Will of Samuel Dunn

Proved 20 January 1794

© Crown Copyright

PROB 11/1240/126, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury

Transcribed by Peter Selley


Samuel Dunn (1723-1794) was born in Crediton, the only child of John and Alice (née Harris). He was a school master at the “English School” on Bowden Hill. 1748 aged 25 he described the 25 July annular solar eclipse from Crediton. In 1757 he moved to London where he ran a “Mathematical Academy” in Chelsea where “Young Gentlemen” could board and “be expeditiously qualified in the science and for business”. It was from his academy that he observed and described a previously unknown comet “C/1760 A1” in January of the following year. Aged the age of 40 in 1763 he married Elizabeth Harrison in St Margaret’s Westminster, unaware she had debts of £2,000 for which he became responsible. They quickly separated.

He wrote several books on mathematics and navigation but will probably be mainly remembered for the collection of beautiful maps he created and which can be admired online.

His legacy to the Corporation of Crediton was used to fund a teacher in what was known as Dunn’s Nautical and Mathematical School and later as Dunn Foundation School. In 1916, this was merged with Crediton Grammar School. His male relations were to be given priority to be accepted as pupils. The only descendant who had children was his cousin Mary Dunn, married to John Prawl; some of their children and grandchildren (Berry) studied at that school. 


This is the last Will and Testament of me Samuel Dunn teacher of the mathematics and master for the Longitude at sea at No 1 Boars Head Court Fleet Street and written by me I will that my lawful Debts be paid and  Discharged and that I am buried at the discretion of my Executor in the parish Church belonging to the place where I happen to inhabit a little before my decease and the Goods and Estate it has pleased God to bless me with I give and dispose thereof as follows My relations are John Harris of Crediton Elizabeth Rawdon of Crediton Mary Wright of London Martha Enniver of London Richard Harris of Crediton William Dunn Officer of Excise London Thomas Dunn of Crediton. To each of those seven persons aforegoing who are living at the time of my decease I give the sum of twenty pounds To the children of the aforesaid John Harris to be divided amongst them all share and share alike to each I give the sum of twenty pounds which I judge may be about two pounds to each of said John Harris children. To my old servant Grace Huggins I give the sum of thirty pounds. My wife Elizabeth Dunn hath withdrawn herself from me near thirty years therefore I give her the sum only of Ten pounds. In 1743 when the first Great fire broke out and destroyed the west Town I had been some time keeping a school and teaching writing accounts and navigation and other mathematical Science altho not about twenty years of age then I removed to the Schoolhouse at the foot of Bowdown Hill and taught there till Christmas 1757 then I came to London The year after the fire my father died at Crediton and was buried I think at a about twenty yards north from the North West Corner of Crediton Church As I taught writing accounts Navigation and other mathematical science at that School Seven years from the year 1743 the time of the fire at Crediton to the year one thousand seven hundred and fifty one when I came to London and the Gentleman who had that school had it for teaching English only its Emoluments being promised to me after his decease I conclude that the advancement of English Education at that School would be of Service to the Town of Crediton therefore for the honour of Almighty God and the good of those who live in the Town and parish of Crediton or places adjacent I request the Corporation of Crediton to provide always and have a master of that school residing therein of the Church of England but not in Holy Orders an able teacher of writing navigation the Luna Method of taking the longitude at sea planing drawing and surveying with all mathematical science At this time I am by Divine Providence possessed of one thousand pounds five per Cent annuities in the Bank of England and reserve six hundred pounds of this which brings thirty pounds per year by half yearly payments for this Charitable purpose This thirty pounds per year I give to the master that will be appointed by the Corporation of Crediton faithfully to instruct at least six boys of the Church of England Descendants of the above Dunn Harris or others residing at Crediton for one whole year Gratis and so on from year to year willing and ordering that the said Corporation of Crediton shall have the sole right of receiving the said yearly annuity of thirty pounds for that purpose and for no other purpose whatever Thus the Capital of six hundred pounds annuities is to be in the Bank receivable by the Corporation of Crediton for the use of the master as long as that annuity lasts and after the Corporation then being shall have the power to change it into some other permanent legal annuity for the same uses and purposes The other four hundred pounds will pay more than the above legacies to my Relations and servant above mentioned Of this last mentioned sum of four hundred pounds in the five per cent annuities and all my other Goods and Estate I constitute and appoint the above named Kinsman of mine William Dunn Officer of Excise as whole and Sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of us and declared to be the last Will and Testament of the said Samuel Dunn this present day January 5th 1794 Samuel Dunn Thomas Birkley 22 Cloth Fair Thomas Inglesby No 22 Cloth Fair