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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




THOMAS NICOLS is the most likely father of Mary Nichols, who married Richard Sampson. Richard came to Rose Ash, a village high on a ridge south-west of South Molton, around 1765. Six years later he married Mary in the neighbouring parish of Meshaw. This would fit very well for date and place with Thomas’s daughter.

Thomas was the eldest son of Thomas Nicols and Sarah Bennet, and the third generation in his family to bear this name. He was the second child in a family of ten.

Baptism. Rose Ash.
1724  Nichols, Thomas  s. Thomas junior  20 Aug

His father, a carpenter, like his grandfather, was also parish clerk of Rose Ash. He was thus a capable and literate man. Young Thomas grew up in the Church House by the village green. His father, helped by his mother, was responsible for looking after the church and its furnishings and preparing it for services. Every week Thomas would have seen his father reading the lessons in church and leading the singing of hymns and responses.


Thomas became a smith. The churchwardens’ accounts for 1745-6 record a payment to

Thomas Nichols for righting the Church-yard Gates and also:
Pd Thomas Nichols junr for A new Key for the Tower Door and A New Clatcher and other work for the Church Gate.  £0.1.4
Also: Pd Thomas Nichols for six plats of Iron, for the Church Yard Gates weighing Eighteen pounds and laying A Hoe for one of the Gates.  £0.6.2

Thomas, now 21, was able to work alongside his father, complementing the older man’s woodwork with his own ironwork.

The following year:

Pd Thomas Nichols junr for Righting a lader and nails and a hook  £0.0.6

Often no distinction is made between one Thomas Nichols and the other, but we can assume it is the smith who is paid for ‘Iron Stuff being 28 pound and 2 and 2 pound of nails to use About the wind lace’, ‘for Iron for ye Gates & Seats & Bells’ .


SUSANNA LANGE. Susanna was living in Romansleigh at the time of her marriage, but does not appear to have been born there.

There are only two other instances of this surname in Romansleigh around this time. Margaret Lang was married there in 1741 and Mary Lang in 1747. Since Susanna Lange married in 1746 this looks very much as though they are sisters. They may have moved to Romansleigh together, but there is no sign of their parents.

We have not yet identified a likely place for their baptisms.


Couples sometimes married in Exeter although neither of them lived there. Margaret and Mary Lang married in Romansleigh, but Thomas and Susanna at St David’s church on the northern outskirts of Exeter..

Marriage. St David, Exeter
1746 Oct 24   Thomas Nichols of Roseash and Susanna Lange of Romansleigh.


The couple made their home in Rose Ash and had at least six, possibly seven, children there.

Baptisms. Rose Ash.
1747  Jane ye Daughter of Thomas Nicols ye younger baptized December ye twenty-eighth
1750  Mary ye Daughter of Thomas Nicols was baptized December ye ninth
1753  Nicols, Elizabeth  d. Thomas  PB  11 Dec .

Elizabeth was privately baptised soon after birth, because she was not expected to survive. She was buried five days later. The next child was given the same name.

1755  Nicols, Elizabeth  d. Thomas  27 July
1758  Nicols, Jonathan  s. Thomas  24 Aug
1761  Nicols, Anne  d. Thomas  25 July


A note in the parish register suggest that there was a school in Rose Ash. At his death in 1764, John Bray left money to be distributed to the poor and also ‘twenty Pound more to the Poor to be put out at Interest to keep poor children at School’. Thomas’s father must have been able to read and write competently to become parish clerk and probably encouraged his son and grandchildren to do the same.


Both Thomas and his father are listed among the 36 men liable to do work on the parish’s roads:

A List of the Names of the Inhabitants of ye Parish of Rose Ash that are lyable to do their Statute Duty in & upon the Highways & what Chargeable with towards ye Same.
Tho: Nicholls  1
Tho: Nicholls jun. 1

One hour is the lowest obligation, the highest is four. There are no crosses against either name, which seem to indicate the hours actually worked. Craftsmen like the two Thomases are listed first, with a separate list of day labourers. Thomas’s brother John appears on this second list.


Thomas senior died in 1769, having lived to see most of these grandchildren. He was working till the end on such jobs as the roof of the church and mending the seats. Thomas’s younger brother Hugh probably took over their father’s carpentry business.

Thomas’s own work for the church was not always itemised.

1761-2  pd Tho: Nichols ye Smith his Bill  £00.10.3
                pd Tho: Nichols Smith  Bill    £0.10.3


After Ann’s birth, the family seems to have moved to the neighbouring parish of Meshaw.

Baptisms. St John the Baptist, Meshaw.
1764 May 27   Thomas son of Thomas and Susanna Nichols
1769 Feb 14   John son of Thomas and Susanna Nichols
1770 Aug 12   Joan daughter of Thomas and Susanna Nichols
1772 May 24   William son of Thomas and Susanna Nichols.

This appears to be the same couple. We have found no other marriage of Thomas Nichols to Susanna. Nor have we found the burials of Thomas and Susanna in Rose Ash.

In 1771 Mary Nichols of this parish married Richard Sampson, husbandman of Chulmleigh, in Meshaw. This looks very like Thomas and Susanna’s daughter Mary, born in Rose Ash in 1750.

There is one anomaly. We have the following two events in Rose Ash.

1771  Dec 27   John son of Thomas Nicols was baptised privately December ye twenty-seventh and buried January twelfth 1772.

This is incompatible with the birth of William in May 1772. We have not identified another Thomas Nichols in Rose Ash who could be the father of John. The Rose Ash register does not give the mother’s name. Thomas and Susanna in Meshaw already had a son of that name. This remains unexplained. But the balance of probability remains with Thomas and Susanna spending the rest of their lives in Meshaw.


Susanna died in 1793.

Burial. Meshaw.
1793 May 13   Susanna Nichols.

The burial register at this time does not give the usual details “wife of” or “widow”.


Thomas’s younger brother or nephew George (or both) carried on the family tradition of craftsmen. In the church accounts for 1793 and 1797 George Nichols is paid on three occasions for materials and work about the church.

In 1807, George Nichols, Carpenter, was assessed to pay Window Tax on 5 windows. He either moved house or blocked up two of his windows, because in 1809 he was assessed for only 3 windows.

During the reign of William III and Mary II there was growing inflation due to the various conflicts in Ireland and mainland Europe. So in 1696 a new property tax, the window tax, was introduced. This was less intrusive than the hearth tax because the windows could be counted from the outside. Nonetheless, it was unpopular because of what it seemed to tax. Its opponents called it a tax on fresh air, light and health.

The tax was at first a flat rate of 2 shillings, or 8 shillings on houses with more than ten windows. In fact people managed to dodge payment by bricking in windows, camouflaging them or even building dummy windows so that inspectors were completely confused. Some blocked in windows and then unblocked them as soon as the collector had gone. Over the years people became so clever at avoiding the tax that revenue from it fell and the law had to be tightened in 1747. It was then that the Government of the day began juggling with bands of payments according to how many windows a house had. This raised more revenue; however there was more avoidance and so the rates were doubled in 1784. The tax continued until 1851.

BBC Beyond the Broadcast



In the Overseers of the Poor accounts for 1811, several of the Nichols family are listed under Distress pay &c. Thomas the Smith would now have been 87, if he was still alive, so it is more likely this is his brother John’s son.

Mary Nichols for keeping of C Price  2s
Hugh Nichols  7s
George Nichols  12s
Thos Nichols for Rent of the Poor House  £3-5-0
Mary Nichols what paid out for C Price  3s

It appears that Hugh and George have fallen on hard times and need parish relief. Mary and Thomas, however, are providing help for other people. C Price may well be a poor old woman whom Mary is looking after.

Thomas’s payment is particularly interesting. These are disbursements, not receipts, so Thomas is receiving rent for the Poor House from the Overseers of the Poor. It seems he owned a house which he was able to let out for this purpose.

Hugh Nichols the Carpenter died in 1814.


Thomas too lived on into the 19th century. He died a year before the Battle of Waterloo.

Burial. Meshaw.
1814 Aug 29   Thomas Nichols. 95.

If we have his birth date right, he was in fact 90, but people were often uncertain about the age of an old person.

Thomas’s will was proved in Barnstaple the same year. His son William paid death duties of 4s.







Sampson Tree