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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Parish Records




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Wills and other documents give us an insight into the way our ancestors lived. In the 17th and 18th centuries, and no doubt before, the Bulleids were almost exclusively involved in agriculture in mid-Devon. Some were yeomen, farming their own land; some were husbandmen, farming leased land; some were agricultural labourers and some were butchers.

The Bulleid wills make it possible to piece together how a family would have spent their evening after returning from the land. They would have sat on formes at the tablebord which rested on tressles in the hall, to eat their main meal. There would have been fresh- baked wholemeal bread containing bran from the crock after the wheat had been thresht; ham from the joint cured in the bacon hutch; and butter and cheese made in the dairy. This would be washed down with cider made from fruit squeezed in the apple press and drunk from pewter cups. They would have eaten off wooden trenchers with wooden spoones. the best brasse potts would be kept in the cubbert, only to appear on high days and holidays. In winter, logs cut from their woodland would be blazing on the hearth.

An article dated 1638 entitled "In the Chamber over ye Kitchen" describes the bedroom to which the head of the household and his wife would have retired: 

"Upon the chimney side of the roome hanged with twoe peeces of very old Tapestry hangings, a longe thicke planke for a table lying upon twoe tressles, a joyned stool, twoe buffit stooles, a cushion case of needlework, a payre of playinge tables of Ivory and Ebony with a sett of men of the same in a case of blacke leather, a standinge bedstead with turnd posts with the testerne head and vallence of black velvett and white cloath of sylver paned on the bottome, a bed matt, a featherbed and bolster of tike matched, another tike pillow, twoe woollen homespun blankets with seames in the middest, another woollen blanket, a portable bedstead lyinge in one of the presses, a square basket of wicker wherin to carry peate, three wicker baskets, a threesquare joyned stoole, a fire shovel, a payre of tonges, a paire of bellowes and twoe old windowe curtaines of redd and green Say with a curtaine rodd."



Testerne:  Wooden roof on a four-poster bed

Middest:    Almost in the middle

Say:            Fine cloth

Tike:          Tick fabric is used for pillows etc. which are to be stuffed with feathers.


John Bullied of Romansleigh, who died in 1650, bequeathed to  his wife Elizabeth "two bedds with their furniture standing in the chamber over the entry and our bedd with his furniture in the chamber where the maidens used to lye, and our bedd with his furniture in the chamber over the hall and our bedd with his furniture in the little chamber." 

He also left her horses, cattle, lambs and pigs; wheat, rye, barley and oats; wood, hay, butter and cheese. What a lovely picture of a substantial farm with a four-bedroom farmhouse. His brother, Nicholas, who died in 1673, bequeathed to his wife, Honor, "the bed we used to lye on, performed. " Perhaps we should draw the four-poster's curtains round that one!

Of course, not all Bulleids lived as well as this. James (1791 - 1879) and his brother Richard (1793-1883) were only eight years old when they were apprenticed to learn husbandry until the age of twenty one. Their younger brother John was apprenticed for the same purpose when he was ten. They were the sons of Richard Bulleid, who died in the Union Workhouse in Great Torrington in 1840. ( Indenture is described in the section on Apprenticeships.)

James was the third of Richard's six children by his first wife, Thomasine Mitchell. Richard re-married after her death and had four more children by his second wife, Elizabeth Davey. The family must have remained poor and it is hardly surprising that James' brother Richard (1793 - 1833) emigrated to Canada. However, James survived to the age of almost eighty nine when he died at the home of his daughter Thomasine and her husband, Christopher Coombes in Torquay, Devon. He had eight children of his own, one of whom (Thomas 1825 - 1898) also emigrated to Canada.

Richard's ancestors would have enjoyed a good roast sirloin as they were butchers in Winkleigh for four generations. Thomas (1639 - 1762) was the first known butcher in the family, succeeded by his son Samuel (1672 - 1726). Samuel's nephew, also Samuel (1698 - 1741) followed in the family trade as did his son Thomas (1722 - 1782), Richard's father.

John Bulleid of Mariansleigh, who died in 1628, left five shillings and eight pence to be distributed amongst the poor of the parish. His son, Nicholas, of Romansleigh, who died in 1673, was sufficiently well off to be able to leave money to keep the poor of the parish in work. Nicholas' nephews, Amos and Robert, had their names inscribed on two of the bells of Romansleigh parish church, where Amos was a Warden and possibly his brother also.

Thomas Bulleid (1706 - 1791) was a Churchwarden and Overseer of the Poor in Winkleigh as was Samuel Bulleid  in 1820, probably the Samuel (1774 - 1839) who occupied Stabdon Farm, Winkleigh at that time.

John Bulleid of Mariansleigh appears in the Devon Muster Roll of 1569 as a Harquebusier. A harquebus was an early type of musket and John was liable to be called to arms. He would have had to provide his own weapon and armour, a chest protector and helmet at the very least. These would have been valued property and when he died in 1628 he bequeathed his musket to his son Richard. John was a well-to-do farmer whose wife Thomazine had an interest in his martial arms, which she bequeathed to Richard when she died in 1635. They were already in his possession. Two of John's relatives also appear in the Devon Muster Roll of 1569: Walter Bulhead of Hatherleigh, who is a billman, and Henry Bulhead of "Winckley", an archer. There are also two brewers: William Bulhed of Okehampton Manor and Thomas Bulhedde of East Stonehouse in Plymouth. Oh that I could find a brewer in the family today!

Horses were obviously very important to our ancestors and the it amuses me to read about them in the wills:

- in 1659, John leaves his "red nagg, the old mare and the little mare" to his wife

- James gets the "whait nosed nag" from his father, Thomas, in 1702

- In 1802, John leaves his "sorel mare called Violet" to his wife

White's Devonshire Directory of 1850 lists only two Bulleids in Winkleigh:

Thomas who was a cooper making and repairing barrels, and John, still farming at Stabdon which has now been occupied by the family for about two hundred years. By now the family had largely left the land and Winkleigh, which reached its maximum size in the 1840s, was in decline.



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