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)
JOSEPH MATHEWS and ELIZABETH TURNER (6)
Baptism. Chulmleigh .
1761 Joseph, Son of Thomas Matthews by Elizabeth his wife, January ye 25 th
He had a sister Sarah, born in 1766, and possibly an older sister Elizabeth, born 1749.
“Woolcombing was part of the process of worsted manufacture. In the manufacture of woollen textiles the raw wool was carded to lay the tangled fibres into roughly parallel strands so that they could be more easily drawn out for spinning. Wool used for worsted cloth required more thorough treatment for not only had the fibres to be laid parallel to each other but unwanted short staple wool also had to be removed. This process was called combing. It was an apprenticed trade, a seven year apprenticeship being the norm in the mid 18th century with apprenticeship starting at about the age of 12 or 13.
“The comb, which was like a short handled rake, had several rows of long teeth, or broitches - originally made of wood, later of metal. The broitches were heated in a charcoal fuelled comb-pot as heated combs softened the lanolin and the extra oil used which made the process easier. The wool comber would take a tress of wool, sprinkle it with oil and massage this well into the wool. He then attached a heated comb to a post or wooden framework, threw the wool over the teeth and drew it through them repeatedly, leaving a few straight strands of wool upon the comb each time. When the comb had collected all the wool the comber would place it back into the comb-pot with the wool hanging down outside to keep warm. A second hank of wool was heated in the same way. When both combs were full of the heated wool (about four ounces) the comber would sit on a low stool with a comb in each hand and comb one tress of wool into the other by inserting the teeth of one comb into the wool stuck in the other, repeating the process until the fibres were laid parallel. To complete the process the combed wool was formed into slivers, several slivers making a top, which weighed exactly a pound. The noils or noyles ( short fibres left after combing) were unsuitable for the worsted trade so were sold to manufacturers of baize or coarse cloth.”
Baptism. Chulmleigh .
1762 Elizabeth, Daur of John Turner (Jun r ) by Ann his wife, January ye 31th
She had an older brother John, born in 1760.
Marriage. Chulmleigh . 1780
Joseph Matthews of this Parish and Elizabeth Turner of this Parish.
Married in this Church by Banns this nineteenth Day of September in the Year One Thousand and Seven Hundred and Eighty by me John Paddon. Curate.
Signed: Joseph Mathews
In the presence of Roger Stoneman, Benj n Dean.
Unusually for this period, both husband and wife sign their names in a literate hand.
The Mathews usually sign their name with one ‘t’. When others write their name, they tend to give it two ‘t’s.
Baptisms. Chulmleigh .
1781 May 25 Betty daughter of Joseph Mathews & Elizabeth his wife.
1783 April 17 Sarah
1786 Jan 25 Thomas
1789 Feb 8 Joseph
1792 Mar 6 Richard
1793 May 5 John
1796 Aug 28 Richard
1797 Aug 24 Elizabeth
1799 May 5 Richard
1803 Feb 13 Mary daughter of Joseph Mathews & Elizabeth his wife.
Clearly, two of the sons called Richard died in infancy.
In the 17th century Chulmleigh was a thriving wool town. Joseph and Elizabeth saw the wool trade collapse when the Napoleonic Wars, which began in 1793, closed the continental markets to Devon’s cloth. As a woolcomber, Joseph would have suffered a loss of income.
Elizabeth Turner came from an artisan family, who appear as churchwardens, witnesses to parish documents, etc. As Joseph’s wife, she suffered a decline in economic standing. The Mathews family appear frequently in the records of the Chulmleigh Overseers of the Poor. Several of Joseph and Elizabeth’s children seem to have been pauper apprentices.
Overseers of the Poor . Chulmleigh. Apprenticeship Indentures :
Elizabeth Matthews to John Turner of the same Parish Mason, for ability on a hearing. 1792. John Turner is probably the older Elizabeth's father.
Joseph and Elizabeth’s eldest daughter was christened Betty, but there are other examples where it has been assumed that the correct name was Elizabeth. If this was their child, then Betty was apprenticed to her grandfather or uncle. The apprenticeship was for husbandry , which usually means farmwork. But this seems to have been the lot of all poor girls apprenticed in Chulmleigh, and the term may have included domestic work.
Since she was a girl, her apprenticeship was to last until she reached ‘ one and twenty years or Day of Marriage.’. By this time, the requirement written into Thomas Mathews’ indentures in 1737, to provide the apprentice with two sets of clothes on leaving, had been dropped.
Soon afterwards, the indentures begin to show the child’s age ‘or thereabouts’.
Elizabeth Matthews, 10. Peter Bird by consent of R. Chanter for his ability. 1794.
Given the imprecision about recording ages, this could be Betty, daughter of Robert and Ann Matthews, baptised in Chulmleigh in 1786.
Sarah Matthews, 10. Roger Howell, woolcomber, for Drakes Week by consent. 1794.
The age is right for Joseph and Elizabeth’s second daughter.
Thomas Matthews, 12. James Baker, yeoman, for Bowing house. 1797.
This fits with the couple’s third child. His namesake, and probably his grandfather, Thomas Matthews was also a pauper apprentice.
Richard Matthews, 9. Richard Incledon Bury esq. for Colleton Barton. 1808.
This is the right age for the couple’s ninth child, two older Richards having died. Colleton Barton, home of the Bury family, was the grandest house in the parish.
Elizabeth Turner was thus in the humiliating position of seeing her children by Joseph Mathews apprenticed under the Poor Law, while her father or brother, John Turner , was in a position to take a poor apprentice in.
Their son Joseph does not figure in the list of pauper apprentices as a child, but he did not escape poverty. In 1826 he and his family had to be removed from the parish of St Olave, near the centre of Exeter, at the expense of his home parish in Chulmleigh.
Under the Poor Law, everyone had a parish in which they were legally settled, which was responsible for them if they fell into poverty. Steps were taken to remove anyone who might need relief from a parish in which they were not legally settled.
However, in this case, Joseph’s wife Caroline was not fit to travel and the removal was postponed for a month. This prolonged stay cost Saint Olave £7..4..0d, which had to be recouped from Chulmleigh.
Overseers of the Poor. Chulmleigh. Settlement Examination.
To the Church-Wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Saint Olave in the City and County of the City of EXETER and also the Church-Wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Chulmleigh in the County of Devon and to every of them
City and County OF THE CITY OF EXETER (to wit)
WHEREAS Complaint hath been made unto us, whose Names are hereunto affixed, Two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace of and
for the said City and County of EXETER, One whereof is the Quorum , by the Church-Wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Saint Olave that Joseph Mathews Caroline his wife Richard aged about nine years and Joseph aged about Six years their Children lately intruded themselves into the said Parish of Saint Olave and are there actually become chargeable , We the said Justices do upon due proof made of the Premises, as well upon the Examination upon Oath of the said Joseph Mathews before us, as otherwise, and likewise upon due Consideration had thereof, adjudge the said Joseph Mathews Caroline his wife Richard and Joseph their Children actually chargeable to the said Parish of Saint Olave and do likewise adjudge that the said Parish of Chulmleigh is the Place of their last legal Settlement, and that they were and are last legally settled in the Parish of Chulmleigh aforesaid. These are therefore, in his Majesty’s Name, to will and require you the said Church-Wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Saint Olave forthwith upon Sight hereof to remove and convey the said Joseph Mathews Caroline his wife Richard and Joseph their Children from the said Parish of Chulmleigh and deliver them to the Church-Wardens and Overseers of Chulmleigh aforesaid, some or one of the, with this our Warrant, or a true Copy thereof. And we do hereby will and require you the said Church-Wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Chulmleigh to receive them the said Joseph Mathews Caroline his Wife Richard and Joseph their Children and provide for them as some of the Poor of the said Parish of Chulmleigh
Given under our Hands and Seals the Fifth Day of January in the
Sixth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Fourth King
Over Great Britain, &c. and in the Year of our Lord 1826
W Payne Mayor
City and County OF THE CITY OF EXETER (to wit)
Whereas it appears unto us whose Names are hereunto subscribed, being Two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the City and County of the City of EXETER, that Caroline Mathews one of the Paupers ordered to be removed by the above-written Order
of Removal, is at present unable to Travel by reason of sickness and that it would be dangerous for her so to do: We do therefore (in pursuance of the Statutes in that behalf made,) hereby suspend the Execution of the above-written Order of Removal, until it shall be made appear to us, or any two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace of and for the City and County of the City of Exeter aforesaid, that the same may be safely executed without danger.
Given under our Hands the Fifteenth Day of January . 126
W Payne Mayor
City and County OF THE CITY OF EXETER (to wit)
Whereas it is now made appear unto us whose Names are hereunto subscribed, being Two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for
the City and County of the City of EXETER, that Caroline Mathews, one of the above-named Paupers is since recovered from her Sickness, and whereas we are fully satisfied that the above-written Order of Removal may now be executed without danger: We do hereby order the same to be forthwith put in Execution accordingly. And whereas it is duly proved to us upon Oath, that the Sum of Seven Pounds four shillings incurred by the Suspension of the above-written Order of Removal: We do therefore order and direct the Church-Wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Chulmleigh aforesaid, to which Parish the said Joseph Mathews, Caroline, his Wife, Richard, and Joseph, their Children were ordered to be removed, to pay the said Sum of £7..4..0 to William Smallridge on demand, for the use of the Church-Wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the above-named Parish of Saint Olave .
Given under our Hands the Thirteenth Day of February 18 26
By Cash of Mr Vickary £7..4..0 W Payne Mayor
Feb 14, 1826 W. Smallridge Will m Lee
A month later, Mary the youngest daughter of Joseph senior and Elizabeth, was married to the husbandman Richard Sampson in Chulmleigh parish church. One of the witnesses was Joseph Mathews. This may have been her father, or her brother newly returned from Exeter. Both Joseph and Mary are literate, while Richard signs with his mark. Poverty had not prevented the Mathews family from giving their children some education.
By October of that year, a Joseph Mathews is back in Exeter, as an inpatient of the Devon and Exeter Hospital in Southernhay, which had been opened in 1743. Again, it is not clear whether this is Joseph senior, or his married son, who may have been in Saint Olave’s previously because he needed access to hospital treatment. It is unlikely that it was the nine-year-old grandson.
If poor hospital patients needed maintenance or clothing, the parish in which they were legally settled had to bear the expense.
Chulmleigh Overseers of the Poor. Miscellaneous.
DEVON to wit ) To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Chulmleigh in the County of Devon
WHEREAS a Certificate, under the hand of P Miller Esq one of the Physicians of the Devon and Exeter Hospital hath this day been produced unto me Alex H Hamilton Esq one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the said County, setting forth that Joseph Matthews of the Parish of Chulmleigh in the County of Devon, is a Patient belonging to the said Hospital, and that the said poor Patient is in need of the following Clothes to keep him warm and clean, while he continues to be a Patient in the said Hospital, (viz.) a Jackett – a linen shirt – and a flannel waistcoat and whereas it appeareth unto me that the legal place of settlement of him the said Joseph Matthews is in the parish of Chulmleigh aforesaid; You are hereby required, on sight hereof, (in pursuance of the Statute in this case made and provided) to procure for and deliver unto the said Joseph Matthews or to such person as shall make application unto you on his behalf, the aforesaid Clothes.
Given under my Hand, this 27th day of October 18 26
W m Ellicombe
By the Exeter Poor Act, 25th Geo. III. ch 21, sec. 10 and 11, it is enacted
(X ) “Whereas a public Hospital for the Sick and Lame, commonly called The Devon “and Exeter Hospital was some time since erected within the county of the said city of “Exeter; and it frequently happens that the Out-Patients of the said Hospital, whose “proper habitations are at a considerable distance from the same, are obliged to lodge in “the said city, in order that they may attend the said Hospital at the appointed times, for “medicines and other necessities for the completing of their respective cures; And “whereas, by the laws now in being, there is no provision for the relief of such persons, “being poor and unable to support themselves from the parishes to which they respectively belong, while they are absent from such parishes, by which means such “poor Out-Patients of the same Hospital have been and are frequently reduced to great “distress, and become burthensome, as casual poor, to the said city and county; Be it “enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any Out-Patient of the said Hospital shall, “during such necessary attendance and abode in the city and county of Exeter; become “necessitous, and unable to support and maintain him or herself, it shall and may be “lawful for any one Justice of the Peace of the county in which such poor Out-Patient is “settled, upon such person’s desiring relief, and producing a certificate under the hand “of any one of the Physicians or Surgeons of the said Hospital, that such poor Out-“Patient is incapable of going to or returning from his or her legal place of settlement, “when and so often as his or her attendance is requisite at the said Hospital; and that in “order to reap the benefit thereof it is necessary that such poor Out-Patient should “continue and abide near the said Hospital, to order such poor Out-Patient so to be “relieved in such manner as the exigency of his or her case shall require, during his or “her necessary absence from his or her place of settlement, by the Churchwardens and “Overseers of the parish to which such poor Out-Patient belongs, in like manner as if “the said poor Out-Patient was still actually living and residing in such parish.
(XI) “And whereas it frequently happens that the In-Patients recommended and “committed to the said Hospital are unprovided with proper clothes to keep them warm “and clean: And whereas, by the laws now in being, there is no provision for the relief “of such poor In-Patients; Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that in the case any “such In-Patient shall be in want of such clothing, it shall and may be lawful for any “Justice of the Peace for the county in which such In-Patient is settled, upon such “person’s desiring relief, and producing such certificate as aforesaid, to order such In-“Patient to be relieved by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the parish to “which such In-Patient belongs, as the exigency of his or her case may require.
There are two burials of an Elizabeth Matthews in Chulmleigh.
1805 July 14 Elizabeth Matthews. (No age given)
1834 Elizabeth Matthews. Town. Dec 11 th . 73.
The earlier one may be the daughter Elizabeth born in 1797. The age of the later one fits with this being Joseph’s wife, née Elizabeth Turner .
Joseph was still alive at the time of the 1841 census. He was living with his eldest son Thomas.
1841 Census. Bull Hill, Chulmleigh.
Thomas Matthews 55 Ag Lab Y
Mary Matthews 60 Y
Joseph Matthews 80 Woolcomber Y
This is the first evidence we have of Joseph’s occupation.
Joseph died before the 1851 census.
Next Generation: 5. SAMPSON-MATHEWS
Previous Generations: 7. MATHEWS-STONEMENT