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Last Updated 20th October 2002
Articles (Publications List at End)
Ivybridge1 Some Family History Notes on William Melhuish, Devon Papermaker
Ivybridge2 Brief Notes on St John's Church
Ivybridge3 Full Transcript of Church War Memorial (War Memorials Web Page)
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Some Family History Notes on
William Melhuish, Devon Papermaker
by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

It is amazing what can be learnt from poor law records, or what vital clues can be revealed in them, and I would probably not have conducted any research at all into the background of William Melhuish but for my discovery of a settlement statement given by his widowed mother on 11th March 1809. For my principal interests are in the local history of the Dartmoor area of Devon, and its families, rather than in papermaking and papermakers and/or the Melhuish family in particular. Within that broad spectrum I have a particular fascination for poor law records, and the statement of Susannah Melhuish was not only an intriguing one, but her reference to “Mr Dunsterville” and
his “Mills in Harford” also caught my attention (already being fully aware of William Dunsterville’s connection with Stowford Mill in Harford, a Dartmoor parish).

There will be no need here to get involved with the settlement case itself, a very complex one, although it should be mentioned that the statement is not a conventional settlement examination. For old Susannah Melhuish had refused to attend the local justices’ sessions to give one. Rather, it was taken by a solicitor at what he described as a “hut” somewhere in Exeter, where she lived with two of her surviving sons, their wives and grandchildren, the solicitor in his report saying that he had to get the information by plying them with drink! He also wrote that he felt “very
unpleasantly situated amongst such a crew”! But, notwithstanding the amount of drink which Susannah Melhuish might have consumed during this meeting, her statement was so accurate that it provided the essential clues to tracing William Melhuish’s own movements from the cradle to the grave.

Susannah Melhuish first stated that she had married her late husband, Joseph Melhuish, “about 48 years ago”. He was then a papermaker in Bradninch, Devon, where “he said he was born”. Her memory proved to be spot on, and the marriage was found in the Bradninch parish registers — “23rd November 1761 Joseph Melhuish & Sussana Stannaway”. Further research established that her husband must have been the illegitimate son of Sarah Melhuish, as per this baptism entry in the Bradninch registers — “19th January 1738 Joseph the son of Sarah Melhuish (base born)”.

This dating ties in with Susannah Melhuish’s further statement that her husband had first bound himself an apprentice to “Mr Thos. Bryant a Papermaker at Uffculm but his Master became bankrupt before his time expired”. This would have been when Joseph was about 16 years old, for a list in Colin Harris’ recent book (Stowford Paper Mill & The Industrial Heritage of the Erme Valley, Halsgrove 1999) notes that both paper mills at Uffculme had closed by 1754. Susannah Melhuish then said that her husband finished his apprenticeship with an Abraham Bagnoll, a papermaker at “Upex”. This would have taken him to age 21 (1759) the statutory age for ending apprenticeships. Interestingly, this reference in the settlement statement takes the
earliest known date of papermaking there back a further dozen or so years from the 1771 given against the Upexe entry in the list in Colin Harris’ book.

After 1759, aside from the marriage entry in the Bradninch registers, the exact dates of their movements cannot be followed, but Susannah Melhuish said that Joseph then worked for a Mr Chard at Shaugh Prior, then a Mr Godfrey at Newton St Cyres, then for an unnamed person at Huxham. All of these were also Devon papermakers, and all sites appear in the list in Colin Harris’ book. The family then moved to Buckfastleigh where Joseph rented a set of mills — but not paper mills — in his own name. This is where he died “about 30 Years ago”, after the family had been there “about 6 or 7 years”. Again Susannah Melhuish’s memory proved to be accurate — unlike that of many deponents in settlement cases! — and the entry recording her husband’s death was found in the Buckfastleigh burial registers — “26th December 1779 Joseph Melluish”.

Meanwhile, eldest son William had been born in Huxham and was, according to his mother’s statement, “about 14 years of age” when his father died. She was a couple of years astray with this suggestion, as his baptism entry in the Huxham parish registers reveals — “10th June 1763 William son of Joseph Melhuish”. William followed his father’s profession and, although again exact dates for his movements are wanting, Susannah Melhuish said that he first went to Plymouth “and worked for Mr Yearby a papermaker there”, then to Eggbuckland with W Stiddover, then to Countess Wear with Mr Evans, then to Huxham (no name given), then to Abbotskerswell with Mr Turner. Once again, all of these places are in Colin Harris’ list of sites of Devon paper mills.

Still on the movements of her son, William, widow Susannah then said that “Lastly he went to Ermington & work’d for Mr Dunsterville at his Mills in Harford & was married at Ermington”. In fact, William Melhuish must have been one of the very first employees at William Dunsterville’s newly opened (1787) Stowford Paper Mill, for I found that his marriage took place in Harford the following year (and not in Ermington, as his mother had suggested) — “25th March 1788 William Melhuish, paper maker, & Margaret Hunt”.

He must have worked at Stowford Mill for 20+ years, under William Dunsterville, Henry Rivers, and then Frances Fincher. For not only did Susannah Melhuish say that he worked there “lastly”, but he was also buried at Harford, as per this entry in the register — “1st January 1809 William Melhuish aged 44”.

Although not stated in as many words in the surviving documents, it must have been his untimely death which prompted the settlement issue respecting his mother, for her statement is dated only three months after the event. From the timing of which it must be supposed that William Melhuish was supporting his mother, but following his death she had to claim poor relief, hence the issue of her parish of legal settlement arising in the first place (the Exeter overseers obviously being unwilling to accept responsibility for her and the others living in the “hut” in the city). The results of the case are unknown.


St John's Church
by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

Ivybridge became an Ecclesiastical Parish in 1856, but not a Civil Parish until 1894, when it was formed from parts of the adjacent Parishes of Cornwood (then with a population in Ivybridge of 67), Ermington (875), Ugborough, and Harford (combined 190) - the ancient Ivy Bridge itself was formerly the meeting-point of these four Parishes. St John's Parish Church was built in 1882. I find it rather difficult to write very much about modern churches for, not only do they very obviously not have a long and interesting history to relate, but they also do not particularly inspire me. In the case of St John's, there are no especially notable memorials within. However, one interesting feature is that a small wooden board on the west wall of the chancel are the arms of Queen Elizabeth II, dated 1966, the only arms of the present monarch which I have seen displayed in any church. The memorials comprise a few wall tablets and brasses, but there are no major monuments. In the chancel is a brass to Sir Frederic Leman Rogers, but he is actually buried at Cornwood. And it is to the registers, and other parochial materials and the manorial archives, of Cornwood, and to those of Ermington, Harford and Ugborough, that researchers should direct their investigations into pre-c1856 family and local history topics.



 
Ivybridge Publications
Available from Dartmoor Press
The Main Dartmoor Press CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs Catalogue Page (see link below) has fuller details on the contents of titles, and also lots more CD-ROMs. To order see How to OrderSection (see link below). 
CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs
Code Title Price
(UK)
Price
(Overseas)
CDA Mike Brown's Guide to Dartmoor CD-ROM £10.50 £12.50
DFCD16 Dartmoor Family History Index: Ivybridge CD-ROM £10 £12
HGNCD Heraldic & Genealogical Notes from Devon Churches CD-ROM £15 £17
Dartmoor Press Homepage Booklets Catalogue CD-ROMs/Floppy Discs Catalogue
Guide to Dartmoor CD-ROM Forest Publishing Books Order Details How To Order
DGI Search Service Online Magazine Parish Index Help Desk/FAQs Section
Dartmoor Region War Memorials Lost Devon MIs Index Research Services Sections
Publications Reviews Dartmoor Picture Gallery Links to Other Websites
To leave the Dartmoor Press website and go to the Devon GENUKI Website Ivybridge Information Page(s) click here. Remember to put this page in your Bookmarks/Favourites before you go!

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