Who was Thomas Plucknett ?

Over twenty years ago, my late father, Francis Victor Winchurch, an experienced Family Historian, was struggling to solve the mystery of just who Thomas Plucknett was.

Stories of the Plucknetts of Thorverton had been told through the generations. I have a treasured photograph of my great grandmother Alice PLUCKNETT Sternberg holding me as a toddler.


Alice was then almost ninety and her middle name carried Plucknetts to my generation and beyond. I still have her wooden travelling trunk, carefully restored by my brother some years ago, with the intials “A.P.S.” on its lid.

There is little doubt about the validity of the family line back from Alice, who was born in Bristol in 1856, the daughter of Elizabeth (nee Plucknett) Sternberg.

Elizabeth Plucknett was born in Exeter in 1829, the eldest daughter of Thomas Loaring Plucknett, baker of Thorverton.

Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875
Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875

and his first wife Harriet (nee Tootell)

Thomas Loaring Plucknett was the eldest son of Thomas Plucknett, born (according to the 1851 census) in Great Torrington. Thomas had a successful life in Thorverton. After joining the Royal Marines at the age of (about) fifteen in Plymouth in 1795, he became a drummer and was discharged (unfit) in 1802.

Thomas Plucknett, recruited into the Royal Marines on 22 June 1795 aged 15. Occupation- Labourer, Complexion – Fair, Eyes – Hazel, Hair – Dark brown. Discharged – Deemed unfit – 10 May 1802.

Thomas married Elizabeth Loaring (notice the continuity of Christian names) on 18 August 1800 and the couple settled in Thorverton, where the Loarings had lived for two generations.

Thomas and Elizabeth had two children in addition to Thomas Loaring, Sarah (1803) and James (1814)

Thomas was landlord of the Bell Inn in Thorverton and also a pig dealer. In addition he was active in both the Nonconformist and Anglican churches at various times and held property in the village.

There is, I understand, on the wall of the Exeter Inn, Thorverton, a list of the sittings allocated to parishioners in 1840. Thos Plucknett senior is listed as a pig dealer, while Thos Plucknett junior was a baker. Their families shared Pew No 41.

He died at the age of seventy eight in 1860 and is buried in Thorverton churchyard. His gravestone gives his date of death as 1 February 1860 and age at death as 75, although his death certificate , says 78. The latter is more likely.

This leads us to the “tricky bit”.

The only Thomas Plucknett birth record that fits, is an entry in Exeter St Sidwells for 24 February 1781 recording the birth of Thomas Plucknett BASE BORN (my capitals and emphasis) son of Margaret Plucknett.

That is it – no hint where Margaret was from and, of course no indication of the father’s name.

This birth occurred, of course, several decades before civil registration and birth certificates.

The next logical step for any family historian is to search parish records for a Margaret Plucknett who might fit in terms of age and proximity to Exeter.

There is really only one obvious candidate and that was and is Margaret Plucknett, then aged about thirty and from Great Torrington. My father and several other researchers noted this but discrepancies were soon obvious and the puzzle has, as far a I am aware, been left unsolved for the past twenty years.

A quick look at the archives reveals that there have been and still are Plucknetts in and around Great Torrington since about 1600. This is including records from Black Torrington, Sheepwash, Shebbear, Bideford, Ilfracombe, as well as Great Torrington itself.

At this point I should acknowledge the comparative ease of doing  genealogical research from the comfort of one’s own laptop, with increasingly comprehensive transcriptions and, more satisfyingly images, of parish and other records. I doubt that I would have had the patience to piece together this story if it had involved journeys  to distant registry offices.

Starting with supposition that Thomas’s belief that he was born in Great Torrington was correct, I looked firstly for a Thomas Plucknett born or baptised around 1778 to 1782. Thomas was unlikely to have been born after that and been accepted into the Royal Marines in 1795, although you never know !

Perhaps not surprisingly, I found no such record, but what I did find was the baptism in Great Torrington in January 1781 of Richard Plucknett


Add to this the Anglican Marriage of Richard Plucknett (father) and Margaret Perkin at Great Torrington on 19 Apr 1775 and the likelihood of this Margaret Plucknett being Thomas’s mother begins to recede.

Richard and Margaret also had a daughter, another Margaret Plucknett, born three years previously in 1778. It might be this Margaret who gave birth to Robert Plucknet ‘base born’ in Bideford in 1793.


Tragedy struck this family in several ways during the next few years.

In 1787 Margaret died. Her record confirms that her husband was Richard and still alive, but worse was to come.

Richard senior was convicted of the theft of oak planks at Exeter Assizes in 1791 and sentenced to transportation to Australia for fourteen years. He arrived in New South Wales in 1792, but I have failed to find any further news about him. I can only assume that he died in Australia. One online family tree gives his death date as 1794, but the Richard who died that year was sadly his son, Richard Plucknutt Junr (sic) at the age of thirteen.

There seems to be no Margaret Plucknett around in 1780 – 81 who is likely to have been the mother of Thomas.

BUT, I found a reference online to a burial of Margaret Plucknett in 1833 in Great Torrington at the age of 81, so born around 1751. A good fit. I have yet to find a Margaret Plucknet (ett) (ott) (utt) and variations, either married or unmarried who fits the bill.

One of the many interesting aspects of this mystery is the choice of the name Thomas for the baby, so I began to look for Plucknett daughters born around 1750 who had Thomas as a father and I found just one candidate. Grace Plucknett baptised in Great Torrington on 7 January 1751. Shortly after the birth of Thomas in January 1781, the banns were called beginning on the 25th of March for the marriage  of Grace Plucknett and Richard Cudmore. Since this was only a few weeks after the birth of Thomas, my theory is this:

Grace was the first, and it appears only child of Thomas Plucknett and Mary Rawleigh. They had married seven months before on 1 June 1750 in Great Torrington, when Thomas was twenty. Mary Plucknett was buried on 17 September 1751 when her daughter, Grace, was only eight months old. So Grace Plucknett was herself ‘conceived out of wedlock’ and probably only too aware of the stigma attached to that tag two hundred and thirty years ago.

I believe that Grace travelled from Great Torrington to Exeter for the birth of Thomas. She may have been helped by members of her late mother’s family, the Rawleighs, of whom there were several at that time in both Great Torrington and Exeter.

In some respects this story seems unlikely, but, in the absence of more information I leave it to posterity with the hope that more pieces of the jigsaw (perhaps DNA) will be found. At present there is no way of knowing if Richard Cudmore was my 5G Grandfather. What is more certain is that my family’s Plucknett line goes back to their arrival in North Devon around 1580 or earlier. Before that, the Somerset Villages of Haselbury Plucknett and Preston Plucknett suggest an origin for the anglicised version of the French ‘Plugenet’  To quote Wikipedia “Preston Plucknett is a suburb of Yeovil in Somerset, England. It was once a small village, and a separate civil parish until 1930, when it was absorbed into the neighbouring parishes of Yeovil, Brympton and West Coker.[1] It was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Preston” (Old English: preost tun, “priest farm/settlement”) when its lord was Ansger of Montacute (Alfward before 1066). In the 13th century, Alan de Plugenet was lord of the manor and added his surname to Preston.

See Wikipedia

Alan de Plugenet

If you read this account it points out that the second Alan de Plugenet died in 1319 without issue. It would seem likely that Plucknetts in more recent centuries were named after their village of origin, rather than because they were descendants of the Norman barons, as some have suggested.

The fate of Richard Plucknett and fellow transported convicts

I was shocked whilst researching this post by the astounding inhumanity meted out to men and women in the late 18th and early 19th century by courts throughout Britain and Ireland with regard to transportation to ‘the colonies’, for what were often relatively minor offences. It was bad enough to send Richard Plucknett to Australia for fourteen years for stealing wood, but the conditions of passage and the hard labour they were forced to do on arrival amounted to a de facto death sentence in many cases. Quoting Wikipedia again  ” Between 1788 and 1868, approximately 162,000 convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government.

Richard Plucknett is listed amongst the convicts who left Yarmouth Roads, Norfolk, in June 1791 on the East India Company ship Pitt He arrived in New South Wales in 1792. What became of him in Australia remains a mystery.

The 'Pitt' (circa 1787) near Dover returning from China 1787
The ‘Pitt’ (circa 1787) near Dover returning from China 1787

See Wikipedia

Convicts in Australia

John Winchurch

August 2015



NEW     Who was Thomas Plucknett

Francis Victor Winchurch – born 5 February 1914

The faces of history – Introduction

Winchurch Family History

The faces of history – Benjamin Winchurch 1829 – 1891

The faces of history – Thomas Winchurch 1787 – 1856

The faces of history – Ann Brooks, later Shakespear, later Winchurch

The faces of history – Percy Walter Winchurch 1882 – 1953

The Story of Winchurch Brothers Limited

The English Sternbergs

The German Sternbergs

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg – 1761 – 1828

The faces of history – George Sternberg – 1798 – 1858

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg – 1829 – 1869

The faces of history – Alice Plucknett Sternberg – 1856 – 1944

The faces of history – Elizabeth Prosser Sternberg – 1854 – 1918

The faces of history – Marion Brown – 1882 – 1982

The faces of history – Jeanne Marion Winchurch – 1919 – 1949

The faces of history – Francis Victor Winchurch – 1914 – 1997

The faces of history – Richard and Mary Ellen Brown

The faces of history – Elizabeth Plucknett – 1829 – 1888

The faces of history – Thomas Loaring Plucknett – 1809 – 1880

The faces of history – Norah Alice Brown – 1879 – 1965

The faces of history – Elizabeth Gadsby – 1861 – 1948

The faces of history – Arthur Smith – 1860 – 1949  and George Arthur Gadesby Smith his son 

The faces of history – Margaret Downing – 1916 – 1993

The faces of history – Annie Elizabeth Smith – 1883 – 1958

The faces of history – Elizabeth Plucknett

Elizabeth Plucknett, my great great grandmother was born in Devon in 1829 and died in Birmingham in 1888

Elizabeth Sternberg née Plucknett about 1880
Elizabeth Sternberg née Plucknett about 1880

Elizabeth Plucknett was the daughter of Thomas Loaring Plucknett and Harriet (née Tootell). She may have been born in Thorverton, but her mother Harriet was from Exeter and Elizabeth’s address at the time of her christening was Cowick Street, Exeter, in the parish of St Thomas the Apostle. She spent her early years in Thorverton, but her mother, Harriet died when Elizabeth was 12. Harriet had at least six children, but only Elizabeth and Emma (b 1832) survived beyond childhood.

Her father Thomas remarried a few months after Harriet’s death. His second wife was Emma Babbage and they had three further children. It may be that the relationship between the two older girls and their stepmother was not easy, since both Elizabeth and Emma left Thorverton. In 1851, Emma was in Bridgewater and Elizabeth in Bristol, living at 56 Wine Street, (Christ Church Parish) along with 11 other shop assistants; described as draper’s assistant, aged 21.

In the same year she met Francis George Sternberg, who wrote the Valentines day poem to his ‘Fairest Lizzy’.

They were married in Bristol Register Office on 6 February 1853. Her address at time of marriage was Peter Street, Bristol (Hospital Workhouse). Note that the marriage did not take place at Thorverton and that Lizzy’s father Thomas seems to have been absent, although a month later,when her sister Emma married William Clout in Thorverton, Thomas was a witness.

Franis George Sternberg's poem to 'Fairest Lizzy' 1851
Francis George Sternberg's poem to 'Fairest Lizzy' 1851

Francis George and Lizzy had no less than ten children between 1854 and 1870, but two died in infancy.

In 1860 the family was at Bradley Terrace in Wandsworth. Let my father’s words from 1993 tell a bit more of that story.

Another thread in the story concerns my gt.grandmother Elizabeth. She was married in Bristol in 1853 and four children (one of them my grandmother) were born there, but only two of them appeared in the 1861 census. There was a death in Bristol that tallied for one of them, but
the only name that fitted for the other was in 1860, in Wandsworth. My recent research on Thomas Loaring P. led me to think that this was not, after all, impossible, so I sent for the death certificate, and sure enough, there he was, son of  Francis George and Elizabeth Sternberg – at
1, Bradley Terrace! So all the family seem to have been together in 1860, (In the 1861 census the Sternbergs were in Birmingham, where their next son, then 2 months old, was born, and where they lived for the rest of their lives)

Sadly the rest of Francis George’s life was not that long, since he died in 1869 at the age of 40 at 155, Sherlock Street, Birmingham, leaving Lizzy pregnant with their tenth child, Charles.
Causes of death on FGS certificate are given as Alcohol and ‘Brain disease

By the time of the 1881 Census, Lizzy was in Summer Road, 2 Terrace,  Edgbaston (Birmingham), Warwickshire. A widow, living with four of her children. Her second daughter (my great grandmother) Alice was by this time married,  so Lizzy had several grandchildren. In fact, by the time she died she had nineteen,

Lizzy died at 175, Great Colmore Street, Birmingham in 1888;

Her death Certificate records that:

‘Death Certificate was received from H. Hawker, Coroner for Birmingham. Inquest, held 8th May 1888’. Coroner’s enquiry reveals (on the testimony of her daughter, Marion) that she had had a stroke nine years previously ‘which took the use of her left side, but she was able to get about the house daily and eat and drink well’. On Sunday 29th April she fell downstairs while on her way to bed. Her son, Francis George Sternberg, who had just retired to bed ‘ran downstairs and picked her up’. Dr Johnstone of Bath Row was sent for, came and attended to her until her death.

She died on Friday 4th May 1888.

Lizzy died intestate and a Grant of Administrationwas made on 20 June 1888. The value of her personal estate was £75, to William Sternberg, son.

Photo album dedication to Marion Sternberg from Lizzy about 1887
Photo album dedication to Marion Sternberg from Lizzy about 1887 "To My darling Marion, with her loving mothers prayers for her happiness, here and hereafter"

This is the dedication from Lizzy to her daughter Marion, probably for her 21st birthday in 1887.

Lizzy died the following year. It is from this lovingly compiled photo album that I copied many of the portraits that I have used in the ‘Faces of History’ series.

As an amateur family historian, I acknowledge with gratitude and thanks my Great Great Grandmother’s efforts.

The faces of history – Introduction

One of the things that I have found after several years of sorting through family history details is that it is very easy to overlook or even forget important items. There have been several instances where I have ‘discovered’ information, only to find that my father had already recorded it years before.

Part of the problem is trying to find a format to make family history both readable and informative, but also accessible.

With this in mind, this a more personal view of the faces, people and events from my earliest years, plus an attempt to revisit previous generations in a way that gives some insight into the lives, thoughts, hardships and successes of the people whose very existence led to my own and that of other members of my family.

The internet has provided a ready medium for this in a way that has not been possible before.

As I record each individual, I find that the very act of doing so makes me look more closely at details and often link together pieces of information from my own and other people’s investigations.

The surnames of my ancestors that I know of so far (without most spelling variations included) are, in alphabetical order :

Barrow, Bate, Brady, Bright, Brook, Brown, Burton, Callender, Downing, Freeman, Furnivall, Gadsby, Gornall, Gritten, Grove, Heath, Hussey, Jewkes, Kellan, Kurtzbauer, Leach, Loaring, Merricks, Mumford, Otzmann, Plucknett, Pugh, Reeve, Shaw, Smith, Squire, Sternberg, Sutton, Taylor, Tester, Thornton, Tootel (Tothill), Webb, Winchurch.

This is therefore a fluid and expanding narrative, likely to be altered and added to as facts emerge and style and content change. Please keep reading, commenting and revisiting.

It was a conversation between my grandmother and her sister in 1961 that was an early inspiration for both me and my father to look into family history more. Dad began straight away, my research had to wait a few decades. Click here to listen to a recording I made that Christmas in 1961

When I was born on Sunday 27 September 1942, much of the ‘civilised’ world was at war. The Battle of Britain was more than two years in the past.

The Americans had entered the war after the Japanese had been stupid enough to attack them at Pearl Harbor and the Soviet Union was engaged with Hitler’s Army in a war of bloody attrition at Stalingrad, with results that would influence not only the world at large, but more personally, my life and political thought as the decades followed.

At the time that I was born, My father Francis Victor Winchurch ( Vic ) had been in the Royal Navy for eighteen months and did not see his first born son until Christmas of 1942, when I was three months old.

Three of my four grandparents were living, all within the ’30 year generation norm’. In other words they were within a year or so of their sixtieth birthdays in 1942. I will return to each of them later

Unusually, I also had three great grandparents to dote on this new arrival into war torn Britain.


Alice Brown, neé Sternberg, my father’s mother’s mother

Alice holding John 1943
Alice holding John 1943

On my mother’s side of the family, living in Stone, Staffordshire were her grandparents:


Arthur Smith, my mother’s mother’s father



Elizabeth (Lizzie) Smith neé Gadsby, my mother’s mother’s mother.

These three were, although I was not aware of it until years later, members of the generation that had been born at the pinnacle of the power and glory of Victorian England which about to be followed by an extended period of change lasting well into the twentieth century.

It occured to me only a few years ago, that my grandfather, Percy Winchurch was in most respects a ‘modern man’.

He had at the time of his death in 1953, his own business, car, house with gadgets including a vacuum cleaner and TV.

By contrast, his grandfather, Thomas Winchurch was born in 1787 and had few belongings throughout his life.

The lives of those four generations, including my own, represent a phenominal change in industrial society in general and Britain in particular.

The faces of history – Thomas Loaring Plucknett

Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875
Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875

Thomas Loaring Plucknett born in 1809 at Thorverton in Devon was my great great great grandfather. For those of you who have been following this series (thank you) he was the father of Lizzy Plucknett (the recipient of the Valentine’s Day poem and future bride of Francis George Sternberg).

I think it is my favourite ‘ancestor’ photo. Somehow the man’s strength of character and determination stand out over the years. It is also the oldest direct ancestor photograph that I possess, albeit a copy of the original.

My father spent a lot of time researching the Plucknetts and TLP in particular. This is an extract from a letter he wrote to a very helpful local historian in Devon in 1993.

…My gt.grandmother was Elizabeth Plucknett, baptised at St. Paul’s, Exeter…… Her grandfather, Thomas Plucknett married Elizabeth Loaring at St. Sidwell, Exeter, and, unusually for that time, the marriage register gives his occupation – Drummer in the Marines, Plymouth Division. I followed this up in Admiralty records, and found that he enrolled in 1796 and was discharged, unfit, in 1803, which was when he came to live in Thorverton. His baptism was given as 1791 (sic) at St. Sidwells. Presumably he settled in Thorverton because it was his wife’s home, but I have not yet done a great deal of work on the Loarings.
I was greatly puzzled for many years because I could not find his son, Thomas (Loaring) Plucknett in the 1861 census. Two attempts, with a 20 year interval, failed. Recently, without going into details, I found him in London……. Before he left Thorverton, his second daughter married a William Henry Clout, a butcher of Kennington. W. H Clout was also a witness at the marriages of the next two daughters, Sarah and Lucy in 1870 and 1871 (both at Clapham). He was evidently quite important in the family and I am wondering if he originally went to Devon to buy stock and later persuaded his father-in law that it would be a good move to go to London. This, of course, is only supposition and probably quite wrong.

Much as I respect my Dad’s research on the above and so many details of our family history, I can’t help feeling that he rather misinterpreted TLP being in London in the 1861 census. It seems to me that he was either staying close to the Clouts’ home in Bradley Terrace, Lambeth, or that TLP and his wife had a London base of their own – in other words he was only visiting London. I do think though, that his guess at W. H. Clout’s reason for visiting Thorverton  makes sense. The arrival of the railways in Victorian Britain saw the end of traditional cattle droving, with a rise in live meat and dairy transport to Smithfield and other markets in London.

He is described as what I think is a ‘Butterman (Master)’ in the 1861 census – the handwritten version is difficult to decipher and gave Dad trouble – but this would tie in with his description in 1878 as a ‘dairyman’. I think Dad was quite right about William Henry Clout’s influence though with regard to trading in London.

thomaslplucknettlambeth1861click to enlarge

He was living in Thorverton in 1871 and died there in 1880, at the age of 70.

Dad continues in the same letter –

The other matter that interests me is the mill. Edward Coombe married Thomas Plucknett’s daughter, at Thorverton, in 1823, and is described in the marriage licence bond as a miller. He ran the mill at Feniton until he died in 1840 and then his sons Thomas Loaring and James Coombe ran it successively. They had another brother, Edwin, and I am wondering if it was he who later took over Thorverton Mill. Thomas Plucknett’ younger son, James Summers Plucknett. was also a miller, first at Tipton St. Johns and then at Honiton.

My grandmother had a story that her grandfather (Thomas Loaring P) defended his mill with a pitchfork single-handed against anti-corn law rioters, but as he was never a miller this cannot be true. But I have found out that there were food riots in the Honiton area in the 1840s, so it could have been one of the other members of the family.

TLP's bread-baking ovens. Exposed during renovations at the Bury, Thorverton
TLP's bread-baking ovens. Exposed during renovations at the Bury, Thorverton

TLP was a forceful character, well illustrated by this extract from the Western Times, 01 Jun 1869.

“Thomas Plucknett, of Thorverton, was summoned by Mr T. Hutchings, lessee of the Cattle Market (at Exeter), with an assault. Complainant stated that on the 21st he was standing inside the market gate counting some sheep that were being driven in, when defendant came up with twelve pigs which he tried to mix up with the sheep. There are double gates, but one of these was locked at the time in order that complainant might count the sheep. Defendant then asked for the key of a gate at the higher end of the market, and on complainant refusing to let him have it he pushed the closed gate as hard as he could and knocked complainant violently. The defence was that as the pigs were likely to be hurt by a waggon passing at the time, defendant merely pushed the gate open to prevent the pigs being killed. The Bench said that this did not justify the assault and fined defendant £5 and expenses.”

TLP seems to have had a rather defiant nature all of his life. When he married Harriet Tootell in April 1829, they were both under 21 and therefore needed parents’ permission. Bearing in mind the fact that their daughter Lizzy was born in July 1829, it is easy to imagine that the teenage Thomas had left Thorverton and gone to the ‘big city’ of Exeter where life was less restrictive than that in a small village. His father Thomas was by this time well established in Thorveton and within a couple of years of his marriage, TLP was back establishing his bakery business in the Bury. Lizzy and her sister Emma left Thorverton at a young age and TLP seems to have tried his hand a several ventures from baking bread to cattle dealing.

In 1854,Thomas Kingdon (cider manufacturer) of Netherexe took Thomas Loaring Plucknett, baker, to court over the latter’s manuring (or not manuring)  two meadows he leased from the former and his seeding out (or not seeding out) an orchard. Through his solicitor, Plucknett insisted that he had manured and seeded out the land in accordance with the terms of his agreement in a proper husbandman-like manner.
The Judge’s decision seems to have been that he was guilty, but not by much. He awarded the plaintiff not the £10 demanded but merely 7s 1d.

He was not an exucutor of Thomas Plucknett’s final will made in 1860, shortly before his death and only a week after the death of his daughter, Sarah Coombe. The sole executor was James, TLP’s younger brother by five years and whilst all of Thomas’s three children, (or heirs), were beneficiaries, James had authority to make decisions about retention and disposal of property. This was perhaps  strange, since TLP was the eldest son.

Maybe, just maybe, Thomas senior did not trust the judgement and business acumen of his first-born.

Thomas senior’s will seems to have led to futher negotiation with TLP’s niece Elizabeth (née Coombe) and her husband John Beard, three years later in 1863 –

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

August 3rd 1863

In consideration of the sum of nineteen pounds sterling paid by me this day by Thomas Loaring Plucknett of No. 15 Bradley Terrace in the Parish of Lambeth, Surrey, I assign unto the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett my one twenty first share in the estate of the late Thomas Plucknett of Thorverton, Devon to which my Wife Elizabeth Beard is entitled under the will of the said Thomas Plucknett and hereby agree that all monies and proceeds to arise out of the sale of the said —- Leasehold and personal property being 1/21 st share thereof unto the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett and the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett hereby agrees to free the said John Beard from all or any liability that may arise in reference to the settlement of the said estate

John Beard
Elizabeth Beard
Thomas Plucknett
Solicitor’s signature.

The one twenty first share is interesting, since it presumably is calculated as one seventh of one third share. Edward Coombe and his wife (née Sarah Loaring Plucknett – TLP’s sister) had seven children, so they must all have lived beyond childhood (Edward died in 1840 – the year of his youngest son’s birth) and been living in 1863. This was an unusually high survival rate for a Victorian family.


The Bury (Berry in older documents) leads from the church, left to Bullen Street running vertically.

The Dolphin Hotel (now Thorverton Arms) is the long building at the T junction between The Bury and Bullen Street

The Church and churchyard where several of my ancestors – Loarings and Plucknetts – are buried is to the right and slightly below centre.

Plucknett graves in Thorverton churchyard
Plucknett graves in Thorverton churchyard

The small tombstone in the centre has the inscription:

Thomas Loaring Plucknett, late of Thorverton, born 9th Sep. 1809, died 22nd July 1880
also Emma, wife of the above, died 6th Oct. 1885 in her 74th year.

Harriet, Thomas’s first wife and my 3Ggrandmother, has her memorial on the stone next but one to the right, which is that of Thomas senr and Sarah (née Loaring)

Loaring tombstone reads - Sarah Loaring died July 3rd 1785 aged 36 also Nathaniel Loaring died June 27th 1806 aged 36 ……………………………. also Joseph Loaring died October 14th 1827 aged 51 also Thomas Loaring
Loaring tombstone reads - Sarah Loaring died July 3rd 1785 aged 36 also Nathaniel Loaring died June 27th 1806 aged 36 ……………………………. also Joseph Loaring died October 14th 1827 aged 51 also Thomas Loaring

Although Thomas Loaring P’s children were baptised in the Anglican church, he was not a docile parishioner. He objected to an increased church rate in 1865 (DWT 2 Jun): … The Vicar resisted the amendment proposed by a non-churchgoer (at which) “Mr Plucknett said he didn’t go to church because he had been turned out of his seat, and he wasn’t coming to church, for nobody could benefit or learn anything from the reverend gentleman (laughter)”.

The reference is to a new seating plan of 1864, from which his name is absent.

I am descended from TLP and his first wife Harriet (Tootell). Sadly, no photo of Harriet exists to my knowledge. TLP’s maternal grandmother was Sarah Tothill Summers, probably the daughter of Sarah Kellan and her first husband Thomas Tothill (on his death she married Simon Summers), It seems likely that Tootell is simply a variant of Tothill, so that Harriet had roots, or at least relatives in Thorverton. In fact there are  records of Tothills being baptised in the village church going back to around 1640.

So the Plucknetts, Loarings and Tothills were very much families of that part of Devon for two or three centuries.

Thomas Loaring Plucknett and his second wife Emma. The handwritten description is by Elizabeth Plucknett, TLP's daughter, Emma's stepdaughter.

His second marriage to Emma Babbage (whose photo is entitled ‘His Wife’ by Lizzy) produced two daughters, Sarah Babbage Plucknett (b1844), Lucy Harriet Plucknett (b1845)  and a son, Tom Babbage Plucknett (b1849)

Charlie Thomas Plucknett and Eva about1930
Charlie Thomas Plucknett and Eva about1930

Tom’s son, Charlie Thomas Plucknett married Eva Price and their daughters Dora and May were the last Plucknetts to live in Thorverton. The sisters ran the Dairy, Thorverton’s shop, which finally closed in 2007. May died in 1992 but Dora had almost reached her hundredth birthday when she died at Crediton in 2006.

Dora and May Plucknett, about 1914
Dora and May Plucknett, about 1914

My father met Dora Plucknett (his half second cousin once removed !)  in Thorverton in 1996, adding another ‘face’ to these pages of history.

Lucy Harriet’s descendants live in Australia from where both Dad and I have exchanged information with Helen Swaine.

Sarah Babbage Plucknett spent most of her life at East Molesey in Surrey – more details to follow from Rosemary Binnie as mentioned in her comment, below.

My thanks to Ian Stoyle of Thorverton for his help with so many details.

John Winchurch