The Palk family

I have added numbers to the various Walter Palks in this account. The first Walter names his 'cousin' Walter [2], son of Thomas Palke deceased, in his will.

From Charles Worthy's 'Devon Parishes': 'Walter Palke was buried at Ashburton in 1679, and he is the first I find mentioned in connection with this parish. He appears to have had a brother Thomas and a sister Dionysia, who married Townsend, to her he leaves £10 by his will, dated 5th November 1677, and proved in the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, 19th December 1679, and of which the following is an extract.
5th November, 1677 - Walter Palke of the towne of Ashburton, yeoman. To my sister Dionis Townsend, £10, and her life in all my lands lying in Ashburton, after the death of my wife Agnes. To my cousin Margaret, daughter of Dionis Townsend, Joan and John Townsend, £10 to the first and 50s each to the two last.
To my cousin Walter, the son of Thomas Palke, deceased, reversion of the lands aforesaid, charged with 20s a year to my cousin Dionis; residue to Agnes my wife, who is sole executrix. Witnesses: Thomas Palke, Agnes, William and Mary Hannaford. Proved 19th December, 1679.
The inventory of the effects of the deceased, mentions inter aliis the value of his wearing apparel, £1; money in his purse, 13s 6d; one pair of looms, 10s; ten pewter dishes, 16s. The total of the personal effects amounted to £65 7s 6d...'
Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2, Exeter and London 1889, p326ff

'The agreement of marriage between Stephen Townsend of this pish and Dewnes Palke daug of Dewnes Palke widowe, also of this pish, was delivered unto the Register the 5th day Ap 1656, and published three Lord's Daies following.
12 May 1656 The said Stephen Townsend and Dewnes Palke the young were married before Thomas Reynell Esq Justice of the Peace.'
Devon Banns registers

Walter Palke [1], yeoman, was buried at Ashburton 9th November 1679, affidavit made by Thomasin Robins jnr., witnessed by Agnis Palke and Joan Rowe.
Parish records

Walter Palke [2], son of Thomas Palke deceased. 'The will of this Walter is dated February 22nd, 1705; he describes himself as Walter Palk senr. of Ashburton, and leaves to Walter "Paulk my eldest son, all my lands after the decease of his mother", charged with the following payments, £40 to Jonathan my second son, £30 to Thomas my third son, £30 to Grace Palke my daughter. Residue to Grace my wife who is sole executrix. Witnesses: John Smerdon, John Furseman, Robert Jerman. Proved, Peculiar Court, Dean and Chapter, Exeter, 22nd May, 1707. Personal estate £160 10s 5½d.
The maiden name of his wife was Ryder, and in her right he acquired a small farm, called Lower Headborough, close to Ashburton. Her eldest son Walter [3], is described as of Headborough. He married Frances, fifth daughter of Robert Abraham, yeoman, of Gurrington, in the adjoining parish of Woodland...
Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2, Exeter and London 1889, p326ff

A Walter Palke, possibly Walter [2],  was baptised at Ashburton 27th May 1660, the son of Thomas.
Walter Palke was buried on the 4th March 1705/06 (the new year then began on March 25th, so we would now say 4th March 1706 -
Parish records

'Walter Palk [3], of Headborough, had two sons, first, Walter of Headborough and of Yolland Hill [4], born 1714, died 1801; second Robert Palk, born 1717, created a baronet, 1782. He also had a daugher Grace, who married Richard Welland, and had a son, Robert Palk Welland...'

Children of Walter Palk [3]
Robert Palk born 1717. 'Robert Palk, second son of Walter Palk [3] of Headborough, in the parish of Ashburton, and Frances Abraham, his wife, was baptized at the old Meeting House at Ashburton, 10th December, 1717...He was sent to the ancient Grammar School of his native town, and educated by the Rev. John Bayly, whose Episcopal licence, as Head Master there, is dated 13th January, 1728...Upon leaving the Grammar School he went to reside with a maternal uncle, a clergyman called Blatchford, who resided in Fowey in Cornwall. Ultimately another uncle, Mr Abraham of Gurrington, undertook the cost of sending him to Oxford...He was subsequently ordained Deacon, by Bishop Weston in Exeter Cathedral, and was afterwards for two years Curate of Egloskerry and Lanelly in Cornwall; he then went to India, as Chaplain on board the Stirling Castle, and during his clerical service in that country attracted the notice of General Lawrence, who in 1752 obtained an appointment for him as Paymaster and Commissary to the Army of which he had then assumed the command. But previously to this Mr. Palk had realized a considerable sum of money by judicious speculations, and he was now in a position which enabled him to save more; so that when he reached the age of forty he found that he had acquired a fortune...He came back to England for the first time in 1759, and in 1763, was appointed Governor of Madras. About this time he purchased Haldon house in the parish of Kenn, and on 7th December, 1767, was returned one of the Members of Parliament for his native town...Mr Palk retained his seat for Ashburton in successive Parliaments until 18th June, 1790, when his son Lawrence was elected in his stead.'
Ibid p330ff

'Robert Palk, son of Walter, of Ashburton, Devon, pleb. Matriculated Wadham College 15th April 1736, aged 18. B 1739.
Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, 1888, p1059

....Robert, born in 1717, was sent as a sizar to Oxford, by the assistance of his uncle Abraham. He was ordained Deacon, and became a poor curate in Cornwall. On Christmastide he walked to Ashburton to see his father, and as he was returning on his way home he stood on Dart Bridge, looking down on the river, when a gentleman riding by recognised him, drew up, and said, "Is that you, Palk?" He had been a fellow student at Oxford. Palk had a sad story to tell of privation and vexation. The other suggested to him to seek his fortune under John Company in India, and volunteered an introduction. He went out, acting as chaplain to the Sterling Castle, and during the time he was in India attracted the attention of General Lawrence, who in 1752 obtained for him an appointment as paymaster to the army, of which he had then assumed the command. But already by clever speculation Mr Palk had done well; the new position enabled him to vastly enlarge his profits.
He next embarked in trade, and this also proved remunerative. He came back to England for the first time in 1759...'
Sabine Baring-Gould, A Book of the West, London, 1899, p291

Children of Walter Palk [3] cont.
Walter Palk [4] born 1714 had a son Jonathan who became Vicar of Ilsington, and wrote*, ' "My father [Walter Palk 4] was a little farmer with a large family; for him my uncle bought an estate which enabled him to live a credit to his brother and respected by his neighbours...He was of Headborough and Yolland Hill, the latter property being also in Ashburton parish...He married when twenty years of age at St Martin's Church, Exeter, Thomasine Withecombe of Priestaford, another farm close to Ashburton, and in his marriage licence he is described as of "Ashburton, clothier"...He married secondly, Mary Mugford, who died in May, 1793, he himself surviving until 1801.
Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2, Exeter and London 1889, p326ff

Walter Palke [4] married Thomazin Withecombe 3rd July 1733, at St Martin, Exeter, Devon
Walter Palk [4] married Mary Mugford 13th June 1749, at Ashburton.
Walter Palk [4] the elder was buried on October 14th, 1801, at Ashburton.
Parish records

Children of Walter Palk [4]
Jonathan, the son of Walter and Mary Palk of Ashburton, was baptised November 19th, 1761.
Non-conformist baptisms Salem Chapel, Newton Abbot, Independent

Jonathan Palk, son of Walter, of Ashburton, Devon, gent., matriculated Exeter College 9th May 1780, aged 18. BA 1784.
Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, 1888, p1059

Jonathan Palk is named in Walter Palke [4]'s will.
Ref PROB 11/1373/65, April 1802, The National Archives - accessed 18-12-2020

Jonathan was buried, aged 64, in October 1825 at Ashburton.
Parish records

His will is in the National Archives, PROB11/1705/209 - accessed 12-09-2021

Settlement of lands at Widecombe in the Moor, dated 1801, names Thomas Palk of the City of Bath, one of the sons of Walter Palk late of Ashburton, decd. and Walter Palk of Marley House, together with William Fabyan of Ashburton, sergemaker; James Mogridge of Ashburton, surgeon; and David Bristow Baker of Newtington Butts, Surrey. ref 74/9/9/15a-b

'[Walter Palk 4] had four sons, who all owed their success in life to their uncle's care and liberality, and two daughters, viz., Frances, who married William Fabyan of Ashburton, and Grace, who was the wife of James Mogridge.* His eldest son, Walter Palk [5], was born in 1742. In his [Walter 5] marriage licence, dated 15th February 1782, he is described as of "Ashburton, Serge Maker." He represented Ashburton in Parliament from 1802 to 1807, died 19th February, 1819, and was buried 2nd of the following March, at Rattery...'

Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2, Exeter and London 1889, p326ff

*There was a third daughter, Mary, named in Walter [4]'s will. All his household goods and furniture, except plate, was to be divided between Mary and her brother Jonathan. Mary was to have care of the plate, taking what she wished from it, and giving the residue to his grandson Robert  'when he has occasion for it.'
Ref PROB 11/1373/65, April 1802, The National Archives - accessed 18-12-2020

Frances Palk married William Fabyan at Ashburton 21st March 1774.
Frances Fabyan is named in Walter [4] 's will, as is Grace Mogridge.
Parish records
Ref PROB 11/1373/65, April 1802, The National Archives - accessed 18-12-2020

Walter Palk [5] married Elizabeth Lyde by licence at Ashburton 18th February 1782. Robert Palk Welland was the officiating minister.
Parish records

'The third Thomas Palk of Butterford, returned from India in 1788, when one of his native Indian servants was burnt to death at Ashburton. A full account of the accident was given in Trewman's Flying Post, 27th November of that year...
The fourth son, Jonathan Palk...was born 1761, and was baptised, according to a private N.C. Register kept by My Peter Fabyan of Newton Abbot, November 9th in that year. His mother was Mary Mugford, his father's second wife. He was instituted to the Vicarage of Ilsington, near Ashburton, 1787, and died 1828.'
Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2, Exeter and London 1889, p326ff
*It is not clear where the Rev Jonathan Palk's account finishes and Charles Worthy's resumes.

Thomas Palk is named in Walter [4] Palk's will. He was to receive an annuity of £50 year in quarterly payments (with the first year's paid immediately upon Walter's death) 'but if he shall dispute the legality of this my will I direct that it shall be wholly in the discretion of my executor to pay the said legacy or not.'
Ref PROB 11/1373/65, April 1802, The National Archives - accessed 18-12-2020

'The second son [of Walter 4], Robert Palk, born 1744, died on his way home from India...
Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2, Exeter and London 1889, p326ff

'Robert Palk, junr., after suffering several seizures of an epileptic character, was advised by the Calcutta doctors to go to England. Passage was taken for him in the Surprise, commander David Asquith, a ---------- vessel owned by Colonel Watson of Calcutta, and bound for Limerick with a packet for the Company. Dr Adam Burt was specially engaged by Government to attend the sick man during the voyage. The ship carried only one other passenger, Major John McGowan....
.....the Surprise sailed from Calcutta early in April 1783. Dr Burt supplies (No 342) Palk's medical case, and records a diary of events, symptoms and treatment until the death of his patient on 20th May. The deceased's bureau and escritoire were opened by the captain in the presence of Dr Burt and Major McGowan, and an inventory made of the money and jewellery found therein. Captain Asquith, however, removed all papers.'
Report on the Palk manuscripts in the possession of Mrs Bannatyne, of Haldon, Devon - accessed 20-09-2021

Amongst the Prerogative Court of Canterbury's wills held in the National Archives is one made by Robert Palk, who died on board the Packett Surprize of Calcutta, East Indies.
Written in 1780, he left £5000 each to his daughter and son 'not yet baptized' and to their mother five (?) thousand rupees in ready money. She was also to receive the house 'near the Portuguese church'.
Letters enclosed with the will in 1784 'duly add that Mr Palk has left two natural children a girl about 7 or 8 years old and a boy about 4 or 5 we shall immediately have them baptized and send them to England next season (?)'
The will caused a few problems in that it was couched in 'loose and informal terms' and whilst Robert appointed executors in India, Henry Vansittart and Richard Kennaway, no-one was named to deal with his assets in England. There was also the question of whether a later will existed.
Sir Robert Palk of Haldon House appeared personally and swore an oath that he was the uncle of the deceased.
Administration was granted to Walter Palk Robert's father, and Walter Palk his younger brother.
National Archives PROB11/1124/391 30th December 1784

In his will, Walter [4] leaves £1000 and £500 respectively to 'my grandson Robert Palk, the natural son of my deceased son Robert Palk....and to Anne Palk, the natural daughter of my said son'.
Ref PROB 11/1373/65, April 1802, The National Archives - accessed 18-12-2020

Robert and Ann Palk, natural son and daughter of the late Robert Palk Esq., 'A member of the Board of Trade', were baptized in Calcutta, Bengal, 2nd April 1784.
British India Office Births and Baptisms, available from

Robert Palk, son of Robert of Calcutta, East Indies, arm. Matriculated Oriel College 5th March 1798, aged 17.
Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, 1888, p1059

                                                  Robert Palk

Connection (if any) to the above Palk family is unknown, but it seems probable that he was the natural son of Robert, baptised with his sister Ann at Calcutta 1784.
Robert the natural son was born circa 1779 or 80; Ann was born circa 1776 or 77
See above

A descendant of Robert claims that 'the Robert Palk who married Mary Carrington was the great nephew of Sir Robert Palk of Haldon...Robert's grandfather, Walter Palk, was the brother of Sir Robert.'

Another relative claims that Robert was the son of Robert Palk and an Indian woman.

The brother of Sir Robert was Walter Palk [4], 1714-1801. (see above). He had 4 sons, at least two of whom, Robert and Thomas, went to India at some stage. Robert, born 1744, allegedly died on the way home from India.
Devonshire Parishes, Charles Worthy, vol 2, Exeter and London 1889, p326ff
*It is not clear where the Rev Jonathan Palk's account finishes and Charles Worthy's resumes.

Robert was born circa 1781 (calculated from age at death). Some websites claim that he was born in Varanesi, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Robert Palk Esq., of the parish of Ashburton, married Mary Carrington at Ide on the 29th April 1812. The marriage was by licence.
Ide parish records

Children baptised at Ashburton were:
Robert Palk, born in November 1813 and baptised the following October. His father's occupation is given as Magistrate.
Mary Palk, baptised in 1815. Her father's occupation is Justice of Peace
and Walter William Henry Palk, baptised in 1818
Parish records

In the 1841 census Robert and Mary are living at Lower Bowdley. Robert, whose profession is described as Independent, is 60, and Mary is 48. Robert was not born in the county.
1841 census HO107, piece no. 243, folio 7, p9

By this time Mary jnr. has married Thomas Smerdon, and Robert jun. has married Jane Smerdon. The Smerdons are brother and sister, both from Brownshill in the parish. The marriages took place in November 1838, apparently two days apart, although the witnesses are identical.
Parish records

The gravestone of Robert Palk and one of his children, in St Andrew's graveyard.
'Underneath are deposited the remains of Walter William Henry Palk son of Robert and Mary Palk. Aged two years and thirty eight days. He died June 21 1820.
To the memory of Robert Palk Esq, for many years a deputy lieutenant and magistrate of this county. He died the 19th of March 1848, aged 67.'
My own photograph 2019

Mary Palk died in June 1868, in Emerald Hill, Melbourne, Australia. She was described as the relict of the late Robert Palk Esq., JP, Ashburton, Devon, England.
The Argus, Melbourne, Victoria, 20 June 1868, p4
See below for why Mary was in Australia.

                                                Robert Palk jun.

In December 1839 Robert Palk jun. of Ashburton put himself forward as a candidate for Superintendent for the proposed County and District Police force. He said that his father had been an active Magistrate for about 20 years.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 December 1839, p2 col6

Robert Palk, 27, 'Ind', is living at Waverley Cottage in the 1841 census.
1841 census HO107, piece no. 253, folio7 p9

Robert and Jane had 7 children :
Mary Jane Palk's birth was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the March quarter of 1840 - her mother's maiden name was Smerdon. She was baptized in March, the daughter of Robert and Jane. Robert was a yeoman, and the family lived at Bowdley, near Ashburton.
Parish records

Elizabeth Vaughan Palk's birth was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the March quarter of 1844 - her mother's maiden name was Smerdon. She was baptized in January 1844, the daughter of Robert and Jane. The family's abode was Bowdley, near Ashburton.
Parish records

Cammilla Carrington Palk, the four year old daughter of Robert Palk jun. Esq., died in March 1846. She was his second daughter*.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 March 1846, p3 col 2
*Louisa Camilla Palk's birth was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the March quarter of 1842

In December of the following year Robert*, the son of Robert Palk jun. Esq., died at the house of his grandfather, in Ashburton. He was two years old.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 11 December 1847, p5 col 5
Robert's birth had been registered in the Newton Abbot district in the March quarter of 1846

Eliza Camilla Carrington Palk, the daughter of Robert and Jane, was baptized in March 1848. Her father was described as a Gentleman.
Parish records

Frances Flora Palk's birth was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the December quarter of 1849 - her mother's maiden name was Smerdon. She was baptized in November, the daughter of Robert and Jane. Robert's profession was given as Gentleman.
Parish records

Frances Flora Palk was buried in August 1850. She was ten months old.
Parish records

Another Robert Palk, whose birth was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the December quarter of 1851, also had a mother whose maiden surname was Smerdon.
He was baptized in August 1852, the son of Robert and Jane. Robert's profession was given as Gentleman.
Parish records

In the 1851 census Jane Palk, the wife of a tin and copper mining agent, is living in East Street. Children with her are Mary J, 11; Elizabeth H B, 7 and Eliza C C, 3. Her 60 year old mother-in-law Mary is also in the household.
1851 census HO107, piece no 1871, folio 261, p3

Left: Side of the tomb pictured above. 'Within this vault are the remains of Camilla Carrington and Robert Palk, children of Robert and Jane. The former died March 6th 1846 aged 4 years and 2 months. The latter died December 8th 1847 aged 1 year and 11 months. Also of Frances Flora Palk daughter of the above who died August 23rd 1850 aged 10 months.'
My own photograph 2019

According to the website History of homeopathy in Australia Robert and his family (including his widowed mother Mary) arrived in Melbourne, Australia, in 1852. He seems to have become a mineral surveyor, but by 1854 was calling himself 'Doctor'. In 1857 he was listed in Tanners Directory of Melbourne as Robert Palk MD (homeopathic), by which time the family were living in the Melbourne suburb of Emerald Hill.
Robert became very active in the community, being on various committees, in addition to being a magistrate and a JP.
In 1862 Robert returned to England, leaving behind his wife, children and mother. After his wife Jane died, Emerald Hill Burrough Council voted that £10 be given to the children, who were in distress because of the death of their mother and the desertion of their father.
In England Robert opened a homeopathic chemist at Henley-Upon-Thames. He remarried in 1866, to Jane Hilton Syme, but then bigamously married Anne Sophia Helmore. Robert and Anne emigrated to South Africa, where Anne had been born - Robert died at Potchefstroom in 1890.
For a much more detailed account of Robert Palk's time in Australia see: - Accessed 18-02-2019

Lawrence Palk Esq. of Haldon House was the vice-patron of the Torquay Homeopathic Dispensary at 6 Cary Parade, 1852
The Homeopathic Record, Northampton, London and Manchester, vols 1 and 2, p280

Melbourne 1859. In the Emerald Hill section of Tanner's Trade Directory under the heading Medical is Palk, R., MD, in Coventry St.
Tanner's Melbourne Directory 1859, p324

Melbourne. In 1862 four councillors were to be elected for the Emerald Hill Municipality. One of the seats had been that of Robert Palk, and was vacant 'in consequence of absence'.
The Herald, Melbourne, Victoria, 29 May 1862, p1

Robert Palk and Jane H Syme were married in the June quarter of 1866, in the Hackney registration district.
Robert Palk and Anne Sophia Helmore were married in the September quarter of 1877, in the Pancras registration district.
                                                     Anne Palk

In his will Jonathan Palk, vicar of Ilsington and son of Walter Palk [4] leaves, amongst a list of family bequests, three hundred pounds to Ann Baker, wife of the Rev. George Baker of South Brent.
Will of Jonathan Palk, National Archives PROB 11/1705/209 - accessed 21-09-2021

It seems probable that Ann was the natural daughter of Robert Palk, born circa 1776/77 and baptised 1784
see above

George Baker, clerk of the parish of Highweek, married Anne Palk of the parish of Rattery, in June 1799. Walter Palk jun. was one of the witnesses.
Rattery parish records

George Baker, a clerk aged 64 and his wife Ann, 62, were living in the vicarage house, Ugborough, South Brent, in the 1841 census. Ann had not been born in the county.
1841 census HO107, piece no. 246, folio 4, p3

Anne Baker, widow of the Rev George Baker, was buried in South Brent in March 1847, aged 70.
South Brent parish records