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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)


Sampson Tree



RICHARD SAMPSON was born in Winkleigh. He was the first of the four children of John and Sarah Sampson and was baptised in All Saints, Winkleigh, on 20 Oct 1746. Winkleigh lies between Chulmleigh and Hatherleigh, north of Dartmoor.

In 1790, Richard was the subject of settlement examination by the Chulmleigh Overseers of the Poor. It summarises much of his life story.

 Devon )  The Examination of Richard Sampson now Resident in the Parish of to witt )  Chulmleigh in the said County Taken before us Two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the sd County the 2nd Day of June – 1790 Touching his Settlement –

This Examinant on his Oath saith he has heard and believes he was born in the Parish of Winkley and County aforesaid and lived with his parents in the same parish till he was about 19 years of Age, then went to the parish of Roseash and hired himself for One Year with Roger Reed and Served out the same, then went to the parish of Chulmleigh and Hired himself for One Year with John Maning and Served out the full Year and received his Wages, ad Lived at several other places till about the year 1776, when this Examinant went to the parish of Meshaw in the same County and Rented an Estate called Yonderlake at the yearly rent of Thirteen pounds and paid all rates and Taxes (Land tax only Excepted) in which he continued upwards of Three Years, Then returned to the parish of Chulmleigh where he hath resided and worked at day Labour and done no other Act whereby to gain a Settlement.

                                                                                          Richard Sampson

The day and year above written )

Sworn before us –                       )
                            Thomas Melhuish
                            John Cruwys

Richard left Winkleigh when he was 19. The distance between Winkleigh and Rose Ash is only about 13 miles, but it was a bigger shift than labourers usually made. Mostly they moved between adjacent parishes. It was probably in Rose Ash that he met his future wife Mary Nichols. He then had a chequered career, alternating between running his own farm and working at the bottom of the agricultural scale as a day labourer.


MARY NICHOLS is the daughter of Thomas Nicols, baptised in Rose Ash in 1750.

Baptism. Rose Ash.
1750  Mary ye Daughter of Thomas Nicols was baptized December ye ninth

Her father was a smith, and her grandfather, also Thomas Nicols, was both a carpenter and the parish clerk.

Mary would have been 15 when Richard came to Rose Ash to work for a year for Roger Reed.

Six years later, they married in the neighbouring parish of Meshaw, where Mary was presumably then living. Meshaw is a village halfway between Witheridge and South Molton, on the turnpike road from Tiverton to Barnstaple.

Devonshire had thrived on its woollen industry. At the end of the 17th century Celia Fiennes wrote of the Exeter area:

The whole town and country is employ’d for at least 20 mile round in spinning, weaveing, dressing, and scouring, fulling and drying of the serges, it turns the most money in a weeke of anything in England…
The carryers I met going with it as thick all entering into town, with their loaded horses, they bring them all just from the loome and soe they are put into the fulling-mills.

The 18th century saw Devon’s wool trade start to decline, with competition from elsewhere, but the road through Meshaw would still have been busy.


Richard  and Mary were married in Meshaw on 19 May 1771.

Mary was already about six months pregnant. This was rather later than usual for a wedding, but it was common for marriages to take place only after a pregnancy was evident. Engaged couples sometimes slept together at the bride-to-be’s home, though they were supposed to go to bed fully dressed.

They had four children baptised in the village:

Baptisms. Meshaw. (DCRS transcripts)
1771  Faith Daughter of Richard Sampson and Mary his wife was Baptized August the eighteenth
1774  John son of Richard & Mary Sampson was baptized November 13th

The settlement examination indicates that they may not have lived in Meshaw for the whole of this time. But by the time their next child was born, Richard had prospered well enough as a labourer to take become the tenant farmer of Yonderlake in that parish.

1776  Sarah Daughter of Richard & Mary Sampson was baptized December 15th
1779  Richard son of Richard and Mary Sampson was Baptized November 8

This relative prosperity did not last. By the time Richard and Mary’s children were born, the prosperity of the wool trade was struck a further blow. The war of American Independence made shipping more dangerous and began to close markets to exports. Around the time of Richard junior’s birth, they were forced to give up the tenancy of Yonderlake. Richard returned to Chulmleigh, with the lowest status of a day labourer, not a yearly contract, which would have given him the right of settlement and entitlement to parish relief.

They seem to have brought up their older children without recourse to the Overseers of the Poor for parish relief, but by the time their youngest child was eight they began to fall on hard times. It seems that it was to the Meshaw Overseers of the Poor that Richard turned. His tenancy of Yonderlake would have given him that right.

Meshaw. Overseers of the Poor.
Easter 1787 to Easter 1788.
Pd Richard Samson In Distress  1..1..0
Easter 1788 to Easter 1789
Pd Richard Samson In Distress  1..1..0

There are other people in the parish whose names appear many times. These isolated grants to Richard may reflect a temporary period of illness or injury.

But clearly by 1790 it had become important to establish which parish was responsible for supporting him. Hence the settlement examination. The Justices of the Peace do not seem to think that the case has been made for transferring his settlement from Rose Ash to Chulmleigh, even though he now lived and worked there.

The Sampsons may have been living on the eastern side of this large parish and continued to use Meshaw parish church. The transcript of the Meshaw burial register ends in 1796. The only Sampson recorded in it is:

1793  Sarah Sampson of Chulmleigh was Buried May 12th

This is almost certainly Richard and Mary’s younger daughter, the only one of their children who is not named in Richard’s will. She would have been 17.

Their elder son John moved to West Worlington, the parish immediately south of Meshaw. He farmed there, married in 1798, and stayed there to raise his family.

By the end of the century, the French Revolutionary Wars made things still worse for sheep farmers, though not for those who grew grain.

Richard does not appear again in the accounts of the Meshaw Overseers of the Poor. The next grant is to Mary.

Meshaw. Overseers of the Poor.
Easter 1800 to Easter 1801
Pd Mary Samson In Distress  0..3..0

The grants thereafter are to their eldest daughter Faith, who at 30 was still unmarried. Meshaw. Overseers of the Poor.
Easter 1801 to Easter 1802
Pd  fithe Samson in Distress  0..2..
Pd  fithe Samson in Distress  0..1..0
And again the following year:
Pd  Fithe Samson in Distress  0..3..0

But the family eventually recovered from this time of hardship. At the time of his death, sometime between May 1814 and February 1815, Richard was again a yeoman farmer, this time in Chulmleigh. His will shows that he was able to leave Mary provided for with the proceeds from the sale of his farm animals, together with the money in the house at the time of his death. ‘Cattle of all Description’ is probably used in its older sense to mean livestock in general. He had an estate, apparently rented, which he left to his younger son Richard for the remainder of the lease. He was able to leave £5 to his daughter Faith, now married, though she would only receive this after Mary’s death. He left his clock, evidently a prized possession, to his eldest grandchild Sarah, who was John’s daughter. The remainder of the property was divided equally between his two sons. The fact that the younger son Richard is treated more generously than John may mean that John was already well set up on his own farm in West Worlington, or that Richard had stayed at home to help his father. Both sons are described as yeomen, which meant they were farming on a more substantial scale than a husbandman.

One of the witnesses to Richard’s will was John Turner. He may well have been the brother of Elizabeth Turner of Chulmleigh. In 1826, Richard’s grandson, another Richard Sampson, married Mary Mathews, who was the granddaughter of Elizabeth Turner.

There is a gap in the Chulmleigh burial records from 1813-16 incl. The record of Richard’s burial would probably have given us the name of his farm. Its loss also makes it difficult to determine the date of his death. His will is dated 21 May 1814, when he was ‘weak in body but of sound mind and memory (blessed be God)’. It was proved on 18 February 1815. He must have died during final year of the Napoleonic wars, which ended with the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.

Mary lived on another fifteen years. She moved from the farm into town. Hers is probably this burial record:

Burial. Chulmleigh.
1830  Mary Sampson  Town  April 2nd  83

If she was Mary Nichols of Rose Ash, then she was really 79, but it was not uncommon for the ages of old people to be imprecisely known by their surviving family.





Sampson Tree