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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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There are two possibilities for the parents of Jane Nosworthy. The fathers are first cousins. The Nosworthys were one of the most prominent Moretonhampstead families in the 17th and early 18th century.




MATHIAS NOSWORTHY of Slankcombe was the most senior Nosworthy of his generation in Moretonhampstead, the eldest son of an eldest son. He was born in 1650, to Mathias Nosworthy and Anne Hill née Ellis. Anne already had two small sons and a daughter by her first marriage.

Baptism. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1650  May 26 was baptized Mathias ye sonne of Mathias Nosworthy


This was the year after the execution of Charles I, at the beginning of the Commonwealth when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of England. Moretonhampstead’s church seems to have embraced the Puritan cause with enthusiasm. The name Mathias Nosworthy appears on church documents in the 1650s and 60s. In some cases this could be his grandfather, but it is more probably his father throughout. In the 1660s he was one of the ‘Eight Men’ responsible for the upkeep of the church. We can therefore assume that young Mathias was brought up in a pious home, attending church services in the austere Puritan tradition.

Mathias was 10 when, two years after Cromwell’s death, the monarchy was restored under Charles II.

His mother’s first husband’s family had farmed at Sloncombe, a mile west of the town, and it is possible Mathias grew up on that farm. His father , however, was a tanner, with considerable property interests in Moreton and other parishes. By the end of his life Mathias senior was styled ‘Mr’ in the registers, ranking him as gentry.

Young Mathias followed him into the tannery business.

When he was 18, his father took out a 1000-year mortgage and lease on land at Sloncombe, or Slankcombe. This may be because Mathias’s stepbrother, John Hill, was now old enough to take over the family farm and the Nosworthys needed a place of their own.

His mother died in 1673, when Mathias was 23. It was probably soon after this that he married.


ANN CORYNDEN was the daughter of John Corynden, Gentleman, of Bratton Clovelly. The village lies halfway between Okehampton and Launceston. She was baptized there in 1651.

Baptism. Bratton Clovelly
1651 August 25  Ann daughter of John Corindon gent.


There is no record of Mathias and Ann’s marriage in Moretonhampstead or in Bratton Clovelly. The evidence for it comes in John Corynden’s will of 1705, in which he makes bequests to his grandsons John and Charles Nosworthy, and his daughter ‘Ann Nosworthy, wife of Matthias Nosworthy’. Their first son was born at the end of 1675, so it is likely they married earlier that year. It may well have been their marriage which caused Philip Cornish, the owner of property at Sloncombe, and Mathias senior, his tenant, to sublet houses and land there to Mathias junior.

1675, Sloncombe
Lease for one year

  1. Phillip Cornish of Moretonhampstead, gent, and Matthias Nosworthy the elder of Moretonhampstead, tanner
  2. Matthias Nosworthy the younger of Moretonhampstead, tanner, son and heir apparent of Matthias Nosworthy the elder

Premises: one messuage and tenement called Slancombe, late in the possession of 1., excepting one messuage and tenement called the higher tenement and parcels of ground called Julyans downes, formerly part of the said messuage called Slancombe

A ‘messuage’ is ‘a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use’. The legal use of the word ‘tenement’ is ‘any kind of permanent property, e.g. lands or rents, held from a superior’.


Baptisms. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1675  Decembr 23 was Baptized John sonne of Mathyas Nosworthy

After this first son, the identification of their children is complicated by the fact that Mathias’s uncle John also had a son called Matthias, who now began raising a family in Moretonhampstead too. He is sometimes called ‘Matthias Nosworthy in Town’, to distinguish him from ‘Matthias Nosworthy of Slankcombe’. But this identification is not always given.

1677(8) March 05 was Baptized Sarah daughter of Mathias Nosworthy Junr of
1680 May 18 Elizabeth daughter of Matthias Nosworthy Slankcombe
1682  June 19 was Baptized Charles sonne of Matthias Nosworthy of Slankcombe

Since the qualification ‘Junior’ has been dropped, it is probable that Mathias senior died 1678-80.

After that, it becomes more difficult.

1684  Novembr 04 was Baptized George son of Matthias Nosworthy
1686  Septemr 11 was Baptized Thomas sonn of Matthias Nosworthy
1686(7)  March 03 was Baptized Margareth daughtr of Matthias Nosworthy

Clearly the last two are too close together to be of the same parents.

1689  July 02 was Baptized Susanna daughtr of Matthias Nosworthy.

Susanna died in infancy.

R.R Sellman, who reconstructed Moretonhampstead families from the registers, believes that George, who was styled ‘Mr’ at his marriage, and Margareth were children of the Slankcombe family, while Thomas and Susanna were children of Mathias Nosworthy in Town.


The title ‘Mr Matthias Nosworthy’ occurs in a muster roll c.1690, showing him responsible for the equipment of ‘One man’s Armes’. One entry is linked to the property of Haine, where Matthias died.

The first occurrence found so far of Matthias Nosworthy Gent is in a List of Tynners of 1691, when Matthias was 41. This is a list of Moretonhampstead men and women ‘that are to maintain Armes wthin our pish for the Stannary of Chagford.’ ‘Mathias Nosworthy Gent’ is listed twice. He is solely responsible for contributing ‘50 to one man’s Armes’ and the same amount jointly with three others. Clearly these citizens, who include several widows, were not working in the tin mines on Dartmoor. They were wealthy landholders, who had inherited or acquired the statuary rights of tinners, which also carried responsibilities. Some men on the list are called ‘Mr’. ‘Gent’ appears to be a higher status.


So far as it is possible to define the important and recognized distinction between ‘gentle’ and ‘simple’ in the new England, the ‘gentleman’ was a landowner who could show a coat of arms, and who had the right when he wished it to wear a rapier and to challenge to the duel any other ‘gentleman’ from a Duke downwards. But yeomen and merchants were constantly finding entrance into this class by marriage and by purchase of lands, and the younger sons of the manor-house normally passed out of it into trade, manufacture, scholarship, the Church or military service abroad, in some cases carrying with them their pretension to gentility, in other cases tacitly abandoning it.

………At the bottom of the scale of gentry was the small squire who farmed his few paternal acres, talked in dialect with his yeomen neighbours as they rode together to market, and brought up, with the help of his hardworking wife and the village schoolmaster, a dozen sturdy, ragged lads and lasses, who tumbled about together in the orchard round his ‘hall’, a modest farmstead not seldom converted by posterity into a barn.

G. M. Trevelyan. Illustrated History of England.1956


By 1992, his cousin, Matthias Nosworthy in Town was also being styled ‘Mr’.


We then have another baptism.

1695  August 08 was Baptized Jane daughtr of Mr Matthias Nosworthy

We know from later documents that this Jane was sister to John and Charles, and therefore the child of Matthias and Ann of Slankcombe. She may be the Jane Nosworthy we want in the next generation.


Shortly afterwards, Matthew Nosworthy of Slankcombe was the defendant in a Chancery Suit. Ten years previously, his stepbrother, John Hill, had sold the property of Bowd to Matthew’s father, Matthew Nosworthy Senior. Bowd may be Bowden Farm, under Butterdon Down, north of Moreton, or Bood’s Tenement in Sloncombe. John Hill Junior, who was a tailor, was now bringing a lawsuit against Matthew Nosworthy Junior. The details of the lawsuit are not known, but we may presume that John Hill was claiming either that he, and not Matthew Junior, was the rightful owner, or that the terms of the sale had not been adhered to.


The following year there was another baptism.

1697(08)  January 07 was Baptized James sonne of Mr Matthias Nosworthy

James was buried three days later.


As a leading citizen of Moretonhampstead, it is probably this Matthias Nosworthy whose name heads a petition about the decline of wool manufacture in 1698. Moreton had long been the centre of a thriving wool industry. It had one of the earliest fulling mills in the county, built in 1297 down by the Wray Brook.


During the 17th century, competition from other parts of Engand and cheap imports from Ireland led to a gradual decline and ultimate extinction of this ancient industry. Efforts were made to protect cloth manufacture throughout the country, and petitions were organised by many of the worst affected centres; Moreton’s own petition signed by Matthew Nosworthy and 108 other inhabitants was presented to the House of Lords in 1698. It reads:

‘Petition of Gentlemen, Freeholders, Traders, and Other Inhabitants of Moretonhampstead in Devon. The trade of the town, which consists in serges, has been much decayed of late by the multitude of serges made in Ireland, and the growth of that trade there, being much cheaper made by reason of the low price of wool and provisions and labourers, whereby they undersell the English and encourage foreigners to lay their stock out with them, who formerly were obliged to have all their serges from England, so that unless a remedy be found, the English trade will be wholly lost, and the poor increased beyond the power of maintaining them.’

This petition had little effect, and woollen manufacture continued its slow decline.

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


Similar petitions were submitted by other parishes. The campaign was rewarded by legislation. It may not have saved the Westcountry wool industry, but it destroyed that in Ireland. Cromwell had settled many Protestant Scottish and English soldiers there after the Civil War, with small grants of land. But most of them had sold out to bigger landowners and became artisans.


The English Parliament. . . prevented the growth of a large Protestant population by stopping the export of Irish cloth, in the interest of her own West-country clothiers (1698) . . . The net result of this economic and religious jealousy was that over 20,000 of the best Protestant stock in the world left Ulster, and the American backwoods were peopled with dour Scotsmen, who had even less reason than the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers to love the English State.

G.M. Trevelyan. England Under the Stuarts.



From 1705 onwards, Matthias’s own sons begin to appear as fathers in the registers, with the identification ‘Mr Charles Nosworthy of Sloncombe’ and ‘Mr John Nosworthy of Slankcombe’. John continued to use the parish church, but Charles followed Moretonhampstead’s dissenting tradition and had his children baptized at Cross Street Presbyterian Meeting. The parish church register does have an unusual entry for Charles’s first child, recording his birth rather than his baptism. It seems the Anglican Establishment could not let this event in the Nosworthy family pass unrecorded, even if the baptism took place elsewhere. It may have been Matthias’s influence which ensured this record.

1705 (1706) March 12 was Born Matthias Son of Mr Charles Nosworthy of Sloncombe


Matthias son George died at the age of 36. His tombstone, marking his burial in St Andrews churchyard in January 1720 (1721, new calendar), is inscribed in Latin, giving his name as ‘Georgius’.


Matthias lived to see his grandchildren grow up. He was 78 when he died.

Burial. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1728  May 12 was Buried Mr Mathias Nosworthy


During his lifetime, his holdings of land in Moreton and beyond had continued to grow. A document of 1750, relating to his grandson Charles, son of Charles, talks of:

one messuage and tenement called Sloncombe als. Lower Sloncombe, formerly Cornishes, lying in or near the village of Sloncombe, and also two fields called the Burrough Meadow and the New Parke containing two acres, formerly part of a tenement called Boods Tenement lying in or near the village of Sloncombe, all which were formerly in the possession of Matthias Nosworthy of Moretonhampstead, gent., deceased, grandfather of 2.; one messuage, cottage and tenement called Mean als. Mayne and Cottey als. the Coate, in Dunsford, formerly in the possession of Matthias Nosworthy the grandfather.


His tombstone describes him as no longer living at Slankcombe but ‘Gent of High Hayn’. White’s Devonshire Directory of 1850 records that the Earl of Devon is lord of the manor of Moreton, but there are three smaller manors in the parish, including High Hayne. Hayne is a substantial house about a mile south of Moretonhampstead, overlooking the road to Bovey Tracey. High Hayne and Great Sloncombe remained in the possession of the Nosworthy family until 1746, when a Nosworthy heiress married John Southmead of Wray Barton, heir of another leading Moretonhampstead family.

In the year of Matthias’s death, a document describes his eldest son John as ‘gentleman’ and the younger Charles as ‘tanner’. Both lived at Sloncombe. This may indicate that John was managing the estate, while Charles followed his father in the tannery business. But John could have been a tanner as well as a gentleman, and Charles had considerable property interests.


A month after Matthias’s death, his youngest daughter Jane obtained a licence to marry Walter Hutchings, woolcomber of Moretonhampstead. She was six months pregnant. Since Walter came of a good family and gave her a substantial marriage settlement, it is hard see why their wedding was so long delayed. One possible answer is that Matthias had been opposing the union. It is difficult to think of a reason for him to do this, strong enough to warrant her disgrace otherwise as an unmarried mother. Walter, like Matthias’s son Charles, was a Presbyterian. It is just possible that Matthias opposed their marriage on sectarian grounds.





EDWARD NOSWORTHY was cousin to Matthias Nosworthy of Sloncombe and a younger brother of Matthias Nosworthy in Town. He was the second child of John Nosworthy and Agnes Harriss.

Baptism. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1657 July 5 was baptized Edward ye sonne of John Nosworthy


He too was brought up in a family prominent in the church and the town. Indeed, if the elaborate signature of John Nosworthy in the registers is his father’s, this may be the more lettered branch of the family.

His mother died in childbirth when he was two.


JUDITH DAVY was from a family who also appear at the start of the Moreton registers. In 1605 Humphrie Davie married Jane Hamlin. Humphrey was a common name in this family, suggesting a connection with the later Humphrey Davy of Cornwall, who invented the miner’s safety lamp.

Jane was the eldest child of John Davye and Judith Oxenham. She was baptized in St Andrew’s, Moretonhampstead, on 14 May 1661. She had a younger brother called Humphry.


Edward and Judith married in 1683, when Edward was 25 and Judith 21. Judith appears to have been pregnant at her wedding.

Marriage. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1682(3)  March 13 were Married Edward Nosworthy and Judith Davy

Baptisms. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1683  August  12 was Baptized Lydia daughter of Edward Nosworthy


There followed a number of other children. As often happened, Edward had to have three attempts at naming an eldest son before one survived infancy. He was left with only surviving boy in a family of daughters.

1684  August 12 was Baptized Judith daughter of Edward Nosworthy
1686  August 3 was Baptized Elizabeth daughter of Edward Nosworthy
1688  Decemb 27th was Baptized Edward Sonne of Edward Nosworthy

Edward was buried on March 11 1688(9)

1689(90)  February 09 was Baptized Edward sonne of Edward Nosworthy

This Edward too died, and was buried June 03, 1690.

1691  July 13 was Baptized John sonne of Edward Nosworthy

John lived for five years and was buried July 16th 1696


In 1691 the name of Edward Nosworthy appears twice on ‘A List of Tynners’ who are responsible for providing money for ‘one man’s Armes’.  The first is ‘Edward Nosworthy Clarke’, who shares the responsibility with a group of seven. The other is simply ‘Edward Nosworthy’ in a group of eight. A ‘Clarke’ was a minister of the Church. There is some reason to believe that Edward’s uncle Edward may have been a minister. It is more likely that plain ‘Edward Nosworthy’ is our younger Edward, son of John. The fact that he was included in this list marks him out as a man of means, even if he was not of as high a status as Matthias Nosworthy Gent.

1693  July 13 was Baptized Edward sonne of Edward Nosworthy

This Edward at last survived.

There is a possible burial of a daughter Susan in 1696, for whom no baptism has been found.

1697  Aprill 06th was Baptized Agnis daughter of Edward Nosworthy

Like Edward’s mother, Judith died in childbirth.

1700 May 06 was Buried Judith wife of Edward Nosworthy
1700  May 09 was Baptized Jane daughter of Edward Nosworthy

Either this Jane Nosworthy or Jane, daughter of Matthias of Sloncombe, may be the woman we want.


Edward was left to rear a houseful of motherless daughters and one precious son.


In none of these many records is Edward called ‘Mr’, and nor is his son. He did not achieve his cousin’s status of gentleman. We have no evidence of his occupation. As a member of the Nosworthy family, contributing to the equipment of an armed man, he would have held a respected place in the community with a comfortable income.


Edward died in 1732, aged 74.

Burial. Moretonhampstead, St Andrews.
1731(2)  Jany 3 was buried Edward Nosworthy






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