Miscellaneous Dangers

                                          The Spanish Inquisition
'To the Right Honorable, the Lorde of Burghley.
In their moste wofull maner sheweth unto your honor your suppliantes, Robert Tyndall and John Frampton of Bristowe and William Ellize of Asperton in the Countie of Devone, late marchauntes and the Quenes Majesties naturall subjectes, late in case right good to live and nowe in state moste miserable, that where your saide suppliauntes did trade into Spayne in the waye of marchaundize, so it is, Righte Honarable, that besides longe and miserable ymprisonmentes, besides the intollerable tormentes of the stroppadoe* there susteyned by the aucthorytie of the Inquysitors of Spayne, your said suppliantes are there spoyled of all their goodes, to the value of MlMlCCxxviijli 6s vjd, to their utter undoynge.'
Above: 1508 woodcut of the Inquisition
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
State Papers 12/120/54, Documents Illustrating the Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Sixteenth Century, ed Jean Vanes, Bristol Record Society, 1979,  p132
*The strappado - a form of torture. The victim's hands were tied behind his back, and a rope was attached to his wrists. He was then suspended in the air. http://www.medievalwarfare.info/torture.htm - Accessed 30-10-2016


  The Supernatural

'We believed in Dartmoor pixies and wisht-hounds, in white witches and in one Cutty Dyer....'

Cutty Dyer lurked under the arches in the King's Bridge area.

Transactions of the Devonshire Association, Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, John Satterly 1952 vol 84 p31


Richard Carlile (born 1790): "My first schoolmistress was old 'Cherry Chalk', who taught me the alphabet on a horn book, and performed all sorts of cures without medicine by the potent power of charms. She was a witch, but much respected as one who performed wonderful cures. There was another old woman who had the title of 'Witch', and one in a town is enough on whom Christian ignorance might vent its spleen. It happened that I escaped all injury from the witch, as I was a favorite boy with her until I grew old enough to be mischievous to her. Whether old 'Cherry Chalk' perfected me in the alphabet I cannot now say, but I perfectly well remember that I was taught about Christ, Cross, or Criss-Cross; now, I dare say that this emblem of the Christian religion was at the bottom of all her charms and spells. "

From Richard Carlile to Eliza Sharples Carlile, quoted in 
The battle for the press, as told in the story of the life of Richard Carlile, Theophila Carlile Campbell (his daughter),
London 1899, chapter 2

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/38370/38370-h/38370-h.htm- Accessed 17-11-2013
The Reverend Jonathan Palk was vicar of Ilsington, but resided in Ashburton. In the early 1800s he was sent for when four horses, pulling the hearse of a Madame H in Ilsington, refused to go up the hill on the approach to the churchyard. He 'put down' or 'lay' the ghost of Madame H., after which the horses went easily to their destination. The lady's house, however, remained haunted, with people reporting numerous creepy sounds such as chains.
The Rev Palk, described as a bachelor and a Hebrew scholar, allegedly put down several ghosts at Ashburton.
Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, 8 September 1911, p7 col6


 1828 The Exeter Flying Post (quoted in the Western Times) reported with amazement that belief in witches and white witches was still prevalent. A farmer living about a mile from Ashburton had had several animals die unexpectedly, and his cow, about to calve, was having seizures. Dr Saunders was called in to prescribe for the cow, but nothing seemed to help.

At this point a neighbour suggested that the farmer consulted the White Witch of Staverton, who told him that he had refused a woman cyder, and the woman had cursed him. The White Witch, however, was able to counteract the curse, and when the farmer returned home the cow had calved safely.

The farmer and his friends were now fully convinced of witches' powers.

Western Times 13 September 1828 p4 col3


 In August 1846 Mrs Norris, a grocer in West Street, was woken by the door handle being rattled. William Norris went to see what the commotion was about, and found an old woman outside, dressed in her nightclothes. Named Ford, she lived in Back Lane, but whether they knew her identity is uncertain. She was convinced that she should be sleeping at the grocer's, saying that she had been told to sleep there, and eventually the Norris family concluded that she thought she should be at Dr Soper's house next door. She went to work there at a very early hour, and apparently the Doctor had told her that she could sleep there.

Several men who had emerged from public houses were alarmed by the appearance of Ms Ford, including one who 'screamed out "The Ghost!" and bolted'.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 29 August 1846 p3 col6                                                

In 1859 a case came before the County Court concerning the forcible entry of a property in Back Lane and the assault of the occupant. The plaintiff's wife, hearing a commotion outside, went to the window, where she heard someone say, 'There's a ghost, there's a ghost.'  A woman responded, 'I'll ghost you; you have been up and broken Mr Berry's window, and a great part of mine.'
Western Times 18 June 1859, p6, col3

 In 1876 a case came to Newton County Court involving two Ashburton residents: Beauretuer v Daniels. Mrs Beauretuer was a grocer and herbalist, and Mr Daniels was a tailor. Each claimed money from the other, Mrs Beauretuer's claim being for payment for curing Mr Daniels's gout. Mr. Creed, questioning Mrs Beauretuer, caused considerable laughter when he asked whether her treatment consisted of having her palm crossed with money and her muttering a charm. She denied this and said that she had rubbed something onto the defendant's leg.

Mr Creed persisted in asking her where she got her knowledge of charms, and Mrs Beauretuer retorted by asking him where he got his knowledge. When he replied that he got it from books, she said that she did the same.

Mrs Beauretuer was apparently in the habit of bringing cases to court, and the judge suggested that in this one the plaintiff and defendant should call it quits. The plaintiff was unhappy with this suggestion, and the case was adjourned.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 18 August 1876 p7 col5


 'Charm for erysipelas*. It is some eight years since I obtained the following charm for erysipelas from an old dame, reputed to have performed many cures by its aid at Ashburton. I was introduced to her by a lady, to whom she refused to impart the secret, on the ground that the efficacy would be lost if the person told were not of the opposite sex to the teller...My instructions were literally as follows: Name the person's name, then say, Erysipelas I see! Erysipelas I find! With the red cow's milk, and a white thorn, and the black yolk wool, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, amen. Then the place should be struck five or seven times. This may be repeated twice a day (the striking is with the red cow's milk). It may be bathed in warm water, and in addition to being struck with red cow's milk, "seven sorts of trade" may be rubbed in. On enquiry at the chemist's where the "seven sorts of trade" was procured, I learnt that it was soap liniment. E N Worth'

Reports and transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 15, 1883, p100
* A bacterial skin infection, known since the Middle Ages when it was called St Anthony's Fire.http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1052445-overview - Accessed 7-05-2016


                        Babbacombe Lee - The Man They Couldn't Hang

In late Victorian times a Miss Emma Keyse lived at a house called 'The Glen', on the edge of the beach at Babbacombe, then a small hamlet.

http://www.terry-leaman.co.uk/Tiscali/John-Lee.html - accessed 8-04-2021

She was battered to death on the 15th November 1884, and John Henry George Lee, who worked for her, was charged and convicted of her murder.

He was sentenced to hang at Exeter Prison on the 23rd February 1885, but the trapdoor of the scaffold failed to open on three occasions. Lee's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was finally released in 1907.

The story became famous, and speculation was rife as to why the scaffold had failed to operate.

See http://murderresearch.com/johnlee/john-lees-story/ for more on the story - accessed 9-04-2021

From Hazel Bray:

'In Ashburton, up in North Street, lived a woman who was reputed to be a witch. Many people lived in fear of her; she was the grandmother of the convicted murderer, Jack Lee, and as soon as she heard of the news of her grandson’s sentence she said, “’Ee’ll never Hang!” Three times they tried to hang him, but without success, so Granny Lee* was even more feared. However, the story doesn’t end there. The police officer who arrested Jack Lee was promoted to sergeant and sent to Ashburton. He had a son who feared the reputed witch in North Street as she had openly stated that she had put a curse on him. Nothing would induce him to go up North Street....'
Many thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account.


*Unfortunately for this story, John Henry George Lee was born in 1864, and was only 4 years old when Elizabeth Lee, his paternal grandmother, died in 1868. 

See http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~alanelliott/genealogy/Lee%20Family.HTML for more on the family history of John Lee - accessed 8-04-2021

The website Torquay and Me 2 says that Lee's mother was rumoured to dabble in witchcraft, and this is where the idea of a witch may have come from. However, as far as I can tell, no members of Lee's family ever lived in Ashburton.

https://sites.google.com/site/torquayandme2/home/john-babbacombe-lee - accessed 8-04-2021

However, two police officers involved in the arrest and questioning of John Lee did come to Ashburton.

Frederick George Boughton, stationed at Babbacombe at the time of the murder, was in charge of the outhouse where the body of Miss Keyse was placed. He had a conversation with the prisoner, who told him that he had lost his best friend. Lee also described breaking a window in the dining room, to let out the smoke.

Western Daily Press 4 February 1885, p7 col2

Frederick George Boughton was a police officer for 31 years, his last post being at Ashburton. He is on the 1911 census with his wife Betty, and four children, including George. He retired in 1913.

Frederick George Boughton's son was George Boughton. He died aged 23 in 1916, during WW1. He was a member of the Constitutional Club, and is commemorated on the war memorial in the club.



Ex-Sergeant Frederick George Boughton died at Bishopstawton, near Barnstaple, in August 1924: he was 69. The Western Morning News commented that he had been in the police force for 36 years, and had been involved in the arrest and trial of John Lee. He had been stationed at Brixham, Babbacombe, St Giles, Clovelly and Avonwick, before finishing his service at Ashburton. His only son had been killed in the war, and he had recently been living in Bishopstawton with his daughters.

Western Morning News 20 August 1924, p5 col6

Abraham Nott. 

In 1878 P C Nott, an 'active' and 'zealous' officer, was promoted to sergeant on moving from Torquay to Ashburton.

Western Times 12 March 1878, p5 col5

In 1881 forty year old Abraham Nott was a sergeant of police, living with his family at the police station, Cad Lane. Abraham and his wife, Hannah, had four children, the youngest of whom was Joseph C., 4 years old.

Abraham was there again in 1891

1881 census RG 11, piece no 2161, folio 37, p29

1891 census RG 12, piece no. 1698, folio 25, p 13

1883. When P S Ellicott moved from Torquay to Woodbury, P S Nott from Ashburton filled his place.

Western Times 2 November 1883, p8 col6

Abraham Nott was a police sergeant stationed at St Marychurch when Miss Emma Keyse was murdered in November 1884: he gave evidence at her inquest. He gave a detailed statement, which included  saying that there was a pool of blood in the hall, and a blood-stained chair cover that was partially burned and smelling of oil. 

Sergeant Nott had taken the prisoner, John Lee, to Torquay police station.

Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, 21 November 1884, p5 col4

Police Sergeant Abraham Nott, who had been in the police force for 25 years, was about to be removed to Ashburton in 1888. He had been stationed at Torquay for 6 years. He had been a 'terror to evil doers', but was 'respected and esteemed' by all law-abiding people.

Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, 12 October 1888, p5 col5

The Western Morning News said that he had shown 'ability' and 'intelligence' in connection with the Emma Keyse murder, earning praise from the judge at the trial.

Western Morning News 10 October 1888, p5 col4

Abraham Nott died of heart failure in 1913. Aged 73, he had retired from the police force 20 years previously. He had, said the Western Times, been stationed at Ashburton twice, and had served at St Marychurch in between.

Western Times 22 May 1913, p3 col3

The person who was afraid to go up North Street may have been Joseph Charles Nott (Joe), whose birth was registered (as Note) in the June quarter of 1877 in the Newton Abbot district. His mother's maiden surname was Ween.

https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp#Results - accessed 10-04-2021

Jospeh is shown in 1911 as the son of police pensioner Abraham Nott. 

1911 census http://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Hazel Bray recalls the story of Joe becoming something of a recluse, but he did help with the horses belonging to the Herring-Mason family. Eventually he married one of the two daughters.

Joseph Nott married Josephine H C H Mason in the Totnes registration district in the December Quarter of 1915



Joseph Charles and Josephine Nott were living at Courtfield, St Mary Church, in 1931, together with Walter Herring-Mason, Nayiye Herring Mason and Florence Mason.
Electoral roll 1931

Another son of Abraham Nott was William Robert Nott, whose birth was registered in Tavistock in the March quarter of 1868
https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl - accessed 10-04-2021

William R was 13 years old on the 1881 census, living with his parents and siblings at the police station, Ashburton.
1881 census RG 11, piece no 2161, folio 37, p29

In 1884 Mr W R Nott, a junior master at Ashburton Grammar School and son of P S Nott of St Mary Church, won a £20 prize and certificate of the Royal Agricultural Society, after passing special subjects in agriculture.
Western Morning News 13 December 1884, p5 col2

1889 William Robert Nott, junior assistant master at Ashburton Grammar School, received £4 worth of books on his 21st birthday. The books had been bought after a collection from scholars at the school
Western Morning News 1 March 1889, p5 col3

At the time of the 1891 census William R was a visitor in the household of Robert Thomas in St Mary Church. A 23 year old assistant schoolmaster, he had been born in Tavistock.
1891 census RG12, piece no. 1705, folio 109 p57

W R Nott, late of Ashburton Grammar School and son of Police Sergeant A Nott, passed his first examination for the degree of BSC at Owen's College, Manchester, in the summer of 1892
Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, 8 July 1892, p5 col4

The death was announced of William Robert Nott at the Police Station, Ashburton, on December 29th, 1892. Aged 25, he was the eldest son of Sergt. Nott.
Totnes Weekly Times 31 December 1892, p5 col6

His death certificate shows that he was a student at Owen College, Manchester, and that he died of influenza, functional disease of the heart and pleurisy. R Ackerley certified the death.
GRO certificate

William Robert Nott was buried at Ashburton in January 1893. He was 24.
Parish records
                                              Tiger on the loose

Above: The Wonders of the World, Robert Sears, New York, 1843, p142

In March 1861 a tiger broke free in Ashburton, and headed for Holne. He finally arrived at the Tavistock Inn, emitted a terrifying growl and attacked a beer barrel. Fortunately he then drank the beer, became drowsy, and was captured and put in a cart. The tiger was returned to Ashburton via Buckfastleigh and put back in his den. The Western Times expressed the hope that the police would 'be more careful of beasts of that kind, and not allow them to ravage the country'.

Western Times 9 March 1861 p3, col3
The newspaper makes no comment on why there was a tiger in Ashburton - if it had been part of a travelling show I would have thought the artice would have said. The story seems too good to be true - it makes me suspicious that this might be a paper short of news, or a gullible reporter in the hands of some locals having a bit of fun.