Fay Sampson’s Family History
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)
ROBERT HARRIS and SUSANNA COOK (5)
ROBERT HARRIS is probably the son of Henry Harris and Sarah Fooke, who were married in South Molton, 10 March 1795. He said at each census that he was born in Mariansleigh, but there is no record of this. Pages seem to be missing from the register around the relevant date, c 1795. Or he may have been born in another parish but moved to Mariansleigh when he was very young. The first mention of the Harris family in Mariansleigh is the baptism of Simon, son of Henry and Sarah Harris, in 1803. Since Robert later witnessed Simon’s wedding, and there is no evidence of another Harris family in the parish, they are probably brothers. There appears to be another brother, Henry. The likelihood is that Robert was the eldest.
SUSANNA COOK(E) was certainly born in the village, and of a longstanding Mariansleigh family.
- Susanna, Daughter of John & Catherine Cooke was baptized July 21.
Robert and Susanna married in 1824.
Robert Harris of this Parish and Susanna Cook of this Parish were married in this Church by Banns with Consent of (blank) this ninth day of February in the Year One Thousand eight hundred and twenty four. By me John R… Curate of South Molton.
Signed: Robert Harris
The mark X of Susanna Cook
In the presence of John Cook
Robert’s parents signed the marriage register at their own wedding with a crude initial. Robert signs his name in a small, beautifully-formed and regular hand, almost like printed script, giving the impression of a man of some intelligence. He did rather better than his brothers. In 1829 Henry Harris appears at the baptism of his daughter Mary Anne as a dairyman. When his son George was baptised in 1831, he is a labourer. What happened to him after that is not yet known. He and his wife Emmeline do not appear again in the Mariansleigh registers and cannot be traced in the 1851 census. Simon is a labourer at the baptisms of all seven of his children recorded in Mariansleigh. Robert began as a labourer, but quickly reached the status of yeoman farmer.
1824 April 25. Henry, son of Robert and Susanna Harris. In the village. Labourer.
1829 Sept 17. Elizabeth, daughter of Robert and Susannah Harris. In the parish. Farmer.
1834 April 4. Robert, son of Robert and Susanna Harris. Mariansleigh. Farmer.
1835 Dec 25. John son of Robert & Susannah Harris. Mariansleigh. Yeoman.
1838 Aug 29. Susanna, daughter of Robert and Susanna Harris. Mariansleigh. Farmer.
By the 1839 Tithe Apportionment, Robert was farming at Trittencott, and may have been there since 1829. The owner was the lord of the manor, Sir Humphrey Phineas Davie. Robert is the occupier. The acreage of the farm is given as 69 acres 3roods 36 perches. The largest farm in the parish was 113a 2r 32p, but Tritencott was still amongst the bigger ones.
Tithing was the name given to the custom of taking one tenth of all agricultural produce of a parish, including grain, crops, newborn animals, honey, wool etc., to pay for the upkeep of the church and clergy… The Tithe Commutation Act was passed in 1836, ordering that all tithes were to be paid in money, not in kind. The amount to be paid was based on the national seven-year average price of corn.
Trittencott, lies south east of the village of Mariansleigh. It is just below the ridge road, on a south-facing hillside. The earliest record of the farm is in 1524, but as early as 1385 William Trutencotte was pardoned for killing John Geffray of Upcott at the mill. Though used here as a surname, Trutencotte sounds like the name of a house. 
The present farmhouse was rebuilt in the 19th century, but it is not yet known when or by whom. It may have been in Robert’s time.
White’s 1850 Directory lists Robert Harris among 19 farmers in Mariansleigh, only three of whom own their farm. Robert Harris was a tenant farmer.
When the lease of the farm was sold in 1900, following the death of Robert and Susan’s son, it was described in a notice of sale in the North Devon Journal as; “the compact FARM called “TRITTENCOT” with the adjoining TENEMENT of “SPENSCOTT” containing together 128a 3r 23p, with convenient farmhouse, superior cottage and homesteads, for many years in the occupation of Mr Robert Harris (deceased) and Mr John Hill.
“ The Estate is adjoining the Main Road from Roseash to Mariansleigh, and has a southern aspect.”
William Marshall, writing in 1796 about farming in Devon, says:
FARMERS:The SCALE of OCCUPIERS, in this Western District, is singularly extensive; reaching from the largest proprietor, down to the farm servant, or parish prentice; who having, by his temperance and frugality, saved up a few pounds, and, by his industry and honesty, established a fair character, is entrusted with one of the small holdings that are scattered in every parish; and who, perhaps, by persevering in the same line of conduct, ascends, step after step, to a farm of a higher order.
POSSESSORY RIGHT, or LANDED PROPERTY, puts on an appearance here, very different from that which it wears in other parts of the kingdom…. Instead of letting out their lands to tenants, at an annual rent equivalent to their value, they are sold, in small parcels or farms, generally for THREE LIVES named by the purchaser, or ninetynine years, provided any one of the parties, named, survives that period: reserving, however, a small annual rent, together with a heriot or other forfeiture, on the death of each nominee, similar to those attached to the copyhold tenure, which this species of tenancy, or tenure, very much resembles: it being usual to put in fresh lives, as the preceding ones drop off; receiving a fine or adequate purchase, for the addition of a fresh life, or lives. 
After Robert’s death the lease was taken over by one of his younger sons, Robert junior, who may have been named in a three-lives lease.
There were five more baptisms.
1840 July 5. Robert, son of Robert and Susannah Harris. Mariansleigh. Farmer.
1842 Nov 11. James, son of Robert and Susanna Harris. Tridencott. Farmer.
1844 May 12. Mary, daughter of Robert and Susanna Harris. Tridencott. Farmer.
1846 June 21. William, son of Robert and Susannah Harris. Tridencott. Farmer.
1847 Feb 14. Robert, son of Robert and Susanna Harris. Tridencott. Farmer.
Robert and Susanna’s first son named Robert must have died young. The second Robert appears in all the censuses and took over the farm on his father’s death. The baptism of a third Robert in 1847 is hard to explain. It may be that he was not really their son. He could have been the child of their 18-year-old unmarried daughter Elizabeth. He does not appear with the family in the 1851 census, and Elizabeth is still at home. In the 1851 census Simon and Ann Harris have a 5-year-old son Robert, whose baptism is not in the Mariansleigh register. Perhaps Robert and Susanna’s names were wrongly entered in the register instead of Simon and Ann’s. The parish of Mariansleigh was served by the Rector of Bishops Nympton and his curate, who may not have known the families well. Or perhaps the child was Elizabeth’s and Simon and Ann adopted him.
James died at 7 months and was buried 11th June 1843.
1841 census: Triddenacott, Mariansleigh
1851 census: Triddencott, Mariansleigh.
Opposite the church in Mariansleigh is the little Church Room. This was built in the 1840s by the lord of the manor, Sir H P Davie Bt, as the first village school, well before the Education Act of 1870 made the provision of schools for all children compulsory. Simon and Ann Harris’s children are shown as attending school in the 1851 census, but Robert and Susanna’s children do not appear to be. It is probable that Susan Harris, who married William Sampson, did not go to school.
The following year, Robert’s niece, Mary Anne Harris, daughter of Henry and Emmeline Harris, appears to be living with them when she had her baby.
1852 Oct 10. Sarah, daughter of Mary Anne Harris. Tridencott Farm. Farmer’s daughter.
The description ‘Farmer’s daughter’ may be because the parson assumed she was Robert’s daughter, or it may be that Henry and Emmeline Harris had left the parish and by now had their own farm. Mary Anne left Trittencott, but little Sarah remained there and was brought up as Robert and Susanna’s granddaughter, though she was really their great-niece.
Seven years later, when their son John was 23, he and Robert were brought before the magistrates court.
North Devon Journal. Thursday, 9 January 1858;
WITHERIDGE COUNTY MAGISTRATES PETTY
MONDAY. Dec 6th
[PRESENT: Rev. W.H. Karslake in the chair, and the Rev. J.P Benson, justices.]
ASSAULT: Robert Harris and John Harris, his son, of Mariansleigh, yeomen, were charged with assaulting Abraham Cole, yeoman, of Roseash, on the 20th of November. Mr K. Gillard appeared for the defendant. It appeared that there had been a difference between the parties respecting the defendants having trespassed on the complainant’s farm in search of game, and they consequently determined to serve him out – as they said, to dip him in the horsepond. On the day in question Mr. Cole had been on business to the house of Mr. Lewis, a neighbouring farmer, and was on his way therefrom by a thoroughfare leading through the defendants courtlage, to Southmolton, where they were in waiting and seized him by the collar, and assaulted him, as alleged. – – Mr. Gillard endeavoured to shew that a question of right of way was involved in the case; but this was overruled – indeed, it was shewn that Mr. Cole having been to Mr. Lewis on business he had a right to pass through the courtlage in question. – The Bench taking all matters into consideration, fined the defendants 6d each, – and costs 28s.
The fine was a small one. The size of the costs would have been more of a blow to Robert.
By 1861, the youngest children are attending school.
1861 Census: Trittencott, Mariansleigh.
Susanna has got her full name back, after appearing as Susan in 1851.
Robert and Susanna’s eldest son, Henry, spent his life as a farm labourer. He moved around parishes, including South Molton and Kings Nympton as well as Mariansleigh, yet still brought his children to be baptised at Mariansleigh church. John became a gardener, living in Whipton, Heavitree, at the time of the 1881 census. Elizabeth has not been traced, though she may be the wife of Thomas Channing, agricultural labourer, living in Heavitree in 1881.
The two youngest of Robert and Susanna’s children died without marrying. Both were young adults.
1864 William Harris Tridnacott Farm St Mary Ansleigh December 17th 19
1866 Mary Harris Tridencott Farm May 20th 22.
Their grave is in Mariansleigh churchyard.
“In memory of WILLIAM HARRIS who departed this life December 10 1865 aged 19 years. Also of MARY HARRIS sister of the above who departed this life May 11(?) 1866 aged 22 years. Blessed are the (?) dead who die in the Lord.(?)”
Soon after raising this headstone, Robert and Susanna died themselves.
1867 Susan Harris Tridencott Farm in St Mary Ansleigh Nov 29 62
1869 Robert Harris Tridencott St Mary Ansleigh 74
Robert’s burial entry is not quite clear. There were no legible marks in the space for the date, and written in the margin against this entry was the word OMITTED..
Their grave has not been found.
The farm did not pass to one of the older sons, Henry or John. Henry lived on in the village, at 17 Kings Arms, as an agricultural labourer. His wife Sarah’s grave is in the churchyard.
“In loving memory of SARAH wife of Henry Harris of this parish who died Sep 8th 1881 aged 58 years. Gone but not forgotten.”
The trite epitaph contrasts with his father’s more thoughtful choice of a biblical quotation for William and Mary.
Robert Harris junior took over Trittencott. In 1871 he was employing his sister Susan’s 9-year-old son William Sampson. Sarah, the daughter of his unmarried cousin Mary Anne, is still there, earning her keep as a servant.
1871 Census. Mariansleigh.
57 Tridencott Farm House.
|Farmer of 90 Acres
Employing 2 Labourers
Farm Servant Indoor
Farm Servant Indoor
The farm has increased by 20 acres since 1839. By 1881 it has risen by another third, to 120 acres. Robert junior seems to have been a successful farmer, at a time when farming in Devon was in severe decline.
But he appears to have a disregard for local by-laws.
From the “South Molton Gazette”:
24.12.1887. South Molton County Sessions on Monday. Robert Harris of Mariansleigh was summoned for neglecting to prune his hedges. An order was granted for him to do the necessary work in ten days.
23.10.1897. The South Molton County Petty Sessions on Tuesday, The Muzzling Order. Similar charges (having a dog at large without a muzzle) were made against S Tucker and Robert Harris, both of Mariansleigh, and a fine of 6d and half costs (2s 9d) ordered in each case.
14.5.1898. South Molton. A squadron of the West Somerset Yeomanry, under the command of Captain Smith and Quartermaster-Sergeant Cockram, visited the Grilstone range for the purpose of competing for the silver cup. The winner was Trooper Harris of Mariansleigh, for the third time.
This may been a younger member of the family.
The Harris family’s tenure of Trittencott lasted less than a century.
Robert Harris Trittencott, Mariansleigh July 27th 1900 yrs 60
“South Molton Gazette:
9.3.1901. Auction this day. ‘Trittencott’, Mariansleigh, Devon. About five miles from Molland and six miles from South Molton Station. Sale of 42 Devon longwool sheep, 18 superior Devon beasts, 3 excellent horses, 6 rare slip pigs, implements and other effects. T E Ayre and Co are favoured with instructions from Mrs H Harris, executrix of the late Mr Robert Harris, to sell by auction at the above, today, Saturday, March 9th, at one the valuable livestock, implements and effects.
Harriet herself lived another twenty years.
Harriet Harris Chilbridge Feby 8th 1921 years 70
 Friends of Devon’s Archives.
 Mariansleigh Millenium Group (Thelma Avery, Norma Bona, Barbara Elliott, Ginny Hobart, Mike Sampson and John Usmar). Mariansleigh: The Parish Through the Ages. 2000
 North Devon Journal, Thursday, October 25, 1900. “128a 3r 23” means 128 acres, 3 roods, 23 perch. It had increased in size since the older Robert’s time.
 William Marshall, The Rural Economy of the West Of England, including Devonshire and Parts of Somersetshire, Dorsetshire and Cornwall (G. Nicol,1796)
 Findmypast: British Newspapers 1710 – 1950.
 Mariansleigh Millenium Group.
NEXT GENERATION: 4. SAMPSON-HARRIS
PREVIOUS GENERATIONS: 6. HARRIS-FOOKE