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The parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history online

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begin only with the year 1672. Where are the
earlier ones ? The books containing these must, we
fear, have been destroyed during the troubled thirty
years preceding this date, when the parish generally
seems to have suffered much at the hands of the
Puritans. At that time, no doubt, the painted windows
of the church were dashed out, the delicate paintings,
traces of which are still to be seen on the walls of
that portion of the fine old church which formed the
lady chapel, plastered over with whitewash, the stone
altars cast out, and the very capitals of the pillars

Possibly, from some unexplored recess, or in the
depths of some bookseller's shop, the lost volume may
yet come to light ; but this seems hardly probable. The
first volume of registers still possesses its original
vellum covers, but they are very soiled and torn. On
the outside of the covers are many calculations of
different dates, and the following note : " W. Galard
became Rector of Selworthy June the 6th, 1692 ;
Rector there 31 years. William Galard was buried
the 10th day of March, 1723." The book is entitled

94 History of Selworthy.

" The Register Bookk of Selworthy, 1673," and under
the written title come the signatures of :

John Wood, Rector.

Tho. Boraston, Curate.

Geo. Hensly,


, Churchwardens.
Will. Withicombe,

The earliest existing baptismal register of Selworthy
has been somewhat carelessly kept in days gone by.
The first entry as to position, is that of the baptism
of one Mary Taylor, in 17 12, but at the bottom of
the page follow the records of the baptisms of John
and William Knight, in 1668 and 1672 respectively,
and on the following page come entries concerning
the Coffin and Siderfin family, dated as early as 1653.
The rest of the second page is filled by the following
entry, which is worth transcribing :

" Whereas Charles Staynings Esq., of Holnicote, in
the parish of Selworthy, did give unto the poor of the
parish of Selworthy by his will nuncupative, who died
in the year of our Lord 1652, twenty pounds, where-
unto his son Charles Staynings of Holnicote in the
parish and County aforesaid hath in the yeer 1660
April the tenth given ten pounds more, which said
thirty pounds with the full interest hath been and is
fully satisfied from time to time to the day of the
date hereof to the severall officers Churchwardens and
Overseers of the poor of the parish of Selworthy for
the time being, And now the said principall summe of
thirty pounds is received by us the Churchwardens
and Overseers of the poor for the use of the parish
aforesaid the nineteenth day of January in the yeer of
our Lord above said. In witness whereof wee the

Selworthy Registers. 95

Churchwardens and Overseers of the parish of Sel-
worthy have set our hands the day above said.

Witness —
John Wood, Rector. Thomas Trill, ) Ckurch-
Elias Halsey. John Hayward,} wardens.


The mark X of Geo. Hensley.
The mark X of William WiTHlCOMB,
No trace of this bequest now exists.
The baptismal register in the first book ends with
the year 1721.

During this period the register is perfect. There is
nothing particular to note in it save the occurrence of
names still with us, or familiar to us, showing the an-
tiquity of many of the Selworthy family names.

The name of one ancient Selworthy family, that of
Coffin, occurs frequently. One of the family, in 1663,
subscribed seven shillings and six pence to a Benevo-
lence to Charles II. This family lived at Allerford,
and seem to have held some position in the parish.
They were probably a branch of the old Devonshire
house of Coffin of Portledge.

The second book of registers of the parish of Sel-
worthy is a vellum folio of the same size as the first
volume — viz., about fifteen inches by ten, and is in
fairly good preservation, except that the margins have
been cut for re-binding. On the cover is written :
"A Register Book for the Parish of Selworthy, 1720.
John Galard, Rector.

John Beague, \ Church-
Robt. Bryant,/ wardens?

g6 History of Selworthy.

The following notes also find a place on it : " William
Stoat, married to Mary Snow, ye 16th of July, 1721."
" Memo nd — John Dyke Acland, Esqre., born Jan. 21,
1747." " Bryce, curate of Selworthy, 1733." On the
paper fly-leaves within the cover are the following
notes: "Miss Henrietta Blackford was buried nth of
Jan., 1733, by Thos. Blackwell, Reef of S. Clement's
Danes, London." This lady was the last of the ancient
family of Blackford, owners at one time of Holnicote.
Below is another note : " Mem. — Thomas Dyke, son of
S r Thomas Dyke Acland and Dame Elizabeth, his
wife, was born Fryday, ye tenth of April, in Holnicot
House, five minutes after one o'clock in ye afternoon,
and was privately baptised ye eighteenth of the same
month by Nath. Brice, curate of Selworthy, xxx., in ye
year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and
fifty-two." This, with the note on the cover, is the
first entry in the registers concerning the Acland
family. On the opposite page is written : " Memo. —
Lady Dyke Acland, died ye 33th June, 1753," and
below: " Thomas Knyton, bapt. ye 21st June, 1753."
On the next page are the following entries : " D.
Williams, curate of Selworthy, 1775," and below :
" Nathaniel Blake Brice, curate of Selworthy from the
year 1730 till the year 1775, died at his paternal living
of Aisholt in 1790, May 31, after being curate of Sel-
worthy 45 years, and resident on his living 15 years
more. He departed this life in the 83 rd year of his
age after a lingering illness of 3 months. He was a
stout man, of a warm temperament, soon angry, and
soon pacified. William Slade, Mr. Brice's clerk at
Selworthy for about 40 years, died on Whit Sunday,

Selwovthy Registers. 97

the 30th June, 1790, in the 80 th year of his life.
William Slade was a strong hail man, and continued
in the employment of a gardener to Sir Thomas
Acland until he died. The curate and the clerk, after
having lived many years together at Selworthy, at last
finished their respective courses within a month of each

There is little of importance to notice in the bap-
tismal entries in this second volume of registers, save
the way in which many names still familiar to us run
back generation after generation, as is indeed also re-
corded on the tombstones in our churchyard. The
entry quoted above relating to the birth of Thomas
Dyke, son of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland and Dame
Elizabeth, his wife, shows that that family were then
beginning to reside regularly at Holnicote.

The third register book of the parish of Selworthy is
a long paper book, bound in vellum, 165 inches long
by 6\ inches wide, well written and well kept. On the
inside of the cover are numerous entries. Among them
is the following : " N.B. — An exact copy of the Reg-
ister is to be taken for every year ending the 25 March,
to be presented at the Archdeacon's Visitation ; it must
be written word for word on Parchment, and that on
one side only." Then come records of some baptisms
omitted in previous years. Then " The Rev d David
Williams, buried Sept. 8, 1802, 22 years Rector of this
Parish, succeeded by the Rev d Joshua Stephenson,
M.A., late of S. John's Coll., Cambridge. Inducted
Dec r 11, 1802." Then follows in Mr. Stephenson's
handwriting, under date May 26, 18 13, "A List of the
Registers extant at Selworthy prior to those of 1813 :

98 History of Selworthy.

" No. 1. Contains Baptisms from April 25, 1672, to
July 2, 172 1. Marriages from May 5, 1673, to March
20, 172 1. Burials from April 4, 1673, to February 1 1,

No. 2. Baptisms from August 19, 1721, to December
28, 1777. Marriages from April n, 172 1, to February 7,
1754. Burials from March 26, 1721, to July 13, 1777.

No. 3. Baptisms from February 2, 1778, to De-
cember 20, 1812. Burials from April 4, 1778, to
November 29, 18 12.

No. 4. Marriages from October 2, 1775, to De-
cember 25, 1812."

When Mr. Stephenson made this list he was evidently
unaware of the small and mutilated fragment on paper
of the Elizabethan register.

At the end of this third volume are the following
curious entries : " Sir Thomas Dyke Acland went to
London the 4th of May, 1794; was taken ill in the way
thither, and on the 17th day of the same month
ab' 6 o'clock in the evening died ; he was brought
down to Broadclist to be buried in the vault of his

Hie finis fatorum Priami hie exitus ilium
Sorte tulit ! Vale. Vale. Vale.

Nee meridies nee Aurora unquam vident ejus ora.

Reliquit nobis cornu, canes, tandem quiescant ejus

" Sir Thomas Acland married Harriet, only daugh-
ter of Sir Rich d Hoare, Bart. He left behind four

children and his amiable widow Sir Thomas

came to the estate and title on the death of his nephew,
and he enjoyed it about 9 years."

Selworthy Registers. 99

The names mentioned in the register are for the
most part still familiar to us ; but some names, such as
Taylor and Elsworthy (the same name, we presume,
as that of the founder of the Ellsworth Timberscombe
Charity), which seem at one time to have been pro-
minent here, have disappeared. In 1801, June 21,
occurs the baptism of Arabella, daughter of Peter
Hoare, Esq., and in 1812 the register closes in con-
sequence of the Act of that year for " The better
regulating and preserving Parish and other Registers
of Births, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials in England."
This Act provides (1) for the keeping of registers by
the officiating minister ; (2) the provision of the ne-
cessary books by the parish ; (3) for the keeping of the
registers in separate books ; (4) it also orders the register
books to be kept by officiating ministers in an iron
chest provided by the parish ; and (5) declares false
entries, false copies of entries, the altering or destruc-
tion of a register to be a felony punishable by trans-
portation for fourteen years, etc., etc. The succeeding
(and fifth) register measures 10 inches by \^\ inches,
and is in good condition. The first entry is dated the
1st of January, 1813, and the last July 19, 1857.

The marriage registers of Selworthy at present
existing, like the baptismal registers, do not commence
until after the Restoration. Perhaps those bold
dragoons of Cromwell's who, when quartered upon
Holnicote and the parish at large, did not allow
peaceable men, as the Squire Stayning of the day
so pathetically laments, even " to eat hay with their
horses," used them for wadding for their muskets ! It
would almost appear that they may have done so,

ioo History of Se /worthy.

to judge from the mutilated portion of the Elizabethan
burial register which has recently been discovered.
But at all events the earliest marriage at Selworthy of
which we have any public record took place on the
5th of May, 1673. It is that of one Edward Williams
with Christian Burges ; and in the same year were
married John Dunscomb and Mary Watts, and James
Blanchflower, of Weindon (is this Whydon ?), and
Allice Farrole. In the following year we find again
the old familiar Selworthy names of Taylor, Beague,
Giles, Withycombe, Spurrier, etc. Under the year
1677 we have the note — " Thomas Long had a son
baptised ye 30th May, 1735"; and under the year
1691 — " Mem : John Galard became Rector of the psh.
of Selworthy ye 6 June, 1692." Under the year 1694,
amidst many flourishes, it is announced — " Be it re-
membered y* John Thorn came into * * * * [some
words obliterated] and became the psh. Clarke of Sel-
worthy on Christmas Day in the year of our Lord
1694." We notice some curious surnames, such as
Quirk, Question, Gelliben, Leany, etc., and some
Christian names which sound strange to us now, as
Welmoth, Johan, etc. The first book of the marriage
registers closes with the marriage of William Taylor
and Dinah Court, 20th, May 1720.

After 1754 the marriages are contained in separate
books. The first book is arranged according to a
form ordered by Parliament, in an Act which came
into operation on March 25, 1754. It is a handsome
parchment volume, rather more than 13 inches long
by 8£ inches wide, and is in perfect condition. The
banns of marriage are entered in it ; and then follow

Selworthy Registers. 101

the attested entries of the marriages themselves. The
register commences with the marriage of John Thorn
and Betty Goodgroom, which was solemnised on
February 3, 1755, by the rector, Nathaniel Brice. By
this time the contracting parties had to witness the
entry of their marriage, but it is curious to note how
very few could sign their names. It would not be
too much to say that seventy-five per cent, could only
affix their mark. Some entries are curious — e.g. the
marriage of John How, " Sojourner," who, in 1761, while
but a visitor in the parish, won away from the local
swains, the heart of fair Miriam Gooding! In 1770,
we get the entry of the marriage of John Coffin (who
signs his name in clerkly fashion), and Betty Devon-
shire, by one John Anthony, minister. After 1770
the entries are more frequently signed by the happy
pair. Education in Selworthy had at length evidently
made a start ! The last entry — the marriage of Thomas
Long and Ann Vicary — is dated May 6, 1775, in which
year the rector, in whose writing are all the rest of the
entries in this book, Nathaniel Brice, retired to Aisholt,
and was succeeded by the Rev. David Williams.

The next book of the marriage registers is an
equally handsome volume, measuring 10 inches by 14^
inches. It is well bound, and on the cover is a red
label, on which is printed in gold letters: "James
White and Robert Siderfin. Churchwardens." The
register opens with the marriage of Robert Leigh, of
the parish of Dulverton, and Elizabeth Hyett, of
Selworthy; and the entries are discontinued in 1812,
when a new form for the registers was put out by the
Government. The first marriages were solemnised by

102 History of Selworthy.

the aforesaid D. Williams, 1 who signs himself in the
old manner, " Curate " of Selworthy, " minister,"
" pastor there," etc. His record of the alliance of
Henry Hawkins and Joan Giles, on April 3, 1802, is
very infirm, and the marriage of Simon Berry, on
April 3, 1803, was conducted by the Rev. Joshua
Stephenson, who held the benefice for sixty-one years.
According to the list of the late Rev. J. Stephenson
before alluded to, the burial registers begin in the
same year as the baptismal and marriage records.
He could never, as stated above, have seen the earlier
one, lately discovered. It is unfortunately on paper,
and in a sadly torn and decayed condition. These
pages begin with the year 1 57 1, and above the
first entry is the following note : " VVillyms ff leete
intravit in possessionem Selworthiae." An account
of William Fleete is given in Chapter V. The first
burial entry in this register is that of George Nicoll,
the 4th Januarye, 1 57 1, and next comes that of
Julyan, daughter of Walter Baker. In Februarye,
John Home and Joan, the wife of John Cole, were

buried ; in Marche, Sporier, Thomas the

son of William Rodden, and George Upham. The
entries for the rest of this year are almost entirely
obliterated, save the name of Doms Philip Staning in
September. In 1 572 occur such names as Uppingford,
Rawle (frequently), Stote, Crode, Kent. In 1573 was
buried a son of Henrye Blackford ; in April one
Coffin (Christian name gone) was buried. These
names linger for the most part still among us, and we

1. D. Williams for several years held the curacy of Porlock with
the rectory of Selworthy.

Sehvorthy Registers. 103

notice that the Staynings of Holnicote, the Black-
fords, ancestors probably of the Blackford family
who bought the Holnicote estate at the beginning
of the 1 8th century, and the Coffins of Allerford, were
at that time settled in this parish.

The entries for the rest of the year (1573) are very
imperfect, but we find such familiar names as Crod,
Briant, and Webber. The latter is described as of
Withill — where is Withill ? The entries in 1574 are
few, and call for no particular mention. In June, 1575,
one Christin (Christian) Kent buried his son John and
his daughter Elizabeth, within a week of each other.
In 1576 the name Kitnor occurs for the first time
(a name, by the way, of British origin, and the same as
Culbone), and the name of John Huish, described as
of Porlock, seems to bring us back straightway into the
19th century. And so these few pages continue to
give the record of names for the most part very
familiar still to us — such as Home, Rawle, Sporier,
etc., until they close in November, 1579. The re-
gisters for the period between the years 1579 and
1673, as previously stated have disappeared. But
in 1673 the burial registers recommence with the
burial of Philip Hodges, and are quite perfect from
that year up to the present date. William ffieete was
succeeded in this benefice by Henry Byam, who held
the living of Luccombe in conjunction with that of
Selworthy. {See Chap. V.) He died June 16, 1669,
and within six days, viz., on June 22, his successor,
the Rev. John Wood, was instituted to the benefice of
Luccombe, and on July 23 of the same year to the
sister benefice of Selworthy. The worthy patrons,

104 History of Selworlhy.

Tho. Henly, Will Scott et Alex. Blackford, gen., seem
to have lost but little time in filling up the benefices.
These gentlemen were probably acting as guardians of
John, second Lord Arundel, who was at that time a

On March 23, 1674, Richard Blackford was buried.
On February 5, 1682, Mrs. Ann Staynings. 1684,
November 3, Mary Blackford. The year 1685 seems
to have been a disastrous one amongst the Selworthy
aristocracy, as on April 21, Mr. Charles Blackford was
buried, and on May 21, Mrs. Susanna Staynings
of Holnicote. On November 8, 1693, Mrs. Johan
Steynings was buried, and on February 8, Walter, ye
son of Walter Coffin. 1695, September 5, " Mrs.
Christian Blackford of this parrish was buried." On
January 9, 1696, Mr. Lewis Staynings, a brother of
Charles Staynings, the last squire of Holnicote of that
name. Lewis lived at Selworthy, as did a sister, Grace
Oram, whose husband was a clergyman. Charles in
his will provides for Lewis, by giving him a charge
upon his Selworthy estate, and a life interest in his
Over Stowey property, and also " the house he now
lives in, called the West House, being part of my
Mansion House in the pish of Sellworthy." Lewis,
however, pre-deceased his brother.

In 1701 we have the entry "Mr. Charles Staynings
was buried ye 12th of December." He was the last
of the ancient family whose name he bore, and which
had resided at Holnicote from so long a period. The
south aisle of the church, with its beautiful roof, was
built by this family ; and the interesting fifteenth cen-
tury gateway at Holnicote was the entrance to their

Selworthy Registers. 10$

Manor House. Mr. Staynings bequeathed his Holni-
cote property to his wife's nephew, Mr. Martin, of
Oxton, in Devonshire. Mr. Martin resided for some
time at Holnicote, but ultimately sold the estate to
the Blackford family. In 1710 comes the entry, " Mrs.
Mary Coffin, widow, was buried the 5th of September."
Near the end of this first book of burial registers, we
find an entry of the marriage of " Robert Gribbell and
Cisillia Dinnis," and the book closes with the burial
of Henry Widlake ye 29 of November. On the
following blank page the Incumbent has written his
name : " N. Brice, Curate " {i.e. Incumbent) " of Sel-
worthy, 1732," and underneath, in another hand, his
successor has added, " Left the cure March, 1775, and
lives now at Aisholt, his native parish. March, 1777.
D. Williams succeeded Mr. Brice in the cure March 25,


The burials in the second register book, according

to Mr. Stephenson's list, begin with the burial of
Sarah Batt, March 26. On March 10, 1723, was
buried John Galard, rector. This gentleman had been
presented to the benefice by John, first baron Arundel
of Trerise, on the death of Mr. Solomon Cook, S.T.B.
He was instituted on June 16, 1692, so that at his
death he had held the living for thirty-three years.
On June 23 of the next year, 1724, his widow, Susanna
Galard, followed him to the grave. On March 31,
1725, Mr. Walter Coffin was buried, and on March 17,
Mary Coffin, perhaps his wife. On Sept. 5, 1728,
William Blackford, Esq., was buried, and on Nov. 12
another Mary Coffin. On April 6, 1731, William
Blackford, Esq., son of the above William Blackford,


io6 History of Selworthy.

was buried. Nov. 25, 1743, Richard Gould was buried,
" died in ye snow on Porlock hills " says the register.
In 1743, May 26, was buried Alice Clark ; April 2,

1745, Abraham Clarke, and on July 4 of the same year,
John Clarke, and on Sept. 21, Joseph Clark. Feb. 22,

1746, Mary Martyn was buried, probably a member of
the Martyn family to whom Mr. Charles Steyning had
bequeathed the Holnicote estate, and who at this date
were residing there. August 18, 1748, was buried
Mary Brice, the five-year-old daughter of the Rev.
Nathaniel Blake Brice who was instituted to the
benefice in 1730 and held it until 1775. From the
year 1754 we find the ages of the subjects of the
various entries occasionally added. The first entry to
which this addition is made, is the entry of the burial
of William Clarke ye 28th of March, 1754, aged 84.
On ye 2nd Aug. was buried Robert Gribble, aged 94.
On the 24th Aug., Joan Coffin, aged 93 ; on the 13th
July, Joan Giles, aged 77 ; and on the 22nd Dec,
Mary Ridler, aged 74. So folk lived as long at Sel-
worthy one hundred and thirty years ago as they do
now, notwithstanding the increased wisdom of the
nineteenth century. In 1761 we find George Wood
buried the 24th of May, Jenny Maria Wood buried
the 31st May, Betty Wood the 2nd of August, James
Wood the 13th Dec. — all of Minehead — a whole family
killed off by some fatal ailment. Was the plague in
Minehead as late as the year of grace 1761 ? These
Woods were doubtless descendants of the John Wood
who was rector of Selworthy, 1669 — 1687. On the
9th July, 1762, was buried Mary Moggridge. There
are several entries in the registers concerning this

Selworthy Registers. 107

family, who for a long period were landowners at
Exford, and one of whom held at the same time the
livings of Minehead and Porlock. They were an old
Molland family, and had intermarried with the family
of Courtenay of Molland, a branch of the Powderham
family. 1 On the 13th Feb., 1768, was buried Mr.
Benjamin Coffin. On the 20th March, 1770, Mr.
Nathaniel Brice was buried, the youngest son of the
rector, and on the 5th June, John Williams (gent).
The register closes with the burial of Joan Door
(spinster), July 13, 1777.

There are but few entries of burials in the register
book numbered 3 in Mr. Stephenson's list. They begin
with the entry of the interment of Samuel Kent, April
4, 1778. April 25, Christian Greenslade, of Blackford,
was buried. October 19, 1779, Mr. William Kent
was buried. The prefix of " Mr." (about which our
forefathers were very particular) marks him as a yeo-
man of position, probably a landowner. November
10, John Prescott " a farmer, aged 32," was buried.
August 5, 1 78 1, William Hole, " who died of the small-
pox." On September 10, Joseph Cheek, " Sexton."
In 1783, only two burials are recorded — a healthy year !
In 1784, we have — January 20, Joan, Wife of Con-
stance Sage. January 21, Anne, daughter of Con-
stance Sage. January 28, Constance Sage (the
husband and father). February 4, John Giles " a poor
farmer." Then comes a member of a very ancient
Somersetshire family — March 6, Anne the wife of Mr.
Sydenham, (Minehead). July II, Robert Slade,
carpenter. September 4, Mrs. Grace Escott, a mem-

1. Vivian's Visitations of Devon.

108 History of Selworthy.

ber of the family of Escott, of Escott, in Carhampton
parish, now represented by the Rev. W. S. Escott of
Hartrow Manor. January 13, Mr. Thomas Sydenham
was interred beside his wife. Under the date May 6,

1787, is recorded the tragic end of Thomas Kent,
" killed by a lime rock, which fell upon him unawares."
May 8, Mrs. Mary Greenslade, of Blackford. Decem-
ber 29, Mr. Thomas White, " a farmer." March 16,

1788, was buried Betty Wood, widow, aged 88 ; and
on October 4 of the same year, John Dunscombe " a
famous huntsman in his time to Sir Thomas Acland."
October 13, 1789, was interred Mrs. Alice Beague.
The entries for the year 1791 close with the burial of
Thomas Rue — the rector takes the trouble to note that

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Online LibraryFrederick HancockThe parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history → online text (page 7 of 21)