Oaths of Allegiance: Bow, 1723

By Rita Balado, Carole Herbert and Trish Rodbourne

Some of the known occupations and family details of the Bow Oath takers 1723: Part 1

Of the 28 men who signed, a significant number also had received payment for work connected to the church or had occupations in their own right.

John & Mary Biggs, signed together at Exeter Castle on 11 December 1723. We have found that John Biggs who was not a churchwarden, was however involved with church life as he examined and signed the churchwardens' accounts for the year 1723. John and Mary Biggs had a daughter, Mary, who was baptised on the 3 February 1684. This would put her age at 39 at the time of the oath taking. We can then speculate that if her father John was in his early twenties at the time of her birth he would be in his early sixties when signing.

Mary & Henry Blighe signed together at the Blue Angel Crediton on 21 October 1723. Henry Blighe was appointed schoolmaster for Bow, 1714. A letter of recommendation was sent to the Lord Bishop of Exeter on 9 June 1714 signed by John Sweeting and Tho. Ley stating that Henry was a 'very sober dutiful son of the church... .well qualified to keep a school being master of writing and arithmetic'. Schoolmasters needed the Bishop to grant them a licence to be a schoolmaster, this reflects the close ties between secular and religious life in the past. In 1740 it is mentioned in another letter of recommendation for a subsequent schoolmaster that Henry 'is now removed to Silverton'. This would mean that Henry had spent 26 years as a schoolmaster in Bow. From the 1744 replies to the Bishops Visitation Queries we know that the school was a Free School with a Small Endowment for the instruction of ten boys in reading, writing and casting Accounts. The schoolmaster was expected to teach the Church Catechism and ensure church attendance. No schooling for girls!

Joshua Bowchier (Bourchier) signed at Exeter Castle 8 October 1723. Records show us that Joshua was Rector of Nymet Tracy alias Bow, in 1687, some 36 years before he signed the oath, putting his speculative age at around 60 years in 1723. In the ancient deeds of 1720 Joshua is known to have been a 'clerk' and an entry for 1737 describes a Richard Bowchier as 'gent'. This was most likely Joshua's son, born 17 February 1699. By 1746 Richard was taking on John Avery as his indentured apprentice in husbandry. These entries indicate that the family was of some standing being literate and possessing of their own land.

Joan and Philip Brock. Joan 'marked B' and Philip signed at Crockerton Well Cheriton Bishop on 14 September 1723. Nothing is known of the couple themselves, however, the family name occurs many times in the parish deeds. These entries range from 1462 to 1737 and in the latter half of the seventeenth century three Brocks are listed as churchwardens. In neighbouring North Tawton, the 1758 Sun Fire Insurance records note a John Brock, sergemaker insuring property worth £100, equivalent to £7,479.00 today. Seven years later, 1765, he was insuring property and goods worth £200. A family of longstanding and enterprise.

James and Warren Burnie both signed at Exeter Castle on 8 October 1723. We do not know their specific relationship, brothers? father and son? cousins? A James Burney is recorded as a Bow tenant of Christoper Lethbridge 1748. James rented the Mansion House and Barton ground for 10 shillings and two closes part of Bow Farm for 3 shillings. Note that Christopher Letherbridge was the brother-in-law of the above named Joshua Bowchier. Local letting business conducted by local families.

Enoch Coomb marked 'C' at Exeter Castle in December 1723. We know that he was buried 14 August 1743 but have no record of his birth/baptism. From the churchwardens' accounts entries show that in 1721 and 1722 Enoch paid the sum of two pounds each year, possibly for rent. Similar amounts are recorded as having been paid in 1724 and 1729. For work done by Enoch he was paid for 'mending the church seats' and paid one pound two shillings and sixpence for 500 shindles (roof tiles) and a new church gate. It would appear that Enoch was a skilled carpenter although not literate as he 'marked' and did not sign his name.

Simon Earland marked 'E' at Exeter Castle on 20 November 1723. Little is know of Simon at present, except his burial date of 26 May 1732. Ancient deeds mention a John Earland descibed as a yeoman in 1737. To be a yeoman indicated that one was a free tenant, but was unable to be defined as a gentleman but held a status above that of other copyhold tenants. He would be able to vote in county elections and to serve on juries.

Agnes, wife of Edmund Harvey marked 'A' at Exeter Castle in December 1723, her husband signed his name at Crockerton Well, Cheriton Bishop on 24 September 1723. It is interesting to note that as a couple they did not travel together on the same date to the same place as other couples had done. The name of Harvey is mentioned in the ancient deeds from 1565 to 1720 indicating again that this is an old Bow name. Edmund Harvey was churchwarden for 1722.

Also of particular note was the choice and location of Crockerton Well. This was the location for the largest group, 35 people. Of these 20 were able to sign their name. Bearing in mind that of our total group of 65 people only 30 signed their name, the Crockerton Well group comprised most of the literate folk, and 9 out of the 12 people known to have been churchwardens, were in this party. Crockerton Well would have been a journey of approximately 7 miles each way from Bow, making it feasible to achieve in one day, whether on foot for by some kind of horse power. As with all the other dates of signing we must remember that we only know the date of the signing and not the dates of travelling or staying at any location for any other business.

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