The Lerwills of Arlington...and after...

The Arlington period (from the mid-1500s) is of particular interest to me, as I feel that my line is connected with this branch of the family, and that it is from this branch that the Marwood-Braunton line seems to emanate, and from which the Birmingham Lerwills emerged. Although there is a strong likelihood of my deductions being correct in this regard, no concrete proof is likely to emerge as there is a great lack of documentation from this place during the period in question.

The chart at the beginning of the previous chapter shows the possible link of the Arlington Lerwills to the Kentisbury family. As the Lerwill family got larger, it is quite conceivable that the family spread out. The Chichesters had been very substantial landholders in North Devon since the mid-1300s, particularly around Arlington, Sherwell and Marwood, and for the Lerwills to be in Arlington was clearly no accident. As will be seen, an apparent Arlington family offshoot moved on to Marwood, thus indicating the family's link (in employment terms) with the Chichester holdings., and this argument is pursued under "Communications in North Devon" (below).

The fact that the Chichesters' main home became to be at Arlington, and remained so until 1948, has meant that some interesting records have survived, and, as far as we are concerned, matters involving our family at Arlington, and these are reprduced later in the chapter.

Communications in North Devon......

It is a popular belief that people did not move around much in "the old days" (by that, I mean before 1800 or thereabouts). By and large that supposition is probably true, but it does not seem to be because society was held in some kind of straight-jacket, that if you came from a certain parish that is where you had to stay. It does seem that many Lerwills did not travel afar, but this may be due to the fact that it was not often necessary to do so.

However, there are many examples of very active communications and relationships taking place between small communities over a distance of around ten square miles. One of the earliest of these examples concerns a Richard L. of Arlington, who married at Goodleigh in 1570. Goodleigh is some six or seven miles south of Arlington, and about three east of Barnstaple. It is this event, and that Richard's father was 'John', plus that another John L. of Marwood married at Sherwell (between Arlington and Goodleigh) in 1573, and that they were of similar age, that caused me to draw the conclusion (in the absence of parish registers of that period at Arlington to prove their birth, and that John senior's will of 1581 has not survived) that Richard and John jnr. were, in fact, brothers.. Perhaps John jnr. had to leave Arlington because of economic constraints in that locality; that there was not enough opportunity at Arlington for the brother. Also is the fact that though Arlington eventually became the main seat of the Chichester gentry in North Devon, that they had other property at Marwood and Sherwell, and it would seem that there was a 'tie' between the Chichester and Lerwill families, even if it was as some form of watered-down feudal relationship. Also, of course, there is a certain topographical logic to the movement of the family to Marwood via Combe Martin or Kentisbury then Arlington, in their search for a livelihood.

The Marwood family were to go even further afield to find a suitable spouse as Robert L. of Marwood (a blacksmith) married Salome at Little Torrington in 1689, and Little Torrington is a few miles south of Barnstaple. It seems that Robert stayed there a-while, but later returned to Marwood. Robert and Salome's marriage lasted nearly 50 years before Salome died, and Robert lived to over 75 years of age. This sort of age appears not to have been too uncommon, as Robert's father lived to see his 85th year, and his father also saw 75 years.

Robert's brother George married at Marwood in 1700, and is noted as being a "mariner". Who better to tell the family what was going on in the world but a seaman who spent a good deal of his time at Barnstaple (his son was christened there in 1701)?

In fact, Robert's wife's maiden name was Dimont (or Dumont), a name that originated in Northern France (according to S. Baring-Gould, a respected cleric and historian), and their marriage was not long after various French Huguenot migrations into Devon. There had even been a notable landing of Huguenots near Barnstaple in 1685 (Huguenot churches were subsequently established at Barnstaple and Bideford). The name 'Dimond' survives at Little Torrington to-day, and it seems to me that it derives from Salome's family name, but a Dimond family researcher I contacted still hadn't got back to Salome's time and has been surprised at my suggestion.

It was probably a regular event (work duties permitting) for visits to Barnstaple to take place, particularly on the occasion of the Annual Fair. Certainly, William L. of Arlington is recorded as having sold a horse at the Horse Fair at Barnstaple in 1650 (Barnstaple Records; Chanter and Wainwright), and Philip L. of Arlington came to Barnstaple to wed his second wife in 1738 . I think it likely that Robert (or his father) was a regular visitor to Barnstaple and thus arranged a meeting with the Dimont family. Through their Barnstaple visits, the young George must have been attracted by the chance of travel and adventure, particularly after the influx of the Huguenots.

Alas, the George we have just referred to seems to have gone missing at sea, because by 1704 we find that his wife Ann had become a widow, and had re-married at Barnstaple (note that brother Robert had an only son christened George in 1703, obviously after his uncle. This George lived only a few years, however). Ann's origin is also very uncertain, and I have even considered the possibility that she also originated in France. Her maiden name was, apparently, Pincock (or Pincook), and I have only found any similar spelling in Cornwall. The I.G.I. for Cornwall lists but 3 or 4 entries of this name, but none apparently related to Ann.

Having forgotten about this issue, I had cause to communicate with a member of the Devon F.H.S. concerning another matter, but an unexpected result was that I obtained information about a Pincock who was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and who was buried near Braunton (at Heanton Punchardon) in 1941! I dare not even contemplate the coincidence of this event taking place at this location (so close to Marwood) some 240 years after Ann, but at least it indicates that Ann's origin (or at least her maiden name) should, therefore, be traceable, but that will be another task at some other time. I have, however, since discovered several Canadian Pincocks through searching the Internet.

As will be seen in the charts, George's son Philip's family appears to have suffered many premature deaths (he himself marrying four times because of these sad events), and, not having been able to find any other specific information about Philip, I must assume that their material circumstances must have been desparate.

Records Concerning the Arlington Lerwills.......

The following records were found amongst an anthology of Chichester papers at the Devon Records Office, Exeter:

16th April, 1606 : Lease by Ames Chichester to (a) Bartholomew Lerrrawill and (b) Johanne Goole, d. of Bartholomew Goole, "whom the said Bartholomew intends to marry." The lease was concerning "messuages, lands and tenements in Arlington for the consideration of £55, rent 13s. 4d.". (Note that the Arlington Parish records are mostly lost for that period, and this was the only record of who Bartholomew married - assuming that the marriage did take place, which it probably did as a daughter was christened in May, 1607). Note that, as recorded earlier, Bartholomew was a husbandman and also church warden in 1609 and 1620. The church of Bartholomew's time was rebuilt in 1845.

20th December, 1631 : In a lease between two Chichesters, mention is made of "a tenement called Lerewills in Arlington Towne.....".

10th May, 1638 : Chichester lease mentioning "messuages held by Bartholomew Lerrawill".

6th June, 1638 : Lease (in this case, I have examined the actual document) by John Chichester to Susan Lerewill (widow) of "a house called Thom Tailor's House and piece of land (about half acre) called The Greene....Rent 1d.". Mention also made of tenements held by Bartholomew. There is also an endorsement dated 18th March, 1686 whereby Susan assigned this lease to another party (she was probably too infirm to manage the property). She was buried in February, 1687, and the lease then reverted to the Chichesters.. I find this document particularly interesting because this is the only reference that I have seen that describes Susan as a widow. Again, the paucity of parish records at this time fail to identify who her husband was, and I can only conclude that it must have been Richard (probably Bartholomew's brother) who died earlier in 1638. Richard's first wife had died in 1634.. Susan gave birth to a Richard in early 1638, again indicating the name of the father. Susan then appears, later in 1638, to have married Bartholomew's son William (the same one that sold a horse at Barnstaple in 1650) !! It is intriguing also why John Chichester gave Susan the lease, and not her prospective husband; was her late probable husband Richard a respected employee of John Chichester? One of William and Susan's daughters (Joan) married a nephew of an heir to the Chichester estate.

There still hangs in Arlington Church a copy (now typed) of a will and educational trust deed, dated 1719, to which Philip Lerewill was a witness. He was a grandson of the same William and Susan. This Philip was orphaned at the age of 15 months as his parents both died within that period of time. It appears that this Philip, a chandler, was the last surviving Lerwill of Arlington, as all his children seem to have died at an early age, with the exception of son John who is not mentioned after his christening, and may have left Arlington. The name John is very common amongst Lerwills, so it has proved difficult to trace him.

Continuing the Marwood/Barnstaple story.......

So far, we have seen how the family may have moved from Combe Martin through Kentisbury, Arlington, Marwood and Barnstaple, leaving behind what were, until recent times, the main lines of the family at Combe Martin and Kentisbury. We have seen also that unfortunate circumstances pressed our Lerwill line into more and more difficult circumstances to the extent of Philip (at Pilton and Barnstaple) losing three wives and most of his children. At some point, the family fortunes deserved to change, and, indeed, a line survived that reached Braunton by the 1760s.

William Lerwill's luck was not all one way, and, possibly through malnourishment as a result of his occupation as a labourer, his first wife died from the effects of childbirth in 1769. His son William survived, and, somehow, he met and married Mary, born of a West Down family of Philips. Mary's father must have seen some worth in our William, and the marriage became more significant for him, as Mary's father built a corn (grist) mill at a point on the boundary of West Down and Braunton, called Fullabrook. Perhaps the letting of the mill to William was a positive encouragement to him following the death of William and Mary's baby George in 1771. William worked this mill until 1791. Further, the Philips family at Chawleigh (towards mid-Devon) were able to provide for William Jnr's apprenticeship as a carpenter, and he eventually returned to Braunton at the age of 35 to marry Jane Pasmore, one year before the battle of Trafalgar. Mary and William Snr. survived to a good age; Mary till she was about 80, and William till his mid-80s. He died in 1824, and the Rates Book records a person referred to simply as "Lerwill" (a manner of reference then reserved for elderly and "unimportant" persons) residing in lodgings in Braunton in 1824, but no longer there by the following year.

William's marriage into the Philips family thus produced a more secure standard of living, and after the early death of their first child,. William and Mary's children survived and succeeded as much as they could for those days, according to their station.

William's child by his first marriage, William, was the first carpenter of our line. His son George and his family left their diet of potatoes and skimmed milk when they migrated to Birmingham (in the 1850s) and where my great-grandfather William (George's youngest son) created his well-remembered clock manufacturing business. William Snr's other children, were, of course, half-brothers and sisters to William Jnr. and probably benefited more from the wealth of the Philips family to whom they were blood-tied. The last of this line, a spinster, died as recently as 1926. Her brother Philip left for Devonport many years earlier, and became a sailor with the Royal Navy.

William and Mary's Children

I shall now dwell on William Jnr.'s half-brothers, who seem to have a slightly chequered history.

William and Mary had four daughters and one son, John, who survived beyond childhood, and he was a carpenter. He had two sons, John and William, and a third, Thomas, whose survival is uncertain. John Snr. held several properties. In 1841, he, his wife and son John , lived at the property shown in East Street, and held the other properties from Lord Rolle. John Snr. also held property in Wrafton Lane, going out of Braunton. Earlier, in 1825, he held "Lamprey's" (land just south of the old Braunton railway station) from Lord Rolle, and was there until 1826 at least. In 1827, he held "Horden's Mill" from "Tucker" (his wife was from the Tucker family), but was not there in 1832. Horden's Mill was held by various carpenters over many years, apparently. However, in 1834, he assigned 10 perches of land in Wrafton Lane to one Richard Clifford (husbandman) for the residue of 2000 years, for £10. The land included a tenement called "Gregory's" "lately in occupation by Thomas Perryman" (John Jnr.'s wife was of the Perryman family). The legal Assignment is held at the North Devon Records Office at Barnstaple. In 1851, John Snr. lived at 140 East Street, and John Jnr. at 141 East Street.

John Jnr. was, like his father, a carpenter. In 1841, John. Jnr. held a plot of land to the west of Braunton, on the edge of Braunton Great Field (Moor Lane) and two adjacent pices of land in Pixey Lane, to the north-west of Braunton. John Jnr. died early, at the age of 53 in 1856 (his brother William in attendance), but his wife survived him by another 40 years. John, his wife Sarah and their daughter Mary (d. 1926) are buried at Braunton and their common headstone survives.

John Jnr.'s brother William was a coastal mariner, and I have found various records of sailings from Barnstaple and Bideford deposited at the P.R.O. Kew, which include his name in the crew-lists. An example is a sailing to Lowestoft and Littlehampton in 1845 (when aged 31). He was still sailing in 1850, and I suppose much beyond that, but in later life was a newsvendor at Braunton, living at South Street in 1881. He died aged 88, in 1893. He and his wife Ann's headstone can still be seen at Braunton. They did not have children.

William Junior

This William was the surviving child of William Senior from his first marriage in 1768, and is my direct ancestor. However, apart from details of his birth marriage and death, and that he was at one time (prior to his marriage) at Chawleigh and that he was a carpenter, we know nothing else about him. Of his sons George, William and Thomas, we know considerably more.

All three brothers ultimately left Braunton, but William was the first to leave, and he appears to have been a builder/mason. The North Devon Journal recorded on the 2nd September, 1852 the unfortunate incident that William and two others fell 20 feet when scaffolding gave way next to a church (at Ilfracombe). William evidently survived this close-call! However, while George and Thomas and their families appear to have been sober and upright, William and his family were different. Perhaps the harshness of life at Ilfracombe at that time (being purely a port - its status as a seaside resort was not to follow until about 1880) was attractive to William, but whatever was the case, the ways of the seamen were revealed in their actions! The following is a tabloid of records (in the North Devon Journal) concerning this part of the family:

7th August, 1854: reported that William Lerwill was charged with the theft of scaffold rope from Mrs. Rowe and Mr. Philip Gibbs.

10th February, 1859: reported that Wiliam's sons, James and Henry, were charged with obscene language (an indecency charge!).

4th April, 1872 reported that James was again charged with obscene language.

Sadly, various daughters of this line also appear to have had illegitimate children. Further, and very unfortunately, the afore-mentioned Henry was certified as having died (on 10th November, 1884) at North Dock, Swansea having

"accidentally fallen over the quay wall whilst in a state of intoxication, and drowned".

This Henry was actually buried at Ilfracombe. He had spent his life in various occupations, including that of an ostler, but latterly as a "post-boy" (at Swansea?). James was also variously occupied, but by 1891 he had become a horse and carriage proprietor, and he and his wife had a servant. Perhaps by this time they were beginning to reap from the benefits of tourism that had started. James did not have children, and as Henry's family appear to have migrated to Swansea, the Ilfracombe line ceased. (Note that 'Henry' was actually William Henry, but was clearly called Henry to differentiate him from his father).

George, a carpenter, remained at Braunton until after the death of his father William in 1847. The time of their departure for Birmingham was twinned with the opening of the Barnstaple railway in 1854. However, prior to this, in 1851, the North Devon Journal reported that George had been robbed of a quantity of wood.

That George was prudent in his dealings is proven in that he is known to have been the lessee of a property in Heanton Punchardon (near Braunton, in 1836), which he let out, and also held a piece of land for cultivation purposes on a hill overlooking Braunton (at Half Moon, to the east of Braunton), as revealed in a tithe map of 1841.. He also rented a house and garden towards East Hill in 1841, in addition to his home in Sylvester Street (now Silver Street). In 1851, however, he was living at 161, East Street, obviously very close to his half-relatives at numbers 140 and 141 (described earlier).

However, it seems that he must have felt (like many others) that Braunton had become overpopulated, and he sought other pastures for the future of himself and his young family. The family left for Birmingham in 1854/55 (having left his mother with his brother in Ilfracombe), thinking, no doubt, that a golden future beckoned them. Within five years, though, George had lost his wife, and then his eldest son in 1868, to the ravages of disease.

Thomas, the youngest brother, married Anne, the daughter of a blacksmith from Appledore. Although they lived at Braunton for a period, they and their two daughters then passed the next forty or more years in Appledore, where Thomas was a shipwright during the hey-day of ship-building there. In his final working years, he was a grocer. It is clear, however, that one or both of his daughters moved much further inland, for Thomas died at Calne, Wiltshire, in 1896. A grand-daughter is known to have married at Gloucestershire, further indicating the migration eastwards.

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