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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 married and raised his family in South Tawton, but there is no record of his baptism there, nor in the surrounding villages. His marriage in 1688 suggests a birth-date around 1660. There were Richard Battishills in South Tawton in the 16th century, evidenced in the churchwardens’ accounts.[1] A century on, in 1656/7, Joane, daughter of Richard Battishill was baptised. A few months later, on May 25 1657, there is a baptism for a child of Andrew Battishill, but the name and sex are illegible. It is just possible that this child was Richard. Other possibilities are the parishes of Throwleigh and Spreyton, where the registers begin only in 1653 and 1663 respectively.

South Tawton is the fourth largest parish in the diocese of Exeter, taking in a swathe of north-east Dartmoor, including the prominent hill of Cawsand Beacon. It includes the village of South Zeal, which is now larger than South Tawton, but which has no parish church, only a small chapel. This was founded in the middle ages by a guild of weavers.[2]

There was a prominent family of Battishills in South Tawton, going back to at least the 14th century. They bought the historic house of West Wyke, in the south of the parish, from the Wyke family in the 1500s [3]. ,John Battishill rebuilt it in 1656.[4] This family are listed in the Heralds’ Visitations and have a coat of arms.[5] There was a single wealthy branch of the family in neighbouring Drewsteignton, two of whom have memorial tablets on the wall of the nave in South Tawton church.

It is very probable that Richard was descended from a younger son of this family, but how far back it is impossible to say. As well as gentry, the South Tawton Battishills included smiths who did work on the church bells and yeomen farmers.[6] Richard’s son, Richard junior, married the daughter of a well-to-do yeoman, so it is likely he was of similar stock himself.

Despite the uncertainty, it is very likely that Richard was born on the north-east fringes of Dartmoor. If he was not a native of South Tawton, he settled in that parish before his wedding.

The churchwardens’ accounts give the names of those who paid the church rate. The name of Richard Battishill occurs in the 1670s. This could be our Richard if he were an independent householder this early, but is more likely to be a man of an older generation. The rates charged to him were not the smallest in the parish, but at the lower end of the scale.


ELIZABETH REEVE was married in South Tawton, but came from the neighbouring parish of Throwleigh, further south. She was the daughter of William Reeve and, probably, Isett, or just possibly Cresett.

Byrths. Throwleigh. (DCRS transcript)
1659  Reeve, Elizabeth  d. of William. 15 May.

This was the last year of the republican Commonwealth. There was then a form of civil registration. Births-dates were recorded. Usually the date of baptism was given as well, but no date is recorded for Elizabeth’s christening.

Since the Throwleigh registers only begin in 1653, we cannot be sure of the size of the Reeve family. Elizabeth seems to be the youngest. She had at least two older brothers and a sister. An earlier baby Elizabeth must have died. She may also have had a different mother from the others. Cresett, wife of William Reeve, was buried in 1658, though this may be Elizabeth’s grandmother.

Throwleigh is even more of a moorland parish than South Tawton, running up on to the high moor. Oliver Cromwell was already dead when Elizabeth was born. The Puritan republic had grown increasingly unpopular and Elizabeth grew up in Throwleigh during the Restoration period, following the return of the Stuart monarchy in 1660.

Her father seems to have died in 1668, unless this burial is her grandfather’s. Elizabeth was only nine. If her mother was Isett Reeve, widow, then she died in 1687.

At some point, Elizabeth seems to have moved to South Tawton, where she was apparently settled at the time of her marriage.

Marriage Register. St Andrew’s, South Tawton  (DCRS transcript)
1688  Battishill, Richard & Elizabeth Reeve  24 Jul

Elizabeth was 29. We do not know how old Richard was.

South Tawton is a tiny village, drawing its parishioners from South Zeal and a wide rural area. Its church is set into the slope of a hill above the village street. Beside the lych gate is a fine 14th century Church House, with granite steps leading up from either side to a first floor door.

The Reeves may have lived in South Tawton or South Zeal, or on an outlying farm, but it was to this church that Richard and Elizabeth brought seven children to be baptised.

Baptismal Register. St Andrew’s South Tawton. (DCRS transcript)
1689  Battishill, Richard  s. Richard & Elizabeth.  14 May
1690  Battishill, Elizabeth  d. Richard & Elizabeth.  10 Jun
1691/2  Battishill, Richard  s. Richard & Elizabeth.  6 Mch
1694  Battishill, Joan  d. Richard & Elizabeth.  25 Nov
1696  Battishill, Mary  d. Richard & Elizabeth.  11 Oct
1698/9  Battishell, Richard  s. Richard & Elizabeth.  7 May
1703  Battishill, Agnes  d. Richard & Elizabeth.  22 Aug


No burials have been found in South Tawton for the first two Richards, but we can assume that they died. They may have been buried in another parish churchyard, if that was more convenient for the family. Unless any of the girls died too, the couple were left with four daughters and a son.


The burial register for 1702 lists Mary Battishill, widow, and adds a note that Richard Battishill is her son. It is not clear if this Richard is Elizabeth’s husband, or an older man. There are two possible burials for Richard himself. The first is:

Burial. St Andrew’s, South Tawton. (DCRS transcript)
1707  Battishill, Richard.  24 July.

The affidavit was sworn by Mary Battishill. This can hardly be Richard and Elizabeth’s daughter, who was only eleven years old. Probably this burial is an older Richard.


In 1716, Richard and Elizabeth’s only surviving son, Richard junior, seems to have married at the young age of seventeen. His bride, Elizabeth Hamlyn of Moretonhampstead, was only thirteen. She was the daughter of a yeoman farmer. The young ages of the bride and groom suggest that they were from families affluent enough support the teenagers until they reached maturity.

Richard junior and his bride settled in Moreton and raise their family there.


There is a burial the following year which could be the older Elizabeth.

Burial. St Andrew’s, South Tawton. (DCRS transcript)
1717  Battishill, Elizabeth.  9 Nov.

If so, then her husband lived on for another ten years. There was another burial in South Tawton which is more likely to be Richard senior than the earlier one.

Burial. St Andrew’s, South Tawton. (DCRS transcript)
1727/8  Battishill, Richard.  3 Jan.



[1] Ethel Lega-Weekes, transcr., South Tawton Churchwarden’s Accounts. (DCRS).
[2] Church Guide: St Andrew, South Tawton, and St Mary, South Zeal.
[3] Trevor Williams, the present owner of West Wyke.
[4] W.G. Hoskins, Devon, David & Charles, 1972, p.491.
[5] Frederic Thomas Colby, ed., The Visitation of the County of Devon: In the Year 1564, with additions from the Earlier Visitation of 1531. Pollard 1881
[6] Lega-Weekes.






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