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)
THOMAS HILL (10)
THOMAS HILL. There was a succession of Thomas Hills in Colebrooke in the 17th century. It is not always easy to distinguish between them. It is likely, but not certain, that the Thomas Hill who married Thamzin Corkeram in 1669 was the son of another Thomas Hill who was raising a family in Colebrooke around 1640.
The first mention we have of a Thomas Hill is in the Colebrooke churchwardens’ accounts for 1623, when he was a ratepayer, assessed at 8d. This puts him above average for the parish, but certainly not among the rich. In 1628 he was paid 8d by the churchwardens for the Church House rent. This suggests that he owned the house, and was leasing it to the church.
There is a burial record in 1639 for ‘Joane wiffe of Thomas Hill’.
It may be assumed that, since this Thomas Hill was a man of substance quite early in the 17th century, that he was an older generation than the one having children baptised around 1640. On this assumption, more details about him have been included under ‘Early Hills’. Another possibility is that, after Joane’s death, the same Thomas Hill married again, but the record of burials for a Thomas Hill in both 1664 and 1670 point to there being at least two men of this name.
This younger Thomas may be the son of either Thomas Hill senior, who leased the Church House, or of George Hill, who also played a prominent part in church affairs. The baptism of his son in 1640 suggests a birth date around 1615, and there is a gap in the Colebrooke baptismal register around that time. A less likely possibility is that he was the son of Richard Hill, christened in the nearby parish of Sandford on 7 Oct 1621.
In 1638, the churchwardens’ accounts record the name of Thomas Hill again after a ten year absence. It is not clear whether this is the older or younger man.
1638 Rec of Thomas Hill 0..7..2
The only baptism so far found for a child of this Thomas Hill is in 1641.
1640 (1) William sune of Thomas Hill. Bap d the 8 of ffebruare
Three years later we have a burial.
1643 Christopher sonn of Tho: Hill. Bur d ye 6 day of Januar
We do not have a record of Christopher’s christening. The family may have moved to Colebrooke from another parish, or his baptismal record may have been lost in the years missing in the Colebrooke register between 1642 and 1649, the time of the Civil War. The baptism of a third Thomas Hill has also not been found in Colebrooke. Since he married in 1669, he is likely to have been born around 1644, and his baptism, too, would have been lost. He named his own son Thomas, making it particularly likely that this was his father’s name.
Thomas Hill was raising his family in a time of communal strife, though Colebrooke does not feature in the Civil War records, and may have escaped relatively peacefully.
During the Civil War Charles passed through Coleford (a hamlet just north of Colebrooke) on his way to Bow (Nymet Tracey), where he stayed the night. His troops were quartered in Spreyton. The following morning a soldier was hanged ‘at the rendezvous’, for looting. It is possible that the rendezvous was in an outlying part of the Colebrooke parish, and the burial recorded below may have had some connexion with the incident –
1644 pd for making a grave for a Soulder 6d
From now on, Thomas Hill features frequently in the parish accounts, though it is not always easy to determine whether this is the older or the younger Thomas.
1643 Rec of Thomas Hill for the use of 13 li of Mrs Mills mony for a yeare and halfe and paid as followeth:
paid John Mansard for Curing of James Pearse 10..6
pd to Henry Bolt of Exeter for keeping of Samuel Shears child 10..0
followed by seven smaller payments to named individuals for unspecified reasons.
Like George Hill before him, Thomas appears to have been administering this charitable bequest, from which parishioners could obtain loans on security.
We then have the first of a recurring type of entry:
1646 The names of those that have not paid the 2 Church rates wch do detaine it:
Thomas Hill for fford and Elley 3..2.
There are 16 names of late payers, whose debts range from 13s 11d to 4d. Thomas Hill’s is the second highest and he has two properties. It is possible that this is the older Thomas Hill, who leased the Church House. A later record suggests that payments were sometimes withheld to defray expenditure incurred for the parish.
Thomas Hill was apparently a farmer, prosperous enough to run two properties. Elley stands on a south-facing slope, just over the hill to the south of the village. The track to it which starts just below the Elley crossroads, at the top of the hill, is now overgrown and leads only to a glimpse of the thatched roof and rear wall. A much longer drive starts from lower down the hill, but the house cannot be seen from the road.
There is no Ford Farm on the modern map, but at the foot of the hill below Elley there is a ford. Just before it is the cottage, formerly a small farmhouse, of West Keymelford, and beyond the stream the substantial and beautiful house of Keymelford. Both are thatched and could well date back to the 17th century. One of these may once have been known simply as ‘Ford’. Of the two, the smaller West Keymelford seems the more probable. Both lie just over the boundary in the modern parish of Crediton Hamlets, but they may well have been part of the larger historic parish of Colebrooke.
1650 pd to Tho: Hill for 150 knitches of Reed and for one seame of straw. 1..5..0
pd Thomas Hill for convaiing of poore people from tithing to tithing. 0..8..2
The first entry shows Thomas as a farmer able to supply material for thatching. The second entry, not necessarily for the same Thomas, relates to the office of parish constable. He is making sure destitute people do not remain to be a burden on Colebrooke’s rates if they have no just claim on the parish. The references to ‘Constable Hill’ continue into the late 1660s, ending with the death of the second Thomas Hill in 1670. It is, of course, not certain that the older Thomas died before the younger.
The high constables of hundreds and petty constables of parishes were officers at common law, elected by the parishioners and sworn at Court Leat and sometimes by the justices at sessions. The office was obligatory and held for one year.
Percy Morris. Colebrooke Parish Accounts 1597-1737.
Formerly Constables were sworn to several Articles, viz. To suppress and present Affrays; arrest armed Men; present Bloodshed and Drunkenness; apprehend Felons; present Gaming houses and Gamesters; make Hue and Cry; punish idle Persons, Nightwalkers, etc. ; present Rescues; apprehend Rioters; punish Vagabonds; execute Warrants; keep Watch, etc.
The Compleat Parish Officer
Thomas must have been a respected member of his community to be elected constable. Colebrooke was evidently not a parish which appointed its constable for one year only, because there are references to ‘Constable Hill’ in successive years. It is likely that he was on the side of Parliament in the Civil War, since he was acceptable to the Puritan Commissioners in the Interregnum which followed. His duties would have included enforcing the strict Sunday observance laws and the suppression of many traditional sports and pastimes.
The Canons of 1603 required churchwardens and sidesmen to see that all parishioners attended their church on Sundays and Holy Days and remained there for the whole service. Loitering in the church or porch or in the churchyard was forbidden. Although these canons were sanctioned by Royal Charter, they were not confirmed by parliament. But church attendance was also enforced by civil law: under an act of Elizabeth’s reign attendance was obligatory and a register of absences had to be kept.
In the first half of the seventeenth century Puritanism assumed a more rigid outlook. James I incurred considerable unpopularity when the first Book of Sports was published, and certain parts of it led to heated controversy among the clergy. Under acts of Charles I’s reign the assembly of persons outside their parishes on Sundays, for ‘any sports and pastimes whatsoever’ was forbidden: restrictions were also imposed upon recreation within their parishes. No horse-drawn vehicles used by carriers, waggoners or carmen, or drovers with cattle, were allowed on the roads. But there was some relaxation of the restrictions on Sunday games when the second Book of Sports appeared.
With the coming of the Interregnum restrictive measures were intensified: trade, manual work and travel and the ringing of bells on Sundays were forbidden. Indulgence in sport and games was banned; maypoles were to be removed and not re-erected; and all copies of the books of Sports were to be seized and burnt in the presence of the justices. Everybody – not excepting ‘rogues and vagabonds’ – had to attend church; and the intervals between the services were to be devoted to reading, meditation and acts of charity. The monthly fast day, ordered by Charles I, was continued and an ordinance for its better observance was passed in 1642. In 1649 Christmas Day happened to fall on one of these fast days, and the mentality of the period is reflected in a special ordinance which decreed that the day was ‘in particular’ to be kept
‘with more solemne humiliation’. As time went on it was found that the fasts were not properly observed; the ordinance of 1642 as therefore repealed and 17 May was set apart as a special fast day.
At the Restoration the ‘orders and ordinances’ of the Interregnum, other than those which had received royal assent, were repealed. But the acts for the observance of Sundays, in force during Charles I’s reign, were continued and trading and manual work were added to the prohibitions.
Percy Morris. Colebrooke Parish Accounts 1597-1737.
165? Rec of Thomas Hill, 2l 4d and distributed to : etc.
Rec of Thomas Hill 1s
1653 pd Thomas Hill constable for that hee laid out for us aboute Tawtons busines when hee was to be put offe from the pish (parish) 4..0
more for riding at Northtawton 2 sev (several) Tymes 3..0
The Tawton in question was George Tawton, who doubtless took his name from the parish to which he was returned.
1653 pd Thomas Hill for riding to Shobbroke about business for the pish. 2..0
1653 pd Thomas Hill for travelling to Exeter at the Sessions concerning the survaying of or pish. 5s 0d.
The Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral had long owned property in Colebrooke. In 1650 their office was abolished by the Puritan government and their lands and properties confiscated to pay off public debt. Trustees were appointed to survey and value all property belonging to them. This took several years. Colebrooke’s survey had evidently not been completed by 1653.
1659 The name of those that detaine their rates:
Thomas Hill. 4 rates. 0..3..8
There are six names on this list, and Thomas Hill’s debt is the second largest. Next year, it is the biggest.
1660 The names of those that detayne their Rates of the Church Last yeare as followeth:
Thomas Hill. 3..11
1661? It. Those that detayne theire Rates are Thomas Hill, Bonnony Reeve, Mris Rowe, John Vinnicomb & William Pinsent for money they laid out for the pishe as they say which cometh to 1..2..1
So it seems Thomas’s non-payment of the rates may have been for a good reason, especially since at least one Thomas undertook much work for the parish. There is still some doubt about which Thomas Hill is referred to.
For most of this period, the full list of ratepayers is rarely given, but they are listed in the early years of the Restoration, 1662, 1663 and 1664. In each of these, Thomas Hill is assessed at 9d and Richard Hill at 2d. Thomas’s assessment shows him as comfortably placed at 29th out of 83, in a range from 4s 6d to 1d.
In 1662, he detained the sum of 4s 6d.
In the same year we have evidence of the Hill family’s liability for Hearth Tax.
Colbrok. A list of all the fire hearths within our parish sined with their owne hands the first of September 1662 according to ye acte.
Thomas Hill 2
George Hill 2
George may be Thomas’s younger brother or cousin. The possession of two hearths show them both to be living in modest accommodation. There are no Hills in the list of paupers, who were not obliged to pay the tax.
The ambiguity lessens after 1664, with the death of one Thomas Hill, though by now there is a third adult Thomas, probably the son of the second one.
1664 Rec for the Buriall of Thomas Hill in the Church 0..6..8
It was the family tradition of the Hills of Colebrooke to be buried inside the church. Not being gentry, they were probably buried in the nave, rather than the chancel. The three remaining grave slabs there are either illegible or for other families.
In 1665 the surviving Thomas took on a new role.
1665 The Account of Thomas Hill and Peeter Baker Churchwardens for the pish of Colbrook in the yeare of our Lord God 1665.
Their accounts show ‘pd at the Visitation at Topsham £1.9.6’. Thomas and Peter must have had to travel there to take the customary churchwarden’s oath.
‘You shall swear truly and faithfully to execute the Office of a Church-warden within your Parish, according to the best of your Skill and Knowledge; and present such Things and Persons as to your Knowledge are presentable, by the Laws Ecclesiastical of this Realm. So help you God.’
The penalty for failing to take the oath was excommunication. The persons presented to the Archdeacon’s Visitation Court were those who had breached ecclesiastical law.
It was a quiet year, with little expenditure other than normal maintenance work in and around the church. Thomas and Peter listed themselves among the ratepayers. Thomas was charged 9d and Peter Baker 6d, putting Thomas, in particular, well above the average villager.
Their expenses included:
pd for bynding ye comon prayer booke 0 10 8
Each of the 17th century monarchs issued a new prayer book, which every parish church was obliged to purchase. Thomas’s expenditure relates to the reign of Charles II. A prayer book was purchased in 1662 for 9s. It was evidently given a handsome binding later.
pd for a man and horse to fetch out ye Clock mender & to carrey hime home 0 4 0
It is uncertain how far they had to go to find a clock mender.
The following year there was row over a pew in the church, which must have been simmering during Thomas’s year as churchwarden.
In 1666 there was a dispute about a seat which it was claimed belonged to the Barton (farm) of Horwell, and by the parishioners as belonging to them for a churching pew. Feelings ran high and the seat was broken down. The bishop, Dr Seth Ward, issued an astute mandate that the seat should thenceforth be left at the disposal of the women of the parish who came to be churched, and that the parishioners and the owner of Horwell should enjoy such privileges in the seat as they had hitherto done. It was to be restored to its former condition at the cost of both parties. But the wound was not allowed to heal: somebody discovered that a vacant space next the churching pew would be an excellent place for a seat for boys, and the bishop was again approached.
The bishop issued a second order authorizing the erection of a seat for boys, at the cost of the parish. After this dispute one can detect the influence of two opposing factions working in the parish for several years. The trouble throughout was probably the aftermath of the Great Civil War.
Percy Morris. Colebrooke Parish Accounts 1597-1737.
Churching was the ceremony at which women attended church, ‘decently apparelled’, for the first time after childbirth. They knelt down ‘in some convenient place, as hath been accustomed’ , while the priest led prayers of thanksgiving for their safe recovery.
For two more years, Thomas was assessed at 9d, and for the next two years at 8d.
He continued to be busy about parish affairs.
1666 pd to Conble Hill for Gole Hospitall and maymed soldiers. 2..1..4
The parish had to make an annual contribution to the jail in old Castle Street, Exeter. There is also a small building at the entrance to Colebrooke village, known as the ‘lock-up’, where persons waiting to be taken before the justices were kept in custody. Each parish also had to contribute to the relief of wounded soldiers, and to pensions for soldiers of the parliamentary army or their widows.
1667 It. pd Constable Hill for gaile and Hospitall. 2..1..1
1668 pd Mr Hilman & Thomas Hill Constables 2..10..4
1668 Item. H pd to the Constable Hill p. Geale Hospitall 1..11..9
In 1660 Thomas’s rate had risen to 1..2. George Hill was assessed at 0..8.
1669 Rec for the Burial of Richard Hill 0..6..8
1669 Itm pd Thomas Hill for gaile hospitall 1..11..0
Here his duties ended, because the parish register records:
1670 Thomas Hill buried y e 23 d of August
Like others of his family before him, Thomas was buried in the Colebrooke parish church he had served for so long.
1670 Recd for Buriall of Thomas Hill 0..6..8
WIDOW HILL. There is little information to help us identify Thomas’s wife. The parish register and the churchwarden’s accounts following his death give only a little help.
In 1671, Thomazin Burrow was bound apprentice to Thomasin Hill. The third Thomas Hill had married Thamzin Corkeram two years earlier, and this is probably her. But it is just possible that the older Thomas’s wife was also called Thomasin. After her husband died she would be a householder and possibly needing extra help.
In the same year, the list of Colebrooke ratepayers includes ‘Widd. Hill for Elay. 0..9’ This corresponds very well with the withheld payment in 1646 by Thomas Hill for ‘fford and Elley’. ‘Widdow Hill’ is again among the ratepayers in 1674. Although we do not have her Christian name (unless it was Thomasin), we do know she continued to occupy, and probably farm, one of Thomas’s properties, the hillside property of Elley.
In the same period, Elizabeth Hill features frequently as the recipient of charity, or a loan from Mrs Mills’ money. She received payments in 1671, 1672, 1675 and 1678. The register shows that she died in 1681. The different style in which her name is given and the fact that she is receiving money rather than paying it, strongly suggest that she is not the same woman as Widow Hill of Elay. She might be an unmarried woman with little means of support, or very possibly the widow of Richard Hill, who died in 1669, shortly before these charity payments begin. Richard was assessed at a much lower rate than Thomas.
No burial has yet been found which might be that of Widow Hill.
Next Generation: 9. HILL-CORKERAM
Previous Generations: 11. EARLY HILLS