Bovey Tracey


The Report of the Commissioners Concerning Charities: Containing that Part which Relates to the County of Devon (3 vols.),
Exeter, T. Besley (1826-30), Volume 2, pp. 331-336.

Provided by Michael Steer

The Commission was established under the Act to Amend the Law for the Relief of the Poor (Poor Relief Act 1819, 59 Geo. III c.12). This act was promoted by William Sturges Bourne, MP who chaired the Committee to reform the Poor Laws, and is also known as the Sturges Bourne Act. The Report in three volumes provides very detailed accounts of investigations into the origins, and subsequent activities, of numerous Devon charities. The accounts are organised by Hundred, and within Hundred by Parish, and in many cases indicate or imply that a given charity originated from a bequest in a will. Brian Randell has comprehensively indexed those surnames appearing in the Report and this index may be found at: http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/DevonWillsProject/BES​. These rare and much sought-after volumes were produced digitally from a copy held in the Bodleian Library collection that can be downloaded from https://books.google.co.uk/books, with a search by either author or title. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.


School Lands

By indentures of lease and release bearing date 1st and 2nd February 1713, between John Smith, John Bawden and Thomas Coniam, trustees of the lands thereinafter mentioned of the one part, and John Cook, Clerk, Vicar pf Bovey Tracey and 12 others of the same parish of the second part; the said parties of the first part, pursuant to the trust in them reposed, conveyed to the said parties of the second part, and their heirs, the moiety or half endeal of a messuage in Bovey Tracey aforesaid, then in the occupation of Philip Heaward, Adam Spray, Ann Surraige and Agnes Drake, and of all orchards, gardens, lands, & thereunto belonging; and also one other messuage and tenement in Bovey Tracey then in the possession of Thomas Coniam, junior, upon trust that they, and the trustees for the time being (of whom the Vicar of Bovey Tracey should always be held to be one), should forever employ the rents and profits of the said premises, for and towards the keeping constantly and continually to school, within the town and borough of Bovey Tracey aforesaid, at the public licensed school there, seven poor children of the said parish, successively, for ever, and that whensoever any of such seven poor children should be removed from the school, as many others should be put to succeed in their room, to make up the said number, paying the said schoolmaster of the said school for the time being, for the educating and teaching such poor children, for ever, accordingly, and for towards buying and providing such school books as should be necessary and convenient in their progress, and for their furtherance in learning during their continuance at school; and upon trust to distribute the overplus, if any, on such poor persons of Bovey Tracey, aforesaid, receiving no collection or relief from the said parish, as the said vicar and trustees, or the major part of them, should judge to be in most need in proportion to their several necessities.
The deed by which the above mentioned premises were conveyed to the said John Smith, John Bawden and Thomas Coniam was not produced, but by a deed bearing date 9th June, 1709, Thomas Tothill as the mortgagee, for the term of 3000 years, granted by John Coniam, of the whole of the messuage or tenement, stated in the above abstracted deed, to be in the occupation of Philip Heaward, and others, assigned a moiety thereof for the residue of the said term to John Coke and Hugh Puddicombe, in trust for the said John Smith, and others who are stated to have purchased the inheritance.
The other moiety of this tenement was purchased by the said John Tothill, for the purposes contained in the will of John Stooke, as hereinafter mentioned.
By indentures of lease and release, bearing date 11th and 12th August 1715, between Thomas Tothill esquire of the one past and Edward Lee and five others of the other part, citing that Mary Tothill, sister of the said Thomas Tothill, by her will dated 29th June 1705 had bequeathed to the poor of the parish of Bovey Tracey, 25L, to be bestowed by the said Thomas Tothill, executor of her will in such pious and charitable manner, and to such uses as to him, the said Thomas Tothill by her was declared; by which bequest, the said Thomas Tothill, being charitable disposed to make some addition of his own bounty, in consideration of the said legacy and for disposing of the same, pursuant to the direction of the said Mary Tothill, and for the settling of the additional bounty, which he was pleased to add, and to the uses thereinafter declared, granted to the parties of the second part, and their heirs a meadow called Wise's Meadow, containing by estimation two acres and a half of land situate in the parish of Bovey Tracey (excepting out of the said grant unto the said Thomas Tothill and his heirs, two dwelling houses and two little herb gardens, formerly taken out of and inclosed from the said meadow), upon trust and to the use and behoof of Thomas Durstan, the then licensed schoolmaster of the public school of Bovey Tracey, and after him, of all and every licensed schoolmaster of the said school for the time being, successively, for ever, for the teaching and instructing of such poor children of the said parish not exceeding the number of six at a time, as should be appointed by the said Thomas Tothill and his heirs and assigns and sent to the said school successively, for ever, to read or write, or such of them to read or such to write as be appointed by the said Thomas Tothill, his heirs and assigns, and for instructing them in the church catechism, as by law established, and for the buying of such of them as should be appointed to learn to read, school books necessary for that purpose, but not to be carried off from the said school; and upon further trust that the said feoffees should take care that the said number of 6 such poor children should be at all times thereafter, regularly kept to school, and there carefully taught, and especially instructed in the said church catechism, so that whensoever any of them should be removed, as many others should be appointed by the said Thomas Tothill, his heirs and assigns to succeed in their stead, and upon further trust, that the said trustees and the survivor, should convey the said meadow upon the same trusts, to as many other of the best inhabitants or parishioners of the said parish as should be necessary for preserving the trusts, and so from time to time, for ever.
By a memorandum purporting to be indorsed upon the same deed before the sealing and delivering thereof, it was mutually agreed between all the parties therein mentioned, that in case any future schoolmaster should neglect, or refuse to instruct the said poor children in the church catechism, as then by law established, and to read or write, and after notice and warning given to him by the feoffees for the time being, should still persist in such neglect or refusal, the feoffees should during such neglect or refusal, dispose of the rents or profits of the said meadow for such pious and charitable uses in the said parish as should be limited and declared by the said Thomas Tothill and his heirs and assigns.
William Stawell, of Bovey Tracey Park, esq. by his will, (the date of which does not appear) gives a meadow called Manning's Meadow in Bovey Tracey, of which he had lately purchased the inheritance, to Gilbert Yard esq. Thomas Tothill, William Furze and five others and their heirs to the intent that they should yearly pay the clear rents and profits thereof to the minister, churchwardens and overseers of Bovey Tracey aforesaid, for the time being who should pay the same yearly to a schoolmaster, for the maintenance of an English school within the said parish.
By indentures of lease and release bearing date 11th and 12th November 1725, reciting the above mentioned device, the said Thomas Tothill and William Furze as the surviving devisees of the continuance of the trust, conveyed the said meadow to the use of themselves, and the Rev Samuel Maynard, vicar of Bovey Tracey and eight others, of the same parish and their heirs, upon the above mentioned trusts.
The last trust deeds of this meadow bear the date 17th February 1810, by which 25 new trustees were appointed, of whom two have since died. It does not appear that the trusts of the other gifts before mentioned have been regularly continued; but the feoffees of this charity have usually acted in the management of the others.
The messuage or tenement mentioned in the deed first abstracted, of which a moiety is applicable to the purposes of a school, consists of a dwelling house called the New Inn, a curtilage, garden and orchard, containing by estimation 1A and 20r of land now in the occupation of Joseph Foot, as assignee of a lease granted to John Soper for 50 years from the 20th September 1783 at the yearly rent of 4L. 4s. This lease was granted by auction and contains s covenant on the part of the lessee, to put and keep the premises in good repair, and to plant the orchard. The tenement is said to be of the value of 12L. The rent has been hitherto received by the churchwardens, but no portion of it has been paid to the schoolmaster; and until an examination of the documents, the parishioners appear to have been in ignorance that a moiety of this property had been conveyed for the use of a school.
A blacksmith's shop and a small garden occupied by William Steer, as a yearly tenant at a clear rent of 30s per annum, their fair value, adjoin the last mentioned tenement and probably comprise the rest of the premises mentioned in the deed of 1713. There was formerly a dwelling house contiguous to the shop; but this having fallen into decay was removed, and a shed adapted for the purposes of shoeing horses has been erected on its site. The building is in tolerable repair; the rent is paid to the schoolmaster.
The field by the name of Wise's Meadow, conveyed by the deed of 1713, contains about an acre of land is now let to Elizabeth Croker, as yearly tenant at 6L per year. She had formerly a lease of it at the same rent, and has lately applied for an abatement. The schoolmaster who receives the rent has been permitted to rent the field for his own advantage.
Manning's meadow contains about four acres. It was let by the feoffees to Hugh Callender for seven or fourteen years at the option of the tenant, the term to commence from 1st of November 1815, at the rent of 32L, the lessee covenanting to repair and the lessors to pay rates and taxes, which amount to between 2L and 3L per annum.
The lease was granted by auction and the rent being a very high one, it was agreed at a meeting of the trustees, holden on 23rd April 1821, with the consent of the schoolmaster that it should be reduced to 26L, for the residue of the term, for the ensuing Michaelmas. The tenant has built a linhay on the field which by a covenant in the lease he is empowered to remove on the determination of his tenancy. The rent is received by one of the feoffees, and paid over to the schoolmaster. It appears from the above enumeration that the rents which the schoolmaster is entitled to receive are as follows:

               £ s d
The moiety of the rent of Foot's tenement                 2 2 0
Rent of Steer's tenement   1 10 0
  of Wise's Meadow   5 0 0
  of Manning's Meadow   26 0 0
  ---- ---- ----
      35 12 0

He also has a dwelling house and garden which have been occupied by the schoolmaster for the time being for many years and a room adjoining which was built about 10 years ago at the expense of Robert Hole esq. lately deceased, for the purpose of a school, upon condition that the schoolmaster should instruct from time to time two children to be appointed by Mr Hole in the same manner as the other children of his school, which condition has been fulfilled.
The present schoolmaster was appointed in 1811 by the feoffees of Stawell's gift and has since been licensed by the bishop of the diocese. Upon appointment he bound himself to the feoffees in a penalty of 300L to adhere to the doctrines of the established church, to instruct in reading, writing and arithmetic, 10 children who were to be appointed from time to time by the feoffees, to permit them to let the meadow and receive the rents, to keep the dwelling house and the room in repair, or to permit the feoffees to repair the same and deduct the charges out of the rents, to manage the school to their satisfaction, and in case of a breach of any of the conditions, to yield up the school with the endowment thereof to them. In pursuance of this agreement he teaches 10 boys and girls of the parish of Bovey Tracey, appointed by the feoffees, on the Madras system. He also keeps the school buildings in repair. He likewise educates six boys and girls in respect of the rent of Wise's meadow. These children have been appointed by Joseph Steer esq. one of the trustees of Manning's meadow, and the possessor of property which formerly belonged to the Tothill family.
It has been seen that seven poor children of the parish were directed to be kept at school, in respect of the rent of the tenement occupied by William Steer, and of a moiety of that in the possession of Foot; however, as the rent of the latter has not been paid to the schoolmaster, he has instructed no poor children in respect of it; and with regard to the former, he has given us to understand that he has considered himself entitled to receive it, in part payment for the instruction of the 10 children, whom upon his appointment he contracted to teach.
We are informed that some dissatisfaction has existed amongst the poor, in consequence of charges made by the schoolmaster for stationery. He states that upon his appointment, he proposed that the parents of each child should pay him 2s 6d per quarter for pens, ink and paper, that the proposition not being well received, he gave them the option for finding the stationery for their children, or paying that sum; and at Michaelmas 1822 he reduced his charge on this account to 2s per quarter.
It will be observed that no provision was made by any of the donations for furnishing stationery; but by the trust deeds of 1713 and 1715, the expense of schoolbooks provided for the children directed to be taught in respect of those charities, was to be defrayed out of the respective rents. School books have in fact been found by the parents, but it should be noticed that the schoolmaster has received no portion of the rent of Foot's tenement; and that as he teaches six children in respect of the 6L per annum which he receives from Wise's meadow, he does not appear, as regards these children, to have received more than adequate remuneration.
We suggested to the feoffees that a moiety of the rent of Foot's tenement should be applied to the purposes of the school; but for the consequent increase of the schoolmaster's salary, an additional number of children should be taught. Whenever the lease of this tenement shall expire, this number should be further increased and a small fund may be provided for furnishing books for the children. Previous to the appointment of the schoolmaster, Mr Samuel Langley of this parish. paid for advertisements and postage, a sum of 5L 19s 6d which has not been since repaid to him. It will be seen from an account hereinafter stated that two years rent of Foot's tenement has been applied foreign to the uses to which it is applicable; that one year's rent has been received by Mr George Harris; and that there was in the hands of that gentleman and Mr Sercombe, a sum more than sufficient to pay the sum of 6L 6s to which the school is entitled as a moiety of three years rent. It appears to us that a portion of this sum may well be expended in repayment of the debt to Mr Langley.

Stooke's Gift

By indentures of lease and release, bearing dates 31st May and 1st June 1709 between John Coniam of the one part and Thomas Tothill esq of the other part, reciting that John Stooke of Trusham in his lifetime had given and delivered into the hands of Thomas Tothill, father of the said T Tothill, 100L to be laid out in the purchase of lands of inheritance, the clear rents and profits thereof to be applied towards the buying of bread and wine for some yearly sacraments, in the parish of Bovey Tracey to be administered to the poor of that parish; the said John Coniam, in consideration of the said sum of 100L, conveyed to the said Thomas Tothill and his heirs, a moiety or half endeal of a messuage or tenement in Bovey Tracey, and of all orchards, gardens, lands &c to the same, belonging upon trust, to employ the rents and profits of the premises, for ever, towards the buying of bread and wine for some yearly sacraments in the said parish of Bovey Tracey, to be administered to the poor of the said parish.
An endorsement on the said release, apparently written at the same time as the deed, but not signed, states that the said John Stooke declared that the yearly rent of the said lands should be for the celebration of the holy eucharist three times in the year; viz. the first Sunday in Lent, the first Sunday in July and the first Sunday in October, and the residue of the money should be distributed among the poor communicants, excepting 3s for the extraordinary services of the vicar for the time being and 2s for the labour of such person as should be employed for bringing the bread and wine into church. We have already stated that the whole of this tenement, of which the other moiety was purchased for the use of the school is under lease to Joseph Foot and that the rent being 4L 4s per annum has been received by the churchwardens for the time being. Those officers supply the bread and wine used in the sacrament in this parish at an expense which is stated to exceed the amount of this rent, but it does not appear that the sacrament has ever been administered on the days specified on the endorsement of the deed, nor that the sums allowed for such extraordinary services have ever been paid. It is to be observed however, that a moiety only of the rent is applicable to the purposes of this gift.


Parish Lands

The parish is in possession of the following tenements:
1 A field called Rack Park, containing about an acre and a half of land, in the occupation of Elizabeth Croker as yearly tenant under a rent of 6L 6s which is stated to be its true value.
2 A house divided into several tenements with a garden, small orchard and field called Town's End Tenement, which was granted by lease dated 17th July 1780, from the churchwardens, overseers and others, described as feoffees of the parish lands to William Ellis, for 99 years determinable on three lives, two of which are still in existence, at the rent of 15s per annum. The lease is stated to be granted in consideration of rebuilding the dwelling house which had lately been burnt down, and of 55L and the rent is reserved to be applied to the relief of such necessities of such poor persons as should be legally settled in the parish of Bovey Tracey. This tenement is said to be worth about 9L per annum.
3 A small house and garden in Mary Street, now in the occupation of Elizabeth Gidley, under a lease of 99 years determinable by two lives, at the yearly rent of 10s. The lease was not produced to us but we were told that the house has been much improved since it was granted; it is worth about 40s per annum.
There is also a workhouse with other tenements adjoining and a house in Mary Street, all of which are occupied by poor persons of the parish. We are unable to state how the parish became possessed of any part of this property; but the following deeds have been produced to us, which may be supposed to relate to a portion of it, viz. a deed of feoffment bearing date 10th April 1 Philip and Mary, whereby John Osborne granted to John Southcote and his heirs a house called the church house and a small garden in Bovey Tracey, then lately in the tenure of the parishioners of that parish and before that time, given for the support of an anniversary in the parish church; and another feoffment bearing date 1st December 1635, whereby Peter Southcote and others granted to Sir Popham Southcote and others, and their heirs, the church house, and the kitchen, orchard and the plot of land called the Church House Green, and also a messuage or tenement garden and orchard in Mary Street. There is no house now called the Church house. We were told that the rents of such of these tenements as were not occupied by paupers were usually carried to the churchwardens accounts; such accounts extending back to the year 1813 were laid before us and we were informed that those of earlier date were not to be found. It appears that the late schoolmaster, Mr Purchase, having become superannuated, agreed to resign his situation, in 1811, upon and understanding on the part of the parish to pay him an annuity of 30L for life; which was raised as follows:

    £ s d
By the rent of Foot's tenement, mentioned in the account        
of the school lands   4 4 0
of the Rack Park   6 6 0
of the Town's End Tenement   0 15 0
of the house in Mary Street   0 10 0
  ---- ---- ----
    £11 15 0

and the residue amounting to 18L 5s was made up by subscription among the parishioners. Mr Purchase died about the year 1813. No regular account of the rent of the above premises seems to have been kept from that time until 1820. In 1816, Mr Bird, a parishioner appealed against the accounts of the overseers, and in a subsequent year he appealed against the poor's rate; and it was then agreed that the churchwardens should hold the rents of the above premises, for the payment of the expenses arising from the appeals. In 1820 the following account was stated:

    £ s d
Rents received by Mr Lambell        
Two years from Mrs Croker   12 12 0
Three years from William Ellis   2 5 0
Two years from Elizabeth Gidley   1 0 0
Rents received by Samuel Sercombe        
Five years from Mrs Croker   31 10 0
Four years from Elizabeth Gidley   2 0 0
Four years from W Ellis   3 0 0
Two years from Mr Foot   8 8 0
    ---- ---- ----
    £60 15 0
    ---- ---- ----
Cash paid Mr Mortimer's bill   13 7 2
  Do Mr Gribble's bill                                   19 12 8
  Do Mr Sercombe   6 16 7
  Do Mr G. Harris   6 16 7
  Do Mr Reed   4 1 0
  Do Mr Lambell   6 16 7
    ---- ---- ----
      £57 10 7
Balance due to the parish   £3 4 5
    ---- ---- ----
      £60 15 0
    ---- ---- ----

Mr Mortimer and Mr Gribble were the two attorneys employed in the two appeals and the sums paid to them were on account of their bills. The other payments were sums which had been paid on account of the parish but were disallowed by the quarter sessions, in the overseers accounts, on the first appeal.
It will be observed that in the above statement, only two years of Foot's tenement is accounted for, from the time of Mr Purchase's death until 1820. We are at a loss for a more accurate statement of the rents of that property, which it has become difficult to obtain in consequence of the insolvency of ___ Hamlyn, the preceding tenant, by whom a loss of rent was sustained, but we were assured by the parish officers that the account should be investigated, and that if any rent should be found due, either from Hamlyn or Foot, it should, if possible be recovered.
This transaction which had the sanction of a select vestry of the parishioners, appears to have been altogether irregular.
As far as regards the appropriation of the rents of the parish lands, it seems to us, judging from the former application of those rents to be a question between the parish and the individual officers; but it is clear that the disposal of any portion of the rent of Foot's tenement, to the liquidation of this account, was improper. At the time of our inquiry, October 1822, the above mentioned balance of 3L 4s 5d remained in the hands of Mr S Sercombe; and there was also in the hands of Mr Geo Harris, the churchwardens for 1821, the sum of 11L 15s, being the amount of a year's rent of Foot's tenement, Rack Park, the Town's End tenement and the house in Mary Street.