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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 BATTISHILL was born towards the end of 17th century, in the reign of William and Mary. He married in Moretonhampstead in 1716 and raised his family there.

Three possible baptisms have so far been found for him:

1680 St Mary Steps, Exeter, son of Thomas Battershill

1693 Throwleigh, a base son of Anne Battishill

1699 South Tawton, son of Richard Battishill and his wife Elizabeth

The Exeter baptism is further away from Moretonhampstead than the others, and people commonly moved into cities rather than out of them. The Throwleigh baptism raises the question of whether the son of the unmarried Anne Battishill would be a suitable bridegroom for the daughter of a well-to-do yeoman. At first sight, this is possible, since the couple’s own son John married the fatherless Joan Nosworthy. But closer examination of the Throwleigh registers shows that this was not an isolated lapse by a girl from a good family. Richard was Anne’s fourth child, following Jane in 1676, William in 1680 and Isett in 1685. This almost certainly means that Anne Battishill of Throwleigh was a prostitute.

It is much more likely that Elizabeth Hamlyn’s husband was the one baptised in South Tawton. If this supposition is correct, then he was the son of Richard Battishill and Elizabeth Reeve.

Baptismal Register, St Andrew’s, South Tawton. (DCRS transcript)
1699  Battishill, Richard s. Richard & Elizabeth   7 May

He was the sixth child of seven. Two previous babies were christened Richard and must have died, though their burials have not been found in the register. He had three older sisters and a younger one. As the only surviving son, he would have meant a great deal to his parents.

There was a prestigious family of Battishills living at West Wyke in South Tawton. Their pedigree and coat of arms are listed in the Heralds’ Visitations. Richard’s father does not seem to have been born in South Tawton, and no connection has been found between him and the gentry at West Wyke, but it is likely they were related, however distantly.

There were also Battishills in neighbouring Drewsteignton. In the early 18th century, Thomas Battishill, gent, and his wife Aphra were worshipping at South Tawton church. Aphra died in 1727 and Thomas in 1728. Wall plaques, bearing the Battishill coat of arms with four owls, commemorate their deaths. Richard could also be related to this branch.

We do not know if Richard was living in Moretonhampstead before his marriage. Since he was only 17 at the time, quite possibly not. Seventeen is unusually young for a bridegroom, but since the bride was only thirteen, it is here quite plausible. It suggests the couple were from well-to-do families, and could count on support until they reached maturity.

The Battishill surname first appears in Moretonhampstead in 1667, 50 years before Richard’s wedding, with William Battishill, churchwarden, who was literate. In 1680 Andrew Battishill married Anna Bickley. They had their daughter Susanna baptised at the Presbyterian Cross Street Meeting in 1682 and their son Nicholas in 1683.

This is followed by the marriage in the parish church of Richard Martin and Anne Battishill in 1685, and the burial there of Nicholas, son of Andrew Batttishill in 1691. There are no further records of the Battishills at Cross Street Meeting, nor at the parish church until Richard and Elizabeth’s wedding in 1716.

Since there are some gaps in the Presbyterian registers, Richard could have been another child of Andrew and Anna of Moretonhampstead, whose baptism has been lost. However, he had his own children baptised at the parish church. Since the Richard of South Tawton does not appear to have been buried, married or had children christened in his home parish, a move from there to Moreton would fit the evidence well. He may have gone there to work for a relation.


ELIZABETH HAMLYN was the daughter of the yeoman farmer William Hamlyn and Elizabeth Adams. There were Hamlyns in Moretonhampstead at least as early as the 16th century and an even larger number in Widecombe in the Moor. We do not yet know how far back Elizabeth’s family go in Moreton, but her parents married and had their children baptized there.

Baptism.  Moretonhampstead St Andrews.
1702(3)  March 14 was Baptized Elizabeth daughter of Wm Hamlin


She may have spent her childhood at Willowray, a farm on the road from Moreton to Bovey Tracey, which follows the Wray Brook. Her parents were living there three years after her marriage.

Elizabeth was married in 1716 when she was only 13, which is unusually young.

MarriageMoreton Hampstead.
1716  Aprill 03 were Married Richard Battishill and Elizabeth Hamlyn

There is no sign that she was pregnant, to precipitate a wedding. Her first child was born a year later.


Baptisms. Moreton Hampstead. St Andrews.
1717  Aprill 14 was Baptized Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Battishill
1719  September 27 was Baptized William the son of Richard Battshill


A few months later, Elizabeth’s father died at Willowray. In his will he left bequests to his 16-year-old married daughter and her children:

‘To Elizabeth  wife of Richd. Battshill my dau. 20s’
‘To Elizabeth Battshill dau. of Richd. Battshill my grandchild 1s,’
‘To Wm. Battshill 5s.’

20 shillings was £1.


Seven more children followed.

1722  May 15 was Baptized Thomas the son of Richard Battshill
1724  August 9 was Baptized Ann ye daughter of Richd Battshill
1727  June 4th was Baptized John son of Richd Battishill
1730  Augt 29 was baptized Mary daughter of Richard Battershill

Mary was buried on 2 August 1732.

1732  Jany 19 was Baptized Mary daughter of Rd Battishill
1736  July 11 was Baptized Richard Son of Richard Battishill
1739  Feby ye 10th was Baptized James son of Rich. Battishill

James was buried 11 April 1742.


A high percentage of these children survived infancy, reinforcing the impression that the Battishills, like the Hamlyns, were not one of the poorest families. They were not gentry either. Richard is never described as ‘Mr’.


Elizabeth died in 1746, aged 43.

Burial. Moretonhampstead. St Andrews
1746  Septemb 11th was Buried Elizth wife of Richard Battishill


Richard may have outlived Elizabeth by 24 years, though this burial could be his son. The spelling of the surname in the registers changed in the late 1750s.

Burial. Moretonhampstead. St Andrews
1770  Novemr 27th was Buried Richard Battershill.

To protect the ailing woollen industry, Parliament decreed that everyone must be buried in a woollen shroud, or pay a fine. Each year of the burial register at this time ends with the affirmation:

Buried in Woollen
According to Act of Parliament


Woollen manufacture continued its slow decline although serges were still made in the town, As predicted, the number of poor did greatly increase, and Brice’s Grand Gazeteer for 1759 contains the following remark:

‘Moretonhampstead, most commonly called Moreton, is a very populous town. The share the inhabitants have in the woollen trade helps to maintain their numerous poor. The trade consists much in the washing of wool in which they boast an art peculiar, and a quality in the water most fitted for the purpose, not excelled if equalled anywhere. They make a good quantity of serges which are sold in Exeter market.’

Sparrowhawk: The Story of Moretonhampstead. R. G. Thorne.






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