Frederic Thomas Colby D.D. [Obituary]

Trans. Devon Assoc., vol. XXXII, (1900), pp. 35-37.


Rev. W. Harpley, M.A.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The obituary was read at the Association’s August 1900 Totnes meeting. Reprints of most of Dr Colby’s extensive genealogical and heraldic publications are available at cost from Thrift Books: and online from University of Pennsylvania. The obituary, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. 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.

Frederic Thomas Colby, D.D., was born at Plymouth on September 1st, 1827. He was the eldest son of Captain Thomas Colby, R.N., and Mary, eldest daughter of the Rev. John Palmer, of Great Torrington, Rector of Clannaborough, Devon; Vicar of South Benfleet, in Essex; Prebendary of Lincoln, etc. Mr. Palmer's mother was Mary Reynolds, sister of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Frederic Thomas Colby received his early education at Plymouth New Grammar School. Afterwards he went to Shrewsbury, at that time under Dr. Kennedy, and matriculated at Oxford, 1846. He was Gifford Exhibitioner at Exeter College in 1849; was elected a Fellow while still an undergraduate, and took a second class in Honours in 1849. He took his B. A. degree in 1852; M. A. 1853, B.D. 1868, and D.D. 1875. For many years he was Bursar of his college. In 1869 he was presented to the Vicarage of South Newington, which he resigned the following year. In 1875 he was presented to the Rectory of Litton Cheney, Dorsetshire, and held it till 1893, when he retired to Ilfracombe.

Dr. Colby became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1870, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1878, and he was also a member of the Council of the Harleian Society. He joined the Association in 1872, served as a Vice-President at the Torrington Meeting in 1875, and withdrew in 1877. He rejoined in 1895, and was again elected one of the Vice-Presidents for the second meeting at Great Torrington in 1899. He edited, in 1872, for the Harleian Society, the Visitations of Devonshire (1620), and in 1876 the Visitations of Somerset (1623). He also edited and printed privately The Visitation of Devon in 1664 and Addenda to Visitation of Dorset (1623). Other works from his fruitful pen are A History of the Family of Colby; A History of Five Devonshire Families; Notes on Family of Guille {Guernsey); Notes on Family of Stevens {Little Torrington); Verses and Translations; Sermons; an article on the heraldry of Exeter for the Archaeological Institute, in 1873; "History of Great Torrington," paper read at Great Torrington Meeting, 1875; "Mottoes of Some Devonshire Families," 1897, read at Honiton; "Torrington Worthies," 1899, read at Great Torrington; contributions to the Journal of Sacred Literature and verses to Sabrinæ Corolla,

Dr. Colby was of a very retiring and studious nature, and though he thoroughly enjoyed society he was best pleased when shut up with his books. Few people, except a few intimate college friends, are aware of his wide knowledge or of the extent of his classical attainments. He read much also in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, and was devoted to poetry. His Verses and Translations, mentioned above and printed for private circulation only, now before the writer, contain some pieces of poetry exquisitely rendered into Latin.

Dr. Colby was twice married: first, to Theophia Margaret, daughter of the Rev. George Hadow, M.A.. Rector of Tidcombe Portion, Tiverton; secondly, to Louisa Margaret Amy, daughter of the Rev. G. de Carteret Guille, M.A., of St George, Guernsey, Rector of Little Torrington. Though born at Plymouth, he was a true Torringtonian; the Colbys and Palmers had lived there for many generations. He died at his residence Hillsborough Terrace, Ilfracombe, November 27th, 1899, and was buried at Great Torrington, December 2nd.

"Among familiar names to rest, And in the places of his youth."