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)
OLIVER BRUER and GRACE (11)
OLIVER BRUER. Bruer, or Brewer, is an occupational surname. That need not mean that the ancestor who first adopted it was brewing on a commercial scale. Large medieval households had their own brewer.
The earliest record of Oliver so far found is the baptism of his son in Rose Ash in 1639. That would suggest a birthdate soon after 1600. The Rose Ash registers go back to 1591, so it is likely that if Oliver had been born there, his baptism would be recorded. There are no Bruers in the registers before 1639 and Oliver’s household seems to be the only one of that name. Neither his baptism nor his marriage have been found in the surrounding parishes.
There was a Brewer family who made a brief appearance in the registers of the adjacent parish of Bishops Nympton. There is a baptism there in 1595 of William, son of Gregorie Brewer, and in 1602 of Clement and John, sons of Gregorie and Grace Brewer. Curiously, Clement and John were baptised two days apart. Grace died soon after their birth and was buried five days after John’s christening. There are no records of the Brewer family in Bishops Nympton before or after this. Probably Gregorie and his motherless sons moved away. Oliver could be a child of this family, born before they came to Bishops Nympton, or from a second marriage.
Most of the parishes in the immediate area have registers dating back to the 16th century. The exception is Mariansleigh, where the registers date only from 1727, apart from occasional Bishop’s Transcripts. There could be an unrecorded Brewer family there.
GRACE. There is no record yet of Oliver’s marriage. It appears not to have taken place in Rose Ash. We learn his wife’s name only at her burial.
Our first definite information about the couple shows them already married and living in Rose Ash. Rose Ash is a village 6 miles south-east of South Molton, off the road to Tiverton. Its romantic name is a corruption of the original ‘Ralph Esse’. Under Henry III in the 13th century the manor was granted to Ralph de Esse.
The village stands 800ft above sea level, on a prehistoric ridgeway, with extensive views to Exmoor and Dartmoor. The hill country here was another large moor and was only now being taken over as farmland to any considerable extent.
Under the Tudors, Devon’s wool trade had made it one of the most prosperous counties in the country. In the 17th century this was just starting to decline. Estates were getting bigger, depriving smaller farmers of grazing land. The gap between rich and poor was widening. The lower classes suffered from both unemployment and underemployment. It may have been this new opportunity for farming, building or trade which brought Oliver to Rose Ash.
The north aisle of St Peter’s church, where their children were baptised, has a Jacobean screen dated 1618. It bears the arms of James I, his queen Anne of Denmark, and Prince Charles. But when Charles became king, loyalty to the crown was called into question.
Two children were born to the Bruers in Rose Ash in the troubled years leading up to the Civil War.
Baptisms. Rose Ash.
1639 Ambrose the Sonne of Oliver Bruer was baptized the first day of September.
1640 (1) Mary the daughter of Oliver Bruer was baptized the x th day of March
In 1641, immediately before the Civil War, every male over 16 was required to sign the Protestation Oath, declaring loyalty to the Protestant religion. Oliver Bruer was one of 92 men who took the oath in Rose Ash. There were no other Bruer men in the parish.
Charles I fled from London in January 1642 and fighting between Parliamentarians and Royalists began in August that year. Two months, later, the Bruers’ third child was born.
1642 Christopher the sone of Oliver Bruer was baptized the xxi th day of October
Oliver himself was born too early for his name to be evidence of family sympathy with Oliver Cromwell. Generally speaking, those engaged in the wool trade, which dominated North Devon, were for Parliament. The area around South Molton was particularly fervent. Local women occupied the steps of the town cross there, with a supply of stones to brain the Royalists if they came. Conscripts to the Royalist force from South Molton and Bishops Nympton were in the lead when the men turned on their lieutenant and killed him. They had detected him as a Catholic when he did not attend church. But Rose Ash is not mentioned in the list of parishes known to be anti-Royalist. The local gentry were the Southcombs, to whom we are also related, and they were staunchly Royalist.
Grace and two-year-old Mary died within days of each other in the early months of the war, while Christopher was still a baby. The closeness of their deaths suggests an infectious illness. There was a terrible epidemic of plague that year, adding to the misery of the Civil War. Mary and Grace may have been early victims of that.
Burials. Rose Ash.
1642 (3) Grace the wife of Oliver Bruer was buried the second day of ffebruary
1642 (3) Mary the daughter of Oliver Bruer was buried the xiiii th day of ffebruary.
Oliver and his infant sons were left to live through these violent times. Mark Stoyle writes Loyalty and Locality : ‘Devon was thrown into utter chaos 1642-6. Rival armies marched and counter-marched across the countryside and not even the most remote and isolated villages were able to escape the hot breath of war.’
We do not know where Oliver and Christopher died. There is a gap in the Rose Ash records for the Commonwealth period 1646-1660, when civil registrations replaced those at the parish church. One or both of them may have died during this time. Oliver may even have been a casualty of the war. His name does not appear in the Hearth Tax returns for 1664.
The older son Ambrose moved to the larger town of Witheridge, where he raised a family.
Next Generation: 10. BREWER