Rackenford Oath-Takers, 1723

By Sarah Child

Women jurors

Some of the nine women who took the oath also seem likely to have been heads of household. This was certainly the case with Mary Gammon, whose husband had died four years earlier leaving her Canworthy, one of the larger farms, held from the Acland estate on a three life lease. Anthony Gammon was - unusually - described as "gent" in the church register at the time of their marriage in 1708. Mary paid £50 to add her two children's names to the lease in 1720. Her son Abel, aged 12 in 1720, appears as "yeoman" on the 1738 jury list. Deborah Farr's marriage licence shows her to have been a Rackenford widow named Burcher when she married Thomas Farr, a serge maker of Sampford Peverell, in 1717. Thomas Farr does not appear on any list, so she may have returned to Rackenford having been widowed for the second time. However as the executrix of William Burcher's will she still had responsibility for property left to her underage children and hence may have felt obliged to swear on their behalf. Her eldest son was already 18, but her brother-in-law Hugh Burcher is the only other family member to appear on the lists.

It seems likely that Katherine Mogford, who is entered as "wife of Lewis", also had property in Rackenford and was related to Humphrey and Frances Parkhouse.. The registers of the adjoining parish of Oakford show that Katherine Parkhouse married Lewis Mogford, a widower with four children, in 1713. She does not figure in the Rackenford registers except possibly as a burial (as Katherine Mogford) in early 1724. Lewis' first wife was one of a gentry family in Oakford and he is described as a yeoman on the Oakford jury list of 1727. He does not seem to have sworn himself (the only Lewis Mogford to have done so (at Honiton) is marked "of Branscombe" which seems improbably distant).

Mary Greenslade is possibly the widow of the same name who was farming East Batsworthy in Creacombe.

Grace Gregory appears to have been one of three (probably) sisters who all married farmers from other parishes by licence during this decade. This suggests a certain economic status, and since there are no other Gregorys in the register at all it seems possible that Grace was also a head of household.

Dorothy Ayre however was the wife of Thomas Ayre, though why she should be swearing on December 25 in Exeter when he had done so on October in Chulmleigh seems inexplicable except in terms of a shopping trip. It also seems very unlikely that somebody of her social status would have gone unaccompanied by a servant, even if her husband was with her. This may be further evidence of the lack of importance attached to swearing by the lowest social classes; if there was a man or a maid from Worthy with Mrs Ayre, they could very easily have signed as well, but nobody else from Rackenford did on that date. Frances Parkhouse was the daughter of Humphrey Parkhouse, again signing in Exeter on December 11 although her father had already signed in Chulmleigh. She was accompanied by Katherine Mogford nee Parkhouse, so they seem likely to be sisters or otherwise related. Joan Matthews might have been the only example of a wife swearing at the same time as her husband (John), but - if they are the most probable persons of those names in the registers - she died as a widow in 1747 whereas he lived another ten years.

It is evident from the church registers that the great majority of the oath takers were or had been married, and at least eight of the men had wives living in late 1723. With the exception of Dorothy Ayre, they do not seem to have been included.

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