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)
WILLIAM LEE and SARAH ARSCOTT (6)
WILLIAM LEE ’s age at his burial was said to be 67, giving him a birth-date around 1760, though it was not uncommon for the stated age to be wrong by several years . There are no records of a Lee family in Doddiscombsleigh before William’s marriage there, other than that of the Rector, Thomas Ley. He and Mary his wife did indeed have a son William baptised in 1763, but it is hard to believe that this boy grew up to become an illiterate husbandman, and later a pauper.
More plausible are two baptisms in Drewsteignton, eight miles away.
1756 William Son of Eleanor Lee – A Bastard August y e 1 st
1763 William son of Edward Lea and Mary his wife. May the 15th
There are no records of an apprenticeship indenture or banns for him in that parish, so he may have moved. There is a burial for William Lea there in 1777, but this could be 43-year-old William, son of William and Mary Lee, rather than Eleanor’s 21-year-old son or the still younger son of Edward and Mary.
Closer in distance to Doddiscombsleigh, and closer in time to 1760, is a baptism in Christow, just down the Teign valley. William, son of David and Hannah Lear, was baptised there on 14 March 1762. Both his mother and his paternal grandmother seem to have come from Bridford, which also adjoins Doddiscombsleigh and with which our Lee family later had links.
The difficulty about this identification is that neither David or Hannah’s name was given to any of William’s children, and the surname Lear does not appear to be equated with Lea. Nor does the name Edward appear amongst William’s sons. The baptismal evidence suggests that William’s father’s name was also William, the name he gave to his eldest son, though if he was a bastard, who did not know who his father was, he might simply have named his first boy after himself. Our best guess is the illegitimate son of Eleanor.
William became a husbandman in Doddiscombsleigh.
Doddiscombsleigh is a little village above the River Teign, on the lowest slopes of the Haldon Hills. The tower of Haldon Belvedere, which now dominates the skyline, was built in the next century and did not form part of William and Sarah’s landscape. But they would have known the 14 th century stained glass in the windows of the church where they were married. They are some of the best-preserved medieval glass in Devon. Doddiscombsleigh was so far off the beaten track that Cromwell’s men apparently never found the church to destroy its images.
William Lee of this parish, Husbandman. Sarah Arscott of the same, Spinster.
27 Feb, 6, 13 March, 1785.
SARAH ARSCOTT was baptised in the parish, though her parents did not live there.
1778 Sarah Daughter of Wm & Mary Arscott of Dunsford was Baptized April 12th
Her mother was Mary West of neighbouring Holcombe Burnell.
Sarah’s older siblings were baptised in Dunsford. She was the only one baptised at Doddiscombsleigh. The family may have been living on the eastern edge of the parish, nearer to Doddiscombsleigh’s church. Sarah may have grown up in Dunsford. Her parents were both buried there, Mary in 1775, when Sarah was 11, and William in 1783, when she was 19.
She became a resident of Doddiscombsleigh before her marriage at the age of 21.
By then, other Arscotts were living there, or using that church:
1778 Banns for William Arscott, Mason, and Susanna Sims, Spinster, Sojourners of this parish.
1782 The baptism of Mary, daughter of William and Elizabeth Arscott.
Either of these may be Sarah’s brother William. Her son Richard became a mason, so this may have been a family occupation.
Her father’s stylish signature as witness to a marriage in Dunsford shows him to be literate, but at their own marriage both Sarah and William could only sign with their initials. This probably indicates that they could read a little, but were not confident at writing.
William Lee and Sarah Arscott were married in Doddiscombsleigh in April 1785.
William Lee of this Parish and Sarah Arscott of the same were Married in this Church By Banns this twentieth Day of March in the Year One Thousand seven Hundred and eighty five.
W The Mark of William Lee
S The Mark of Sarah Arscott
In the presence of: John Bolly
The following month there is a baptism:
1785 May 18 Mary Daughter of Sarah Arscott
There is no evidence of another Sarah Arscott in the parish. This is almost certainly the newly-married Sarah. She is given her maiden name because a child born within two months of a marriage was deemed to be illegitimate.
William Lee is not named and may not be the father. If Sarah was employed by one of the local gentry, he or one of his sons may have got her in the family way. Some servants in that condition were sacked without a ‘character’, or reference. But a more conscience-stricken employer might pay a man in need of a wife to take the problem off his hands. Or, if the father could not be called upon to support her, the Overseers of the Poor may have paid William to marry her, so that she and her child would not become a burden on the parish.
If so, then the strategy failed. Five other baptisms follow:
Baptisms. Doddiscombsleigh .
1787 Dec 9 William, son of William and Sarah Leigh, paupers
1790 July 4 James, son of William and Sarah Lee, paupers
1792 Feb 3 Ann, daughter of William and Sarah Lee, paupers
1796 Feb 21 Richard , son of William and Sarah Lee
1798 Sept 23 Elizabeth, daughter of William and Sarah Lee
At William’s baptism in 1787, the couple are entered as paupers, but this is then crossed out. In 1790 and 1792 the designation stands. The fact that the Lees were paupers at this time had special significance:
In 1783 a Stamp Duty of three pence was imposed on every entry recorded in the parish register. Taxation is inevitably followed by evasion, paupers were exempted from the tax and the number of paupers recorded in the registers rose dramatically. Undoubtedly some people avoided the tax by not having their children baptised. Clearly the measure was unsuccessful as a revenue producer and the Act was repealed in 1794 .
Beginning Your Family History, George Pelling.
The couple may still have been paupers when Richard was baptised in 1796, but with the abolition of the tax there would have been no need to distinguish in the register between paupers and others. This was a time of hardship, with the economy, and particularly farming, hit by war with France following the French Revolution, 1793-1815.
In the 1851 census, Richard Lee gave his birthplace as Bridford. This may be because the family lived down by the river, near Bridfordmills, yet still in the parish of Doddiscombsleigh. Or they may have moved across the river to the parish of Bridford when Richard was an infant, and Bridford could be the earliest home he remembered. If so, William and Sarah were no longer paupers, since paupers were not allowed to settle in another parish. Their grandson, Richard Arscott Lee , was later an agricultural apprentice in Bridford, though his parents were living in Exeter. This gives the impression that there were family connections with this parish.
The village of Bridford stands high on the hill above the Teign, near the ridge which leads to Heltor and Blackingstone Rock.
"The long war ended for the time being with the Peace of Amiens in the year 1802, much to the relief of everyone. But within a year Napoleon had declared war once again and began making obvious preparations to invade England… the Government made the most elaborate arrangement in case the French should invade the country. All over the south of England the most detailed instructions were drawn up for the removal of inhabitants from every parish, and the way they should go in the event of a French landing. Cattle were to be driven away, nothing was to fall into the enemy’s hands, and the crops that could not be taken were to be burnt to the ground….
Well-to-do people made their own plans for disapppearing if the enemy should land. Some Exeter families planned to remove themselves to Bridford, only eight miles away, but Bridford was thought to be so remote as to escape the notice of the French invaders. It was certainly difficult to get at with its steep hills and narrow lanes. It was said that there was not a single cart in the parish at that time."
W.G. Hoskins. Devon and Its People .
The family were living in Doddiscombsleigh in 1811. Censuses were first taken in 1801, but until 1841 only the statistics were considered of national importance, and most personal details were lost. Doddiscombsleigh still has its enumerator’s notebook for 1811. It does not give ages, occupations or family relationships, but it does tell us where people lived. We find William , Sarah , Elizabeth and the younger William living at Higher House. No one else is recorded as living at the same address.
James, then aged 21, is living with Elizabeth and Mary May at Green Hill, together with Mary Griffing, Richard Hill and James West. In the 1841 census, five members of the May family are living at Green Hill, including Mary, now aged 50.
Richard , at 15, is at Crasslake with Richard and Mary Arscott, Sharlota Moor, William Orchard and John Spratt. Richard Arscott is almost certainly his mother’s brother, who was born in Dunsford in 1761, but moved to Doddiscombsleigh with his older family in infancy. Crasslake is probably Crosslake, down by the Teign River near Sheldon. The Arscotts are no longer there in the 1841 census.
Ann had married agricultural labourer John Clark in April 1811, the year of the census. They were living at Haby in Doddiscombsleigh when the census was taken. In the 1851 census, Ann, like Richard , gives her birthplace as Bridford.
In 1804 ther eldest daughter Sarah married the husbandman Joseph Dyke.
Elizabeth married John Wasley.
William and Sarah were both living in Doddiscombsleigh when they died in the 1820s.
Burial. Doddiscombsleigh .
1827 William Lee Doddiscombsleigh April 18th 67
Later that year, Sarah received a ‘Prayers with Testament’ from The Revd. Thos Hole’s Charity.
An Account of the Disribution of the Revd Thos Hole’s Charity – whose last will and testament requests to the Rector for the time being of this Parish £3 per annum to be payable to the said Rector, March 25th, out of the annual Land Tax charged upon the Rectory wherby said Thos Hole redeemed upon trust that the said Rector lay out the bequest in kind, as Bibles, as C. Prayer Books, as Tracts in conformity with the doctrine of the Ch of England, and on ye Sunday next after the feast of St John the Baptist in every year distribute the same to such poor persons residing in the Parish, as he the Rector shall think most deserving thereof.
Thos Hole died March 16 – 1823
The following is a copy of a bill for books bought of Mr Mathews at the Diocesan Society for promoting Xtian Knowledge in Exeter 17 June 1823…
Distributed as Under
Prayers with Testament
3. Sarah Lee
2. William Lee at Mr (?)Paddons
This William may be the son born in 1797.
Sarah died two years later.
Burial. Doddiscombsleigh .
1829 Sarah Lee Doddiscombsleigh May 7th 65.
In 1838 The Revd Thos Hole’s Charity gave one of 24 Test(aments?) to Mary Arscott.
Their eldest son William became a labourer. In the 1851 census he is aged 63 and living with his wife Ann at Wear, Topsham.
Richard Lee became a mason in Exeter. William Arscott, mason, was married in Doddiscombsleigh in 1778. It is likely that this is Sarah Arscott’s brother and that Richard was working with his uncle.
Next Generation: 5.LEE-GAY
Previous Generations: 7. EARLY LEES