Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dolton Mills and the Lace Collar

Elizabeth Tucker Budd with her six oldest children.
When my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Tucker Budd, emigrated to Canada from England, she brought with her a number of keepsakes. Among these keepsakes were teacups, a quilt made by her mother, and a very old, very delicate flat lace collar. As often happens in family history, myth enshrouds the collar, a myth that holds that Elizabeth "once worked conscientiously and well for a grateful royal household."

Elizabeth was born in Dolton, Devon in 1836, the daughter of John Budd and Eleanor Southcombe Tucker. In the summer of 1864, she married Henry Smith, a mason, the son of Thomas Smith and Mary Field Bulleid. The following year their daughter Pollie was born, followed by my great-grandmother Edith in 1868, Fannie in 1868, and Kate in 1872.

In 1873, Henry and Elizabeth emigrated to Canada with their four daughters, and settled in Usborne Township in Huron Country, Ontario. Six children later they moved out west, first to Brandon, Manitoba, and then to Hamiota, Manitoba.

When they emigrated, Elizabeth left behind most of her relatives, including her father, two brothers, and several uncles.

1849 Map of the Brightleys
showing the location of Dolton Mill
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Budd family were prominent inhabitants of Dolton. They owned or occupied a number of estates in the west of the parish, and more importantly, they owned two mills. Elizabeth was the only member of her extended family to emigrate.

In 1873, Elizabeth's cousin William Budd (1846-1922) was the miller. William had trained as a miller with his uncle Robert Budd (1813-1871), and had taken over when his uncle had died childless. Robert had inherited the mill on the death of his father (Elizabeth's grandfather) John Budd in 1834, who in turn had inherited the mill from Elizabeth's great-grandfather, also named John in 1809.

Elizabeth's great-great-grandfather, Richard Budd, may had been the miller for over sixty years when he died in 1786. Richard Budd does not appear to have been born in Dolton. Recorded in the register of the nearby parish of Peters Marland, however, is a Richard, son of Richard Budd, Miller, and Catherine, born in December of 1705 and baptised the following month.

The evidence suggests that Richard Budd came with his parent to Dolton some time before 1723. His father, "Richard Budd of Dolton" appears on the 1723 Oath Rolls and was buried the following year in November. His mother was buried five months later. Richard married Joan Ley (1703-1796) in 1728 and the first of their seven children was born a year later.

In 1761 Richard Budd purchased Woolridge from John Lethbridge of Pilton. In the 1798 Tax Assessment, the property is listed as owned and occupied by his son, John. Woolridge Farmhouse is Grade II listed and dates from the early 17th century. It has plastered cob walls and a thatched roof.

For most of the 18th century, the manor of Dolton, including the mill, had been owned by the Cleveland family. In 1805, John Cleveland sold of most of his Dolton holdings. Higher Langham and South Woodtown were purchased by John Budd, but it is not clear whether this was the father or the son. When Dolton Mill was purchased is also not clear as the mill does not appear in the list of estates for sale published in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post.

Dolton Mill House, Dolton, Devon

Dolton Mill is located on a tributary of the Torridge River. It and the miller's house were likely built in the early 18th century, although a mill may have existed at this location as early as 1342. The mill used an overshot wheel fed by the stream via a leat reinforced with stone.

The miller's house is built of rendered stone and has three separate open fireplaces. The house has not been lived in for many years and has partially collapsed. It was recently sold at auction along with the ruins of the old mill.

Ruins of the New Mill
Dolton, Devon
A second mill was built in the late 1830s on the bank of the Torridge. This mill used an undershot wheel fed by a weir and leat. Both mills continued operation into the 20th century but by World War I it had become more economical for farmers to transport their grain to larger mills. The ruins of both mills still exist. The "New Mill" is accessible via a trail through the Halsdon Nature Reserve. It was photographed on several occasions by noted Devon photographer James Ravillous

When John Budd died in 1834, Higher Langham went to his wife Margery and after her death to their son, Frederick. South Woodtown went to Rowland Budd, while Woolridge went to Elizabeth's father, John Budd.

Elizabeth's father, however, did not live at Woolridge, choosing instead to lease nearby Lower Brightly. Higher and Lower Brightley had been purchased by Thomas Owen in 1805. Lower Brightley is a Grade II listed farmhouse dating from the late 15th century but rebuilt with additions in the 17th century and 19th century. The house is of plastered cob and stone and was thought to have been originally built as an open hall house with a central hearth.

Lower Brightley, Dolton, Devon, England
In 1834, John Budd married Eleanor Southcombe Tucker of Hatherleigh, Devon. Their son William Tucker Budd was born the following year, followed by Elizabeth in 1836 and John in 1839.

Sadly, Eleanor Southcombe Tucker died in 1842, possibly of tuberculosis, leaving John a widower for three small children. Her epitaph reads:
Eleanor Southcombe Budd
Through months and years in pain and tears
Through troubled paths I trod
My Saviour's voice bid me rejoice
And put my trust in God.
In 1851, John was living with William and Elizabeth at Lower Brightley, along with a house servant and three labourers. His eleven-year-old son John was living at Dolton Mills with his uncle Robert Budd.

Where John Budd was in 1861 is a mystery. All three of his children were living with their uncle Robert at Dolton Mills, while another family occupied Lower Brightly. It is possible that John was in prison for debt.

An intriquing clue as to what may have happened is contained in a letter from John Budd's granddaughter Fanny to her nephew Clarence Sadler:

Grandfer Budd owned his own Estate "Lower and Higher Brightly" pretty name. Grandfer followed the Hounds at too great a rate and lost it all.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette,
27 Mar 1852
While is has been established that Brightley was leased rather than owned, Fanny's letter suggests that like many yeoman farmers, John Budd, participated in fox hunting, although perhaps far too enthusiastically. Fox hunting was an expensive pastime, and John Budd may have been more interested in the chase than in farming. As gambling was not a part of fox hunting, it cannot be claimed that gambling debts were the cause of John Budd's downfall. What is known is that John Budd sold Woolridge by auction in 1852 to local landowner John Henry Furse of Haldsdon House.

By 1871, John Budd was a porter at the Union Workhouse in Great Torrington. In 1881 he was a gardener living in Great Torrington, and in 1891, he was inmate at the Union Workhouse where in died in early June.

According to his obituary in the Bible Christian Magazine, Elizabeth's brother, William Tucker Budd, moved to Exeter when he was 26. He married in 1864 and had two children before his death in 1870.

William and Elizabeth's brother John was raised and trained as a miller by his uncle Robert Budd. He moved to Stroud, Gloucestershire about 1865. John married three times but had no children. After his death in 1892, his third wife Adelaide married three more times before her death in 1940 at the age of 88.

After Henry Smith's death in 1903, Elizabeth's granddaughter Myrtle often kept her grandmother company and would "talk about all the things of Devon." In a letter to her cousin Clarence Sadler she writes:

Grandmother Smith was raised on her father's farm. Her father had a housekeeper, also help in the farm yard, kept sheep & a good many fowl. She really had to bring herself up. She was fond of her father, who seemed to be a jolly man. I believe he lost his farms. Grandmother went to a young ladies private school. Some years later she became ill after taking a chill. The Doctor advised she go to Portsmouth. She did and regained her health then worked for a time in a store then returned home to Devon [and] later married Grandfather Smith.
Charles II
When Elizabeth returned home to Dolton, she brought with her a flat lace collar.  After Elizabeth's death, her daughter Ella had the collar examined by a textile expert in London, England who dated the collar to the 17th century and was of the opinion that it had been commissioned for Charles II. Ella offered the collar for sale and it was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Whether it is actually in the Met's collection has yet to be been confirmed.

A 1958 article in the London Free Press describes the collar:

The lace ... is five inches wide and fashioned in the T-square shape popular in 17th century England. The design is intricate, bearing carefully-worked crowns, roses and plumes in a stylized pattern that repeats at intervals of about a foot. Lettering on the ground read "Carolus" and "Vive Le Rex Roy" on one angle of the "T"; coronets on the other read "C. B. Baronet" and C 1661 B."
The London Free Press article, which was likely written by one of Elizabeth's many granddaughters, goes on to claim that Elizabeth "as a young girl was employed in a royal household" and the lace collar "was given her to her in appreciation of her service."

This claim was disputed in Fanny Smith's letter to Clarence Sadler written a few months after the London Free Press article.

Mother never worked in any Royal Household. She left home and went to the Isle of Wight to work in a store of some kind. The owner of the store bought a bag from a woman who worked in one of the Castles. They were allowed to take anything that was discarded. The piece of lace was in the bag. Either the man gave it to Mother, or she bought it.
It is not difficult to understand how a flat lace collar from the 17th century would lead to a myth about domestic service in a royal household.

Elizabeth Tucker Budd died in Hamiota, Manitoba on February 12, 1927.


Dave Dingley, Partners in Time: The History of Dolton & Dowland, 2011

National Heritage List for England

"Fragile Lace is Link between Ilderton and Royalty," London Free Press, May 17, 1958.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Tragic Life of Samuel Slooman

Slooman Gravestone at Tawstock, Devon
The above gravestone reflects just two of the tragedies that afflicted Samuel Slooman of Tawstock, Devon. Samuel was born at Tawstock on 25 Oct 1784, the son of George Slooman (1749-1816) and Ann Searle (1756-1835), and was baptised two months later.

In 1805, 21-year-old Samuel married 25-year-old Mary Pearce, daughter of John and Mary Pearce. Their first child, William Pearce Slooman, was born in 1806. Three years later, George Searle Slooman was born. Unfortunately, George died at the age of ten months and was buried in the Tawstock churchyard.
The date recorded for George Searle Slooman's death on his gravestone is incorrect as the Tawstock parish register records his baptism on 29 Jun 1809 and his burial on 24 Feb 1810.

Unusually, there were then no more Slooman children until the birth of Mary Ann Pearce Slooman in 1819.

Roodge, Tawstock, Devon
Samuel farmed Roodge, an estate of 51 acres near the hamlet of Harracott, which he leased from Sir Bourchier Palk Wrey, 8th Baronet. The rendered cob and stone farmhouse still exists. Most of the Grade II listed building dates from the 17th century, however, the description of the property notes that a significant part of the roof was replaced in the 19th century.

In the summer of 1829, Samuel's surviving son, William, died at the age of 22. William was buried in the Tawstock churchyard and a gravestone was erected to commemorate him and his brother.  The inscription reads:

Sacred to the Memory of
of this Parish who Departed this
Life the 28th day of February
1809 Aged 10 Months
ALSO to the Memory of
Son of the Above Samuel & Mary
Slooman who Departed this Life
the 7th day of July 1829 Aged 22 Years
In Blooming days it pleased God
By death to smite us with his Rod
Therefore dear friends Content with rest
And hope in Christ we're every bless
Farewell dear Parents & Sister too,
For now we must depart from you.
Christ's Blessing now with you Remain
We hope in Heaven to meet again.
Less than two years later, tragedy struck again when in March of 1831 Devon was hit by a severe storm. The winds caused part of the farmhouse roof to collapse, severely injuring Samuel, and killing Samuel's wife and eleven-year-old daughter as they lay in their beds.

Samuel recovered but his life would have been empty. Just over a year later he was dead. The coroner's inquest concluded that Samuel died on his way home from a public house when he was thrown from his horse. It was a tragic end to a tragic life.


North Devon Journal, Thursday, March 17, 1831
North Devon Journal, Thursday, May 31, 1832