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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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ELIZABETH COOK was the eldest child of Philip and Grace Cook of Mariansleigh.


Baptism: Mariansleigh.

  1. July 18. Elizabeth daughter of Philip Cooke and Grace his wife.


She had a natural child when she was 30.


Baptism: Mariansleigh.

  1. June the 28. John the Son of Elizabeth Cook, Base Child, was baptized.


Bastardy and fornication were offences which came under the scope of the ecclesiastical courts.



One of the commonest offences for which people were presented in the early and middle of the century was … the birth of an illegitimate child. In such cases the defendant had no choice but to confess and submit to the court, and the sentence … was that a penance should be publicly performed in the defendant’s parish church. The following is an actual example, dated 7th December, 1764. “It is ordered that Mary Cutting of Pyworthy in the County of Devon … shall upon some Sunday before the Day of Return hereof in the forenoon immediately after the reading of the second Lesson come into the Parish Church aforesaid, bare-headed with a white sheet about her shoulders, bare-footed and bare-legged, with a white rod in her hand, and shall stand before the Minister’s seat or pew until the end of the Nicene Creed, and shall openly confess and acknowledge that she hath been delivered of a male child unlawfully begotten on her body, and shall show her hearty sorrow and repentance and shall desire God to forgive her, and the Minister and the People to pray for the amendment of her life for the future, Promising by her own endeavours to certify her repentance by a Holy and Circumspect Conversation, and no more to give the like occasion to the Church.” The public confession followed a formal pattern which began, “I A.B. do Confess and Acknowledge that I had been delivered of a Male/Female Bastard Child unlawfully begotten on my body by C.D. of E.” This naming of the father was necessary to lift the responsibility for the support of the child from the parish to the father, who would then be called upon by the civil magistrate to contribute to the child’s maintenance. The unfortunate woman formally ended her confession, “And I entreat the Congregation to pray unto God for my forgiveness and better life, and that this my punishment may be an example and terror to others that they may never deserve the like. Amen.”

When the penance was duly performed a certificate was sent into the court and there the matter ended, but frequently, at the last moment, the unhappy penitent felt unable to go through the ordeal. The offender then came into the category of one who had failed to carry out a court order, and would then receive a writ of excommunication for contumacy. The offender now risked imprisonment by the civil courts, if she continued under sentence of excommunication for forty days. This did not happen invariably, but often enough to have a cautionary effect….

Often the penance was commuted by the court for a money payment, called a pecuniary mulct, and the cost was adjusted to the means of the offender. The usual

cost of £3 3s was often reduced by half, but on the other hand, the cost of commutation in the case of the Rev Mr Borlase was as high as £20. There are at least

two records in the Act Books which show that social status was irrelevant in the granting of commutations… It would appear that the only qualification necessary was the possession of the purchase money…

When the couple married after the offence the charge was known as ante-nuptial fornication, and in this case the penance was less humiliating, being performed privately before the minister and churchwardens, “in their usual habits,” and not openly in church with white sheet and rod. This penance was also occasionally commuted…

But in 1787 a law was passed forbidding further presentments for ante-nuptial fornication except within eight months of the alleged offence, “nor shall any prosecution be commenced … at anytime after the parties offending shall have been lawfully married.”


Church and  Society in Eighteenth-Century Devon. Arthur Warne. David and Charles.



She lived on into 1819, still unmarried.


Burial: Mariansleigh.

Elizabeth Cook  Mariansleigh  1819  Oct 17   78.







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