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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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RICHARD GAY is the son of Robert Gay and Elizabeth Gallen, baptised in Sandford, a village near Crediton, on 24 October 1750.

Before he was five years old, his family left their fertile rural parish for St Thomas. This was not yet part of Exeter, but a separate parish on the opposite bank of the Exe. They evidently fell into poverty, because in 1755 the St Thomas Overseers of the Poor issued an order for Richard, his two older brothers and their parents to be removed back to Sandford.

Nevertheless, Richard did grow up in an Exeter suburb. The family moved almost immediately to St David’s, outside the North Gate of the city. In December 1757, when Richard was seven years old, a baby brother was born. Before the month was out, both the baby and Richard’s mother were dead.


JANE BEARD was baptised in St David’s, Exeter, on 24 November 1751. She was the daughter of John and Catherine Beard, who had moved to St David’s from the neighbouring suburb of St Sidwell’s. Her mother was Catherine Flood.


Richard and Jane married in St David’s parish church on 28th November 1773. The marriage was witnessed by Samuel Curry and Thomas Lake.


They had a number of children baptised at St David’s.

Baptisms. St David’s, Exeter
1774 Robert son of Richard & Jane Gay. Augst 28th
1778 Catharine dr of Richd & Jane Gay. March 29

1781  Jenny dr of Richard & Jane Gay 23rd April
1783  June 8 Elizab. dr of Rich & Jane Gay
1784 Dec 27 Mary dr of Richard & Jane Gay

St David’s was an affluent suburb of Exeter. There is evidence of black slaves in some of the households. The parish church records baptisms for ‘Anne Hobbs a Black woman’ in 1772 and ‘Thomas Walker, a Black boy’ in 1778.


No further children of Richard and Jane appear to have been baptised at St David’s, and in particular, the baptism of their daughter Sarah has not yet been found. She was born sometime between 1785 and 1795. She said at the 1851 census that she was born in St David’s. In 1821, the baptismal register entry for her son names her as the daughter of Richard and Jane Gay. At this time, both Sarah and her sister Mary were attending the Methodist church in Mint Lane, so it is possible that Richard and Jane had become non-conformists and that Sarah’s baptism is in a register now lost.


It is possible that Richard’s is the following burial.

Burial. St David’s, Exeter
1787  May 6 Richard Gay

But since Sarah was probably born in the 1790s rather than the 1780s, this is unlikely. Sarah’s marriage in 1817 was witnessed by Richard Gay, and unless she had a brother Richard whose baptism has also not been found, it is likely that this is her father, who therefore lived much longer. If the signature is his, then he was literate, though his daughter Sarah was not.

At the time of her marriage, Sarah was a ‘sojourner’ in St Davids, implying that Richard and his family were no longer resident in that parish. He is probably the Richard Gay who is listed in the 1803 Exeter Militia List, and the only man recorded with that surname. If so, then he had moved to the parish of St Mary Steps, Exeter. Certainly his married daughters Mary and Sarah were living there in 1821.

The Militia List gives us our first information about Richard’s occupation.

Richard Gay   Dealer in Fish   4th class   Will serve if wanted

The 4th class were mostly married men between 31 and 55. The comments column lists some who were too infirm for military service. The most frequent remark is ‘Willing to serve’. Richard’s response strikes a more grudging note. He was probably 53 by then, and close to the upper age limit.

Fishing was an important industry along the South Devon coast. Richard is likely to have been down on the Quay buying up the freshly landed catch, which may have been brought up to Exeter through the canal.

In 1851, Richard’s grandson, Richard Arscott Lee, married Charlotte Hutchings, also the grandchild of a fishmonger.






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