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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)


Lee Tree



1791  Decr 11th  Walter Battershill  Son of Thomas Hutchings

He was the second child of the fishmonger[1] Thomas Hutchings and Joan Battershill.

He became a stonecutter, possibly working in a local quarry supplying Dartmoor granite.

Pigot’s Directory, Devon and Cornwall, 1830, notes for Moretonhampstead: ‘There are granite quarries, of the best quality, in the vicinity of the town, which are worked successfully.’ But in other records he is a stonemason, suggesting that he worked on buildings. Storms and fires added to the masons’ normal work.

1804 Sat. Jan. 28th.  This day a continual storm of wind and rain, which did more damage than that of the 19th   About 4 in the afternoon a Stack of Brick Chimnies were blown down from Mr. Bragg’s new House, broke in part of the roof of the House, some Hundreds weight of Bricks fell thro’ the ceiling of one of the rooms and crushed a bed to atoms, had it happened after the family were in Bed several of them must have lost their lives. Miss Nancy Whitefield had a Chimney blown down, which did some damage. Several other Houses, felt the effect of this storm, so that the Masons and Thatchers have their spring work in. A bad wind that blows no body good. [2]



BETTY TAVERNER  was born a few months earlier, in the same year.

Baptism. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1791  June 17th Betty  Daughter of James Taverner

She always appears as Betty in the registers of both the Anglican and Methodist churches. But when Silvester Treleaven noted her wedding in his diary, he called her Elizabeth.[3] She is also named as Elizabeth in the 1841 census and in her father’s will.[4] People of higher social status, such as her father’s lawyer, may have assumed that Betty was a diminutive form, and not her given name.

She was the youngest of the four children of the husbandman and turnpike gatekeeper James Taverner and Mary Withycombe of North Bovey, who was a ‘sojourner’ in Moreton at the time of her marriage.

In later life, Betty was a serge-weaver[5], and this may have been her work as a young woman. The 1801 census showed there were 1768 people living in Moretonhampstead. 289 were engaged in agriculture, but twice that number, 599, were engaged in manufacturing, with crafts such as tanning, leather-curing, tallow-chandling, rope-making, and processing wool. Though her brother John became a husbandman, the move was away from agriculture.

Walter was not from a farming family.


Towards the end of her life, Betty lived in Cross Street.[6] At the upper end stood the Cross Tree, a pollarded elm growing out of the pedestal of an old cross. It probably marks the site of the original preaching cross, where services were held before the first church was built around 1000 AD. Shoots were ‘curiously twined around the top, so enclosing a circular plane of no very great diameter’.[7] A contemporary diarist, Silvester Treleavan, describes it thus:

August 6th 1801. The elm tree, floored and boarded and seated round the platform reached from the top of the adjoining garden to the tree, with a flight of steps in the garden for the company to ascend. After passing the platform they enter under a grand arch formed of boughs. There is sufficient room for 30 persons to sit round and six couples to dance, besides the orchestra. From the novelty of this rural apartment it is expected that much company will visit the place during the summer.

Walter and Betty grew up during the wars with France following the French Revolution. Huge numbers of prisoners poured into the Millbay prison in Plymouth and then into old hulks moored in the Hamoaze. In 1806 it was decided to build a new prison at Princetown, on Dartmoor, to hold 7,500 men and 500 soldiers guarding them. It was opened in 1809. By 1813, the year before Walter and Betty married, there were 8,000 Frenchmen and 1,700 Americans.[8]

The site of the Cross Tree, where musicians played on a platform in the branches. The original tree was wrecked in a great storm in October 1891. This road leads to the East or Folley Lane turnpike gate.


Some French officers with private means were allowed out on parole and permitted to live in four towns around the moor: Ashburton, Okehampton, Tavistock and Moretonhampstead. They were accepted as part of the local community.[9]

August 19th, 1807. This night the French officers assembled at the Cross Tree with their band of music. They performed many lively airs with great taste.

There was trouble in Dartmoor Prison, where white Americans refused to have anything to do with their black counterparts. This feeling was not shared in Moretonhampstead. Sylvester Treleaven records:

4 February 1808.  About noon a fire broke out at the Dolphin Public House, kept by Mr Wm Tozer, which raged with alarming violence over several houses, threatening the destruction of a great part of the town. It was pleasing to see about 1500 people of different languages and colours, united with great cheerfulness to stop the progress of the flames.

The previous year, Treleaven had recorded the arrival of one such black prisoner.

18 July 1807.  General Rochambeau, a French officer with a black servant, came here on parole from Wincanton, Somersetshire.

In 1808, he was able to add significantly to this story.

17 October 1808.  Married with licence, Peter the Black, servant of General Rochambeau, to Suzanne Parker. The bells rang merrily all day from the novelty of this wedding being the first Negro ever married in Moreton, a great number assembled in the churchyard, and paraded down the street with them.

The full name of ‘Peter the Black’ is recorded in the register as Peter Courlon.

The prisoners-of-war were freed in 1813 and the prison stood empty until it became a convict jail in 1850.[10]


Moretonhampstead had a particularly high proportion of non-conformists. The Church of England was sometimes alarmed by the competition. While Walter and Betty were growing up, Methodism was establishing itself in the town, to add to the Presbyterian and Baptist witness. It may have been in response to this that the Bishop of Exeter arrived with his staff for a mass confirmation service.[11] It is possible that Walter and Betty, both then aged 15, were among those confirmed.

1806  Tue. Aug. 19th.  The Bishop confirmed 239 Males and Females, this was the first confirmation ever remembered in Moreton.

But Methodism was becoming a force in the town, and won their allegiance, soon after they were married. Methodist enthusiasm, however, did not meet with Treleaven’s approval.

1806 Tue. Nov. 18th.  The Rev. Mr. Dinney, pastor of the Methodist congregation ordained here this day.  Five ministers assisted in the service. The Revd. Mr Allen of Exeter delivered sermon on the occasion. Text 2nd Chapter 2nd Timothy 1st part 15th verse “Study to …

1807 Wed. Aug. 19th.  About 8 O’Clock in the evening a Wesleyan Itinerant mounted the alighting stone at the end of the Shambles and bellowed for about half an hour to a confused rabble who kept themselves in tolerable order, but the neighbours hoped that this mountebank preacher would take himself to a room to exhibit when he visited Moreton again.


In 1811 Betty’s older sister Mary married William Diment. Betty was one of the witnesses. Her signature is an elaborate scrawl, with flourishes on the capital letters,but less than accurate spelling: Bety Tarner.


Three years later, the parish register records another wedding.

Marriage. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.

1814  Walter Hutchings of this Parish and Betty Taverner of this Parish
were married in this Church by Banns with consent of Parents this thirteenth Day of March in the Year One thousand eight hundred and fourteen By me W Clack Rectr
This Marriage  was solemnized between us (Walter Hutchings
                                                                              ( Betty Taverner
In the Presence of ( Anne Mardon
                                ( Mary Diment   Wm Diment


Betty’s signature is more assured than when she witnessed her sister Mary’s marriage. This time it is Mary who, with her husband, witnesses Betty’s wedding.

Treleaven’s Diary gives us more details:

1814 Sunday, March 13.   Married Walter, the son of Thomas Hutchings, Fishmonger, to Elizabeth, daughter of James Taverner, at the Turnpike Gate.

Without Treleaven’s Diary, we would not have known that Walter’s father was a fishmonger or that Betty’s father kept the Turnpike Gate.

This is the first record in which Betty is called Elizabeth.

Betty was probably, and not uncommonly, pregnant when they married. Seven months later, they had their first child baptised in the parish church.

Baptism. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1814  30th Octr  Thomas Son of Walter & Betty Hutchings.  Town.  Stone Cutter


Soon afterwards, a Wesleyan Chapel was established in Cross Street, Moretonhampsted, and the Hutchings moved their allegiance there. All their subsequent children were baptised at the chapel, though they still used the parish church for weddings and possibly funerals. At this same period, the Lees in Exeter were having their first two children baptised at the Mint Wesleyan chapel.

John Wesley (1703-1791) did not wish to break away from the Church of England. He was an ordained Anglican priest. He had intended Methodist chapels to be only ‘Preaching Houses’, and that his followers should continue to use their parish churches for baptisms, marriages and burials. Methodist baptismal registers only begin in 1795, after his death.


Baptisms. Wesleyan Chapel, Moretonhampstead.
1817  Augt 14  Walter Son of Walter & Betty Hutchings  Moreton hampstead  Stone Cutter
1820  Born 13 of March 1820 Baptized April 16 1820 Maria Daughter of Walter & Elizabeth Hutchins  Moreton Hampstead  Stone Mason.
1822  Born Oct 31st 1822 Baptized Decr 1st 1822 John the son of Walter and Elizabeth Hutchings  Moreton-Hampstead  Stone Mason
1825  Born Jany 24 Baptized Feby 20 1825 James son of Walter and Betty Hutchings  Moreton Hampstead  Stone Mason
1827  Born September 14 1827 Baptized Septembr 19 1827 Charlotte the Daughter of Walter and Betty Hutchings  Moreton-Hampstead  Stone Mason
1830  Born March 4th Bapt June 6th 1830 William the son of Walter and Betty Hutchings Stone Cutter  Moreton Hampstead.
1832  Born Novr 25 Baptized Decembr 23 1832  George the son of Walter and Betty (who was the daughter of James & Mary Taverner) Hutchings  Moreton Hampstead  Stone-cutter


The original Methodist chapel in Cross Street was built in 1817. It burnt down in 1864 and was immediately rebuilt. The last service was held in the early 1990s. Moreton has always been a strong nonconformist centre with 5 different denominations represented in the mid 1800s in addition to the parish church. In the 1776 Compton Census of religious beliefs, about 19% of Moreton households were shown to be nonconformist, compared with an average of about 4% across Devon as a whole.

There were two other Hutchings couples having children baptized in the Methodist chapel at the same time: Robert and Jane, and Samuel and Elizabeth. Hutchings was a common surname in Moretonhampstead and these men were not Walter’s brothers.

 Cross Street, leading to the Cross Tree.
 The Hutchings family worshipped here.


In August 1832, shortly before their youngest son, George, was born, Betty’s father, James Taverner, died at the age of 73. His will was proved on 21 Dec, two days before George’s baptism. In it, he left ten shillings to his son John. All the rest of his goods and money, after the payment of funeral and legal expenses, went to Betty. When she had taken any of his possessions she wished, the remainder of the estate was converted into money and invested in a trust. The interest was paid to Betty, and she could request other payments. As was the custom of the times in making bequests to women, the will specified that the money was for her sole use and that her husband had no part in it.

It is not clear why her brother James and sister Mary got nothing, and John only 10s. It may be that the Hutchings family had fallen on hard times and were in much greater need than the others. Perhaps Walter had had an accident at work and was unable to support the family. Or Betty’s siblings may already have received payments during their father’s lifetime. Another possibility is that Betty had been caring for her father in his old age, and this was her reward.


The possibility that Walter was ill or disabled is strengthened by the fact that he does not appear in the 1841 census. His death was not registered, so we may conclude that he died before 1837, in his forties.

Betty was then living in Fore Street, which leads up to the church, with her youngest child. She was supporting herself weaving the traditional Devon serge.

1841 Census. Fore Street, Moretonhampstead

Elizabeth Hutchings     45        Serge Weaver
George          do                8

Betty was almost 50. Ages of adults in the 1841 census were recorded in 5-year bands. 45 means 45-49.

Also living in Fore Street were her sister Mary, with her husband William Dayment, Cordwainer, and their children Betsy and Emma.

Betty’s son George became a stonecutter, like his father.

By 1845, Betty was living alone in Cross Street. At one o’clock in the morning of Friday, 12 Sept, a devastating fire broke out in Cross Street. It spread to Fore Street, which runs parallel to Cross Street.  It started in a bakery, always a fire-hazard because of combustible flour-dust in the air. Six old cottages went up in flames. Moreton’s fire engines raced to the scene, but the task was too great for them. Help was summoned from Exeter 12 miles away, and more engines galloped the hilly route to assist the local crews. The fire engulfed the whole length of Cross Street on the north side, just stopping short of Cross Tree House. It spread to most of Fore Street and all of Back Lane. 50 properties were destroyed, including the Golden Lion, the Kings Arms, the Bell Inn, the Corn Market Exchange, built in 1827, and Church House.
38 houses were lost and 144 people affected, Betty was one of them. [12]

Names of people affected by 1845 fire.

Great Fire at Moreton on Friday the 12th Day of Sept. 1845

House no. Owners’ names Occupiers’ Names Inmates
28 –Geo Endacott Betty Hutchings 1

By 1851 Mary’s husband had died too and the two sisters were living together in the rebuilt Cross Street,
with another of Betty’s sons. Though
Betty was the younger sister, she was head of the household. Mary is recorded as unmarried, but was in fact a widow.

1851 Census.  Cross Street, Moreton Hampstead

Betty  HUTCHINGS    Widw(Head) W 60 F  Labs Wife  Moreton Hampd

William  HUTCHINGS     Son                U  21 M Farm Lab   Moreton Hampd

Mary  DIMENT                 Sis                 U  62  F  —               Moreton Hampd


Not all this family were engaged in craftworking. William worked on the land, like Betty’s father. But, as with so many men in the 19th century, he was obliged to work an agricultural labourer, not as a husbandman farming in small way on his own account.

There are other Hutchings families living in the same street, including a 61-year-old labourer Walter, his wife Eliza and daughter Grace. But this Walter was born in Dorchester.

In this census, Betty’s daughter Charlotte was still single and a servant in Court Street. In June of that year, Charlotte married Richard Arscott Lee. Her address is then given as Cross Street. She had presumably gone back to live with her mother before her marriage. Her father Walter is described as a stone-cutter. The fact that he was deceased is not recorded.


Mary Dayment died in 1855. Betty does not appear in the 1861 census for Moretonhampstead, so we may assume she also died in this decade. There are deaths for Elizabeth Hutchings registered in the Newton Abbot district in the second quarter of 1855 and the third quarter of 1858.

Neither Walter nor Betty’s burial has been found. This may be because the funerals took place at the Methodist church and the burial register has not survived.


[1] Treleaven’s Diary, www.moretonhampstead.org.uk
[2]  Treleaven
[3] Treleaven

[4] Will of James Taverner, 1832.
[5] 1841 Census, Moretonhampstead.
[6] 1851 Census, Moretonhampstead.
[7] R. O. Heath, Sparrowhawk: The Story of Moretonhampstead, 1977, [WSL].
[8] W.G. Hoskins, Devon and Its People, (David & Charles, 1968), pp.140-43.
[9] Treleaven
[10] Hoskins
[11] Treleaven
[12] Moretonhampstead Historical Society. www.moretonhampstead.org.uk







Lee Tree