#52 Ancestors: Namesake – Albany?

Week 3

52 ancestors prompts are designed to help us put something in writing about an ancestor each week (though there is no come back should you miss a week! All voluntary, meant to be fun!). The words help us record more than just dates and facts.

Namesake made me think about my great grandfather, parent of my paternal grandmother. He was called Albany George Finch (28 Nov 1863 – 29 Aug 1945). We all know where a surname comes from, no real choice there. George was his father’s name. But Albany? That is a bit of a mystery. There is an Albany House in the village of Sticklepath, which I guess is named after AGF. (He often refers to himself as AGF just as my grandmother called herself MCB in writing). So why Albany?

My best guess is that there was a local MP called Albany Savile from 9 May 1807 – 30 June 1820. ( https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24255/albany_savile/okehampton ) Whilst I do not think our Albany was in any way named after him, it will have raised the profile of the name in the local area.

As is often the case, delving into the life of this man took me in a new direction (a diversion!) – the complete change in social structure during the 19th century. E.W. Martin reflects on the change from ‘Squire-archy’ to democracy, using Albany Savile and Okehampton, the nearest town to Sticklepath, as an example. He says –

“the squire and his kind manipulated local life with the effortless skill of a puppet-master.” “Very little could be done without their sanction and nothing was achieved without their approval.”

( “The Shearers and the Shorn – A study of Life in a Devon Community” 1965, one of the Dartington Hall Studies in Rural Sociology).

The list of families he mentions as “’embalmed in the musty grandeur of Burke’s Landed Gentry” is headed by the Saviles and includes Luxmoores, Woollcombes, Burdons, Calmady-Hamlyns, Holleys and Wreys.

Albany Savile (1783 – 1831) married into wealth in 1815 when Eleanora, daughter of Sir Bouchier Wrey, squire of Tavistock Court in Tawstock near Barnstaple, became his wife. He purchased the manor and castle of Okehampton in 1820. There were only 180 freeholders of sufficient status to vote in elections for the two MPs Okehampton had at that time. (Population 2,033 in 1821). Albany ‘served’ alongside his father Christopher and later his son also became MP. Albany Savile had major input to the appointees for mayor and vicar and recorder, and the Burgesses came completely under his influence. He could elect as many freemen (voters) as he wanted. Magistrates appointments were influenced by him too. He was essentially the owner and ruler of Okehampton. Even following his death his nominees continued to run the Corporation, and the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 didn’t really come into effect in Okehampton until 1885.

My interest here is not to vilify Mr Savile but rather to begin to understand how the ruling classes had such power over individuals and the way the society our ancestors lived in was run. Martin mentions that one witness described Mr Savile as

“a very good, kind-hearted, generous man;” but it is clear that Martin feels he discouraged any real development of the area. Nevertheless many maintain that he did much for the town. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okehampton_(UK_Parliament_constituency).

For more about MP Albany Savile Esq – https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1790-1820/member/savile-albany-1783-1831

Week 4 (Jan. 25-31): Favorite Photo – Coming soon! Too many to chose from…

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