*                                     People and Properties 1700s                                   *
'A century ago Newton was a smaller place than Ashburton, and Torquay smaller still...'
Small talk at Wreyland, Cecil Torr, Cambridge, 1932, p51 
Cecil Torr was born in 1857. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_Torr - accessed 19-06-2024

Above and right: Interior of a Georgian townhouse, Ashburton.
My own photograph 2024. Many thanks to the occupiers, who wish to remain anonymous

*                                          Sacrament certificates                                        *
To hold civil or military office after the Test Act of 1673, a person had to be a member of the Church of England. Certificates to prove this were issued to people who had received communion in the Church of England.

Devon Heritage Centre holds the following sacrament certificates. Some may not be Ashburton residents:
Solomon Tozer jnr., 1702
Ref QS/21/1702/105
Mr Joseph Workman, 1703
Ref QS/21/1703/12
Joseph Slark, gauger, 1703
Ref QS/21/1703/6
Joseph Warkman, 1706 
Ref QS/21/1706/17
Solomon Tozer jnr., portreeve of Ashburton, at Buckland in the Moor, 1709
Ref QS/21/1709/10
Joseph Warkman, innholder, 1709
Ref QS/21/1709/5
Peter Fabyan, portreeve of Ashburton, at Buckland in the Moor, 1710
Ref QS/21/1710/41
Walter Taylor, portreeve of Ashburton, 1714
Ref QS/21/1714/1
Merttins Sowter, gent, 1714
Ref QS/21/1714/2
John Sunter of Ashburton, at West Ogwell, 1715
Ref QS/21/1715/126
Merttins Sowter, postmaster, 1715
Ref QS/21/1715/4
John Brodhurst, 1715
Ref QS/21/1715/6
Walter Taylor, portreeve of Ashburton, 1715
Ref QS/21/1715/7
Moses Tozer of Ashburton, at Buckland in the Moor, 1716
Ref QS/21/1716/12A-B
John Sowter jnr., deputy postmaster, 1717
Ref QS/21/1717/5
John Santer of Ashburton, woolcomber, at Ashburton 1718
Ref QS/21/1718/59
Walter Taylor, clothier, 1719
Ref QS/21/1719/2
John Sunter, woolcomber, 1721
Ref QS/21/1721/1
Walter Palke, sergemaker, 1733
Ref QS/21/1733/1
Richard Eales, clothier and portreeve of Ashburton, 1733
Ref QS/21/1733/30
Aaron Whithear, portreeve of Ashburton, 1734
Ref QS/21/1734/35

https://devon-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records - accessed 06-03-2024

Property in East Street
Above: This is an indenture, (from my own collection), made on February 22nd 1710, concerning a property in East St. It is between John Bound of London, gentleman and Richard Adams of Ashburton in the County of Devon yeoman. In consideration of the sum of five shillings of lawful money  John Bound has sold* 'all the messuage or dwelling house, courtelage and herb garden with the appurtenances'.

The property is between the lands of Thomas Ford Esq. on the east part, the lands of Christopher Bond on the north and west parts and the 'said street called the East Street on the south part'. The property had been in the occupation of one John Hurst or his under tenants, and at the time of this indenture was occupied by Richard Adams, his under tenants or assigns. Richard Adams is to have the property for one whole year, and is to pay 'the rent of one peppercorn on the feast  day of the Birth of our Lord Christ'. My reading of it is that these conditions will continue 'forever'.


* From the later conditions, this appears to be leasehold. A ground rent had to be set so that the terms of a lease could be enforced, but sometimes these were tiny amounts. A peppercorn (ie the same thing that is put in pepper grinders) or other token was sometimes set as the rent, to save the freeholder having to collect the money. 



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'Ashburton 3rd 7ber 1712
Sirs, May it please yr Honrs
We humbly take leave to trouble you in behalf of ye Widdow Spreat, in opposition to those that seeke so earnestly to displace her from Yor Honrs Service and all we have to say in adition to what you have already been informed is that whereas it is given out that the person that endeavours her discharge has been a great Sufferer in promoting the interest of the party he is of. We doe assure yr Honrs that we believe it to be truth and Mrs Spreat dos averr it to be so, that her late husband brought himself & family to ruin by his being so zealous and indefatigable in advancing ye interest of the very same party, And we further prsume to add that we do not appear for the Widdow for any personal ill Will we bear to him that opposed her, But out of pure Charity to a poor Woman & three helpless Children who will be destitute of all meanes of Support if your Honours should dismiss her your Service, Wheras her p sent apponent wants it not, having a good livelihood from his present calling & business. We beg y honrs pardon & presume to subscribe ourselves.
May it please Yr honrs
Yor most obedt humble Servts
[signed] Ben: Alexander, Geo: ffabyan, Giles Risdon, Moses Tozer, George Cockings, Jno: Eales Jnr, Jno. Sowter, Barth: Eales, John Eales Sen, William Atwill, Samll Eales, Sol. Tozer Junr, Merttms Sowter, Thomas Carlile, John Bastard, Vicar, Walter Palk, Portreeve, Sam: Tozer, Constable, Alex: Lightfoot, Churchwarden, Thomas Lee, Richd Muttis.
To the Honble Sr Thomas Frankland & John Evelyn Esqr, Her Maties Com for executing ye the Office of postmr Generall at their office. London. H. Tapley-Soper.'
Document added to the MSS department of Exeter City Library, transcribed in Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries vol 11, January 1920-October 1921, Exeter 1921, p30

Widow Spreat may have been the wife of Gabrill Spreat, buried on the 14th September, although the petition is dated the 3rd September*
Parish records
* At this date the year began at the end of March, making September the 7th month,

'To be sold, either entire or separate, the fee-simple and inheritance of the several messuages, lands and tenements of Nicholas Prideaux, gentleman, situate within the borough of Ashburton, in the county of Devon, consisting of at least seventeen different freeholds, several of which tenements are in hand, and now worth yearly to be at forty pounds and upwards, and others at lease, determinable on one, two and three lives, under the reserved rents of ten pounds, six shillings and four pence. For which purpose a survey will be held at Mr Aldridge's, at the New Inn in Ashburton aforesaid, on Monday 16th day of January 1756...'
The General Evening Post 1756, p348


'Gentlemen' from the Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, Vol 2, late 1700s. For other entries see clergy on the Churches and Memorials page, and trades and professions on the Banks and Business page. 

Solomon Earle Esq.

Walter Palk Esq.

1756 'To be sold, either entire or separate, the fee simple and inheritance of the several messuages, lands and tenements of Nicholas Prideaux, gentleman, situate within the Borough of Ashburton, in the county of Devon, consisting of at least seventeen distinct (?) freeholds, several of which tenements are to hand, and now worth yearly to be at (?) forty pounds and upwards, and others at lease, terminable on one, two and three lives, under the referred rents of ten pounds six shillings and four pence. For which purpose a survey will be held at Mr Aldridge's, at the New Inn in Ashburton aforesaid, on Monday 26th day of January 1756.'
The General Evening Post 6-8 January 1756, p45 col1


Above and below: Benjamin Donn's map of 1765
By http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/donn.txt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The following are in the Devon Heritage Centre (formerly the Devon Record Office), filed under Chudleigh Parish ref 30009A-99
For more details go to http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/

Certificates of Settlement in Ashburton.

David Cloak of Ashburton, woolcomber, Jane his wife and Joan their daughter  1710

Samuel Caunter, Joan his wife and Mary their daughter  1727

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Removals to Ashburton:

William May and Elizabeth his wife  1740

William Hoppings and Sarah his wife  1769

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Jane Murch apprenticed to Henry Emmett of Ashburton, weaver 1737

Thomas Wills 1764
Now in Chudleigh, born there........ went to Ashburton and spent 6 months with Thomas Searle and 13 weeks with Richard Pilchard.........

Elizabeth Sawdey wife of George Sawdey   1796
Born in Chudleigh........ went to work for Thomas Widdecombe in Ashburton..... stayed 8 years, soon after she married in Ashburton.......

Ashburton subscribers to Moor's Indian Charity School.
In 1754 Eleazar Wheelock set up a school in Lebanon, Connecticut, for native Americans. Named after its chief benefactor, Joshua Moor, the aim of the school was to teach native Americans about Christianity; they could then convert their own communities. An enormously successful fund raising mission was sent to Great Britain in 1765.
http://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/840 - Accessed 22-06-2015
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2536600525.html - Accessed 22-06-2015

Richard Bennett
Mrs Mary Berry
Mrs Susanna Bennett
Mr Cocksley
Miss Eals
Peter Fabyan
Nicholas Fabyan
James Furman
Richard Harris
Joseph Leaman
Rev. Mr Naylor, Vicar of Ashburton
Walter Palk and family
Mrs Mary Rennell
Mr Sowter
Miss Soper
Miss Soper's sister
Mr Soper
Mssrs John Richard and Moses Tozer
Nicholas Tripe
Samuel Windeatt
Mr Winsor
The Rev. Mr Waters

A Continuation of the Narrative of the Indian Charity School, in Lebanon, in Connecticut, in New England, Oliver, London, 1769, p91


                                                 Mr. John Sowter

A project detailing items in the John Bargrave Collection, Canterbury Cathedral, mentions John Sowter, c1653-c1719 as a London iron merchant with business interests in Cornwall. He had residences at Ironmonger Lane and Ashburton, and was a correspondent of John Flamsteed and John Locke. He was also a donor to the Ashmolean Museum.
Digital Ark Project http://drc.usask.ca/projects/bargrave/public_person.php?id=784&dir=prev - accessed 17-09-2020

1692 John Sowter esq. of London, merchant, was one of many donors of coins and medals.
A Catalogue of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1836, p173

'Tin and copper ores 1694. Presented [to the Ashmolean Museum] by John Sowter. From Devon and Conrwall mines that are no longer worked. All lost.
R T Gunther, Early Science in Oxford, Oxford, 1925, Vol III, p375

'I can give no account of his parentage, or the place of his birth; all I know is, that he served an apprenticeship in London to the late Sir George Mertin's father, who was a jeweller; that he afterwards married Mr Mertin's daughter; that by some means or other he was at the Court of Sweden, in some capacity, in the time of Charles XI, and conversed often with the Queen and our then embassador Dr Robinson; that after his return he settled in a place called Mitcham in Surrey, where he had a fine house and garden, and lived in great splendour; and that at length he came down to Ashburton on the prospect of getting an estate out of a tin mine, where he laid out a house and garden suitable to his own taste, in which he continued till he died....
His greatest foible, with regard to his aquiantance, was a natural captiousness, which upon times make him very troublesome. I believe he had no friend in the world to whom he gave not, sooner or later, some taste of this part of his temper. What makes this all the more remarkable, is, that he always fell out out about trifles, and would write long, expostulatory letters, and full of resentment, about a thing which a wise man would forget in an hour. I remember he fell out with me about his writing to London for some hedge-yews to plant my garden, and because I made some reply to his letter, he sent me word that he would never receive any more letters from me..... but by taking no notice of him he would recover his temper and renew his correspondence as if nothing had happened....
Though his wife was of a good family, and brought him a good fortune, yet she was not an agreeable companion, for she was sullen, reserved and covetous, and he has often complained of it to me; but he always behaved to her decently. He had three sons and one daughter. The eldest son, (who, I think, was in the Excise before he came to Devonshire) thought proper to marry his mother's maid, which gave him great disturbance. His second son, Martin, he got into the post-office at Ashburton, where he kept an inn; but he was a rake, and killed himself soon. His third son, Christopher, was his darling, and bred at Oxford, and intended for the gown, but he unfortunately died before he took orders, and thus all hopes conceived of him perished. His only daughter was bred like a lady: she sang charmingly, lived long in London, and was extremely polite and agreeable, and just as he was in hopes of settling her to his liking she took it into her head one morning early to get out of her chamber window, with as many of her clothes as she could get together, and ran away with one Tapper, a worsted-comber of the town, and married him: and thus he was disappointed in all his children, more or less, but his eldest son, who succeeded his brother in the post-office, turned out a very sober, careful man, was reconciled to his father, and there was always a good understanding between them to the very last. As for his daughter, he would never see her, or give her any assistance, though she had several children, and was driven to some extremities. He enjoyed a fortune sufficient to support his independence, and he lived in a house of his own building, and laid out a garden in his own particular taste adjoining to it....
He never conversed with any of the town, nor visited or kept company, and he has often told me he avoided seeing even the town itself as much as possible, and for that reason turned the front of the house quite from it.'
Biographical sketches of some of his contemporaries by Mr. John Fox, The monthly repository of theology and general literature, Vol XVI, 1821, p441ff

'For a plate* of the King of Sweden he [Robert White] received 30l from one Mr Sowters of Exeter....
John Sowter, merchant of Exeter; he had been in Sweden, and bespoke the plate of the King of Sweden mentioned above.'
Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, London, pp446, 448
*Engraved plate

John Sowter of S Martin Pomeroy (?), born 1653
Married April 19th 1683 Hester Merttlins of S Michael Cornhill, born 1663, daughter of John Merttins and Hester.
Profession merchant.
Boyd's Inhabitants of London and family units, 1200-1946

John Sowter, the son of John and Hester, was baptised in London in January 1685
Transcription Births and Baptisms 1538-1975 https://www.familysearch.org
Hester Sowter married John Tapper at Exeter in January 1706
Familysearch transcription England marriages 1538-1973
Mr Christopher Sowter was buried at Ashburton in March 1714 (we would say 1715)
Mr Mortine Sowter was buried in April 1717
Mr John Sowter snr. was buried in June 1720

In his will, catalogued under the name Sewter in National Archives, John says: 'I give and bequeath unto my dear wife Hester all that my messuage or mansion wherein I now dwell with garden and other appurtenances thereto belonging situate and lying within the Borough of Ashburton aforesaid in the south side of a street there called the East Street opposite to the Cross together with the free use of all my household goods plate linen utensills and implements of household for and during the terme of her natural life and from and after her decease I give and devise my said messuage or mansion house garden [etc.] unto my son John Sowter jnr.....
I also give and devise unto my said son Jno Sowter and his heirs for ever all that mansion house called the Cross Inn in Ashburton aforesaid with the stables and other outhouses and two closes called the Roboroughs and the orchard and other appurtenances thereunto belonging and a tenement or ffarme called Wood Place all situate and lying in the town or parish of Ashburton aforesaid which I purchased of or contracted for with Thos fford esq. and all that my tenement of higher _____ with the appurtenances situate also in the said parish of Ashburton which I purchased of Mr John ffortiscui [?]...
Also I give and devise unto my said son absolutely forever all the mines or parts shares rights or interests in mines of tin copper or other ores in the county of Cornwall which I am interested in or in any way entitled unto either in Law of Equity, also I give and bequeath unto every grandchild that I shall have living at the time of my death the sum of five pounds to buy mourning, all the residue and remainder of my goods chattels and estates whatsoever not herewith before given or bequeathed thereby give devise and bequeath unto my said dear wife and John Sowter my son equally between them...I also do give and bequeath unto my Son Law Jno Tapper one shilling and also to his wife Hester Tapper my daughter one shilling...'
Ref PROB 11/575/434, National Archives, will of John Sewter, August 1720,  http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=John+Sewter+Ashburton&_sd=&_ed=&_hb= - accessed 20-09-2020

Hester Sowter, widow of Ashburton, was one of those swearing an oath of allegiance to George I at the School House, Chapel of St Lawrence, Ashburton, in 1723.
REf QS 17/2/1/6/ Devon and Exeter Oath Rolls 1723, Devon Record Office, http://www.foda.org.uk/oaths/QS17/2/1/6.htm - accessed 21-09-2020

Ann the daughter of M John Sowter was buried in March 1724 (we would say 1725). Presumably the daughter of John Sowter jnr.
Mrs Hester Sowter and Mr Nicholas Tripe were married in August 1738 (the daughter of John Sowter jnr. ?)
Mrs Hester Sowter was buried in March 1741 (we would say 1742)
Ann the wife of Mr John Sowter was buried in Novmber 1741
Parish records

The Devon Heritage Centre holds a document dated 1717 and filed under sacrament certificates, concerning John Sowter jnr., deputy postmaster at Ashburton.
Ref QS/21/1717/5, Devon Heritage Centre https://devon-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records/QS/21/1717/5 - accessed 17-09-2020
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          Tenements mentioned in Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives

1703 Richard Knowling granted new lease of tenement D&C3563 PP360-361
1710 Richard Knowling granted new lease of tenement
D&C3564 PP144-145
1717 Richard Knowling granted new lease of tenement
D&C3565 PP32-33
1718 Confirmation of lease by John Bastard, vicar of Ashburton, of tenement belonging to the vicarage to William Knowling
D&C3565 P108
1724 Rowland Whiddon granted lease of tenement at present held by Richard Knowling jun.
D&C3565 PP357-358
1725 Margaret Bennet, widow, granted lease of Knowlings tenement, originally intended to be surrendered to Rowland Whiddon by her late husband Henry Bennet D&C3565 PP405-406
1733 William Furlong granted new lease of tenement formerly held by Margaret Bennet D&C3566 P252

1740 William Furlong granted new lease of tenement D&C3567 PP30-31
1747 William Furlong granted new lease of tenement at Ashburton
D&C3568 PP124-125
1754 Mr Furlong granted new lease of tenemen
D&C3569 PP56-57
1768 Susanna Dolbear granted lease of messuages by Thomas Naylor, vicar of Ashburton D&C3570 P362
1768 Mr Hern granted new lease of tenement at Ashburton
D&C3563 PP360-361
1773 Confirmation of lease of messuages and tenements granted by Thomas Naylor, vicar of Ashburton, to John Dolbeare, pewterer D&C3571 P235
1775 William Hern granted new lease of tenement D&C3571 PP382-383
1782 Hern's tenement to be re-let 
D&C3572 PP416-417
1789 New lease granted for Chuleigh tenement
D&C3573 PP485-486
1790 Confirmation of lease by Thomas Naylor, vicar of Ashburton to John Dolbeare D&C3573 PP603-604
1797 New lease granted for Hern's tenement D&C3574 P487
1798 Confirmation of lease of cottage and tenement granted by Thomas Naylor, vicar of Ashburton to John Way and Henry Bowden, executors of will of John Dolbeare D&C3574 P578
1799 New lease granted for Chuleigh tenement in Ashburton D&C3575

http://www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk/learning/library-and-archives1/library-and-archives.ashx - Accessed 16-2-2016