L ... Tracing Tracks towards Lapford ... and Other Literary Lanes, Away, and On the Way ... Newton St Cyres, Crediton ...
|Around Lapford, possible places|
of the site of Dowriche's home in the C16.
Lane and Vie of Parsonage Farm
& Court Barton across the road from the church.
Photo Julie Sampson
See there, the other side of the valley; there's a monument inside the village church (if, that is, you're lucky and the door is not locked). But here I am, late autumn, atop the village, walking up toward Lapford church; the village landmark. I am lucky. Unusually for nowadays, the door is not locked. I go inside, to look at the angels. Lapford is an ancient village set above the river Yeo and the interior of its C12 church has a flourish of ancient carved woodwork: bench-ends, roofs, and the icing on the cake, an especially fine vaulted rood-screen. Most of these were added to the church from the C15 to early C16.
As I stare up to the nave-roof, the carved angels set in between the vine leaves look down. It’s a mutual gaze and I’m thinking that those six centuries ago Anne Dowriche, newly married wife of the local clergyman, may have similarly stared up at the angels, in reciprocal admiration...
|Scenes around Lapford church|
Photo Julie Sampson
In the late 1960’s my journey to school at Crediton from the much smaller parish of Cheldon, a little to the north, following the road’s slope winding around and down past thatched houses and shops to the river Yeo, in the valley below, went through Lapford, passing the high church tower on the right, half-way down. Later, there were nights out at the Malt Scoop Inn. It took several more decades, a renewed interest in local history and Devon’s women writers to tempt me back to the village on the hill...
I have already written about writer/poet Anne Dowriche, both in the manuscript of Women Writing on the Devon Land, whilst a couple of papers about her and her long epic poem, The French Histoire, have appeared in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 2009 (see Abstracts). Anne Dowriche also appears several times in my other blog, Scrapblog a writer from the South-west, where, in Anne Dowriche/Edgcumbe's French Historie I noted:
It had always seemed puzzling that an unknown wife of a clergyman (of Lapford and Honiton) and daughter of a prominent Elizabethan Devonian family should be the author of a 2,400 line poem, a long and inherently gory narrative epic about the long-winded French Wars of Religion during the C16. see Anne Dowriche's French Historie& its Westcounty Connections.
This post's focus is to muse a little on this forgotten important C16 writer's links with the parish of Lapford, in the hope of unpacking some of the complex interweavings re the writer's family and social circles, so it is not the place to examine Dowriche's poem in detail; but it's important to stress the strangeness of this unusual text's connections with Devon and if nothing else I hope this blog-post may lead to a few more clues about the background of the whole text and its writer, which may be of use to future researchers and also of interest to more casual readers. If you're one of the latter and you're interested to read about the poem itself, wikipedia is a good place to start and the previous blog-posts, plus the papers in DA Transactions may also be useful.
Every time I take a break from Ms Dowriche and her life and texts I breathe a sigh of relief. Each time I return to take another look, to consider the contextual background of the author's life and poem, I am quickly engulfed in its literary repercussions and am swept, yet again, into the complicated throes of Dowriche's milieus. So many of the people who surrounded the writer had their own fascinating lives, including tantalising links with others; each of them seems to provide yet another clue within the convoluted C16 jigsaw of this important woman writer's life; an endless labyrinth of mirrors within mirrors. All to soon though, exhausted with trying to make sense of them all I have to take-a-break and get away from her and those who surround her.
When I first chanced upon Anne Dowriche some years ago now (and I write about this first encounter in Writing Women on the Devon Landscape), it soon became clear that the known facts about the writer's life were apparently sparse. Yet, as I also soon discovered, more and more academics from both sides of the Atlantic were, and are, taking an interest in her life and poem. I kept asking myself the same question; there seemed no sense as to why an apparently unknown gentlewoman living in Honiton in the heart of Devon in the mid C16 would decide to write a macabre epic poem about the complex religious controversies of the period. And, given that it is such a long poem, why had I not heard of it before? Why was The French Histoire not on the agenda of the county’s literary canon and why is Anne Dowriche not included in the lists of its famous – or even infamous, writers?
From the preliminary information I could find, Anne, one of the earliest of all the Devon women writers I’d ever traced, seemed to have been a decorous gentlewoman. Married in 1580, to a clergyman who during the mid to late C16 was responsible for two of Devonshire’s mid C16 parishes (at Lapford and Honiton), she was from the Edgcumbes, a large and extended family of important Devonian landed gentry; her father, Sir Richard Edgcumbe, from Cotehele in Cornwall, was builder of Mount Edgcumbe. But, superficial study suggested there was little else to find out about his daughter. That changed gradually as I explored various archives and sites that connected with her or others of her family.
I had to find out more. That's when I first set off, back along the tracks, here, to the mid Devon village, where the author must have actually spent live (quality) physical time. For, it was at Lapford, where, in or about 1567, Hugh Dowriche, was inducted as rector. Anne Edgcumbe's marriage to Hugh took place in 1580. In 1587, Dowriche became rector of Honiton, so presumably the family moved from Lapford to Honiton at about this time; it was from Honiton that Anne completed and sent her poem out into the world. She addresses her readers directly:
|From the Preface of|
The French Historie
Several of the Dowriche couple's children’s births were registered in Lapford, which suggests that before the move to Honiton the family home may have been in or near Lapford village, rather than the Dowriche family estate, at Dowrich/e manor, in the parish of Sandford (which is not many miles from Lapford).
According to other researchers the couple had five, possibly six, children: William (?); Elizabeth (c 1583); Aleana (1585); Marie (30 Nov 1587); Anne (18 Jan 1589); and Walter. I have not been able to find documentation about all of them, but have located records that show Marie's christening registered at Lapford in November 1587; and her sister Anne's, registered at Lapford, in January 1590.
Interestingly, George, another Dowriche child, was registered at Lapford in 1613. His father was William, who may have been one of Anne and Hugh's children; perhaps he remained in the parish.
|Records of Dowriche children|
registered at Lapford parish.
It looks as if poor Walter, the youngest child died at an early age; there is a record of a Wa(l)ter Dowreshe's death in February 1591, which is two years after Anne's poem was published. The record of his death is at Honiton where I assume the family made their home following Hugh's take-up of the post there.
|Record of Wa(l)ter Dowreshe's death|
But let's return to Lapford. Where, I kept asking myself, would the C16 clergyman and his family have made their home here in this little village? It is not easy to be certain, for the records, such as they are, suggest different places. I think we can narrow the possibilities down to two however. One of them is Court Barton, (see photo at top of this post) which, sited just across the road from the church, is still prominent in Lapford. One record which I had found suggested that Hugh Dowriche's predecessor as rector in the village,Rev Christopher Saunders had himself lived at Court Manor. I can't place the document at present, but must have located it via Discovery or local archives. This would suggest that the Dowriches took over Court Barton as their home.
It is interesting to digress for a moment from the main thread at this point just to look in a little more detail at the dates of these clergy's residencies in the parish. I hope the following list of Lapford clergy is sufficiently clear to read; it shows the changeover from Rev. Saunders to Rev. Dowriche taking place in August 1567, a date which, given the assumed birth year of Hugh Dowriche, is itself intriguing. For, according to G.E. Trease, in an article in in Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, vol. 33, (1974-1977), Hugh Dowriche (sometimes spelt Hugh Dowrishe) matriculated at Hart Hall, Oxford, in 1572 at the age of 19. (See also The Clergy Database). If I'm correct with my calculations, that makes Hugh Dowriche's birth year about 1553, which fixes his age at the changeover at Lapford as only 14. Even for Elizabethan England, that seems remarkably young. I don't have enough expertise apropos the normal practises of clergy appointments in the C16 to be able to explain the apparent contradiction here but can only think that perhaps the initial appointment, by the owner of the advowson in those years (stated as Thomas Arundel), was in name only and that Hugh took up his official duties in the parish following his matriculation when he was almost 20. Alternatively, there are confusions re the facts of the dates (of birth/of matriculation). Hopefully someone else will be able to clarify this one day.
But, to return to the likely location of the Dowriches Lapford home, at least one document suggests that the family were connected not with Court Barton but, instead, with the rectory or parsonage, the site of which, I understand was where Parsonage farm is nowadays, which is a mile or so north east of the village. A path just up the road from the church leads directly to the site. (See the photos at the top of this post). Dowrich versus Kelland available at Discovery, tells us that there was a dispute in 1597 between Hugh Dowriche (of Honiton) and Richard Kelland of Lapford regarding bonds for goods apropos 'the rectory and parsonage of Lapford'. I have not as yet had a chance to study this document; but the more it seems to help us provide new clarity about the everyday life of the Dowriche family, the more it seems, as well, to hinder!
'The local gentry converse familiarly together, and often visit one another. A Gentleman and his wife will ride to make mery with his next neighbour; and after a day or twayne, these two couples goe to a third; in which progresse they increase like snowballs, till through their burdensome waight, they breake againe'. (quoted in 'Women Writers and Literary-Religious Circles in the Elizabethan West Country', Micheline White )
For the Dowriches, living in or near Lapford within a 15-20 mile radius there were a number of parishes which included places owned and inhabited by individuals from the extended kin of the couple's (many being the Dowriche's) family; their social rounds could have begun with one or other of these families meeting up with another, then extending out to 'snowball' and add on other family members who lived at a greater distance (say as far as west Devon or perhaps eastern Cornwall).
It's exciting to locate some of these individuals' once homes and search for their forgotten memorials. I won't pretend it is easy; it is most definitely not! The genealogical interweavings of Devon's C16 gentry and noble families are mind-mindbogglingly confusing and it doesn't always help that present day family history researchers contributing to the charts and facts about various families on a range of online sites don't always agree. Likewise, we will probably never know which of the many people on the extended family trees of the Dowriches/ Edgcumbes and their circuit of associated Devon families Anne Edgcumbe/Dowriche actually knew well, or was even acquainted with; but even if she did not meet or know a person personally, one can imagine her exchanging ideas with her husband and close kin about the lives, exploits and literary accomplishments of individuals in their dual genealogical trees.
|View from road between Sandford and New Buildings|
Photo Julie Sampson
... So for this Dowriche family 'trip', I'm going to begin with a 'sample', of individuals taken from Hugh Dowriche's siblings and their offspring. Each of the following can lead one away into a veritable tangle of intricate family networks, one or two with a literary connection; inevitably I could therefore direct each one along other equally fascinating avenues.
|Track to Hayne Newton St Cyres|
Track to Hayne Farm
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © David Smith - geograph.org.uk/p/2298900
|At Newton St Cyres Church|
Photos Julie Sampson
Vous qui aymez amitie nuptiale/Vous qui prisez charitie coridale/Et que louez en un corps feminin/un cueur entier gracieux et benin/Arestez vous; c'est la demoiselle/que tout cela and mieux avoit en elle'
|Present day King's Nympton Manor,|
photo kindly provided by Michael Sampson
My Jacob had by mee
As many sonnes as hee,
Daughters twice three"
Above her head is a chronogram in verse:
"See heer In ChrIst sLeeps shee,
FroM paInefVLL Labors free,
Her VVorks henCe foLLoVV on,
If the capital letters in red are added together as Roman numerals ("VV" being treated as V + V, and the first letters of each line excluded) the sum of 1634 results, Susanna's date of death. The remaining unused letters are SFHT, the initial letters of each line, of uncertain cryptic meaning.
I find both inscriptions (to the two wives) puzzling and intriguing. I can't help wondering who might have written the French lyric accompanying Elizabeth Rous and (especially) the cryptic verse accompanying Susanna Pollard Northcote. I don't have enough knowledge about memorials of this type and time, but do wonder if there may be more to be teased out from them, especially in light of the Elizabethan habit of favouring poetry and verse which deliberately employed riddle, emblem, puzzle, particular shape etc. The poems were intended to combine their emotional symbolic effect with a representation that could inspire religious meditation. See for example the book Elizabethan Silent Language which discusses the form and provides examples. (It's worth also noting with regard especially to the slight possibility that there was a connection with Anne Dowriche that she authored at least one acrostic poem, on the subject of her husband's name).
I give and bequeath to my daughter, Margaret Pollard, wife of Lewis Pollard of Kings Nympton in the county of Devon, esquire, one hundred pounds’ worth of my plate; Also I give and bequeath to my said daughter Pollard my great gold chain and my great pearl, both which are in her keeping already; Also I give and bequeath to my said daughter Pollard my coach and my coach-horses, and my leading gelding, with all the furniture thereunto belonging, which she shall have presently after my decease, part of which plate before given is in my said daughter Pollard’s keeping. I give and bequeath to my grandchild, Elizabeth Pollard, daughter of the said Lewis and Margaret Pollard, the sum of two hundred pounds of current English money, which said sum of 2 hundred pounds is already in her father’s hands, and my will and intent is that the before-mentioned sum of two hundred pounds shall remain and be in the keeping of her said father for her and to her only use till such time as she shall be married or accomplish the age of one and 20 years, & in the meantime to give her yearly allowance of the use of the said money towards her maintenance; Item, I give and bequeath to my said grandchild, Elizabeth Pollard, presently after my decease my green mockado chest standing at the end of my cupboard in the drawing-chamber at Wells, with all such things as shall be in the said chest at the hour of my death unsight or unseen ...' (Will 1617 Margaret Lygon Berkeley Russell)
near Crediton © Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0
|Northern old gateway to Little Fulford, now Shobrooke Park|
Little Fulford/Shobroke is easily accessible from nearby Lapford so one can surmise there may well have been regular contact between Dowriches and Peryams. Significantly also, in 1566, Peryam became trustee of the Dowriche estate, Anne's husband's family home.
He left no male progeny and his estates were inherited by his four daughters and co-heiresses. Little Fulford was the share of his second daughter Elizabeth Peryam (1571-1635), the wife of Sir Robert Basset (1574–1641), MP, of Umberleigh and Heanton Punchardon, Devon.
|Mary Carew Memorial Brass|
Photo Julie Sampson
I've already written a little about Mary Carew Dowriche in Anne Edgcumbe Dowriche and Westcountry connections, but - even amongst the other kinship groups already mentioned in this piece- the familial repercussions of the Carew family as they intersect with other families in the network of Devon's C16 social and literary connection are so prolific that I must mention Mary Carew here in connection with the Dowriche siblings of Hugh, Anne's husband. Mary Carew Dowriche died on September 10, 1604, by which time her sister in law may already have passed away (though I note one publication has marked her death in 1616, but no sources are provided). Mary was probably a little older than her sister in law.
Here lyeth ye body of Mary Dowrich wife & widdowe of Walter Dowrich of Dowrich Esqr onely sister to George Lord Carew, Earle of Totnes. Shee had issue one so(n)ne & three daughters viz: Thomas who married Katherine daughter to John Stukely of Afton, Esqr; Dorothy married to Thomas Peyton of Islam in Camb. Esqr; Elizabeth married to George Trobrydge of Trobridge Esqr and Mary married to William Limsey of Colbye in Norff. Esq.r She departed this life in the true fayth of Jesus Christ the tenth of September An. DNI 1604. On the right of Mary Carew are shown her two younger daughters, both kneeling, with above each an impaled escutcheon, representing the marriage of each, as follows: closest to Mary Carew is shown her 3rd daughter Elizabeth Dowrich (d.post 1631), wife of George Trobridge (1564-1631) of Trobridge ... kneeling behind Elizabeth is Margaret Dowrich, 4th daughter, the wife of William Linesey of Ifield in Kent, later of Calby in Norfolk,(Vivian, p.290) with an escutcheon above showing An eagle
displayed(Linesey(?)) impaling Dowrich.
|Upton Hellions Barton|
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Derek Harper - geograph.org.uk/p/2140894
Other than the inscriptions on this memorial, there is apparently little known about Mary - except what can be deduced from the facts of her children's births and marriages, together with those about her siblings and cousins - but the fact that she and her children are in Sandford church suggest she was a woman who held much influence on those about her. Perhaps, given the richly educated background of her father's and brother's influence, like her sister in law Anne Dowriche Mary Carew Dowriche may have had literary interests. It must be likely that her author sister in law travelled the lanes eastwards from Lapford to visit her at Dowriche manor. And her brother George held (probably built the manor, circa 1566), at nearby Upton Hellions, now the Barton; some sources note that the house was built by his and Mary's father and passed on to his sons; a theory which seems likely given the birth dates of Mary's brother).
|View toward Upton Hellion Barton from the church|
|River Creedy near Upton Hellions|
Perhaps it is ironic that Anne Dowriche, who was apparently recognised by those about her as esteemed Devon writer/poet, has seemingly left no memorial, (and neither are there any apparent monuments to her children) whereas her sister in law is for ever immortalised in one of the county's best parish churches, one of whose features are the array of wonderful C16 bench ends (see Genuki) - which incidentally, must have been set in the church during the period of the Dowriche and their extended family's presence in the locality. One wonders if some of the individuals on the C16 bench ends may be representations of people in their respective families.
George Carew, President of Munster and 1st Earl of Totnes, (1555-1629) Mary's other brother, whose Devon home was at Upton Hellions, was prominent in the courts of Elizabeth I James I and Charles I, friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, and known for his distinguished military career, was also a renowned antiquarian, historian, genealogist and author, whose literary works included forty-two volumes concerning Irish affairs. See, for example The Carew Papers and The Carew Manuscripts.
|Looking toward Affeton today|
Well .... as you'll be aware if you've taken the trouble to wade all through this post so far, the more I try to find about Anne Dowriche's association with Lapford during the mid to late C16 the more I slowly get out of my depths as I come up against brick walls and enter even more convoluted genealogical labyrinths! It may be that instead of unpacking the journeys of her life-story, I have confused the maze even more. But I hope that anyone out there who has read this and is, as I am, fascinated by this still unknown Devon writer may take an interest in the poet and explore more about her extended family and possible local literary circles...
The day I last visited, before I left Lapford church, hoping for a soupçon of insight and clarity, I took time to try to picture the then young women, young mother and budding poet sitting on one of the pews set within the intricately designed seat-ends; she'd probably have taken pride in the webbed spans of the screen. Anne may well have been working on the manuscript of her epic poem whilst living in the village, before the family's apparent next move to her husband's next incumbency, at Honiton, circa 1587. In the preface to The French Historie Anne told her brother Piers Edgcumbe that ‘This hath beene my ordinarie exercise for recreation at times of leasure for a long space togeather’, which suggests a long period of gestation.
|C15 Bench Ends at Lapford|
which must have been put in the church
not too many years before the Dowriche's time there.
Photos Julie Sampson
As I look round the church interior, I’m mulling over the complexities of Dowriche’s puzzling poem. Surely, I'm thinking, the text's focus on the complexities of religious wars in a foreign country is a far cry from the environment of Lapford, either now in the high-speed C21 world, or even five centuries ago, when life was conducted at a more leisurely pace. At that time, surrounded by equally peaceful rural landscapes, this village would have been quiet and tranquil.
But, before taking our own leave of Lapford in this Devon A-Z, we must take a big leap up from the mid C16 and briefly peep into the early C20, a time when Lapford and indeed its church and rectory, once again held close, rather strange links with a renowned woman poet of the time. The Parson, the Poet and a Broadway Play tells the story behind Elizabeth Barrett Browning's connections with Lapford; the poet's letters written to her sister Henrietta languished for years in the village rectory. Anne Edgcumbe Dowriche may have been the first, but was not the last female poet whose life-journey left its vanished imprint - its eidolon - within the boundaries of this mid Devon parish.
As I leave Lapford's church through its lych gate and retreat to our car to travel home, I'm still musing over the literary treasures and labyrinthine secrets once held within the walls of several old buildings in this Devon parish, which if we could unravel them and see into the darkness of the past could reveal so much about the mystery of the remarkable C16 poet, who, during the years of later Elizabethan times probably regularly sat at worship on a bench in the nave of the beautiful church and returned home to the rectory to work diligently at developing the lines of her harrowing poem ... If only (Lapford) walls could talk so that we could peer into the past with new eyes.