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The Stanthorpe Passmore Archive

A note on documents relating to members of the Passmore and Maire families
in the possession of Mr John Passmore of Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia

By Desmond Painter (January 2009)

The archive consists of five documents: a deed of jointure of 1666; a lease of 1693; a will of 1712; a deed of release of 1773; and a marriage settlement of 1775. All except the lease clearly relate to the Maire family of South Molton, who became connected to the Passmores by the marriage in 1745 of Margaret Maire to widower William Passmore of North Molton.

1. The lease

This document is the odd one out. It is dated Lady Day, the 25th of March 1693. Henry Snell of Kings Nympton, yeoman, lets a house in that parish with three rooms on each of two floors, together with a garden, to Thomas Lane of the same parish, woolcomber, for a fee of twenty pounds. It is a 'lease for lives' for a term of ninety-nine years during the lives of Thomas, his wife Margaret, and Richard, son of Francis Lane of Chumleigh (perhaps Thomas's nephew) at an annual rent of two shillings, payable on the usual quarter days, 24th June, 29th September, 25th December and 25th March, and with a payment in form of heriot of three shillings and fourpence (one-sixth of a pound) payable on the death of each of the three people named (heriot or farlieue was originally a feudal service rendered to the lord on the death of a tenant; it was still at this time sometimes specified in the form of the deceased tenant's best beast, but was usually commuted into a cash payment: Henry Snell clearly had aspirations to lordship). The lease contains the usual covenants obliging the tenant to keep the property in repair, entitling the landlord to repossess for non-payment of rent, and promising the tenant quiet enjoyment.

The document is written unevenly in a spidery hand, with somewhat eccentric spelling, and gives an impression of having been based on other similar documents by a draftsman (perhaps Henry himself) who had a slightly shaky grasp of the legal phraseology he was deploying.

The great grandfather of the present owner of the document was William Passmore, born in North Molton in 1827, who married Susanna Wreford Snell of Cheriton Fitzpaine in 1848. The Henry Snell of the lease may be one of Susanna's forbears. Another name which appears in the lease is that of George Tossell, one of the neighbours whose land borders on the garden being let. A different Tossell, John, is the principal figure in the earlier jointure document considered next; there is also a possible link between this lease and the deed of release (see section 4 below).

2. The jointure

This is the first of the four documents relating to the Maire family: it is dated the 12th of November 1666. The Maires do not appear in it; but it must have come down through them, as will become apparent.

At common law a widow was entitled to one third of her deceased husband's property for her subsistence during her widowhood: this was known as 'dower'. Alternatively, the husband could provide his wife with a 'jointure' in lieu of dower, making over an interest in part or all of his property after his death to provide for her during her widowhood. The usual arrangement was that, in anticipation of the marriage, the bridegroom would enter into a formal agreement ( a 'marriage settlement') with the bride's family, in which he undertook to to provide a jointure for her within a certain time after the marriage. In this document, John Tossell of Kings Nympton, who has married Marian, daughter of John Rude, also of Kings Nympton, conveys his freehold farm at Kenstere (now Kingstree) and three pieces of woodland at Bromeham (modern Broomham) totalling four and a half acres to Edward Rude (probably Marian's brother or uncle) and Nicholas Bulleid of Romansleigh as trustees for the benefit of himself during his lifetime and after his death for the benefit of his widow. After her death the land reverts to his heirs. Two 'attorneys' (agents), John Thorne and Thomas Rude, are appointed to administer the property.

The connection with the Maire family is not clear; but Kenstere/Kingstree was a freehold farm which came down in the Maire family and appears in the later documents, so probably a Tossell daughter at some point married a Maire.

3. The will

Dated the 10th of October 1712 and witnessed by Christopher Pawle, William Thorne and Alice Badcock, this is the will of Emm Halls, formerly Thorne, née Maire (here spelled Mare), wife of the vicar of Chittlehampton, John Halls; although she wishes her body to be buried in South Molton church 'soe near William Thorne my late Husband as Conveniently it may be placed'. After the conventional ten shillings to the poor (of South Molton), Emm leaves five shillings to her brother Robert, and five shillings each to her other brother Hugh, his wife Mary, and 'all there Children' (names and number not specified, although two unnamed daughters are mentioned later in the will). There are other pecuniary legacies: the five named children of Anthony Burgess of Warkly (Warkleigh) get one shilling each; Prissilla (sic) Ayre gets five shillings; John Thorne of South Molton gets 'one Guinney'. This suggests that Anthony Burgess may be a brother-in-law or a nephew, and Priscilla Ayre a niece, while John Thorne, who gets a much bigger sum, sounds like a son from Emm's first marriage to William Thorne, or possibly a brother-in-law.

Mary, daughter of John Thorne, is the one most favoured with the specific legacies which follow: of Emm's five gold rings, Mary Thorne gets the best; she also gets 'my best Black Silk Gown and Coat of the same'. The other four gold rings are distributed in descending order of quality to John Thorne's wife Mary; to Elizabeth, wife of William Eveleigh; to Mary, daughter of John Thorne of Butterly (Butterleigh); and to her niece Joan Maire, daughter of Emm's brother Hugh. Hugh's wife Mary and her two daughters, together with Luce, one of the daughters of Anthony Burgess, get equal shares of all the rest of Emm's clothing. Finally, Emm's kinsman Hugh Maire is appointed sole executor and residuary legatee.

The will is tantalisingly imprecise about the exact relationship of all these members of the Maire family (the recipients of the four lesser rings are probably nieces), but since the whole archive has come down through John Passmore, son of Margaret Maire, Margaret's father Hugh must surely be the 'kinsman' appointed executor, and he may well be the son of Emm's brother (also Hugh) and his wife Mary. Further enquiry may establish whether this is so.

4. The release

Before the major legal reforms of 1925, selling land in England was complicated by the survival of medieval restrictions on the right of owners (who were technically tenants) to dispose of their land, and various devices were invented to get round such barriers. One of these devices was the Lease and Release, whereby the seller leased the land to the buyer, usually for one year, for a nominal fee and at a nominal rent, and then immediately (frequently on the following day) executed a release transferring the reversion (i.e. the right to the property at the end of the lease) to the purchaser, at which point the real money changed hands and the purchaser became the owner of the freehold. Because this was technically a lease, it avoided the necessity of enrolling the transaction in the manorial court and invoking the notional right of the Lord of the Manor to block the disposal. The procedure was reformed in the mid nineteenth century, but was still used at the time of this document from the Passmore archive, which is dated the 5th of October 1773.

Hugh Maire who was, as noted above, probably the nephew of Emm Halls, had one son and four daughters, christened between 1715 and 1727 in South Molton. In his will (which has not been traced, but which is recited in this deed) he left four properties to his daughters. The three survivors Joan, Emm and Elizabeth had inherited the freehold of North Tredown, a piece of pasture in Chittlehampton (occupied by Elizabeth's husband Thomas Amory of South Molton, butcher), and the leasehold of Blackpool, the family farm in South Molton. All four daughters (including the now deceased Margaret, whose place in this transaction is taken by her son and heir John Passmore) were left the freehold of Kenstere/Kingstree in Kings Nympton (the subject of John Tossell's jointure to his wife Marian in 1666) and the freehold of three cottages, also in Kings Nympton, which were occupied at the time of the deed by John Ward, Samuel Holland, and John Lane. It seems quite possible that John Lane was a descendant of the Thomas Lane who rented a cottage from Henry Snell in 1693, and that Samuel Holland was a descendant of John Hollond (sic), one of the neighbours whose land bordered on Thomas Lane's cottage garden. If this is the same cottage as the one Thomas Lane took, it is not clear how the Maires came by the freehold.

All these properties were left to the sisters as joint tenants: that is, they all owned all of each property in undivided shares, so that on the death of any of them the survivors would take the whole until only one was left as sole owner. For any one of the sisters to dispose of her share separately, the joint tenancy must be severed and converted into a tenancy in common, which makes it possible for each joint owner to sell her share independently of the others. The effect of this deed is that Joan Maire, the youngest of the three surviving sisters, is selling her share of all these properties (none of which they are living in) to herself. She does this, with the consent and participation of her sisters and her nephew John Passmore, by severing the joint tenancy and transferring her third or fourth share, as the case may be, in each property to a third party (in this case, one Ann Lucy) as trustee for herself. Ann Lucy is paid a nominal five shillings for Joan's share of the three freeholds, and another five shillings for her share of the leasehold. Joan is now free to dispose of her interest in any or all of the properties without involving her sisters and nephew.

5. The marriage settlement

The final document in the collection, dated the 27th of March 1775, is a classic eighteenth century marriage settlement illustrating the stage in the negotiations for a marriage preceding the making of a jointure such as the one discussed in section 2 above. John Passmore of South Molton, cordwainer (the same John Passmore as in the deed of release) is engaged to Honour Crockford, daughter of Philip Crockford of Ilfracombe, who seems to be a maltster (the word is not clear). John agrees with Honour and her father, and also with George Parminter of Ilfracombe (presumably a family friend, who is brought in as a second trustee) that he, John, will within two years make a jointure to provide for Honour during her widowhood if he should die before her. He will do this by conveying the family property at Kinstere/Kingstree to the trustees on trust for himself for life and after his death to his widow for life. When she dies, the property reverts to his estate. As an alternative, if he has not passed over the Kinstere farm at the end of two years, he will within a further month take a new lease of the half share of Milbrook, North Molton, which he has already inherited from his father, who held it under a lease of 1757, and within a second further month assign the lease to the trustees on the same trusts. The lease should be on the same terms as its predecessor. The property thus transferred by either of these methods may be let to tenants for a term of not more that twenty-one years. If John should die within the two years and two months agreed without having taken either of these steps to provide for Honour's widowhood, his executors will make her a cash payment of three hundred pounds; the provision thus made by conveyance, assignment or cash is agreed to be in lieu of dower, and Honour will have no further claim on John's estate. In return for agreeing to make this provision for his future wife, John receives two hundred pounds from Honour's father Philip as dowry or marriage portion: one hundred in cash on signing the agreement, and a further hundred in the form of a bond securing payment on Philip's death.

John Passmore and Honour Crockford were married three weeks later, on the 17th of April 1775, in the parish church at South Molton.