holes:

Richard Sampson   35   Ag lab

Jane Sampson 11

William Sampson    8

Richard Sampson    4

Samuel Price     40   Ag Lab

Anne Price   40

Anne Price 11     

William Price     7

Maria Price   4

Jane Price     1

William was apprenticed on a local farm. Meanwhile, his father remarried.

1851 Census: West Worlington & Cheldon, Mousebery.

Edward TOLLEY Head M 59 M Farmer Of 182 Acres Meshaw

Mary TOLLEY Wife M 64 F --- Brushford

William TOLLEY Son U 24 M --- Romansleigh

Richard WARE Serv U 24 M Ag Lab Winkleigh

William SAMPSON Appr U 18 M Ag Lab Meshaw

Elizabeth COLES Serv U 17 F General Servant Romansleigh


William, like his father, lived the nomadic life of the husbandman and labourer, with frequent changes of home and job. He married a young woman of higher status, whose parents had established a family farm.


SUSAN(NA) HARRIS was baptised in Mariansleigh in 1838, the fifth child of Robert Harris and Susanna Cook .  

1838 Aug 29. Susanna, daughter of Robert and Susanna Harris. Mariansleigh. Farmer.  

The address of ‘Mariansleigh’ may mean that they were living in the village, rather than on an outlying farm. By 1840 the family were at Triddencott, a farm south-east of the village.

1841 Census: Mariansleigh


Robert Harris     45   Farmer

Susanna     35

Henery       15

Elizabeth     9

John       5

Susanna      3

Robert       1 month


Ten years later, her baptismal name has been shortened to Susan, and she remains Susan for the rest of her life.

1851 census : Mariansleigh.Triddencott

Robert Harris     Head     M   44?   Farmer

Susan       Wife     M   46

Elizabeth     Daur     U   20

John       Son     U   16

Susan        Daur     U   12

Mary       Daur     U   6

William     Son     U   4

Robert       Son     U   10


William Sampson and Susan Harris were married in or before 1861. They lived first at Adworthy, in the parish of Witheridge, where a former farmhouse had apparently been divided to house agricultural labourers.

1861 Census : Witheridge 2 Higher Adworthy

William Sampson   Head   Mar   28   Ag Lab     Meshaw

Susan “     Wife   Mar   22       Mariansleigh


Their first son, William, was born in Witheridge, but the couple had him baptised in St Mary’s, East Worlington.

Baptism. East Worlington

1861 Mar 12 th William Son of Willam & Susan Sampson Witheridge   Labourer


This may have been because this church was nearer than the church in Witheridge, or the couple may moved on to East Worlington before the baptism. They were living in this parish when their next son John was born, c 1864. Around 1870 they moved finally to Romansleigh.


1871 Census. Romansleigh

25 Village. Thorndown Cottage.

William Sampson Head Mar 36/8   Ag Lab Meshaw

Susan “ Wife Mar 32 “ Wife Mariansleigh

John “ Son 7 East Worlington

Mary “ Daur 6 “

Robert “ Son 3 “

Susan “ Daur 2 “

Richard “ Son 7 mths Romansleigh


None of their older children went to school. There was a small school in Romansleigh and another in neighbouring Mariansleigh. Following the Education Act of 1871 requiring schools to be provided for all children, plans were made for a new school to accommodate the children of both parishes. The Oxham School, midway between the two villages, was opened in 1877. From then on, the younger Sampson children from Romansleigh would have attended it, along with their Harris cousins from Mariansleigh.

  In 1871, 9-year-old William had already left home and was a farm servant with Susan’s brother at her old home of Tridencott, Mariansleigh. William is back with them in 1881. Three more children have been born, but the parents seem a bit confused about their birthplaces.


1881 Census:

Village, Romansleigh.

William SAMPSON M 48 M Meshaw Head Farm Labourer

Susan SAMPSON M 42 F Mariansleigh: Wife Wife

William SAMPSON U 19 M Witheridge Son Farm Labourer

John SAMPSON 17 M Westington Son Farm Labourer

Robert SAMPSON 13 M Worlington Son Scholar

Susan SAMPSON 12 F Worlington Daur Scholar

Richard SAMPSON 10 M Worlington Son Scholar

Sarah SAMPSON 8 F Worlington Daur Scholar

Frederick SAMPSON 6 M Romansleigh Son Scholar

Elizabeth SAMPSON 4 F Romansleigh Daur  


The younger children now go to school. The 1870 Education Act established schools for all.

The two older boys, William and John , joined the Devonshire Regiment before the next census.  

1891 Census: Romansleigh Cottage.

William Sampson age 57 agr lab born Meshaw

Susan wife 50 Mariansleigh

Sarah dau 18 dom serv Romansleigh

Elizabeth dau 14 ""

Thomas H son 7 ""


William went to India as a sergeant in the 1st Devon Regiment. In Rawal Pindi he contracted fever. To celebrate his recovery, he ate a large meal, collapsed and died on 6 December 1893.

John served in Egypt and returned to Plymouth as a colour sergeant.


William and Susan lived in Bell Cottage, which was previously the Blue Bell Inn. Though William appears in every census as a labourer, they appear to have kept a shop. Perhaps Susan ran this from their front room.


Kelly’s Directory 1897. Romansleigh, William Sampson, shopkeeper.


In the 1901 census, occupations were defined as ‘Employer, Worker or Own account’, with a further column to say ‘If working at home’.


1901 Census. Romansleigh. Romansleigh Village.

Sampson Wm   Head   M 67   Agricultural Labourer   Worker   Meshaw

Sampson Susan Wife F 60 Mariansleigh

Sampson Elizth Daur F 23 Dressmaker Own A/c Romansleigh

Sampson Fk? Son M 17 Farm Labourer Worker Romansleigh


None of them is listed as working at home, though Susan may be assumed to do so. It is not clear where Elizabeth did her dressmaking, since she was self-employed. Perhaps she did her sewing at the houses of her clients.

There is a splendid photo of William sitting before his cottage hearth.



William and Susan are buried in Romansleigh churchyard. As you enter the gate, there is a grave on the left of the path surrounded by a railing. It looks surprisingly prominent for a farm labourer’s grave.


In Loving Memory of

Susan Sampson

who died November 11th 1907

aged 67 years

also of

William Sampson

Husband of the above

who died October 31st 1910

aged 77 years

“peace perfect peace”


Next Generation: 3. JOHN SAMPSON

Previous Generations: 5. SAMPSON-MATHEWS

                         5. HARRIS-COOK




Crime at the holy wells

of Cornwall