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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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In 1727 the following baptism was recorded in Moretonhampstead.

Baptism: Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1727  Aug 16th was baptized Jane daughr of Jane Nosworthy
                a base child


It is probably this baby Jane who died in 1799 as Joan Battershill, ‘aged 73’. There are two possible candidates for her unmarried mother. They were second cousins. Both were the youngest child in their family.



Baptism: Moreton Hampstead, St Andrews.
1695  August 08 was Baptized Jane daughtr of Mr Matthias Nosworthy


Matthias Nosworthy was a prosperous tanner, as was his father. He almost certainly had his own family business. He was the senior member of one of the leading Moretonhampstead families, with properties in Moreton and elsewhere. Jane’s baptism is the first time he is called ‘Mr’ in the registers. The title of ‘Mr’ was only given to a few men, gentry or professional people of some standing. In a record of 1691 he is described as ‘Gent’.

Jane’s mother was Ann Corynder, also the daughter of a gentleman in Bratton Clovelly, north-west of Dartmoor.

Jane was the youngest of their surviving children.

For nearly twenty years before her birth, and perhaps longer, the family had been living at Slankcombe, or Sloncombe, a sheltered coombe a mile north-west of Moretonhampstead. Jane was probably born at Great Sloncombe Farm, which dates back to the 13th century, though it was largely rebuilt in the 16th -18th centuries. Eventually, and perhaps before she was ten, her father handed Sloncombe over to her older brothers John and Charles, and moved to High Hayne, a substantial house to the south of Moreton, just off the Bovey road. Her brother John was described like her father, as ‘gent’, presumably having charge of the estate, while her brother Charles took over the tannery.

It is thus surprising to find this gentleman’s daughter described in 1728 as a ‘seamstress’. Stating an occupation at all is unusual for any woman, and this one sounds particularly odd for the well-connected Jane. Legal documents from the same large collection define the Nosworthy men by their occupation, or by their status as ‘gentleman’. Nosworthy women are defined by their relationship to a male family member, or as ‘spinster’ or ‘widow’. One woman from another family is called a ‘yeoman’. Another file from Wiltshire does have the unmarried mother ‘Miss J. Nosworthy and Son, farmers’.

It is tempting to see this occupation as a fall from grace, which might be explicable if Jane, still unmarried at 32, were the mother of baby Jane born out of wedlock the previous year. Certainly, by the middle of the next century there was a huge number of stories, both fact and fiction, which made the term ‘seamstress’ almost synonymous with a fallen woman.


Given the vast amount of literature on seamstresses produced during this period, it seems remarkable at first that virtually every source one consults tells the same story: a story in which a happy, healthy and virtuous young woman leaves her home in the countryside to become a seamstress in the big city where she encounters an evil employer and/or seducer, and begins an irreversible decline leading to death and/or prostitution.

“Slaves of the Needle”: The Seamstress in the 1840s. Beth Harris.


The baby girl, who may or may not be hers, was baptised on 16 July 1727. Sometimes such children were given the father’s name as well as the mother’s. There is no indication here who the father was. The Overseers of the Poor usually conducted an examination requiring the mother to name the father under oath, so that he could be made to maintain the child and it would not become a burden on the parish. If there was such a bastardy bond for Jane Nosworthy’s baby, it has not survived. The Nosworthy family may have been considered affluent enough not to need one.

There are, however, problems with this interpretation. The document in which Jane is described as a seamstress is a marriage settlement. Jane was marrying into another high-status family. Her husband, the 26-year-old woolcomber Walter Hutchings, was the younger brother of ‘Mr John Hutchings’. He settled on her a substantial marriage portion of land and houses, which other members of the Hutchings family were renting. Brothers of both bride and groom acted as overseers.


  1. Marriage Settlement.
    1. Walter Hutchings of Moretonhampstead, woolcomber.
    2. John Nosworthy of Moretonhampstead, gent, Charles Nosworthy of Moretonhampstead, tanner, John Hutchings of Moretonhampstead, woolcomber, brother of 1., and William Gifford of Exeter, grocer.
    3. Jane Nosworthy of Moretonhampstead, seamstress, sister of John and Charles Nosworthy.

Premises: three fields called Emelfords, and assignment of one dwellinghouse with the shops and outbuildings belonging to it lying in the town of Moretonhampstead now in the tenure of Mr Thomas Waldren, clothier for the residue of a term of 99 years determinable on the lives of Martha Skinner of Moretonhampstead widow, formerly Martha Hutchings and of Elianor, wife of William Medland tailor, formerly Elianor Hutchings, sister of Martha, and of 99 years determinable on the life of Thomas Hutchings brother of John and Walter, and of one dwellinghouse in the town of Moretonhampstead now in the possession of 1. formerly two dwellinghouses before they were new built, and the outhouses, garden, orchard and backside for the residue of a term of 99 years determinable on the lives of John and Walter Hutchings and Honour their sister, wife of William Gifford


Whether or not she already had a baby, Jane was six months pregnant when she married Walter in June 1728. The substantial marriage settlement makes it highly unlikely that this was a marriage of convenience, in which the Nosworthy family persuaded or induced Walter to take the pregnant Jane off their hands. He was almost certainly the father of her unborn child.

The question then arises, was he also the father of the baby born the previous year and this Jane Nosworthy her unmarried mother? If so, why did they not marry then? And why, in any case, did they leave their marriage so late in this pregnancy? It was certainly not uncommon for a bride to be pregnant at the altar, but six months is unusual.

It is hard not to connect this sequence of events with the death of Jane’s father a month previously. Mr Mathias Nosworthy was buried on 12 May 1728. Jane and Walter were granted a marriage licence on 6 June. Had Mathias been opposing the marriage? Yet it is difficult to see what objection he could have had. Walter came from a well-regarded and prosperous family.  One possible cause of difference was his religion. Walter and his brothers were Presbyterians, attending the Cross Street Meeting House. Mathias Nosworthy was brought up in the Puritan tradition, but within the Church of England. Feelings ran high on religious issues, but it is difficult to imagine he would have preferred the disgrace of Jane becoming an unmarried mother to marriage to a Presbyterian. Indeed, his own younger son Charles was a Presbyterian, though the eldest, John, still supported the parish church. There is no sign that Mathias disinherited Charles.

Perhaps Jane had known her father’s death was imminent and kept her pregnancy secret from him, hoping that she could still be married in time.

Whatever the reason for the delay, it was her Presbyterian brother Charles who accompanied Jane and Walter to the diocesan authorities in Exeter and witnessed the allegation necessary to obtain the licence. Marriages at this time were always solemnised by the Church of England, though baptisms could be performed in a Nonconformist chapel.


Exeter Marriage Allegation
1728  Hutchings, Walter of Moretonhampstead, woolcomber and Jane Nosworthy of same. Witness: Charles Nosworthy of same, tanner.  June 6.

Exeter Marriage Licence
1728  Hutchings, Walter of Moretonhampstead, woolcomber and Jane Nosworthy of same, spinster.  June 6.


Speed was necessary. The licence enabled the couple to avoid the three week delay involved in calling banns. It also meant they could marry somewhere other than in their parish church.

The marriage would have taken place immediately, perhaps the same day, but we do not know where. There is no evidence of it in Moretonhampstead or Exeter.


Jane and Walter returned to live in or near Moreton and had their babies baptised at the Cross Street Meeting House.

Baptisms. Cross Meeting or New Meeting. Presbyterian.
1728  Septemr 2nd was Baptized Honor  Daugr of Walter Hutchings
1730  August 13th was Baptized Anne Daugr of Walter Hutchings
1732  June 8th was Baptized John Son of Walter Hutchings
1734  April 8th was Baptized Margaret Daugr of Walter Hutchings
1736  Novemr 5th was Baptized Jane Daugr of Walter Hutchings
1738  Septemr was Baptized Andrew Son of Walter Hutchings

Andrew was buried in 1752 and was then said to be the son of ‘Mrs Jane Hutchings’, marking her as a gentlewoman. Walter must already have died.

In 1812, her surviving son John is called ‘gent’ in another document concerning Emblefords. This shows that the property deeded to Jane as her marriage settlement had passed to him.


The other possibility for the baby’s mother is:


Baptism. Moretonhampstead. St Andrews.
1700  May 09 was Baptized Jane Nosworthy, daughter of Edward Nosworthy

Her mother was Judith Davy, also from an old Moretonhampstead family. She died when Jane was born.

Edward Nosworthy was a cousin of Matthias Nosworthy of Slankcombe. He is never referred to as ‘Mr’, unlike his older brother, referred to in the registers as ‘Matthias Nosworthy in Town’. Nevertheless, he was well-connected. This Jane would have grown up in a relatively comfortable home, but without a mother. She had four surviving sisters, Lydia, Judith and Elizabeth, 16, 15, and 13 years older, and Agnis, just three years her senior. The only boy to survive infancy was Edward, who was six when Jane was born. We can imagine the youngest three being cared for by their teenage sisters, with Edward, the only boy, no doubt being the most petted, but Jane the baby of the family.

There is no record of this younger Jane being married before 1727. If she was the unmarried mother, she was 27 when her baby was born.


There is a wedding the following year, which may be hers.

Marriage. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1728  Septembr 24 were Married William Launder and Jane Nosworthy


William and Jane Launder went on to have four children, Katharine in 1729, Jane in 1731, Jeremiah in 1734 and Thomas in 1739. The family were evidently poor. In 1743 the Overseers of the Poor apprenticed Jane Launder to the Rev. Dr James Hynes and Jerimiah to Thomas Pethybridge, yeoman. The children would have been 12 and 9. We do not know whether this family was always poor or whether they fell into poverty as a result of some misfortune, such as accident, illness or fire.


If William was a poor man, it raises the question of why a woman from the well-to-do Nosworthy family would marry him. Younger brothers sometimes slipped down the social scale, but Edward appears on a list of tinners responsible for equipping an armed man. It may have been a way of disposing of the disgraced Jane Nosworthy, if she had born a natural child, whether or not William Launder was the father. The fact that the couple went on to have a daughter Jane, the same name as the fatherless baby, is an argument against this, but not a conclusive one.


William Launder predeceased Jane.


There is another possible marriage early in 1733, when Jane, daughter of Edward, would have been 32.

Marriage. St Andrew’s, Moretonhampstead.
1732(3)  Janry 31 were married Cyrus Hill & Jane Nosworthy

The Hills were a higher status family. Indeed, Thomas Hill had once occupied Sloncombe, which later passed to Matthias Nosworthy. This might seem a more appropriate marriage than that to William Launder.


This couple had three children: Cyrus, baptised 7 April 1734, and twins Mary and Jane, baptised 30 Oct 1737. Baby Jane Hill died when she was nearly one year old.


The number of Jane or Joan (the names were interchangeable) Nosworthys raises the possibility than the unmarried mother of baby Jane in 1727 might not have been born in Moreton and is neither the daughter of Mathias nor Edward. However, the Overseers of the Poor were keen to ensure that fatherless babies were not born in their parish, unless the mother had the right of settlement there.


There are burials which could also relate to the unmarried mother or her daughter.

Burial. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1730  May 5th was buried Jane Nosworthy

She is not said to be anyone’s child, wife or widow. She may have been a single adult.

1761  April 18th was buried Joan Nosworthy

By this time ‘Joan’ had come to replace ‘Jane’ as the more usual form of the name. Our Jane would either have been 65 or 60.


There is thus no conclusive evidence for the identity of the baby’s mother, or for determining what happened after the birth. Jane may have died single soon after, or married, either to a poor man or to an affluent one, and borne a larger family, or remained single into her sixties. Nor do we do know if she kept her baby, or whether it was reared by a married relative, as often happened.






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