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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)


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MATHIAS and JOHN NOSWORTHY were brothers. Both of them had a granddaughter called Jane Nosworthy and it is not yet clear which of these is the right one.

Their parents were Mathias and Susanna Nosworthy. Since the eldest son, Mathias, became a tanner, as did his own son and grandson, this may have well been their father’s occupation.


MATHIAS and JOHN were christened in Moretonhampstead. They were the first and second sons

Baptisms. Moretonhampstead. St Andrews.
1624 Matthias the Sonne of Matthias Nosworthy baptized July 25
1630 December 25 was baptized John ye sonne of Mathias Nosworthy

The boys came to manhood in a tempestuous time. In 1641/2 a Protestation Return was made for Moretonhampstead. In every parish, all the males of 18 years and over were required to sign an oath of allegiance to the Protestant religion and the rights of Parliament. The older and younger Mathias appear on it, as the only adult male Nosworthys in Moreton, but John was too young. Mathias junior was only just old enough to sign.

In 1642 the Civil War broke out, in an attempt to assert the rights of Parliament against the autocratic rule of Charles I and safeguard the Protestant religion against fears that Queen Henrietta Maria wished to return the country to Roman Catholicism.

As a young man of 18, Mathias may have fought in this war. It is not clear which side the family took. Devon’s leading gentry and the common people were generally for Parliament, although more so in North Devon and the South Hams. There was more Royalist sympathy in the Exe Valley and the towns and villages around Dartmoor. But Moretonhampstead was an exception to the moorland pattern. It was an important woollen town and, like other manufacturing centres, supported the Roundheads. The two sons appear to play a leading part in the church in the Puritan Interregnum which followed and to associate with men of known Puritan beliefs, so it is likely that the Nosworthy family were Parliamentarians.

John may have been too young to fight before the war ended. But he would have seen Roundhead troops camped in Moretonhampstead’s churchyard in 1646, when General Fairfax set up his headquarters in a local serge factory.

That year saw Parliament’s victory over the Royalists, and the setting up of the republican Commonwealth with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. At the end of that year, at the age of 22, Mathias Nosworthy married the widow Anne Hill, formerly Ellis.


ANNE ELLIS was the daughter of John Ellis. There were a number of John Ellises in North Bovey, but the most likely marriage for her parents is that between John Elles and Sisleigh Aller in 1607. Anne was baptised in North Bovey on 8 July 1611. North Bovey is a village outside Moreton, whose parish extends halfway across Dartmoor.

On 19 June 1638, she married her first husband Thomas Hill, eldest son of Mr Thomas Hill, yeoman of Sloncombe. Sloncombe is a hamlet a mile west of the town centre of Moretonhampstead. Her husband Thomas junior was not himself styled ‘Mr’, but she was joining a family which had land and status.

She bore Thomas several children. Jane was baptised in Moreton on 23 June 1639, Thomas on 7 February 1640(1), and William on 18 August 1644. There was also sons John and Peter, whose baptisms have not been found. Little Thomas died aged 2½, and Peter in 1645.

Her husband Thomas died in May 1645, leaving Anne with three small children.

The following year she married the 22-year-old Matthias Nosworthy. She was 13 years older than him. The discrepancy in their ages suggests that the wedding had more to do with property than with romance. We do not know the status of the Moretonhampstead Nosworthys at this stage, but the marriage is likely to have been advantageous for them.

Marriage. Moretonhampstead
1646  Decemb. 22  weare maryed Math. Nosworthy & Anne Hill widdow

Matthias and his family may already have been living in this part of the parish. But in any case, if Thomas Hill had inherited the farm at Sloncombe, it is likely that Matthias moved in there when he married Thomas’s widow, and helped to raise Jane, John and William. From now on, and for several generations, land at Sloncombe becomes associated with this branch of the Nosworthy family.
Anne bore Mathias four children:

1647 September 26 was baptized Susanna ye daughter of Mathias Nosworthy
1650 May 26 was baptized Mathias ye sonne of Mathias Nosworthy
1651 January 11 was baptized John ye sonne of Mathias Nosworthy
1655  Aug: 26 was baptized Anna ye Daughter of Mathias Nosworthy Junr.




AGNES HARRIS was said at the time of her marriage to be also ‘of North Bovey’. Unlike Anne Ellis, she does not appear to have been born there. More probably she is the Agnes Harris, daughter of John Harris, who was baptised in Moreton on 7 August 1631.


The couple were married during the Commonwealth period, 1646-1660. In some parishes, records for that time have been lost. But Moretonhampstead’s rector, Francis Whiddon, was in sympathy with the Puritan cause and continued in office. In fact we have more information for this period. As well as the brief parish registers there were records for the civil ‘Register’, who was equivalent to a modern Registrar. In the 1650s, the Moretonhampstead registers give certifications of marriage which are much more detailed than the notices before and after.


John Laskey Register of moreton hampstead has by the consent of parents published the contract of matrimony between John Nosworthy of the parish of moreton hampstead of the one part and Agnes Harriss of the parish of north bovey on the other part and established that………..on the part of John Nosworthy and Agnes Harriss were married by Rowland Whiddon ……. August Anno Domini 1654.
Witness to the marryage
John Laskey Register
Emanuel Hall
Mathyas Nosworthy
John Nosworthie
John Rattcliffe

A John Nosworthy witnesses many marriages in 1654-5. In 1655 he and the registrar John Laskey are usually the only two signatories. That John signs with a considerable flourish to the final ‘y’, looping around the stem half-a-dozen times. The signature of the John Nosworthy who witnesses John and Agnes’s wedding is different, competent but less ornate. He ends his name with ‘ie’ instead of ‘y’. Agnes’s husband would clearly not have been a witness to his own wedding. This other John may be from North Bovey, or a hitherto unknown man in Moreton. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the more elaborate signature may be that of Agnes’s husband. If so, then it points his being a man who was more than commonly literate. The frequency with which his signature occurs suggest that he, like the Registrar John Laskey, was acting in an official capacity, rather than just as a family friend.

Mathyas’s signature is larger and more angular, without the elegant flourish. It is probably that of John’s brother, rather than his father. He and Emanuel Hall were business associates.

John and Mathyas Nosworthy were both literate and significant figures in the church and the community.


The marriage of John and Agnes is followed by the baptism of four sons.

Baptisms. Moretonhampstead
1655  June 24 was baptized Matthias ye sonne of John Nosworthy
1657  July 5 was baptized Edward ye sonne of John Nosworthy.
1658  October 10 was baptized John ye sonne of John Nosworthy
1659  October 13 was baptized George ye sonne of John Nosworthy

Agnes died giving birth to George. The baby survived only a few days.

Burials. Moretonhampstead.
1659  October 13 was buried Agnis ye wife of John Nosworthy
1659  October 21 was buried George ye sonne of John Nosworthy


There were many Parliamentarians who had become disillusioned with Cromwell’s autocratic rule, and his increasing denial of the Parliamentary rights for which his supporters had fought. In 1660 England’s first republic ended. Cromwell had died in 1658 and two years later Parliament voted to restore the monarchy with Charles II, son of the executed Charles I, as king.


In 1662, just after the Restoration, we find:
John Nosworthy & Agnes Browning ware maryd by Mr Edward Nosworthy minister
of Dipford ye 25 day of September 1662.


This is identity of this John Nosworthy is not clear. It could be a remarriage following Agnes’s death. Edward Nosworthy, minister, may be the younger brother of Mathias and John. He did not remain in Moreton and at 26 he would be the right age for a young curate. But given the number of Nosworthys in surrounding parishes, identification is by no means certain.

There was another John Nosworthy ‘marchant’, who died in 1663. His only son, born posthumously to his wife Rachel later that year, died in infancy. But, since John and Mathias Nosworthy’s involvement with the church continues after this death, it is reasonable to suppose that this merchant was not Mathias’s brother, and that it is our John and Mathias Nosworthy who are involved with the church throughout.


It is about this time that we first have evidence of the older brother Mathias’s occupation and of his property interests, which extended beyond Moretonhampstead. In 1661, the year after the Restoration, ‘Mathias Nosworthy, tanner, of Moretonhampstead and Emanuel Hall, tanner, of Kentisbeare’ rented ‘tything garb and tything corn’ at Staverton Barton from the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral. Staverton is just north of Totnes, and some way south of Moretonhampstead. The rent was £4 and the lease was for 21 years This lease was surrendered and renewed in 1669, and again in 1680 and 81.

In 1668 Mathias took out a 1000-year mortgage and lease on land at Sloncombe, the hamlet where his wife’s previous father-in-law, Thomas Hill, had farmed, and where Mathias was probably already living with Anne. Her son John, by her first marriage, is likely to have inherited the Hill’s farm and he was grown-up now. Matthias would have needed a place of his own.


Mortgage by lease for 1,000 years

  1. Philip Cornish of Moretonhampstead
  2. Mathias Nosworthy of Moretonhampstead, tanner

Premises: parcels of land called the fore downe, Bugged, Bugged Moore, Chappie meadow, the furse parke, Langhill Moores and Langhill Meadow, the four Broad parkes, all lying in Slancombe and now in the possession of 1.

Principal: £250


As yet, there is no mention of the house at Sloncombe, which the Nosworthy family were to occupy for several generations.


John and Mathias continued to play an influential role in the parish church. The cover page of the register begun in 1669 bears an inscription in large ornate script.


Cuprian Sawndies gift paid for

ye adorning of this book by  ye consent of

ye eight men & wardens.

John Southmead gnt Mathias Nosworthy John Nosworthy An

drew Gill Edward Laskey & Thomas Mardon Phillip Cornish and John Soper.

Arthur Cruse & Edward White church wardens. Anno Domini


The name of Philip Cornish, who leased Sloncombe to Mathias, again appears with the Nosworthys. Twelve years later, Cyprian Sawdy of North Bovey married Mathias’s daughter Ann. The leading families of Moreton were closely interlinked.


Moretonhampstead’s ‘Eight Men’, whose names were written in larger letters than the churchwardens, would have performed similar functions to those in other parishes. Crediton church had twelve Governors, responsible for the upkeep of the building. They were sufficiently prestigious to have a Governor’s Room built on to the side of the church at the town’s expense


The same list of names occurs on a document also dated 1669, showing that their responsibilities included the church school.


Mourtonhampstead  26 September 1669

Wee whose names are here unto subscribed, Being the eight men of the parish doe certifie that the Baror hereof, George French is the schoolemaster of our parish, and is soe approved of us, And with all wee doe authorize him to Receive and take the profitts due to ye same:

          And his Receipt shall bee yor discharge,   Witnesse our hands
                                                                                              John Southmead
                                                                                              Edward Laskey
                                                                                              Andrew Hill
                                                                                              John Nosworthie
                                                                                              Thomas Mardon
                                                                                              John Soper
                                                                                              Mathyas Nosworthy
                                                                                              Phill. Cornish


The Parish School was endowed in 1658 with £10 p.a. payable by the Exeter Chamber out of Eliza Hele’s educational bequests, and the first schoolmaster appears to have been John Dicks who died in 1662. Later the same year John Hill, parish clerk, subscribed the Act of Uniformity as master; and on his death in 1669 George French, schoolmaster of Drewsteignton, was appointed, “to prevent the substitution of any ill-principled fellow by the endeavouring of some who may possibly attempt it” – doubtless referring to a likely Presbyterian move to preempt the office and endowment. The Drewsteignton Rector, in recommending him, said he was “as fit a person as can be licensed in such a factious place as Moreton is” – another pointed reference to militant Nonconformity.

Moretonhampstead Family Reconstitution From the Registers. 1604-1807. R.R. Sellman.

The North Devon village of Morebath had a smaller number of men, but with a similar function.


This was an arrangement common in the West Country, whereby a small group of prominent men … acted as bankers for the surpluses from all the church stores, and for the High Wardens (churchwardens)… Whereas the wardens served for a single year, the Five, Four or Three Men of Morebath held office as long as they were willing: indeed, one crucial aspect of their role was to provide financial continuity, enabling long-term planning and management of resources. They also appeared at Visitations with the Wardens, met extraordinary demands for money imposed in the manorial or Hundred courts, making ‘setts’ or parish levies afterwards to recoup their outlay, and from time to time were called upon to resolve parish disputes, sometimes with the assistance of the vicar, or under the chairmanship of an outsider … To qualify as one of the ‘Five Men’ financial security was essential, because from time to time they were expected to solve cash-flow problems from their own resources.’

(Eamon Duffy, The Voices of Morebath.)



John and Mathias Nosworthy are not at this time gentlemen, like ‘John Southmead gnt’ on the register cover in 1669. But they were clearly men of means. Four years later, when his wife died, Mathias had achieved the status of ‘Mr’.

1673 Aprill 29 was Buried Anna ye wife of Mr Mathyas Nosworthy.


It is 1675 before we get the first clear reference to the house at Sloncombe. Philip Cornish and Mathias Nosworthy jointly leased property to Mathias’s eldest son for one year.

  1. Phillip Cornish of Moretonhampstead, gent, and Matthias Nosworthy the elder of Moretonhampstead, tanner
  2. Matthias Nosworthy the younger of Moretonhampstead, tanner, son and heir apparent of Matthias Nosworthy the elder

Premises: one messuage and tenement called Slancombe, late in the possession of 1., excepting one messuage and tenement called the higher tenement and parcels of ground called Julyans downes, formerly part of the said messuage called Slancombe


A ‘messuage’ is defined as ‘a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use’. The legal use of the word ‘tenement’ is ‘any kind of permanent property, e.g. lands or rents, held from a superior’.

There is no evidence whether Matthias the elder lived at Sloncombe himself. His son certainly did. He was known as ‘Mathias Nosworthy of Slankcombe’, to distinguish him from John’s son, ‘Mathias Nosworthy in Town’. Clearly, he had joined his father in the tannery business.

Mathias’s burial has not been yet been found, but he was still alive in 1677, since his son is still referred to as ‘Mathias Nosworthy Junior’.

1677 March 05 was Baptized Sarah daughter of Mathias Nosworthy Junr of Slankcombe.


In 1686 John Hill, son of Mathias’s wife Anne by her first husband, sold the property known as Bowd to his stepfather Matthias the elder, for £120. This may be Bowden Farm, just under Butterdon Down to the north of Moreton, or perhaps ‘Boods Tenement lying in or near the village of Sloncombe’, which is mentioned in a later document as belonging to Matthew junior. It became the subject of a lawsuit between John Hill’s son, John Hill Junior, and Matthew Nosworthy Junior.


Less is known about John Nosworthy’s career. No evidence has been found of his occupation, his residence or of property interests like his elder brother’s. Younger sons often had a smaller share in their parents’ prosperity, but if John was one of the Eight Men, then he was clearly a prominent and well-to-do citizen of Moretonhampstead. If the elegant signature is his, it may be that he entered one of the professions, as many Nosworthys did. His eldest son lived ‘in Town’, so it is possible John did also.


He died in 1686, at the age of 56, 27 years after Agnes’s death.

1686  October 18 was Buried John Nosworthy Senr.






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