Charlotte image

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)


Lee Tree




There are two possibilities for Jane Nosworthy, who had a daughter out of wedlock in 1727. Both are great-granddaughters of the same Mathias Nosworthy.


MATHIAS NOSWORTHY. I was told that Mathias is the son of John of Torhill, in the parish of Manaton. I do not know the source of this information, and have so far been unable to verify it. There are a very large number of Nosworthys in Manaton parish. Natsworthy Manor and Middle and Lower Natsworthy lie at the western extremity of the parish, below Hameldown Tor. The family surname may derive from there.

The Nosworthy family generally seems to have held a fairly high place in Devon society. John Nosworthy was Mayor of Exeter in 1520.

The date of Mathias’s marriage suggests that he was born around 1590. It was in 1588 that the Devonian Sir Francis Drake’s fleet routed the Spanish Armada.

Torhill Farm, which may have been his birthplace, lies about a mile west of Manaton village, at the foot of Easdon Tor. The high stone walls of its barns give it somewhat the appearance of a fortified farmhouse. If Mathias did grow up there, he would often have looked up to the curious pillar of rock on its side, known as Bowerman’s Nose.


Whether or not he was born in the rural parish of Manaton, he married in the larger town of Moretonhampstead. We do not know his occupation, but his eldest son became a tanner and several more generations followed this business. It is possible that this oldest Mathias was a tanner too. He became a man of some standing in Moreton, and probably had his own business.


Neither the Manaton nor the Moreton registers begin early enough to show where Mathias’s baptism took place. The earliest Moretonhampstead register begins in 1603, the year when Elizabeth I died and James I came to the throne. Until 1752, the calendar year began on March 25. Dates in January, February and the first 24 days of March were included in the previous year. In the very first month of this early register, Lawrence Nosworthy had a daughter Jane baptised. We do not know what relation Lawrence may have been to Mathias. In 1617 Henry Nosworthy of Mooretonhamsteede obtained a licence to marry Joanna Eastabrooke of the same. It is likely that he was also related.


Mathias married in 1612.

Marriage. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1612  Matthias Nosworthy & Joane Bowden were married August 12

No baptisms have been found in Moreton from this marriage. The couple may have lived elsewhere, but Joane died in Moreton in 1622, so it seems more likely that the marriage was childless.

Burial. Mortonhampstead, St Andrews.
1622  Joane wife of Matthias Nosworthy was buried March ?


Mathias married again, to SUSANNA. The marriage did not take place in Moreton, and we know nothing of Susanna’s origins. As so often with early registers, we learn her name only at her burial.

The couple returned to live in Moreton, and children quickly followed.

Baptisms. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1624 Matthias the Sonne of Matthias Nosworthy baptized July 25
1627 July 29 was baptized Mary ye daughter of Math. Nosworthy
1629 December 25 was baptized William ye sonne of Mathyas Nosworthy

William died almost immediately.

1629(30) William ye sonne of Matthias Nosworthy was buried January 8

Another Christmas day baptism followed.

1630 December 25 was baptized John ye sonne of Mathias Nosworthy
1636 Maye 15 was baptized Edward ye sonne of Math. Nosworthy


In 1639 there is the burial in Moreton of John Nosworthy of Court. Court is a substantial house in the town centre, which gave its name to Court Street. This is the only reference to this John Nosworthy in the Moreton registers. He may have moved in from another parish, or he may be an older man, whose family was already complete when the baptismal register began in 1603. He could just possibly be Mathias’s father.


The rather untidy day-to-day registers for Moretonhampstead have been copied out in a meticulously neat hand and each year’s entries authenticated by the Rector, Francis Whiddon. For 1630, the notice reads thus:

All these abovementioned were
baptized, ,maryed & buryed
by me Francis Whiddon
Rector & Willm Nos
worthy Minister in
ye Ch. Of Moreton
hampstead ye year


William Nosworthy continues as Minister for 1631, 1632 and 1633. By the end of the decade the title of ‘Minister’ is replaced by that of ‘Curate’. We can assume that a Minister performed the same functions, assisting the Rector. The title Minister appears again in the Protestation Return of 1642, which lists the Parson, Francis Whiddon, and the Minister.

We do not know what relation, if any, William Nosworthy, Minister, was to Mathias Nosworthy. Over the next two centuries other Nosworthys appear as ministers of religion, both Anglican and Dissenting. John Nosworthy, one of the founders of Nonconformity in Ashburton, was a kinsman of John Southmead of Wray Barton, who, in turn, was both brother-in-law and patron of the Puritan Rector Francis Whiddon.

Around this time a split was developing across Devon society.


During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, zealously protestant ideas had been enthusiastically embraced in many parts of the county: in the cloth-making towns of Tiverton, Collumpton and South Molton, for example, in the ports of Plymouth, Dartmouth and Barnstaple and throughout the length and breadth of North Devon and the South Hams. In these districts, the religious principles of the inhabitants predisposed them to favour the Parliament.

Yet in other parts of the county – most notably in the remote parishes around the edge of Dartmoor and the rich arable villages of the Exe Valley – puritanism had failed to establish a foothold and local people had remained conservative in their religious views. By the 1630s, therefore, a major cultural and religious split was developing across Devon between those communities in which puritanism was strong, and those communities which clung to the more traditional ways. The outbreak of the Civil War was to transform this ideological split into an open breach.

Devon and the Civil War. Mark Stoyle. Mint Press.


This split was evident even in moorland towns. Moreton, a centre of the wool trade, was the Parliamentarian, while Chagford was Royalist.

Protestation Oath Returns – 1642

Charles I had already tried to break the power of Parliament. There were also fears that, though Charles was head of the Church of England, he would be influenced by his French queen Henrietta Maria to restore Britain to Roman Catholicism. On 3 May 1641 both Houses of Parliament took an oath “to live and die for the true Protestant religion, the liberties and rights of subjects, and the privilege of Parliaments”.

On 4 January 1642, King Charles entered the House of Commons and tried to arrest five Members of Parliament. The result was that the Protestation was printed and sent out to the sheriffs of the counties for distribution to every parish, so that every man of 18 and over should take the oath. One purpose was to identify Roman Catholics. The text was read out in churches, and churchwardens and parish constables made lists of all who signed, or made their mark, and those who refused.

The older and younger Mathias both appear on the return for Moretonhampstead, though the teenager would have been only just old enough to qualify. They were then the only two Nosworthy men in Moretonhampstead.

War between King and Parliament broke out later in 1642. It is not clear whether the Nosworthys fought in it, nor which side they were on. Moretonhampstead generally supported Cromwell’s Roundheads, as did woollen towns throughout the county. But families were often split in their allegiance. The war swept backwards and forwards across Devon. General Fairfax’s Roundhead army camped around Moreton’s church on the night of 8 January 1646. The forces of Parliament finally triumphed that year.

The Rev Francis Whiddon was evidently sympathetic to the Puritan ways. He kept his living under the Commonwealth, when many clergymen in Devon were ejected. He wrote enthusiastically about John Southmead’s suppression of traditional revelries. The Nosworthys would have seen changes in their parish church. Rood screens and lofts were often removed and ancient stone altars replaced by tables. A long wooden table was placed longitudinally down the aisle for the communion service.

During this period, some entries in the register are witnessed by ‘Mathyas Nosworthy’ in a fluent, if rather large and untidy, handwriting. It is not clear whether this is Mathias senior, or his elder son, who would then have been 30.

The republican Commonwealth lasted until 1660, when Charles II was restored to the throne. Since Matthias and John Nosworthy’s names occur together in parish records until at least 1669, after Mathias senior’s death, it seems that his two sons played a prominent part in the maintenance of the church.


Mathias’s eldest son had considerable property interests and was styled ‘gentleman’, as was his own eldest son and the succeeding generation. This earliest Mathias probably laid the foundations of their rise in economic and social status. He may have run the tannery business, which appears as the occupation of three generations of his descendents.


His second wife Susanna died in 1654.

Burial. St Andrew’s, Moretonhampstead.
1654  Nosworthy, Susanna  wife of Mathyas Nosworthy.  1 July


In 1659 there is an unusual entry in the burial register, which may refer to this Mathias or to his son and namesake.

1659  Aprill 29 was buried John Wraford, servant unto Mathyas Nosworthy


Mathias Nosworthy Senior’ was buried on 5 December 1665, the year of the Great Plague in London. If the estimated birth date of around 1590 is correct, he would have been about 75.






Lee Tree