In praise of Devon FHS and OPCs

I attended a great talk this evening, zooming in with over 80 other people. One of the few benefits of Covid has been the increase in online genealogy and family history lectures. Devon Family History Society have excelled at this with a great range of talks and space for many more attendees!

Sticklepath was almost mentioned. Talking about ‘Curing’ the Family in the Seventeenth Century – Tracey Norman had a range of fabulous sources, including research done by Ruth St Leger-Gordon of Steddefords, Sticklepath. Ruth was a journalist and I have several of her articles regarding Sticklepath and vaguely remember her – I think she held a large stock of potential dressing up clothes for the various WI and carnival occasions! She had researched charms and witchcraft from Dartmoor and written about this, with much cross-over with the ‘medicines’ and homemade cures of history.

Her husband Douglas also wrote many books and chapters about Dartmoor. A photograph of their gravestone (found in Sticklepath Quaker Burying Ground) can be seen on:

It says:


Douglas Francis Edward

St Leger-Gordon

of Sticklepath

Died 8th April 1970

Chronicler of


Lover of Nature

As was his wife

Ruth Eleanor

1893 – 1988

Tracey gave me a real sense of the women in the 1600s working hard to gather herbs in season, perhaps by moonlight or at particular phases of the moon, according to what custom dictated, making infusions and preserves of various sorts ready to deal with the families ills all year round. Sharing their medicinal secrets with future generations to ensure they too would keep safe. Then there were the more gruesome animal parts, worms, snails, mice and pheasant brains and the unpleasant things done with them! Fascinating.

Now to update you on my search for the first household of the Sticklepath Census 1841:

William Mance aged 49y miller, married to Ann aged 49y.  I think they are living adjacent to the “Western and Carnoll” mill complex just by Sticklepath Bridge at the Eastern end of the village.  

It seems likely (not proven) that these are William Henry Mance, who married Ann Grigg in Plymouth St Andrew’s 1825. (Marriage not on Ancestry Sept 2020, but is on Findmypast).

I then found a William Mance buried in Shaugh Prior, SW edge Dartmoor. With a likely corresponding death registered in Plymouth Vol9 p227 1848 Q3.

There is an Anne Grigg baptised in Shaugh Prior in 29 May 1791, parents William and Frances Grigg. A possible connection, but at this point I was stuck.

The fabulous Online Parish Clerk system of which I am pleased to say Devon has more than its fair share came to my rescue through Deborah O’Brien, the Devon OPC Co-ordinator. All online Parish Clerks are voluntary and are enthusiasts!

Through the contact on Genuki I made some enquiries and, bless her, she came back almost immediately with some fantastic information:

William MANCE buried in Shaugh Prior in 1848 had lived at 2 Mill Bay Road, Plymouth. An Ann MANCE married in East Stonehouse June qtr 1849. It looks as though she married Joseph PENROSE and her birthplace on the 1851 census was Shaugh. The address in 1851 was 2 Millbay Rd, Plymouth St Andrew. Ann PENROSE of Plymouth was buried at Shaugh Prior aged 71 15th April 1863.

Did our Miller go to work at a Mill on Millbay Road in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth? The Plymouth Historical Appreciation Society tell us that Millbay was a developing area in the 1840s with a new deep dock and works and with the Great Western Railway under construction from the docks.

It would be interesting to know if the increasing dock or railway workforce included William or whether the many new hungry mouths meant more millers were needed. There are always more questions! Plus a visit to Shaugh Prior to photograph gravestones is added to the genie wish-list!

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