Chapter 5



In this chapter we shall be concerned with the family of William and Agnes Loosemore of Kerscot in Bishops Nympton parish and their descendants, from their earliest mention in 1524 up until the beginning of the 18th century.  Their story will be very different from that of the Tiverton Loosemores, for farming communities in the remote parishes of north Devon made very little contact with officialdom.  Families were wholly engaged in making a living from cold, wet soil under conditions of considerable hardship; their business activities were limited to buying and selling sheep, cattle and pigs, raw wool and perhaps some surplus cereal crops.  We shall not expect to find any information relating to land conveyancing or other official business and our story will consist largely of an inferential family tree built up from a study of parish registers, supported at intervals by references in lay subsidy assessment returns and other miscellaneous records.

The family presence in Bishops Nympton assumes some importance in a history of the clan, even though no direct link has so far been established either with the medieval Loosemores of Oakford or with my own Rose Ash branch in modern times, not only because of the early date at which the name first appears there in written records but also because from this branch came one of the family’s most distinguished members, viz. John Loosemore, builder of the Exeter Cathedral organ in 1665.  We shall follow his career in Chapter 6 as closely as the facts allow, though disruption of civil administration during the Civil War has meant that comparatively little record remains of his early life and work.

Bishops Nympton village lies nine miles west of Oakford village.  The parish, extending in 1878 to 9579 acres, is bounded on the north by the parishes of North Molton, Twitchen and Molland bordering the southern edge of Exmoor, on the west by South Molton, on the south by Mariansleigh and Rose Ash, and on the east by Knowstone. [1]   All these parishes will figure to some extent in our story, either in this or in following chapters.  A farmer’s life in this region must have been hard in the 16th century.  Two hundred years later a questionnaire circulated by Jeremiah Miles to incumbents of Devon parishes drew revealing comments on the soil: ‘dun and barren, clay and barren marle’ (Mariansleigh); ‘coarse and clayey’ (Rose Ash); ‘a gritty kind of earth’ (Bishops Nympton). [2]   The whole area is over 600 feet high, hilly, exposed, and in those days was mainly scrub and heath except in sheltered valleys, with very few roads and those no more than rough cart-tracks or bridle-paths.

Before embarking on our story we may note that although the first family mention here occurs some 50 years after its first appearance in Tiverton this does not imply that the westward migration from Oakford was preceded by a move to the south east.  Records become increasingly sparse before about 1540 and the 15th century is a documentary desert for local historians by comparison with later periods, with but few fortunate exceptions.  Each surviving record, therefore, tends to assume an exaggerated importance.  The eastern boundary of Bishops Nympton is only slightly more distant from Oakford than is Tiverton, and the modern A361 road west from Bampton, one of the very few ancient routes in this remote area, passes near to Loosemoor in Oakford, skirting both Knowstone and Bishops Nympton on its way through South Molton to the sea at Barnstaple.  It would have been a natural migratory trail for any young Loosemore leaving Oakford in search of new land.

Kerscot: the Manors of Turkerigg & Knowstone Beaupel

Recorded family history in this parish begins with the great Lay Subsidy of 1524, when William Lossemore of Nymet Epi, the modern Bishops Nympton, was assessed for tax on goods worth £7. [3]   The following year yields a much more informative reference, in a survey of the lands of Cecily marchioness of Dorset, Lady Harington and Bonville.  Among a group of ten tenants we find that

William Lowsemore, Agnes his wife and John their son hold for the term of their lives according to the customs of the manor by grant from the aforesaid surveyors one tenement called Kerys Cott to which belong 16 closes containing 133 acres of which 66 are arable worth each year 8d and 65 are pasture worth each yearly 12d and 8 are meadow worth each yearly 2s.  And they give for a fine £4 payable in two accounts and for confirmation 26s.8d payable in the third account by surety of John Towker.  And they pay yearly for all 45s. [4]

Uniquely in this survey of Lady Cecily’s Devon lands, the name of the manor is not given as a heading, but from internal evidence—several place names are mentioned and nine of the ten tenants appear in the 1524 returns for Knowstone parish—there can be little doubt that the group comprises her manor of Knowstone Beaupel, although Kerys Cott, the modern Kerscot, lies in neighbouring Bishops Nympton parish, very close to its eastern boundary with Knowstone.  We look first at the early history of Kerscot and its relationship with Knowstone Beaupel.

In the year 974 King Eadgar gave the manor of Nymetone to the Bishop of Exeter.  100 years later, in Domesday Survey, Nimetona was held by Bishop Osbern, at which time it extended to 5690 acres, showing that it comprised the entire parish of Nymet Episcopi, allowing for the fact that wasteland was not taken account of in the Survey. [5] , [6]   Apart from a period between 1651 and the Restoration when it was expropriated to the Rolle family, Bishops of Exeter held the parish as an ecclesiastical Peculiar until it was sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to a private landlord in 1872. [7]

Within their domain a succession of bishops granted out several manors, among which was Turkerigg, held in 1242 by Galfridus (Geoffrey) de Fayreby for ½ knights fee.  In 1284 ‘William de La Fayrebie holds La Fayrebie with Kirschote’ of the bishop, and in 1303 he is said to hold Thorkerigge for the same fee. [8]   In fact, Turkerigg/Thorkerigge comprised La Fayrebie, the modern Veraby Farm, with Kerscot as an outlier.  The Fayreby family lived at the home farm, as would be expected, Kerscot being sub-let to a tenant farmer.  Thus we find in the Lay Subsidy for 1327 that in Bishops Nympton parish Roger de Kirscote was assessed for tax at 8d; five years later, in 1332, David de Kirscote was assessed for 12d. tax, the same as William Fayrebury. [9]   By 1346 Michael de Fayreby held Torkerygg ‘which William de Fayreby once held’.  Some time before 1428 the Fayreby family must have sold their holding for in that year we learn, somewhat confusingly, that

Johannes Bromwith, Johannes Nytheway and Lady Haryngton hold the ½ fee by knights service in Thorkeright which they hold separately among themselves, and none of them holds the entire fourth part which Michael de Farby once held from ancient times.8

The exact significance of the four parts is not clear but we may safely accept that by this date, or soon after, the manor of Veraby with Kerscot had passed into possession of the Harington family.

Knowstone Beaupel, a Domesday manor known as Chenustan, was held previously by the Saxon thane Alger, but then was held by Rolf of Walter de Douai, a Norman baron who was granted large estates in Devon and elsewhere by William I after the Conquest, including West Spurway in Oakford, and Rackenford.  In Henry II’s reign Knowston was held by Ailmer de Brett who sold it to the Beaupel family.  The heirs of Richard Beaupel held it in 1242 while in 1284 and 1316 it belonged to Robert Beaupel.  He, or a son, still held it in 1332, for in the Lay Subsidy Robert Beaupel is assessed for the large sum of 3s. tax, while Ralph is liable only for 18d.  By 1346 the manor had passed to Ralph, the last male of his line, whose only daughter and heiress married Sir Neal Loring, knight of the Garter. [10]

Isabel, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Neal, married first Sir William Cogan.  After his death she re-married in 1383 to Sir Robert, 3rd Lord Harington, bringing with her the manor of Knowstone Beaupel, for on 4 June 1388 Bishop Brantyngham licensed Sir Robert ‘and Margaret (sic) his wife’ to celebrate mass privately in their manor of Knowstone.  This was common practice among wealthy families in remote areas to avoid a long winter journey to the parish church.  Sir Robert Haryngton died in 1406 seised of the manor of Knoston Beapole and in 1428 Isabella Lady Haryngton held it in dower. [11]   We do not know when Kerscot became an integral part of Knowstone Beaupel but so close is it to Knowstone that in all probability it was joined, for administrative convenience, soon after Turkerigg was acquired by Lord Harington, some time between 1383 and 1428.

The eldest son of Sir Robert and Isabella, John 4th Lord Harington, married Elizabeth the daughter of Edward Courtenay, 3rd earl of Devon; after his death in February 1417/18 his widow married William Lord Bonville, who was born in 1392.  Meanwhile Lord John’s younger brother William inherited as 5th Lord Harington, marrying Margaret the daughter of Sir John Hill; their only daughter Elizabeth married in 1442 William Bonville the son of Elizabeth Harington née Courtenay and Lord Bonville.  Thus the Harington and Bonville families were united in their son William, 6th Lord Harington and Bonville, born 1442, who in 1458 married Katherine the 5th daughter of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury.  Their first child, Cecily, was only 6 months old when her father, William the 6th Lord Harington, and his father, were executed on 31 December 1460.  Cecily therefore inherited all the extensive estates of the Harington and Bonvilles as baroness Harington and Bonville, among which was the manor of Knowstone Beaupel. [12]

Cecily died in 1530 and it is interesting to note that her grandson Henry through her first husband, Thomas Grey, marquis of Dorset, married Francis Brandon the daughter of Charles duke of Suffolk who had married Henry VIII’s sister Mary.  Their daughter, Lady Jane Grey, was executed in 1554 for her reluctant part in an unsuccessful plot to change the succession after the death of Edward VI, having been Queen of England for less than two weeks in July 1553.

However, returning to our story, we have seen how Kerscot Farm on the eastern edge of Bishops Nympton parish came to be part of, or associated with, Cecily Lady Harington and Bonville’s manor of Knowstone Beaupel by 1525.  We must now look more closely at its tenants at that time: William Lowsemore, Agnes his wife, and their son John.

Family Relationships

The Cecily survey, conducted by her surveyor Richard Phellyps, lists ten tenants of Knowstone manor, whose lands totalled 634 acres worth on average 1s. per acre annually.  Chief among them was John Coker, Toker or Towker, who occupied the home (barton) farm with 240 acres worth £16.10s, annually.  William Lowsemore’s 133 acres worth £6.1s. annually was easily the next in size, followed by eight smaller holdings ranging from 54 acres worth 38s. down to a cottage with two acres and a water mill worth 3s.  Comparison of the tenants’ names with those in the 1524 subsidy roll shows that Toker/Towker was assessed on goods conventionally estimated at £10, William Lowsemore on goods worth £7, John Martyn who farmed 54 acres on £5; all other tenants were worth £2 or less.4

A holding of 50 acres corresponded to a large peasant farmer or husbandman, fully self-supporting with no need to augment his income by hiring himself out to work for others.  William Lowsemore with 133 acres must have been a prosperous yeoman farmer whose household was amply provided with meat, drink and other perquisites of (relatively) comfortable living.  Although he, like the other tenants, is said to be ‘tenant at will [of the lady of the manor]his holding was quite secure, for manorial customs were binding equally on lord and tenant.  Almost certainly he held by copy of an entry in a manorial roll registering his tenancy; his lease, for three lives, was at a fixed yearly rent amounting roughly to a third of the surplus annual income.

Lady Cecily’s survey gives no details of the customs on her manors, but they are unlikely to differ markedly from those recorded in a survey conducted in 1548 of the earl of Devon’s manors.  There it is stated that:

All the customarye tenaunts of the said manner held ther landes by copie of court roll to them and to one or two of ther children whiche they will name and appoynt to thre weakes, yf his pleasure be so t’appoynt the same, and payment of suche ther severall rents, and doinge suche other customs as hereafter shalbe declared. [13]

These customs included attendance at the annual Lete Court and Fair, election from among the tenants of one to be the tythingman or constable, and payment of ‘goose silver’ which allowed them to keep their geese and ducks in the lord’s river and on his waste land.  Other rules governed the rights of widows who were copyholders with their husbands (e.g. payment of another fine if she should re-marry), and use of common land, etc.  They illustrate clearly how each manor was organized as a self-regulating community, relying largely on tradition for its own ‘common law’ of practices, well understood by all the parties.

If these customs seem oppressive to us it must be remembered that by the middle of the 16th century many old manorial customs and practices were falling into disuse; we cannot be certain that the restrictions imposed in earlier years were still being enforced.  One practice which certainly continued for many years was the ‘fine’ or entrance fee paid by a tenant when a lease was agreed, the terms being re-negotiated if and when he wished to extend it to cover another life.  A tenant could transfer the lease to any one of the declared lives.  His estate would normally pay a heriot, either his best beast or a fixed sum in lieu, to the lord/lady of the manor at the termination of each life.  Rents were paid half-yearly.  The extra fine due from William Lowsemore ‘for confirmation’ was payable to Nicholas Chaunterell, surveyor of Lord Thomas, marquis of Dorset, Cecily’s son and heir, who was gradually taking an interest in the manor.

In the following account of the Loosemores of Bishops Nympton all baptismal, marriage and burial dates are taken from original parish registers unless otherwise stated. [14]   Individual members are identified in the text by quoting their year of baptism (e.g. John 1602, etc) if known, or burial year (e.g. William bur. 1539) for very early members whose baptism is unknown, as a means of minimising confusion between different family members having the same forename; this will also reduce repetitive use of the surname.

Family of William (c1500? –1539)

Inspection of the Bishops Nympton marriage register suggests that William and Agnes had at least two children in addition to John c1524.  Thus, on 27 November 1559 Johan Loosemore married Richarde Mackerell of East Worlington, a parish immediately south of Rose Ash and on 5 February 1569/70 Roberte Loosemore married Emot Pitman.  Making the reasonable assumption that Johan (Joan) was not less than 21–22 years old at her marriage implies a birth date of c1536-7 or earlier, consistent with her being a daughter of William bur. 1539.  The presence of only one Loosemore in the 1524 subsidy return for the parish makes it unlikely that she came from another family of the same name.  The presumption that Roberte was a son of this same William is perhaps more questionable, for since William died in 1539 Roberte must have been at least 30 years old at the time of his marriage.  However, this age was not unusual for a younger son, who would have found difficulty in establishing the independence necessary to support a wife.  An alternative possibility, that he lived elsewhere but was married in Bishops Nympton because it was the home parish of his bride can be discounted because his name appears in the parish returns for the 1569 Muster Roll, as an archer, and in the two lay subsidies of September 1571 and 1582, assessed on goods valued at £4 [15] ; he evidently lived in Bishops Nympton.  We shall therefore accept Johan marr. 1559 and Roberte marr.1569/70 as children of William.

Robert was buried at Bishops Nympton on 30 December 1582, probate of his will being granted at Exeter that year. [16]   He had issue at least one daughter, for on 9 December 1588 ‘Elizabeth Pitman, daughter of Emote Loosemore, widow’ married Philippe Kingdon of North Molton, in Bishops Nympton parish church.  Apparently her mother chose to use her maiden name when recording the event.  Emote continued to live on their property, for she was assessed in Bishops Nympton for tax on goods valued at £3 in October 1592. [17]   She was buried on 9 February 1604/5, her will being proved at Exeter in 1605.16

We must now retrace our steps to 1539 when, as has already been mentioned, William died; his will was proved in the Exeter Consistory Court but was lost with others in 1942.  We do not know what conditions he imposed on his children to protect the interest of his widow but for a while at least she continued in occupation. for in October 1540 she was assessed for tax at 10s. on goods, corresponding to a valuation of £20.  This assessment, for the first part of a subsidy granted by Parliament to Henry VIII, is much higher than any subsequent assessment on her son John (bap c1521), suggesting that the assessors took advantage of her ‘inferior’ status as a woman to increase her tax code.  John took over the farm shortly afterwards and three years later he was assessed on goods (the amount is illegible on the return) and Agnes is not mentioned, probably because by then he had attained his majority, implying a birth date c1521.  This is consistent with the 1525 Cecily survey, for it was usual in a lease over three lives to declare the husband, wife, and eldest offspring once he/she had surmounted the hazards of babyhood and was a few years old.  The custom of many 16–17th century Devon manors allowed a widow to continue living in her husband’s tenement during her life unless she re-married.

Family of John (c1524-1583)

This John, eldest son of William, first married Joan Moll, probably about 1548-1550.  No record of the event has been found but on 29 January 1562/3 Joan the wife of John Loosemore was buried in Bishops Nympton, while in his will (Appendix 7), which we shall notice later, John refers to a gift from his son John’s grandfather Henry Moll.  Joan bore her husband not less than seven children, four sons and three daughters, of whom Andrew, bap. in the parish on 14 July 1561, was buried there the following day.  The youngest child, Robert, bap. on 26 January 1562/3, was also buried the following day, just two days before his mother.  The remaining five children were all born before the start of baptismal records in the parish, but we can learn something of their lives from the marriage and burial registers coupled with an inspection of John’s will.

Agnes, probably the eldest daughter, who married John Western alias Driller on 23 July 1568, must have been on excellent terms with her father for her family was specially recognised in his will.  She was bequeathed a heifer, while John her husband, who received eight bushels of rye and a similar quantity of oats, was a witness to the will in addition to his appointment as an overseer; he was buried on 24 April 1594.  Their two children, John bap. 11 Mar 1673/4 and Elizabeth, bap. 5 July 1581, both in Bishops Nympton, each received money gifts in their grandfather’s will: 10s. to John and 20s. to the younger Elizabeth.  The other daughters of John and Joan were treated far less generously.  Johan, who married … Domeade, received only 6s.8d, while her husband was not mentioned as a legatee; their several children were each given a lamb.  Sidwell, probably the youngest daughter who married Peter Bowden on 1572/3, was not mentioned in her father’s will.

John’s remaining two sons, Henry and John, present a further puzzle, especially since no record of their birth or baptism has been found.  John (bur. 1592) must have been the eldest since only he is listed in the great 1569 Muster Roll, as a pikeman, along with his father and uncle Robert; Henry (d. 1621) must then have been less than 16 years old. [18]   Yet John was effectively disinherited by his father in the latter’s will.  In the will John the father bequeaths a number of minor items to his eldest son after which he states explicitly that his executors and administrators are then ‘…to be clearly discharged of all the stuff and things he brought into my custody and of all other things’.  On the other hand Henry is bequeathed ‘…my plough gear and furniture for tenne oxen and also my iron bound wheels and my waine…’; he is also given instructions concerning the care to be afforded to his widowed mother Joan.  Henry is listed in the October 1592 subsidy roll, assessed on goods valued at £8 and has clearly become head of the household. [19]

A further hint of a rift between John (c1524-1583) and his eldest son is provided by the period of over seven years which elapsed between his burial in 1583 and the grant of probate of his will in February 1590/1, in the senior Prerogative Court of Canterbury rather than in a local diocesan court.  The most usual reason for this course of action was that the will was contested, but no corroboratory evidence has been discovered by a search at the Public Record Office.  In the absence of any firm information the most generous explanation is that John (bur. 1592), unmarried, had shown little wish to settle down and run the farm, whereas by the time of his father’s death Henry, the second son, was already married with at least three children.  Their father may therefore  have decided to leave the farm to Henry, although it seems that the younger John did not give up his birthright without a legal struggle.

An alternative explanation is that John (bur. 1592) was not the son by blood of his ‘father’ John (c1524-1583), but that when Joan Moll married the father she was already the mother or mother-to-be of John the son by a previous marriage.  This could account for the somewhat strange language in the will of John (c1524-1583):

Whereas my sonne John Lousemore brought unto me of the gift and bequoth of his grandfather…things which he brought into my custody…

Whichever of these speculations is correct it seems clear that Henry (bur. 1621) inherited the major share of his father’s estate.  In 1592 his assessment on goods valued at £8, as has been noted above, accounted for the whole of his father’s wealth after allowing for the customary 1/3 life interest as his widow’s dower, although some doubt must remain regarding this interpretation in the absence of any documentary support.  We have no reason to believe that the son John (bur. 1592) ever married.  He was buried in Bishops Nympton on 16 September 1592 and his will, now lost, was proved at Exeter the same year (see Appendix 1).

After the death of Joan his first wife in January 1562/3 John (c1524-1583) re-married the following June.  An entry in the parish marriage register for 18 June 1563 ‘John Loosemore the elder and Emote Gorton’ leaves no doubt that it refers to John the father and not his son.  There were certainly two children, Gregory and Peter, born of this second marriage, and possibly three.  Gregorie was baptized in Bishops Nympton on 20 August 1564 and another ‘son of John Lousemore’ whose forename is illegible, on 11 April 1568.  This may have been Peter, yet John the father, in his will, refers to his sons Henry, Peter and Gregory in that order, and later he instructs to suffer that ‘Emote my wife and her son Gregory do dwell in the kytchin nowe belonginge to my tenement for one whole year’ with no mention of Peter, suggesting that Gregory was the youngest son.  If this is so the 1568 baptism must refer to a third son who probably died in infancy.  Further, assuming that baptism occurred soon after birth, Peter must then have been born not later than about September 1563, only three months after his father’s second marriage.  On the other hand, the choice of Gregory as his father’s residuary legatee and sole executor strengthens the proposal that he was older than Peter.  We can only reserve judgement about Peter’s date of birth but in what follows he will be referred to as Peter 1568.

Both young men, with no expectation of inheriting their father’s farm, moved northwards to Twitchen parish on the southern edge of Exmoor.  Enclosure and development of this area, high, wind-swept and bleak in winter, occurred comparatively late and they would have found more opportunities to acquire land there than if they had travelled southwards.  Gregory 1564 probably moved there some time after 1585 when he attained 21 years.  He had made a good start by the autumn of 1592, when he was assessed there for tax on goods valued at £3 in the subsidy granted to Queen Elizabeth by parliament.  Unfortunately Twitchen parish records have been badly preserved.  The surviving church registers start only in 1715 and although the first bishop’s transcript dates from 1602 the only early years for which records remain are 1607 (a fragment), 1619 and 1638.  From these we learn that ‘John the son of Gregory Lusmore’ was baptized on 17 May 1602 but no mention is made of Gregory’s wife.

Another difficulty arises in understanding his later life in Twitchen since, as we shall see a little later, his half-brother Henry (d. 1621) who married Ursula Gosse named his youngest, twin, sons Gregory and Peter.  This Gregory also moved to Twitchen and on occasions one cannot distinguish between the two.  We shall return to this problem later.

John (c1524-1583) was buried in Bishops Nympton on 13 September 1583, after which Emote, his widow, was placed in an unusually difficult position, for she was only the step-mother of Henry (d. 1621), his father’s heir.  Not surprisingly, within four months of John’s death she had decided to move out and on 20 January following she married Thomas Burges or Burgis, of Twitchen.  This marriage may have been one factor influencing the direction taken by her two sons in their search for pastures new.  Thomas Burges was assessed for tax on goods valued at £10 in 1582, £8 in 1592 and only £3 in 1610, so life for him and his wife in that remote parish could not have been easy. [20]

Peter (1568), who with his brother Gregory (1564) and eldest half-brother Henry (d. 1621) shared between them 2/3 of their father’s goods and chattels, must have moved to Twitchen fairly soon, though very little is known of his life there.  In the 1590 Trinity law term (summer) Peter Lowsmore was a plaintiff with Sir John Poyntz, Warden or Chief Forester of Exmoor forest, in an action brought in the Court of Exchequer against Henry Rolle, a prominent local landowner.  Peter (1568) had put some cattle to graze on Hawkridge common, said to be ‘parcell of the Forest of Exmore’.  Rolle, the defendant, lord of the manors of Exton, Hawkridge and Withypool, whose lands extended over the general area of Exmoor, had impounded them as intruding into his lands, but their release had been granted from the forest court and the cattle re-delivered to Peter Lowsmore.  In the preceding Hilary term (January 1589/90) Rolle had prosecuted a suit in the Queen’s Bench; Poyntz and Peter now claimed an injunction to stop him.  It was apparently successful for the action was taken no further for some reason.  This is but one example of the endless friction, endemic for several centuries, between those who held common grazing rights on and about Exmoor and those others who tried to assert rights of enclosure over the forest environs. [21]

Peter (1568) was one of 52 ‘free suitors’ who claimed special privileges dating from ancient times, permitting them to graze animals in the forest without charge up to a certain maximum number, to cut turf, heath and fern for fuel, and to fish in the forest rivers, in return for various limited duties.  He presumably gained these privileges as part of the tenement which he must have acquired in the parish.  His name was also included with other free suitors in a suit brought before the Court of Exchequer in 1608 by William Pincombe, deputy to the then Chief Forester, Sir Hugh Pollard.  No other details of his family life have come to light.

The four overseers to the will of John (c1524-1583) provide some indication of his relative social position, for they were all fairly prosperous, though less so than him.  His goods were valued consistently at £11-12 in seven tax assessments between 1544 and 1582, whereas in 1582 Robert Viccarie was assessed on goods worth £9, Andrew Manyng on £5, Gregory Bowden on land worth 20s.  Our John remained one of the larger freehold tenant farmers in his parish for some 40 years.

His will also casts light on the type of agriculture then typical of the region.  A reference to furniture for ten oxen (i.e. harness, etc) confirms the use of draught oxen for ploughing, a practice which continued there until a very late date. [22]   Iron-bound wheels were valuable enough to warrant a special mention and are eloquent testimony to the rough, stony tracks in the district.  Kerscot was sown with rye and oats for making coarse bread and also perhaps as winter feed for the farm animals.  Sheep, cattle and horses, the latter mainly for personal transport, were the main livestock.  The will makes no mention of a transfer of the farm to Henry (d. 1621), for land conveyancing fell outside the scope of ecclesiastical courts; it would have been the subject of separate agreements, now lost, between John, his son, and the lord of the manor (the bishop of Exeter).  John’s bequests in ready money totalled £11, equivalent to nearly £1000 at present day values.

Family of Henry (d. 1621)

Henry (d. 1621), his father’s heir, whose family is central to our story, was probably baptized about 1552.  On 29 January 1576/7 at Bishops Nympton he married Ursula Gosse, whose family name occurs in the parish, and also in Molland, South Tawton and East Down, near Barnstaple, at this time.  No record of her baptism has been discovered but if she was a native of Bishops Nympton, a reasonable assumption, she could have been a daughter of John Gosse, two of whose children were baptized in the parish in 1558 and 1564.

Over the next twelve years Ursula bore her husband six sons and a daughter.  Their eldest son was baptized exactly ten months after the marriage, on 28 November 1577, but this page of the church register is badly torn and only the last three letters of his forename remain, viz. ‘…ell’.  However, later in this Chapter, when considering the legal embroilment of Henry’s third son John, we shall note unequivocal evidence that his eldest son was named Samuel, who therefore must have been born prior to 1582.  This, together with a marriage entry dated 6 August 1604 recording the union of ‘Samuel Loosemoore son of Henry, and Gillian daughter of Edward Manye and Emote his wife’ allows us to accept confidently that the ravaged baptismal name is that of Samuel (1577).  His children include John Loosemore the Exeter Cathedral organ-builder whom we shall discuss in more detail in Chapter 6.

After Samuel a second child, a daughter, was baptized in April 1580.  Neither the exact date or forename are legible in the register, but a marriage on 24 May 1596 of ‘Emote daughter of Henrie Loosemore’, with John Kerslake identifies her as his daughter.  There is no evidence for any other daughter of Henry baptized between November 1577 and April 1580.  Some confusion is created by a marriage licence issued at Exeter on 4 May 1596 between Emmote Loosemore of Bishops Nympton and John Kastle of Knowstone, no doubt due to a scribal error. [23]   Members of the Kerslake family were assessed for tax in Knowstone parish over the whole period from 1577 to 1610.

At only sixteen Emote was a young bride, but in those days girls were regarded as being of marriageable age at twelve years old; boys came of age slightly later, at fourteen.  This is surprisingly young by the conventions of our time, and a near-contemporary authority admits that while

… The civill law, and common law also, set downe twelve yeares for the floure of a females age, and fourteene of a males … if they forebeare some yeares longer, it will be much better for the parties themselves … [24]

William 1582, the second son, baptized on 19 March 1581/2, followed his step-uncle Gregory 1564 to Twitchen when he came of age.  He was assessed there for tax in 1610 on goods worth £3 and again in 1621/2 (on £5) and 1624/5 (on £4). [25]   On 7 February 1613/14 William Loosemore of Twitchen married Ann Budge, daughter of Margaret Grant, widow, at Bishops Nympton.  The young woman is also named Ann Budge in a marriage allegation sworn at Exeter on the previous 27 January, in which William is described as ‘of Twitchen, gentleman,23 so Grant was probably her mother’s maiden name (cf. Elizabeth the daughter of Emote Loosemore, widow of William (c1500?-1539), when she married Philippe Kingdon in 1588).  Very little information has come to light regarding the life of William 1582.  On 27 March 1639 he was a witness to the will of John Towte, yeoman, of Bishops Nympton. [26]   The Twitchen bishop’s transcripts record that his daughter Margaret was buried on 25 July 1619.  Two other daughters of a William Loosemore, named Rose and English, were buried at Bishops Nympton on 24 October 1644 and 11 September 1654 respectively; Ann his wife was buried there on 27 September 1646.  It may be surmised from these three burials during and after the civil war that William had been involved in the fighting in some way, perhaps fatally, and that his family returned to his wife’s home parish, but we know nothing more of them.

John 1584, the third son, baptized at Bishops Nympton on 15 May 1584, seems to have lived all of his comparatively short life in his home village.  He was a churchwarden of the parish in 1613 [27] and was assessed for tax on goods valued at £5 and £6 in 1621/2 and 1624/5.25   No record has been found in church registers of his marriage, but clear evidence that he married Katherine née Leerwell is contained in a suit prosecuted in the Court of Chancery by John and his wife Katherine as joint complainants, against her brother Nicholas Leerwell as defendant.  Their bill of complaint and the defendant’s answer are lost, the only papers surviving being the complainants’ reply (undated but during the reign of Charles I) and depositions by witnesses before a commission appointed by order of the court.  The background to the suit is that Katherine was to marry a Richard Crocker, at which time her father, Richard Leerwell, agreed to bestow on her as a marriage portion a tenement called Maytowne, in Kentisbury parish, together with a sum of £200.  However, this plan was frustrated by the death of the intended bridegroom.  Subsequently it was arranged that she should marry John Loosemore.  Details of the settlement were agreed at a meeting held in her father’s house at Cholsworthy in the parish of Combe Martin, attended also by Henry Loosemore, father of John, Nicholas Leerwell the defendant, and others.  Richard Leerwell agreed, as before, that she should have as her portion £200 and the reversion of the Maytowne property parish after the death of Helen Crocker.  For his part Henry Loosemore agreed to make over to his son John such of his interest in Kerscot Farm as would produce an income of £20/year and the reversion of the tenement known as Abbots Park at present in the possession of Samuel, another of his sons who has been mentioned earlier in this Chapter.  On this basis John Loosemore and Katherine Leerwell were betrothed and later married.

The point of contention was that although Helen Crocker was buried on or about 18 December 1620 the tenement called Maytowne was not transferred to John and Katherine but remained in possession of Nicholas Leerwell, who asserted that the £200 was the sum total of Katherine’s marriage portion.  By the time that depositions of witnesses were taken at South Molton on 3 October 1625 both Henry Loosemore and Richard Leerwell had died but it appears from the statement sworn by Johane Leerwell that after the meeting referred to above another meeting took place, in the absence of Henry or John Loosemore, but attended by Richard Leerwell, his son Nicholas together with Rev. Richard Richards the incumbent priest of Kentisbury parish and several other people.  She (Johane) and another son had been told to leave the house, while Katherine had been called in.  Afterwards she saw Katherine leave the meeting in tears and ‘beleeveth Katherine passed over her estate [i.e. her interest] in Maytowne unto Nicholas Leerwell between the betrothing and their intermarriage at the house of Cholsworthie’.  Rev. Richard Richards, in his deposition, agreed that this had happened but that the deed of transfer was freely and willingly signed by Katherine, without any compulsion. [28]   No details of the final judgement in this suit have been found and several aspects of the affair must remain unclear.

It seems likely that the marriage would have been conducted by Rev. Richards in Katherine’s home parish of Combe Martin.  Unfortunately marriage entries in the surviving parish church register start only at 1680, so the actual date cannot now be known.  At first sight one presumes that it was some time near the beginning of 1613 since ‘Ellen daughter of John Loosemoore and Katherin’ was baptized on 30 November 1613 in Bishops Nympton, but the possibility that it might have been appreciably earlier is considered later in this section. [29]   William Loosemore, an older brother of John and one of the witnesses, had confirmed that ‘John now [i.e. in 1625] had an interest in Kerscot for his life according to the custom of the manor of Knowstone Beaple, as did Katherine for the term of her widowhood.’’ [30]   A second daughter, also Katheryn, was baptized 4 September 1625 in Bishops Nympton and buried there five years later, on 21 December 1630.  The twelve year gap between Ellen and Katherine is unusual but the church register is known to be deficient at this period, e.g. no entries from 1618-1622.

Depositions by three of the witnesses provide more information about Kerscot and other properties.  William Loosemore, Thomas Viccarie, weaver of Bishops Nympton, and Thomas Challacombe between them agreed that Henry Loosemore had procured Abbots Park about 30 years ago (i.e. c1595) for £100 and Kerscot Farm about fifteen years ago (i.e. c1610) for £330.  The two properties produced annual incomes of about £15 and £50 respectively.  One may speculate that the very large sum required to confirm Henry’s interest in Kerscot was funded largely from Katherine’s marriage portion, and that he and his son John had perforce to accept any irregularity over the transfer of Maytowne, a small tenement which had been procured by Katherine’s father for only £30.  ‘As for Abbots Park it is yet in the possession of Samuel Loosemore the elder brother, as agreed, he being yet living’.

Katherine’s legal travails continued after the death of her husband John 1584 in December 1630, but first it will be convenient to mention here the three younger sons of Henry and Ursula, all of whom were baptized in Bishops Nympton, viz. Christopher 1586, baptized on 30 October 1586 whom we shall meet briefly later, Peter 1589, baptized 25 May 1589 and buried in his home parish on 5 July 1652, and Gregory 1589, also baptized on 25 May 1589 and probably a twin of Peter.  As has been mentioned earlier, this Gregory moved to Twitchen; we shall consider him briefly later in this chapter.

We return now to John 1584, who was buried in Bishops Nympton on 8 December 1630.  His Will, now lost, was proved the same year in the Exeter Consistory Court but no details have survived. [31]   Soon afterwards Katherine his widow was forced again to initiate proceedings in the Court of Chancery as complainant, this time against Robert Pollard, Henry Viccary, Phillipp Morris, Jane Drawkins and Frances Hill, defendants.  Katherine’s bill of complaint recites the main features though ambiguity remains because the vellum is badly tattered and worn. [32]   It is undated but from internal evidence we can place it near the end of 1631 or beginning of 1632.  It seems that about 1609 Jane Drawkins of Knowstone, then a servant with John Kerslake [33] of the same parish, was found to be with child and nominated Peter Loosemoore [34] of Bishops Nympton as the father.  When the base child, a girl, was born she would become a charge on the parishioners of Knowstone, but Henry Loosemore and his son Peter entered into a bond of £20 with two parishioners, Henry Viccary and Phillip Morris, by which they accepted full responsibility for her maintenance until she became of age at 21 years.  This state of affairs continued until the young girl was 12 years old when Henry reached a formal agreement with Nicholas Hill by which for a sum of £7 he (Nicholas Hill) would take the girl as his apprentice, accepting responsibility for her and absolving Henry and Peter, until she reached 21.  This agreement had been approved by the two parishioners Viccary and Morris, and by Jane Drawkins, mother of the girl.  Shortly afterwards Henry made his will, and died, leaving his son John to take over all his debts and other responsibilities as his executor. [35]

The bill of complaint then recites the substance of Henry’s will, giving useful information which otherwise would have been lost. [36]   After leaving an unknown sum to the poor of Bishops Nympton he bequeathed twenty shillings each to his son Samuel and daughter Emote Kerslake, £7 each to his sons Christopher and Peter, an unknown sum plus one heifer of two years to his son Gregory and twenty shillings to Ellen, daughter of his son John; John was to be the residuary legatee and executor of the will. [37]

About 1½ years later Nicholas Hill died leaving his wife Frances, who was appointed his executrix, with ‘a good estate in goods and chattels’, but she now became responsible for the young girl on account of the agreement made between her late husband and Henry Loosemore.  She therefore entered into an agreement with Robert Pollard of South Molton to take over the girl’s apprenticeship, with the approval of Jane Drawkins, Peter Loosemore (and probably John his father but the words are lost from the damaged vellum), plus other parishioners of Knowstone.  However, John Loosemore died about a year ago at Bishops Nympton, making his wife Katherine his executrix; she therefore inherited all his responsibilities including the bond concerning responsibility for the child. [38]

At this point the bill alleges that in order to divest themselves of all further responsibility and throw the entire onus on to Katherine the defendants together arranged for the girl to leave Bishops Nympton and return to Knowstone, when she automatically became the responsibility of the parishioners there.  They were then able to say that Katherine had broken the bond entered into by her father-in-law Henry for which she was now responsible, and they sued her accordingly.  Meanwhile, Frances Hill and Robert Pollard are both comfortably endowed and Peter Loosemore the imputed father of the girl, lives in Bishops Nympton.  Katherine, describing herself as ’only the executrix of an executor and a woman no way able to help and relieve herself’ throws herself on the mercy of the court.

She seems to have been successful, for the judgement handed down by the Court, dated Wednesday 13 January 1631/2 states, inter alia, that provided Sir Edward Blake, who was asked to review the submissions, was satisfied that the facts were as stated ‘…then a Judgement is awarded against the said defendants their counsels attorneys and solicitors, for stay of their proceedings at the common law upon the said bond…’. [39]   Perhaps Katherine was not quite as helpless as she implied in her submission, for on 18 August 1632 she was married to Bartholomew Courtney at Bishops Nympton.  It is possible that she initiated her suit on his advice to ensure that after marriage he would not be encumbered with her problems.

Then, from 1627 to 1638 five children were born to ‘Henry Loosemore and Elizabeth’; no record of the birth/baptism of Henry Loosemore or of his marriage has been found in church registers.  The baptismal dates of his children imply a marriage to Elizabeth not later than early 1627, consistent with a birth date for him of c1600-1610.  Only two Henry Loosemores occur in the parish earlier than 1660, including Henry d.1621 who was born before parish records started.  Bearing in mind that it was common practice at that time to name one of the first sons of a marriage after his paternal grandfather is not unreasonable to assume that Henry the husband of Elizabeth may have been a grandson of Henry (d. 1621), in which case he must have been a son either of Samuel 1577, William 1582, or John 1584.  We have seen that William established himself at Twitchen while, as will become apparent later in this chapter, Samuel made his home in Barnstaple, though admittedly not until after 1610.  On the other hand John apparently remained in Bishops Nympton and for this reason the balance of probability points to Henry as his son.  It was also common practice that couples who had indicated a clear intention to marry were tacitly allowed to cohabit, in order to confirm that the union would be fertile.  Hence the possibility arises that Katherine may have been pregnant at the time of her marriage to John Loosemore, either by Richard Crocker before his premature death or by John Loosemore himself.  This illegitimacy in turn might explain why Henry had been excluded from his grandfather’s will.  It would also advance the probable date of their marriage, on the assumption that Ellen was not Katherine’s first child: a date much nearer to 1610 would be reasonable.  All this is conjectural but, while accepting the possibility of error due to lack of any definite information, we shall refer to him as Henry 1605 in what follows, regarding him as a son of John 1584.  As we have already seen, this John was buried in Bishops Nympton on 8 December 1630, his will being proved at Exeter shortly afterwards.

Christopher 1586, the next son of Henry (d. 1621), whom we have mentioned earlier, appears in none of the lay subsidy returns for any parish in Witheridge hundred, but he may be the same Christopher whose allegiance to the Protestant faith is recorded in the 1642 return for Molland parish. [40]

Peter 1589 has also been mentioned in connection with a legal wrangle which his parents had to endure concerning an illegitimate child born to Jane Drawkins c1609 of whom he was alleged to be the putative father.  Nothing else is known about him except that he appears in the Bishops Nympton Protestation return40 when he would have been about 53 years old, and that he was buried in Bishops Nympton on 5 July 1652.

Gregory 1589, probably a twin to Peter, presents us with a puzzle for he moved to Twitchen and cannot be distinguished from his step-uncle Gregory 1564, mentioned earlier.  The younger man’s presence may be inferred from a marriage recorded on 17 October 1639 in the adjacent parish of North Molton of ‘Gregorie Loosmor of Twitchen’ to Katherine Allen.  This could hardly refer to the older man for he would then have been aged 75 years if, indeed, he was still alive.  As ‘Agnys the wife of Gregorie Lusmoor’ had been buried in Twitchen on 28 April 1638 it seems that this Gregory was twice married.  One Gregory only was assessed for tax at Twitchen in each of the years 1592, 1610, 1621/2 and 1624/5.  We may take it that at least the first two dates refer to Gregory 1564, for his young namesake would have been barely 21 in 1610.  There is no reference to a Gregory Loosemore in the lay subsidy returns of any nearby parish except Twitchen, so we suppose that Gregory 1564 died between 1610 and 1622 or, just possibly between 1602 when his son John was baptized and 1610.  Gregory 1589 was alive in 164240 but the collapse of record-keeping during and after the Civil War probably accounts for the lack of information on his later life.  He may well have taken up arms and been killed in battle.

Henry (d. 1621) died in 1621, for he made his will on or about 10 December 162136 and probate was granted that same year. [41]

Family of Samuel 1577

We have already seen that Samuel 1577, eldest son of Henry (d. 1621), married Gillian the daughter of Edward Manye (Maney) and Emote his wife on 6 August 1604 at Bishops Nympton.  No baptismal date for Gillian Maney has been found but a younger brother, James ‘son of Edward Manye and Emotte his wife’ was baptized there on 21 February 1594/5.  The Maney family may have moved to Bishops Nympton from Barnstaple some time after 1570, for several Maney baptisms are recorded in the latter parish church register between 1551 and 1621, while the name is absent from Bishops Nympton in the 1569 Muster Return18 .  This tentative link with Barnstaple may be significant in view of Samuel’s subsequent movements, though it would not be surprising to discover some connection with the thriving seaport town.  Wool, woollen products and other saleable commodities produced in the inland parishes around Bishops Nympton were commonly sold at South Molton market town fairs and transported by merchants to Barnstaple where they found a ready export market.  Woollen goods in particular were exported to Gascony and Spain, whose people still favoured the cheaper ‘strait’ cloth woven in the district at a time when northern Europe was becoming increasingly attracted to the more stylish kersey woven in the Tiverton, Cullompton and Crediton area of east Devon.

The first six years of Samuel’s married life pose a major unresolved puzzle, the solution of which is important if we are to understand the family relationships between three Loosemore organ builders and organists of this period, viz. John, Henry and George (see Chapters 6 and 7).  It is therefore unfortunate that nothing definite is known of his whereabouts during these six years; his first recorded child, Ann, was baptized in Bishops Nympton on 14 October 1610.  The gap between 1604 and 1610 cannot be explained as due to any obvious deficiency in the church register, which seems to have been kept properly in these years.  We shall return to this puzzle later.

Meanwhile we follow Samuel 1577 and Gillian to Barnstaple, for they left the family home to make a fresh start there some time after the birth of Ann 1610 and 1613 when Precilla, ‘daughter of Samuel Loosemore’, was baptized in Barnstaple on 29 June.  Like many new-born of her time she did not survive baby-hood, being buried just before her second birthday, on 13 July 1615.  There followed at regular three yearly intervals John, baptized on 25 August 1616; George on 12 September 1619; Amy on 13 November 1622; Samuel on 4 September 1625.  Amy 1622 may have been the un-named ‘daughter of Samuel Loosemore who was buried in Barnstaple on 4 September 1634. [42]

We shall meet John 1616 the eldest son, who was to achieve distinction as builder of the post-Restoration Exeter cathedral organ, in the next Chapter.  George 1619, the second son, makes no further appearance in Barnstaple records, so assuming that he survived childhood he may well be the George Loosemore who became organist of Jesus College, Cambridge in 1635 and of Trinity College after the Restoration (see Chapter 7).

The Devon Protestation Return confirms that early in 1642 Samuel 1577 was the only adult male Loosemore resident in Barnstaple.  John 1616 and his younger brother George 1619 had left the town so with the burial on 25 November 1642 of their father only the youngest son, Samuel 1625, remained of the first Loosemore family there.  Samuel 1625 was married on 29 May 1649 in the adjacent parish of Fremington, no doubt because it his bride had her home there, though the register entry makes no mention of her name.  It may perhaps be inferred from an entry in the Barnstaple church register recording the burial of ‘Susan Lousamer, widow’ on 26 November 1667, since ‘Samuel Lousamer’ had been buried there two years previously, on 9 September 1665.  Only two Susans appear in the Fremington baptismal register around 1628: Susanna, daughter of William Tucker, 30 November 1628 and Susanna, daughter of Simon Calmer, 14 October 1621.  Susan Tucker would have been aged 20 in May 1649, while Samuel 1625 was then aged 23, so we propose tentatively that she was his wife.

Four daughters were born to Samuel 1625 and Susan in Barnstaple during the next eight years: Gillian, baptized 3 December 1650; Mary, 7 August 1653, buried 22 April 1656; Joane, 6 February 1655/6 who lived only six weeks, being buried 5 April 1656; and another Mary, born 27 May 1657 and baptized 17 June.  She was probably the ‘child of Samuel Lusomoore’ who was buried on 3 June 1660.  With the death of Samuel 1625 in 1665 and the failure of his male line the first family migration to Barnstaple came to an end.

At first sight Samuel 1577’s decision to leave his home village for the bustle of the seaport town is surprising.  One might have expected him, the eldest son of Henry (d. 1621), to inherit the family farm and remain in Bishops Nympton especially since he was still in possession of Abbots Park, another property which his father had bequeathed to him, in 1610.  As we have seen, his father must have been under severe financial pressure at about this time, having to find a large sum of money to confirm his tenancy of Kerscot and indulge in a complex legal battle on behalf of his younger son John 1584, who was yet still in possession of Kerscot in October 1625 and probably until his death in 1630.  If family circumstances were strained so that prospects in Bishops Nympton were not promising he might have preferred to try his fortune in other fields, especially if his interests lay elsewhere than in farming.  The six year disappearance at the start of his married life might have been connected with an attempt to establish an alternative career, a possibility that we shall examine a littler later.

Loosemores had certainly ceased to farm Kerscot before the Restoration, for on 10 December 1659 the Bishops Nympton register records the baptism of ‘Elizabeth daughter of John Tap of Kerscot and Ann.’  John Tap, son of Roger, had married Ann the daughter of John Thomas on 29 June 1658.  The Tapp family came from the adjacent parish of North Molton, where Roger married Margaret Burgis or Burges on 7 August 1623.  John, their eldest child, was baptized on 5 September of the next year, to be followed by four other children up to the autumn of 1634, after which there are no further entries.  Roger Tapp and his family could not therefore have moved to Bishops Nympton prior to late 1634.  The two year gap after 1632 when Katherine, widow of John 1584, re-married may not be significant so it is likely that John Tapp’s tenure followed directly that of the Loosemores.

Family of Henry 1605

The rather tentative arguments for regarding Henry 1605 as a son of John 1584 have already been outlined.  He with Elizabeth his wife had five children, two girls and then three sons, between 1627 and 1638.  Although no record of his marriage has been found the entries in the Bishops Nympton parish baptism register of all their children refer to the parents as ‘Henry Loosemore and Elizabeth’.  Their dates are: Jane 30 September 1627; Agnes 19 February 1629/30; Edmund 14 January 1633/4; Thomas 16 February 1635/6; Hugh 5 June 1638.  Thomas’s baptism requires some explanation since the boy’s forename in the register is illegible.  It has been inferred, by a process of elimination, from the record of a marriage on 8 April 1656 between ‘Thomas Loosemoore son of Henry, and Tamozin, daughter of George Eames alias Zeale’.

Jane 1627 illustrates how the insistence during the Commonwealth on civil marriage ceremonies, as a consequence of Presbyterian rejection of the Laudian Anglican church, could on occasion provide more information about the two parties than was normally found.  We read that

The contract concerning the marriage between William Govier, servant unto Richard Squire, and Jane Loosemore daughter of Henry Loosemore was published in the church on 15, 22, 29 January 1653 [43]

And then that

William Govier and Jane Loosemore were married by Mr John Sherland, Mayor of South Molton, in the presence of John Kemp, John Towte, John Govier, Thomas Loosemore, and others, on 6 February

Would that all entries were as informative.  We may take it that Thomas Loosemore the witness was Jane’s younger brother, then just ten days away from his eighteenth birthday.  Perhaps her father, Henry 1605, who would normally have been expected to attend his eldest daughter at her wedding, was too set in his ways at 50 years of age to accept the radical changes in religious thought and ceremonial brought about by the victorious Parliamentarians.  Nothing is known about the second daughter Agnes 1629/30; she may have died in infancy.

Edmund 1634, the eldest son, waited until the Restoration to marry.  On 19 October 1662 he wedded Elizabeth Parking in his home parish church.  Only two of his children are known though it would be surprising if they were the sum total of his family.  Edmund 1664 was baptized on 5 July 1664 and Elizabeth in 1668 (the exact date is illegible in the register).

Thomas 1636 and his younger brother Hugh 1638 married two sisters, Thomasin and Mary the daughters of George Eames alias Zeale (or sometimes Zeale alias Eames).  Several children of George Eames and his wife Johan were baptized in Bishops Nympton during the 1630s.  It was not uncommon at this period for family names to be changed at will, either for social reasons to reflect connection with a grander family or to express a link with a particular neighbourhood.  In this case it may have been the latter reason, acknowledging some family association with Zeal Monachorum, a parish in North Tawton hundred, just twelve miles south of Bishops Nympton.  Thomas 1636 and Thomasin Eames were married on 8 April 1656 but their first recorded child, Henry, was not baptized until 6½ years later, on 20 October 1662, i.e. after the Restoration had restored the Anglican church to its former position.  It is possible that a Hugh Loosemore, who is mentioned later in the register, was an elder son born to Thomas and Thomasin in 1657 or 1658, though the register does not record the event.  There may also have been other of their children baptized but unrecorded between Henry and their next known child, John on 10 October 1671.  Thomas 1636 was buried in his home parish on 21 May 1699, some 8½ years after Thomasin, herself buried on 5 November 1690.

Hugh 1638 married Mary Eames on 2 June 1670 in Bishops Nympton; three children, all girls, were born to them.  Elizabeth, baptized 23 January 1671/2, married John Bird, ‘servant to John Towte’ on 2 February; Frances, for whom no baptismal record has been found, was buried 22 October 1675, and Mary, baptized 11 January 1674/5 who died unmarried and was buried 29 June 1712.  Hugh 1638 was buried 12 June 1684 in his home parish, his will being proved in 168541 ; Mary his widow followed him on 13 January 1711/12.

Our only other record of their father Henry 1605 occurs in the Bishops Nympton parish return for the Hearth Tax of 1664, when two separate Henrys were each taxed 2s. on one hearth. [44]   One of these two must have been Henry 1605; the identity of the other is unclear but he was probable a son of the first Henry whose birth went unrecorded during or just after the civil war.  The Hearth Tax return provides graphic confirmation of the family’s reduced state at the Restoration, for one hearth implies a husbandsman’s very simple cottage, in sharp contrast with the prosperous days of John c1524.

Henry 1605 was buried in Bishops Nympton on 21 February 1680/81, his will being proved at Exeter in 1681.41

While speculating on unrecorded children of Henry 1605 mention must be made of John Loosemore who married Sibilla (Sybil) about 1670, implying that he was born about 1646, when parish records were very ill-kept.  For the sake of simplicity we shall refer to him as John 1646, a son of Henry 1605.  No record of his marriage to Sibilla has been found but some details for three of their children appear in the Bishops Nympton register: John, baptized 28 April 1672, buried 2 September that year; Katherine baptized 17 November 1674 but nothing more is known of her; Henry 1673, baptized 23 September 1673, whose line was fruitful.

The families of Edmund 1634 and his son Edmund 1664, Thomas 1636, John 1646 and his son Henry 1673, all of whom are descendants of Henry 1605, have been traced with reasonable confidence up to modern times, but we leave them here to look more closely at the life of John Loosemore the organ builder.


[1] O J Reichel, TDA, xxx, 1898, 258-315, 412.

[2] Bodl. MS Top. Devon b.2, ff. 37, 68, 131.

[3] T L Stoate, ed., Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-7, Exeter, 1979; the original Return for Knowstone in this subsidy is PRO E 179/194.

[4] T L Stoate, ed., A Survey of West Country Manors 1525, 1979, 126.

[5] R J King, TDA, viii, 1876, 351-359.

[6] VCH, Devon, i, 417.

[7] DRO 96M/65/13, deed dated 13 December 1651 for the expropriation.

[8] For Turkerigg see Fees, ii, 759, and Feudal Aids, i, 344, 363, 420, 470.

[9] A M Erskine, ed., The Devonshire Lay Subsidy of 1332, DCRS, New Series, i, 1969; for 1327 see PRO E 179/95/6, mm 1d, 5d, 2d and this text, Chap. 3, n22,23.

[10] For Knowstone Beaupel see see VCH Devon, i, 485; O J Reichel, TDA, Supplement, iii, 1928-38, 89-90; Fees, ii, 793; Feudal Aids, i, 325, 376, 418; Polwhele, iii, 394.

[11] H A Doubleday et al., The Complete Peerage, vi, 1926, 317 et seq; Hingeston-Randolph, viii, Reg. Brantyngham (1370-1394) Pt II, 1906, 655; CIPM, 7 Hen IV, No.55 (1406); Feudal Aids, i, 468 for Isabella in 1428.

[12] M F Bridie, The Story of Shute: The Bonvilles and Poles, Axminster, 1955, and M Halliday, Monuments and Effigies in Porlock Church, Torquay, 1882, for genealogical details of the Harington and Bonville families.

[13] The Topographer and Genealogist, i, 1846, 43-58, 145-153, 223-228, 343-348.  A useful account of relations between landlord and tenant is J Youings, Sixteenth-Century England, 1984, Ch.II.

[14] Most original parish registers and surviving bishops transcripts are deposited at DRO, Exeter or NDRO, Barnstaple but are normally available for examination only as copies on microfiche or microfilm.

[15] The lay subsidies PRO E 179/100/372 for 1571, E 179/100/385 for 1582, cover all parishes in Witheridge Hundred, including Bishops Nympton.

[16] For a list of Loosemore Wills and Admons. see Appendix I.

[17] The lay subsidy return for 1592, PRO E 179/101/411, covers all parishes in Witheridge Hundred..

[18] A J Howard and T L Stoate, eds., The Devon Muster Roll for 1569, 1977, transcr. From PRO SP12/57.

[19] The lay subsidy return PRO E 179/101/411 covers all parishes in Witheridge hundred, including Bishops Nympton.

[20] See refs. 16, 20 above for 1582 & 1592; the Witheridge hundred subsidy return for 1610 is PRO E 179/101/451.

[21] E T MacDermot, The History of the Forest of Exmoor, repr. 1973, 231, 250.

[22] C S Tull, typescript booklet, Bishops Nympton: Church and People, 1979, 2.

[23] J L Vivian, Marriage Licences of the Diocese of Exeter 1523-1631, Pts I & II, Exeter, 1887. Typescript index produced for DCRS, held in WCSL, Exeter.  See p 12 for Emote/Kastle, p37 for William/Budge.

[24] W Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties, 3rd ed., 1634, 180.

[25] The lay subsidy returns for 1621/2 and 1624/5 are PRO E 179/102/459 and /102/463 respectively; they cover all parishes in Witheridge Hundred.

[26] Miss Moger, Abstracts of Testamentary Causes, Ser.II, No.2752, typescript held by DRO, Exeter,

[27] G Granville and W E Mogford, Abstracts of the Existing Transcripts of the Lost Parish Registers of Devon1596-1644, i, A-Bra, Exeter, 1908.

[28] The Replication of John and Katherine Loosemore is held at the PRO, ref. C 2/Chas1/L60/6 on one vellum membrane; depositions of witness are among PRO “Chancery Depositions by Commission”, ref. C 21/L/12/10 on seven membranes; see also “Entry Books of Orders & Decrees in Chancery” ref. C33/150, f679.

[29] For confirmation of Ellen as a daughter of John see the will of his father Henry, later in this Chapter and n35,36 below.

[30] This statement confirms that Kerscot Farm was indeed part of the manor of Knowstone Beaupel.

[31] See Index Library, xxxv, 1908, and Appendix 1.

[32] Surviving papers are held at the PRO, ref. C 2/Chas I/L2/2.  Details are on seven vellum membranes though words are lost at the end of each line due to damage.

[33] John Kerslake had married Emote, daughter of Henry Loosemore and  sister of John, at Bishops Nympton on 24 May 1596, see earlier in this Chapter.

[34] Peter was a son of Henry and brother-in-law of Katherine, bap. 25 May 1589, i.e. he was aged c20 years in 1609.

[35] As Henry is known to have died in December 1621 this fixes the young girl’s date of birth fairly exactly as c1609.

[36] Henry’s will was dated “on or about” 10 December 1621.

[37] The two unknown sums were lost from damage to the vellum.

[38] John is known to have been buried on 8 December 1630, fixing the date of the bill of complaint as late 1631.

[39] The judgement is at PRO C 33/162, fol.708, dated “Mercurii 13th Janurii 1631” or as stated in the text above.

[40] A J Howard, ed., Devon Protestation Returns 1641, 1973.

[41] See Index Library, xlvi, 1914, and Appendix 1 of the present text.

[42] T Wainwright, ed., Barnstaple Parish Register 1538-1812, pub. J B Comin, Exeter, 1903; see also B Matthews, The Organ, lxii, October 1983, 168-174.

[43] That is, 1653/4; similarly the marriage took place on 6 February 1653/4.

[44] The 1664 Hearth Tax return for Witheridge hundred is PRO E 179/102/530.