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Help and advice for Otterton: Letter from George Waymouth to Lord Rolle

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Besley, sen. Printer, South-street, Exeter

transcribed by Elizabeth Howard

Single sheet of paper, folded to an oblong envelope shape,
hand written address to The Land Lord of the York Hotel, Sidmouth.

Handwriten in Latin: Orara Avis in Terre, nigro qua sum? Cygno

Lord Rolle, R D Horndon, R G Smith

Otterton 15 Oct 1821

Lord Rolle - About a year and half since, I wrote you to request you would order the Constable to put in force the law respecting Vagrants as this place was much pestered with them. You without any just cause, took offence, and sent orders to the Postmaster not to send out of his office my letters to you: as you have in your great wisdom and greater power given such an order, I suppose you refuse to open my letters, lest you should be told your duty as a Justice, I am therefore obliged to address you in print. It is nearly a year and half since I wrote you, and unwillingly write now, but justice to myself and a full conviction that you ought to know the following circumstances, so disgraceful to your wicked servants W Vinicombe and T Gale, compels me to perform a duty unpleasant to myself; but which I hope may prove of service to them as you ought to severely reprimand them. On the 12th July 1820, I procured from Mr Horndon in your Justice Room a summons for W Vinicombe to appear at Woodbury for riding in your waggon on 8th July without reins. Gale came into the room with W Vinicombe: Mr Horndon said "As this is a charge against Lord Rolle's Carter, I will thank you, Mr Smith, to go through the case." I said (unsworn) but desired to be sworn, and it was answered, my word should be taken as an oath - I met Vinicombe the 8th July in your waggon near Bicton Church without reins in his waggon. Mr Smith asked me the day of the week. I said, Saturday. Mr Horndon said that was right. He asked me the hour. I said, I could not swear the hour; it was between two and four, as soon I returned home. Mr Horndon much to my surprise, asked me if I knew Vinicombe. I said as well as I knew him. Did Mr Horndon think I would accuse a man I did not well know? Mr Smith asked Vinicombe if my charge were true? Vinicombe said, when I met Mr Waymouth, and was stopt by Gale saying, "you was at hay", and gave Mr Smith a book, which was not shown to me - I said Vinicombe was drawing hay, for I would swear I saw fresh hay, binding ropes and a boy in the waggon. Mr Horndon asked him if he was not drawing hay from Budleigh? He certainly was so employed; but he said, No and appeared greatly confused - He was not fined; and I thus convicted of a false oath against a poor Carter. As I have told Mr Horndon, I believe no other Justices would have acted as these two did. I repeat I care not a straw for their decision, my character being too well and too long established for truth and integrity, to be affected by a decision of two Justices at Woodbury, chusing rather to take the assertion of a Carter of Lord Rolle's than my oath. I must add, I regard no crime but murder greater than false oaths, and rather than be guilty of it, I would endure torture to every limb in my body. Gale now said "I have brought Bodley here, to prove he and Waymouth met Vinicombe 2nd June riding without reins," I said, I knew I did, but did not come to fine for that time, but for 8th July, and that day I would and indeed had sworn to. Gale overtook me going home and in company with two men, damned me for a Thief, a Radical, False swearer etc.

(Handwritten in the left margin alongside the above, "The Printer has left out many base Acts of Ld Rolle's servts and demdents, GW)

A few days since, your favorite tenant, John Bastin, asked me to Otterton, before a respectable person, "Who swore false ". I desired he would mention, he was afraid I suppose, I might not again comply with your request to pardon him, as I did when he threatened to horsewhip me, because I wrote him, if I saw his Carter drive his waggon without reins, at the rate of 7 miles per hour, I should feel it my duty to fine the Carter, by your desire. I did not bind him over and thus he returns my kindness. Here I must say I will not believe your servants, tenants and your other dependents, would thus ill treat, abuse, calumniate and persecute me if they did not think you approved their conduct; and all this arises from my having what you called, dared to fine your waggoner 4 years ago; at which you angrily told me, "when you have any Justice business, you shall not come, or not be heard at Bicton, but at Woodbury," (six miles distance). Was this a proper gentleman-like conduct? All who fear not you, and I will say, it was not. I soon after this wrote to Mr Saville, informing him how I was used at Woodbury, and asked for a summons for Vinicombe, for offence 2nd June. Being from home, he wrote me a polite answer, that he could not comply but had written you and Mr Horndon and hoped I should succeed better if I went before Woodbury Justices again. I then went to the Castle meeting of Justices at Exon, and got a summons for Vinicombe for offence 2nd June - Gale, Bodley, Harry James your attorney, came together and Bodley swore I could not see Vinicombe tho he and I were only 15 yards or thereabouts distant. He saw Vinicombe on the shaft doing something to the hind horse. Mr Milford told him his evidence was inconsistent. Mr Lyon said "We have heard your oath and Bodley's: do not you, sir, accuse Bodley of a false oath". I said, yes. Mr Kekewich, chairman, said, "Vinicombe you are fined". Gale then told another wicked lie, and said, Waymouth at Woodbury said he would give £5 to convict Vinicombe. I desired Justice Smith to answer Gale. He said, Mr Waymouth said at Woodbury, he would rather have lost £5 than appeared against Vinicombe, could he have thought him so wicked as to deny riding. Some of the Justices, my friends, said they never saw a blacker case, and asked me if Gale was one of your farmers. I said he was your Bailiff. I assure you James did all in his power to vitiate my honest oath, and make good Bodley's false oath; but Castle Justices are not like Woodbury Justices. .... On 3rd Sept, 20, three friends came here to see Lord Rolle's Park. Soon as the church was out, we came on your grounds, and when we came to the garden of plants, a person in a loud voice called out "who stole fish?" Gale answered, "Waymouth". This was repeated. Gale fixed himself against your park gate and when I put my hand to open it, he pushed me away, and said, "No damned Radicals should enter there". I said, I had your permission; thus my friends did not see your park. While I was absent, Dawe told several people a wicked lie; he said I had written two infamous letters to the late Lady Rolle; one saying "Go to Hell," the other with words too coarse for me to put in writing; thus your head servant calumniates me and is probably encouraged to do so. I have sworn I never wrote either of these letters, or desired any one to write one word, or knew of such letters until my return here. Dawe and all of your servants are infinitely beneath my notice. I could bring actions against him and Gale but I despise them; you ought to reprimand them, but it does not follow you will do so. Last Tuesday I entered your Justice room at Bicton, soon after ten o'clock, and asked for you or Mr Smith. Dawe said, you was not there - a falsehood; and that justice business was over - another untruth. I said, I came for a summons. He saucily said, "Go to Woodbury". I said, I will have it here. I left the room for a few minutes, and on my return, found the door locked. This is intolerable. To conclude, every one who reads this, will put you down for a very ungrateful Peer, if you not use your best endeavours to get the Rev Justice Smith made a Bishop; Horndon a Dean; James your attorney, Serjeant at Law; Bodley, Exciseman or Supervisor, John Gale your now Bailiff, your Steward, Dawe your clerk and calumniator, your High Steward, instead of Mr Moore Stephens, who has shewn his independence, in not submitting to ask you who he should marry; at which you shewed yourdself very angry - and you are more angry with me, because I would not put my hand under your tender, most merciful foot. Now then, I wish you and all your dependents may profit by this letter. It is time to finish - farewell. Take advice and you may yet alter for the better.

Your brother in the flesh


Not old Waymouth (a handwritten r replaces the h) as you call me. (handwritten politely)

PS This letter was the most part written in Jan last, and shewn to many, but delayed to be made public till the late Lady Rolle had been buried one year. (handwritten) I hear Vinicomb he is made Coachman to drive the rosinante Bays. GW.