UK Trip 4 May 2005: Somerset, Devon, Cornwall

Continued from Hayes family in Somerset.

We had breakfast at 7:30, and left Pickford House at Beckington just after 8:00. We had had a very pleasant stay there for two nights.

Pickford House B&B, Beckington, Somerset 4 May 2005

Pickford House B&B, Beckington, Somerset 4 May 2005

We drove through Midsomer Norton, because there was a TV detective series called Midsomer Murders. Midsomer Norton looked a rather unprepossessing place, and it turned out that the detective series was filmed in Oxfordshire anyway. We drove down the Cheddar Gorge this time, and went to the post office in Axbridge, where we bought post cards, pens and stationery. We drove up the High Street and round the village. There was a field full of Somerset sheep, which seemed fatter than the Merinos at home, and at the other side of the field there appeared to be two llamas lying down, but they were so far away we could not see them very well.

Fields at Axbridge, Somerset. Is the animal by the fience on the right a llama? 4 May 2005

Fields at Axbridge, Somerset. Is the animal by the fence on the right a llama? 4 May 2005

We called at Wookey Hole, but did not go in to the caves. We drove through Glastonbury, and saw the Tor, which was not nearly as numinous and mysterious as it has been touted to be. We had read in many places that it was supposed to be spooky, and one of the “thin places” of the earth, but it looked quite ordinaryas we drove past. Nearby we passed a sign to Burrowbridge Mump, and we wondered what a “mump” could be — something like a tumulus or tump, perhaps? We saw a roundish hill off to the left, and assumed that that was it. Then we drove along a narrow road across the Somerset flats, lined with basket willows, and turned off to the left, and after about a mile climbed up to North Curry, where my great great great grandfather Simon Hayes was born about 1785.

The Somerset Leveds, with the road lined with basket willows 4 May 2005

The Somerset Levels, with the road lined with basket willows 4 May 2005

The sky was overcast and there was a chilly wind blowing. From the hill there was a view a long way over the Somerset Levels. We went to the church, and when we got out of the car we heard the sound of the wind blowing in the trees and the raucous cries of strange birds. That was numinous and mysterious, far more so than Glastonbury, and had a rather menacing atmosphere.

St Peter & St Paul Church, North Curry, Somerset. 4 May 2005

St Peter & St Paul Church, North Curry, Somerset. 4 May 2005

The harsh cries of crows, and some that sounded like owls made it feel somehow unearthly. It was what H.P. Lovecraft might describe as eldritch. The church with its octagonal tower was grey and crumbling and covered with lichen, and looked like an abandoned building from Elidor, something from another time and place. If you are talking about thin places, this was the thinnest place I had ever been in.

St Peter & St Paul Church, North Curry, Somerset, 4 May 2005.

St Peter & St Paul Church, North Curry, Somerset, 4 May 2005.

Inside the church was also rather impressive, in a somewhat different way, and it seemed to be a lively and active parish. There was an ikon of St Peter & St Paul, and we lit candles in front of it. We had lunch in the Bird in Hand pub, ham eggs and chips, which was expensive, but much better than English food as I remembered it from 40 years ago. In Bath we had gone to a Chinese restaurant, because of my memories of the banality of English cuisine. This was a surprise, and as we continued on our travels we discovered the cooking much better than it had been in the 1960s; perhaps it was the influence of all the cooking shows on TV that seemed to have proliferated in recent years.

Pub in North Curry

Pub in North Curry

The inhabited parts of the village were not nearly as spooky as the bits around the church. Though my ancestor Simon Hayes claimed to have been born here, there was no record of his baptism in the church records, and he appears to have dropped into the world out of nowhere. Perhaps he was a refugee from Elidor.

North Curry, Somerset

North Curry, Somerset

We left North Curry by a different road, and filled up with petrol before joining the M5 motorway, which took us to the vicinity of Exeter in Devon. We turned off to Dunchideock and Doddiscombesleigh and
the sun came out again as we drove down narrow country lanes with high banks and hedges, so one could see very little other than the narrow sunken lanes ahead.

Devonshire lanes near Dunchideock,  with high banks and hedges, and no view of the countryside. 4 May 2005.

Devonshire lanes near Dunchideock, with high banks and hedges, and no view of the countryside. 4 May 2005.

We saw nothing more of Dunchideock than a sign on a hedge, and Doddiscombesleigh seemed to be little more than the pub and the church. The pub was the Nobody, and I remembered someone on the British Genealogy newsgroup saying one could get a good meal there, but we’d just had a very adequate meal
at North Curry, and so were not hungry enough. We went on to Ashton in the Teign Valley, where the Stooke family had lived.

The River Teign at Ashton. 4 May 2005.

The River Teign at Ashton. 4 May 2005.

My great grandfather William Allen Hayes had married Mary Barber Stooke in Bristol, and then run the Red Lion Hotel in Axbridge. The Stooke family goes back to the 16th century in the Teign valley. Ashton church seemed much deader than the one in North Curry, and was locked.

Ashton parish church, Devon. 4 May 2005.

Ashton parish church, Devon. 4 May 2005.

There was only one monument to the Stookes that we could find in the churchyard, that of Edmund Stooke of Rydon (1788-1860). He was the uncle of my great great grandfather Thomas Stooke, who was born in Chudleigh in 1815.

Monument to Edward Stooke of Rydon in Ashton churchyard. 5 May 2005.

Monument to Edward Stooke of Rydon in Ashton churchyard. 4 May 2005.

We then went to Trusham, where Stookes had also lived, and the church was a bit better maintained, and there were monuments to the Stooke family inside the church. We spoke to a woman there who was looking after the church.

Trusham parish church. There are several monuments to members of the Stooke family inside the church. 4 May 2015

Trusham parish church. There are several monuments to members of the Stooke family inside the church. 4 May 2005

Trusham village seemed to be a bit bigger than Ashton, and had more inhabitants.

Trusham, Devon. 4 May 2015

Trusham, Devon. 4 May 2005

We went on to Chudleigh, where Thomas Stooke had been born, and parked outside the library, where some kids were skateboarding in the street. I tried to listen for their accents to hear what local
accents sounded like, but everywhere we have been we heard Estuary accents.

Chudleigh parish churc. My great great grandfather Thomas Stooke was baptised here in 1815.

Chudleigh parish church. My great great grandfather Thomas Stooke was baptised here in 1815.

We then drove through Bovey Tracey, where a Stooke had been minister in the Commonwealth period, and on to Moretonhampstead, where I had nearly had a job as a kitchen boy in a hotel in 1966, and then across Dartmoor to Tavistock, via Two Bridges. Dartmoor looked a lot like the South African highveld.

Dartmoor - resmbles the South Africah Highveld.

Dartmoor – resembles the South African Highveld.

We drove up to the A30, and crossed Bodmin Moor and turned off to Blisland just past Jamaica Inn, and stayed at Trewint Farm near the hamlet of Waterloo, run by Mike and Carol. After dumping our cases we drove in to Bodmin, and had supper at the Weavers bar in the middle of town. They had Cornish steaks on the menu, but no Cornish pasties, so we had ham omelets.

St Petroc's Church, Bodmin, Cornwall

St Petroc’s Church, Bodmin, Cornwall

The town seemed noisy, with small motor bikes running around. After supper we drove around looking for places where the Growden family had lived at various times, and found Higher Bore Street, which was one of their homes. We drove back over the moor, though around Blisland most of the roads were narrow sunken country lanes with high banks and hedges like those in Devon, so we could not see much of the countryside.

Continued at Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, on election day.

Why did the Stooke change his name?

One of the advantages of the growth of the Internet and the amount of genealogical information available is that one can find things quite quickly that might have been quite impossible when we first started doing genealogy in 1974.

The first thing I did when we started was to order my grandfather’s birth certificate, from which I discovered that his parents (and my great grandparents) were William Allen Hayes and Mary Barber Stooke of Bedminster, near Bristol in England. After about 15 years we had managed, mainly through correspondence, to link Mary Barber Stooke to a Stooke family tree at Ashton and Trusham in the Teign valley in Devon, going back to the 16th century. A relative from another branch of the family who lived in Devon went into the Devon record office and checked the records in the tree step-by-step, copying the records by hand and sending them to us by snail mail.

Ashton in Devon, with the bridge over the Teign River. John Stooke, my 9x great grandfather, son of Thomas Stooke and Elizabeth Honywill, was baptised in Ashton on 9 August 1592

Ashton in Devon, with the bridge over the River Teign. John Stooke, my 8x great grandfather, son of Thomas Stooke and Elizabeth Honywill, was baptised in Ashton on 9 August 1592

But we still did not know about Mary Barber Stooke’s brother and sister.The earlier generations were fairly well documented, the more recent ones were not, or at least the documents were less accessible.

We knew she had a sister Sarah, because they were staying together in the 1871 census before Mary Barber Stooke got married. Both their parents seemed to have died by then. It was only much later that we discovered that they had a brother Thomas, and through resources like FreeBMD and FreeCEN managed to discover that he was living in Exmouth, Devon, in 1891, with a wife Mary Ann and two children — Lionel Leigh Stooke and Mildred M. Stooke.

And a mysterious e-mail correspondent, known to me only as visionir, told me that Sarah Stooke had married Charles Robert Parker who ran the Colston Arms pub in Bedminster, Bristol, and hinted that he/she had a lot of information on that family, but refused to share it, saying that he/she already had enough information on them and didn’t need any more. I was able to verify some of this information from censuses, but consulting them entailed a 70km drive to the LDS Family History Centre in Johannesburg, and ordering the the films from Salt Lake City if necessary, and waiting two months for the films to arrive.

I tried to follow up Lionel Leigh Stooke and Mildred M. Stooke. As more resources came online it became easier and quicker.  Their parents, Thomas and Mary Ann Stooke, seem to have died between the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Mildred seems to have married a Leonard O. Meyer and to have had a son Lionel O. Meyer, born in 1918, but of her brother Lionel there was no sign. Had he died? Had he emigrated? There was no way of knowing.

But then the Internet provided the information that would have been impossible to find before — in the London Gazette of 31 May 1949 the following notice appeared:

NOTICE is hereby given that by a deed poll dated
the 19th day of May, 1949, and duly enrolled in the
Supreme Court of Judicature on the 26th day of
May, 1949, I, STEPHEN RENDEL of Number 76
Roman Road Colchester in the county of Essex
Retired a natural born British subject renounced and
abandoned the first names of Lionel Leigh and the
surname of Stooke.—Dated the 27th day of May,
STEPHEN RENDEL, formerly known as Lionel
(207) Leigh Stooke»

And from that clue it has been possible to piece together the story of Lionel Leigh Stooke, alias Stephen Rendel. From knowing next to nothing about him, suddenly we know more than we know even about his sister.

He grew up in Littleham (Exmouth), living with the family at 6 Raleigh Terrace. He was there at the time of the 1901 census at the age of 16.

He became a civil engineer and went to work in South America. He returned to the UK in August 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War, under the name of Stephen Rendel, aged 30, and joined the army under that name, giving his birthplace as Hertfordshire. But no Stephen Rendel appears as being born in Hertfordshire (or Herefordshire for that matter) in FreeBMD, or in any census prior to 1911 that I have been able to consult. His appearance at the age of 30 seems to have been his first.

After the war he married Elsie Bowden, and they had a daughter Doris in the UK, and on their next journey back from South America, in 1928, they also had another daughter Pamela, aged 1.  Doris appears to have married Anthony White in 1941, and Pamela to have married Peter Lewars in 1947.

So that seems to be what happened to Lionel Leigh Stooke, but it would be interesting to know why he changed his name, and why he only decided to register the change about 35-40 years later.

His sister Mildred is also quite interesting.

She seems to appear in the 1911 census as May Stooke aged 23. May was probably Mildred’s middle name, and the address and age are right — she was still living at 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, with a son Roy, aged 3, and a maid Elsie Hocking.

She also had fun with the census form, taking the mickey out of the bureaucrats. Under the “Marriage” column she wrote “Hope to be married shortly” — and she apparently was married a couple of months later. For the maid she wrote under marriage “Awaiting opportunity”, which the dour bureaucrats crossed out and replaced with “Single”.

1911 Census Entry for 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, Devon, England

1911 Census Entry for 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, Devon, England

Under Occupation she described herself as “Cook’s Mate”, and her young son Roy as “Guzzla”.

MayStooke2The last column was for Nationality under which she described all three as “Devonshire dumplings”.

The other branch of this family, of Sarah Stooke who married Charles Robert Parker, likewise seems to have got split up after the 1901 census, with the death of both parents.

There were three children, four, counting one who died young. They were:

  • Henry Charles Bannerman Parker (born about 1889)
  • Amelia Mary Parker and Edward Colston Parker (twins, born 1890, but Edward died the following year)
  • Edward James Stooke Parker (born 1891)

Edward James, the youngest, may have married Kate Jacobs.

This particular branch of the Stooke family — Mary Barber, Sarah and Thomas — were the children of Thomas Stooke (1815-1868) who was born in Chudleigh, Devon, and married Mary Harriet Hollins, daughter of Richard Hollins. Unlike the Stookes, we know very little of the antecedents of the Hollins family.

And if anyone out there is related to these Devonshire dumplings, please get in touch — we love discovering new cousins!

Update 27 Jan 2013

And now a descendant of the “Devonshire dumplings” has indeed got in touch, and we have been able to sort out their story a bit.

One of the things about the 1911 census entry that is a bit puzzling is that May Stooke describes herself as a “daughter”, and not as the head of the household, suggesting that she is the daughter of an absent father or mother, in which case Roy might have been her brother and not her son.

This has indeed proved to be the case. Mary Ann Stooke (born Johnson) died in 1902, and the widower Thomas Stooke married Jane Moore in about May 1905, and they had a son Leslie Roy Stooke in 1908, the “guzzla” of the 1911 census. Thomas and Jane Stooke were staying in a hotel in Blackpool, Lancashire at the time of the 1911 census, where both are described as having been born in “Barnstaple, Bristol” — the hotelier was probably a bit confused when he filled in the census form.

And while we haven’t yet managed to discover why Lionel Leigh Stooke changed his name to Stephen Rendel, it appears that his maternal grandfather’s name was John Rendle Johnson.


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