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)
ANTHONY SOUTHCOMB and GRACE HOLWAY (10)
ANTHONY SOUTHCOMB. The absence of 17th century registers for Mariansleigh and some other parishes makes it difficult to trace the complete story of Anthony’s life, but there is enough evidence from other sources to fill in much of the picture.
We know from his father’s will that Anthony was the son of Robert Southcomb of Mariansleigh, gent, and his wife Elizabeth, whose surname we do not know. He had two brothers, John and Robert, and a sister Elizabeth.
The 1641 Protestation Returns for Mariansleigh show only one Southcomb, Robert, who is also one of the five signatories presenting the return, as Overseer of the Poor. This is almost certainly Anthony’s father. Anthony and his brothers do not figure in this return, nor in that of any other parish. This means they were either under 16 or not yet born. Anthony must therefore have been born after 1625.
By the time of his father’s will, dated 1671, Anthony had a son Robert. This points to a birth date not later than the1640s.
Their father’s will names three sons: John, Anthony and Robert. The fact that the first two have children, but Robert does not, makes it likely that this is their birth order. John married in 1663 and is therefore likely to have been born in the 1630s. Anthony was probably married by 1664. The 1630s thus seem to be the most likely decade for his birth, and probably the second half of it.
Not only was Anthony’s father a gentleman, but for generations before, a Southcomb, usually a Robert Southcomb, had been a leading parishioner of Mariansleigh. Their close cousins in Rose Ash were also landed gentry.
Anthony was a child during the Civil War and grew to manhood under Cromwell’s Commonwealth. We do not know the allegiance of his immediate family, but his cousins in neighbouring Rose Ash were strongly Royalist. Royalists were not popular in South Molton and the surrounding villages, where the sentiment was sometimes violently Parliamentarian.
The earliest record we have of Anthony Southcomb is the 1664 Hearth Tax Return for East Buckland. This is a little village five miles north-west of the market town of South Molton and 10 miles from Mariansleigh. It lies on the lower slopes of Exmoor. There were no Southcombs there at the time of the 1641 Protestation Return.
The Southcombs of Rose Ash owned and rented property in a number of parishes. The Mariansleigh Southcombs may have done the same. Anthony’s brother John stayed on in Mariansleigh. His brother Robert became a yeoman farmer in Bishops Nympton. Their parents may have helped Anthony to become a farmer in East Buckland. We have no confirmation that this was his occupation, but it seems probable.
GRACE HOLWAY’s life-story is also obscured by the loss of early registers. We know from a dispute over her father’s will that the wife of Anthony Southcomb was Grace, daughter of John Holway. She was almost certainly born in the North Devon village of East Buckland, high in the foothills of Exmoor. The Protestation Returns show that her family were living there in 1641. We can assume that, as with Anthony, the most likely period for her birth is the late 1630s. The East Buckland registers date only from 1684. The Holway family were in East Buckland at least as early as 1581.
St Michael, East Buckland 
Anthony and Grace probably married before 1664. The Hearth Tax return for that year shows John Holway and Anthony Southcombe jointly occupying a property in East Buckland with 5 hearths. This was the highest number for the village. Excluding paupers, there were 20 taxpaying households, of whom four had houses with 5 hearths. There was also another John Holway living in a house with one hearth. It is likely that Anthony and Grace were sharing the house with Grace’s father. It may not be a simple case of the newlyweds moving in with the bride’s parents. If that had been so, then only John Holway would appear as the householder. The house must have been subdivided, with two heads of household paying tax. There were similar arrangements with the Barton at Rose Barton, which at times was shared by the Southcombs, Loosemores and Tanners.
Sometime around 1664 is also the likely birth-date for their son Robert, who married in 1693. There was probably another son, Anthony junior.
Anthony’s father, Robert Southcomb, died in 1672. We have a list of the people mentioned in his will, but the exact provisions of this are not known. It was probably lost in the Exeter Blitz. Notes made by the researcher W. H. Wilkin show that Anthony and his son Robert were included. We can assume that they received bequests. It was sometimes the case that an eldest grandchild was a beneficiary, but not the younger ones, so perhaps Robert was their first child.
The inventory was made by George Conybear, John Southcomb and Anthony Southcombe. This again points to John and Anthony being the two oldest sons. The inventory amounted to £503..4..4.
Anthony’s mother Elizabeth survived his father. We do not know when she died.
Ten years later, Grace’s father was dead too. There was evidently a dispute over his will. It shows that John Holway had moved from East Buckland and was living in the adjacent parish of Charles.
Citation of Anthony Southcombe & Grace his wife of East Buckland dau of John Holway late of Charles, decd, to show why caveat by them interposed in goods of deed should not be revoked & the will proved at promotion of John Buckingham grandchild by a daughter of decd & exr named in will.
18 Aug 1682
(Moger Series I, 1682, no: 1279)
In 1685, Anthony and his son Robert again appear in a will. This time it is that of his brother, Robert Southcomb of Bishop’s Nympton, yeoman. As with his father’s will, no further details of the bequests are known. The inventory of this Robert’s goods amounted to £282..13..0, which was only about half that of his father, though in this case Robert was still only in middle age. This may be some measure of Anthony’s economic and social status too. No record has been found naming any of the three brothers as gentlemen, though their father was. Robert junior clearly was not, but the paucity of evidence makes it is difficult to be sure about the other two. If John was the eldest, he is the most likely to have inherited this style.
One of the sureties for Robert’s will was his third cousin Lewis Southcombe, who in 1675 had become Rector of Rose Ash. He was the first in a succession of eight generations of Southcombs to hold that living. The tradition lasted until 1948. The appointment of Lewis as surety shows that the Mariansleigh and Rose Ash branches of the family maintained close links.
On June 17 1687 a marriage licence was issued for Antony Southcombe of Eastbuckland and Mary Hollaway of the same. This could mean that Grace had died and Anthony was remarrying, to another woman of the same family. More probably, this is their son. We have no other record of him, but it is reasonable to believe that Anthony would pass his name on to a son.
Their son Robert moved back to Anthony’s home parish of Mariansleigh. In 1693 he married in Rose Ash and raised a family there.
Anthony died in 1715. W.H. Wilkin, who researched the Southcomb family, noted that the will of Anthony Southcomb of East Buckland was proved in Barum (Barnstaple) on 7 Oct 1715. He does not give any further details. As with the will of Anthony’s father, the original is likely to have been destroyed in the Exeter Blitz.
The estimate of Anthony’s birth date in the 1630s would make him in his late 70s when he died.
We do not know when Grace died, unless the 1687 wedding was a remarriage. No Southcomb burials have been found in the East Buckland registers.
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