Ancestors in my direct line of descent are shown in italics
Thomas was born 1775 or possibly slightly earlier. He was an agricultural labourer.
The burials for Otterton show that a John Welsman was buried on 7.8.1795. There is no corresponding baptism, but it seems likely that John is Thomas and Ann’s child.
The Overseers of the Poor accounts show that in 1805 Thomas Willsman was paid for 'watching' and another mention said 'watching 13 nights', for which he was paid 6s 6d. The money paid for "watching" was for watching at Ladram Bay, from the cliff tops any sign of invasion by the French.
Thomas was buried on 24.2.1805. Ann was buried on 9.3.1808, the burial record states at the age of 45. The Overseers of the Poor accounts mention that 0-12-6 was paid for “Ann Willsman coffin and season charge.”
Thomas and Ann Wilsman had a son, John, in Otterton, Devon, baptised on 18.1.1801.
John Wilsman was born c1801. The premature deaths of his parents left son John an orphan at the age of 7. In the lists of those in receipt of monies, his name is always listed after or between 2 particular women (Sarah Hollett & Susannah Bartlett) - this may mean that they would have taken him in, and gone with him to collect his parish relief. He doesn't appear in the Poor House list at this time. There are entries in the accounts for amounts paid for “mending for Willsman.”
Later in life, around 1827, John moves in and out of the Poor House list but is still in receipt of parish relief. Sometimes his money is described as pay, as if he was working, and he is sometimes given 2 months' or 2 weeks' money at a time.
From Ros Hickman, OPC for Otterton: “I don't know about the workings of the Parish Relief pay, I know that the Poor House was one cottage divided into three and three families inhabited it, I would imagine if John was a little boy someone would be paid relief to look after him until he became old enough to be apprenticed, maybe those two ladies did. I have heard of "out work" which means that the overseers paid a wage for doing some sort of work but I have not studied the Overseers accounts books hard enough to see if anything is said about it in Otterton.”
On 13.1.1824 he married Anna White in Otterton, Devon. They had 5 children: Levena (b.c1824), Maryann (b.c1826), Thomas (b.c1829), Henry (b.c1834), and Simeon (b.c1837). John was an agricultural labourer, and his wife Anna and daughter Levena were lacemakers, a common occupation for women and girls in Devon during the 19th century. The second 'l' in Willsman appears in the second generation.
John and Anna's son Thomas was in Bristol in 1881, aged 52, working as a warehouseman (stationer) and living at 7 Heron Road, Bristol, with his wife Louisa and 20 year old daughter Annie Lavinia. Annie died on 25.4.1909 of epilepsy at 11 St Ronan's Avenue, Redland, Bristol. Her death was registed by her brother-in-law Edward Oaten. By this time her father Thomas (a printer's warehouseman) had already died and she was living with the Oaten family.
On 5.4.1843, John died (of malignant disease of the testicle and scrotum), leaving Anna a widow. The 1851 census shows her, aged 50, living in Otterton, and working as a lacemaker. Her son Henry is the only child still at home, and also in the household are 2 female lodgers (the youngest only 10) and a female visitor, all lacemakers.
At the time of the 1861 census, Anna was living at The Green, Otterton, aged 60, and working as a Honiton lacemaker. The cottages that Anna lived in would have been in the Bunny. Her unmarried daughter Lavinia was living with her, also a Honiton lacemaker, and a lodger, 73 year old Elizabeth Hitt, a former servant, was also in residence.
On 12.12.1855, Henry married Sarah Adams (b.c1835, daughter of Thomas Adams, a carpenter) in the parish church, Otterton. Both were living in Otteron at the time. Henry's occupation is given as Sergeant, 1st Devon Militia.
They had 10 children: Simeon (b.c1857, died aged 9 months on 3.9.1857 of atrophy since birth), Lavinia (b.3.8.1858, died 25.2.1872 of interocular epilepsy), John Thomas (b.29.11.1860), Simeon (b.c1863), Henry (b.c1867), William (b.c1868), Mary A. (b.c1870), John (b.c1872), Ebezer (sometimes recorded as Heber, b.4.10.1874) and Eva A. (b.c1878), all born in Otterton. Henry was working as an agricultural labourer at the time of Lavinia's and John Thomas's (known as Thomas) births. Sarah registered the birth and signed with a 'X'.
At the time of the the 1861 census, Henry was living in the main street in a cottage next to the Village Bakery in Otterton.
In 1874, Henry was working as a labourer at Bystock.
In 1881, Henry and family were living at Lodge 2, Colaton Raleigh. Henry was a groom servant (domestic) and Sarah was a gatekeeper. Their son Thomas was a groom (domestic servant) lodging with another domestic servant and his family at Imperial Place, Littleham, Devon. (Previous household listed is Imperial House).
Back at Henry and Sarah's, their other 7 children were living with them. Their 2 next eldest sons (after Thomas) Simeon and Henry were both gardeners; William, Mary John and Ebe were all scholars, and Eva was aged 3.
Henry and Sarah lived in Lodge 2 in the grounds of a stately home, Bystock House. A quote from "The Stranger's Guide" in "The Exmouth Guide to the Milestones" describes Bystock House thus:
"The summer house is curiously and tastefully paved in the form of an octagon, but the greatest curiosity is the material of which the pavement is composed, being no less than 23,000 sheeps' trotters driven into the ground, the ends forming a lasting and most curious pavement. The rosary is also in a pretty, retired spot surrounded by an elevated green terrace, in a most romantic situation, and sheltered on all sides. The hot houses are well-stocked with pines, choice vines and other fruit trees; the shrubberies, which contain shaded paths of several miles in extent, are composed of choice rare trees, among which the Cedars of Lebanon may be remarked as growing most luxuriantly."
Click here to see a picture of Bystock House.
When the 1891 census was taken, Henry and Sarah were still living at Bystock Lodge. Henry’s occupation is stable helper groom and Sarah’s is housekeeper. Their children Simeon (aged28, an assistant gardener), William (aged 21, an under gamekeeper) Eber (aged 15, an under gardener) and Eva (aged 12, a scholar) were living with them.
The 1901 census gives Henry's occupation as gardener. Sarah's employment status is undefined.
Their son Thomas (b.1860) married Jessie Sanders (b.c1861 in Woodbury Salterton, daughter of John Sanders, a butcher) on 27.2.1882 at the St Thomas Register Office. Thomas's occupation is given as "helper in stables" and Jessie's as sewing machinist. Both were living in Exmouth and both signed their names on the register. At the time of the 1881 census, both were living in Littleham, Devon. Thomas was working as a groom and lodging with Alfred Doble (an ostler groom) and his family at Imperial Place; Jessie was a bookbinder and living with her mother Sarah and brother Henry in Chapel Street.
Thomas and Jessie had 5 children: Ada Jessie (b.1882 in Littleham, died 11.8.1885 of pertussis (whooping cough) 1 month 21 days, and bronchitis 21 days), Florence Mabel (b.1886, known as Mabs), Albert James (b.1892), Ivy Edith (b.12.11.1894 and Tom Stanley (b.1897), all born in Lympstone, Devon. Ivy's birth certificate gives Thomas's occupation as Coachman Domestic Servant.
The 1891 census finds Thomas and Jessie living in Lympstone with their 4-year-old daughter Mabel. Thomas was working as a groom coachman.The 1901 census gives the family's address as Strawberry Hill, Lympstone. Thomas's occupation is Coachman Not Domestic.
Thomas died of cancer of the penis on 3.7.1914 in the St Thomas Workhouse Infirmary. His death certificate describes him as being 'of Strete, Raleigh Cottages, Whimple R.D. Formerly a Coachman (Domestic)'. His death was registered by F.J. Moore, Master of the Workhouse. I have not yet found out whether the whole family were in the Workhouse or whether Thomas just went into the Infirmary because of his illness, but anyone who was too poor to pay for medical treatment and admitted to a workhouse infirmary was considered a pauper.
Henry sr died on 2.12.1917 of valvular heart disease at Hulham Cottages, Withycombe Raleigh. His death was registered by his son William, still residing at Marley Lodge, Withycombe Raleigh.
Mabel, Wilfred, Beryl and Ivy, c1924
Ivy married Wilfred George Fisher on 1.6.1919 at the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton, Somerset. She was living at 9 High Street, Taunton, and he was also living in Taunton, in Wilton Street. They continued to live in Taunton and lodged with Kate Jacques at 24 Belvedere Road, Taunton. They had one child, Beryl Doreen (b.23.5.1920). See Fisher page for more information on Ivy and Wilfred. After Wilfred's death, Ivy moved to Bloomfield Avenue in Bath, next door to Beryl. When she became to frail to continue living at home, Ivy moved to a nursing home, where she died in 1978.
According to my grandmother Beryl, Jessie (in her later years) lived above a butcher's shop in Babbacombe. Wilfred, Ivy and Beryl used to stay with her there. Jessie died on 15.4.1939 of “laceration of the brain caused by fracture of the skull sustained by falling out of a window at 118a Reddenhill Road Torquay there being insufficient evidence to show how such injury was sustained.” An inquest was held on 17.4.1939, but unfortunately neither the Coroner's Office nor the Exeter Record Office have a copy of it.