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History: Wayside

Thorncombe Village Trust


Old title deeds can provide a fascinating source of information, not only with regard to the property but also to the people involved in the transaction. Before the advent of the penny posts, the streets and lanes of the village had no official titles and its humble dwellings were not numbered or even named. Hence the only way in which a dwelling could be described was in terms of the people who lived and died there. Similarly before births, marriages and deaths were registered other than in the parish register, defining who the people involved were required that that their occupation and family relationship be described in some detail. Title deed had therefore, of necessity, to be more descriptive than they are in the present day and age. A surprising amount of information on the former inhabitants of the cottage called Wayside in Fore Street, 200 years ago was obtained in this way, only a fraction of which is used here.

Looking up Fore Street. Wayside is the second house from the  right.

Dorothy Bonfield is standing in front of the Old Crown (left)

Early 20th centu ry

  Th om as Ou sely was a but ch er who liv ed and wor ked in wh at is now The Old Bak ery in Fore Street. When he died, his wife Edith Ouse ly, as his widow and admini strator sold the cotta ge which was next door in May 1795. This was descri bed in the deed as a cotta ge consis ting of three dwelling and adjoining garden in the village of Thorncombe in the county of Devon, the dwelling being formerly tenanted by Matthew fforsey, all deceased. As a family name fforsey apears in the records of the village from at least the 17th century up to the present day, although it is now spelt Forsey. The name Elias fforsey is inscribed on the tenor bell hung in the tower of St Mary's Church and is dated 1772.

  Thomas Ousley's trade as butcher in 1795 was almost certainly more than we think of it today, primarily that of purveying joints of meat, but would have covered the entire range of butchery from slaughtering the animal onwards. There would have been an important trade in the village at that time which had a charter for a market every Wednesday. The Ousleys owned several other cottages in the village and it would seem from other title deeds that they were prosperous trades people. Indeed Edith Ousley is recorded in the list of land and property tax-payers of the village in 1794.The cottage with its three dwellings, which was sold by Edith Ousley in 1795, was bought by William Cook, described as a labourer for £21 with the payment of a rent of one peppercorn a year. This is a surprisingly large sum for somebody in his apparent position to pay at that time, especially as he did not appear to mortgage the property. Even 10 years later in 1805, when he exchanged a parcel of land with his neighbour Joseph Phillips, who was a mason, he was still only described as being a husbandman. The method of asking for a perppercorn rent, was a means of avoiding duty on property sales that was in force at that time.

  William Cook died in 1828 and the cottage and gardens were passed to his wife Hannah, then to their three sons,  Thomas, John and William and through their children until 1895, this making exactly one hundred years of occupation by the Cook family. Thomas Cook was described as being a cardwinder, presumably that job was associated with the  cloth industry which employed many people of Thorncombe at that time. His brother William was described as a carpenter and the other brother John as a blacksmith.

   In 1895 the cottage was sold to John Hook, an innkeeper, fo £15 10s. This was less than the price paid for it 100 years earlier. John Hook had to take out a mortgage to pay for the reconstruction of one of the dwellings. All of which perhaps is a reflection of the decrease in prosperity of the village resulting from the decline of the cloth trade.

  John Hook then occupied one dwelling, with Sarah Govier and George Stuckey as tenants in the other two. In 1929 John, now described as a mason, sold one of these dwelling to Robert Henry Hook, also a mason and another to William John Hentry Pitt Hook. William died in 1941 and his dwelling passed to Emily Hook living at the Crown Inn, who then sold it to Robert who moved to Gribb View in 1950 and sold his interest. Thus the two families, the Cooks and the Hooks were in possession of the cottage for just over 150 years.

Wayside as it is today

  Of the three dwellings which made up the cottage described only two remain. One is called ‘Wayside Cottage’ and the adjoining one ‘Ivy Cottage’. The third was demolished about 50 years ago, hence the rather stark brick wall which now faces Fore Street. This was built to protect what was the lath and plaster dividing wall. The above early 20th century postcard shows how the cottages used to look with their untidy thatched roofs at the turn of the century.  During recent renovations the original thatch was found  under the corrugated metal roof.


First published in TVT News, spring 1998. Reproduced with kind permission.

Excerpt from Thorncombe Parish Workhouse accounts book for 1-15 August 1736.

Purchases include carrots,  cheese, sugar, cake, treacle and tobacco.

(DHC  PC/THO 3.1) Reproduced with the kind permission of  Dorset History Centre and Thorncombe Parish Council.

  In 1820 The Charity Commissioners reported that the  property continues ‘to be divided according to the donor’s directions, one part being appropriated for a school and the habitation of the schoolmaster and the remainder, for a workhouse … inhabited by poor persons supported by the parish’6.  Thomas Cook’s  indenture laid down strict terms. The building was given in trust to the parish  for 2,000  years provided it was only used for purpose of education and  poor relief and  that the parish maintained the building. Otherwise it  would revert  to Cook or his heirs.  A further passing reference to ‘the Great House’  in a letter  from parish priest Charles Egerton to Devon antiquarian Daniel Lysons  suggests that School House continued as a school and parish workhouse until at least 1821 7.

   The Overseers Accounts record that a  new  parish workhouse was set up  in 1756 8. Perhaps this is where Workhouse Farm fits the story?  Maybe  there was insufficient room at School House to house those in need of  poor  relief and Workhouse Farm took the overflow?  Further evidence regarding other Thorncombe parish properties also  used as parish workhouses is among correspondence  between the Poor Law Commission and the Guardians of the Axminster  Poor Law Union in The National Archive, further muddy this complicated  picture .

Axminster Poor Law Union

 In an attempt to reduce costs, the provision and administration of poor relief was centralised  under the Poor Law Commission in 1834. New union workhouses were set up which amalgamated several parishes under one umbrella. Tough conditions designed to persuade  able-bodied paupers to actively seek employment wherever they could find it, were also designed to force  farmers  to pay a regular living wage to maintain a  local workforce, rather than using poor relief  to subsidise the quiet times of year.

   Thorncombe’s  able-bodied parish paupers and their families were now sent to Axminster Poor Law Union workhouse.  To fund the union workhouse,  parishes had to to sell their own workhouses.  In 1837 Thorncombe sold , Forsey and Peadon’s tenements,  for £62 to mason Bernard Phelps. Parish ownership of Forsey’s dates back to 1636 and Peadon’s to 1726 9,10. However no mention is made of School House which suggests it may have been disposed of prior to 1837.

Vestry Resolution Form dated 21 June 1837, relating to the sale of Thorncombe Parish Workhouse.

(TNA Ref: MH12/2095/179)  © The National Archives. Reproduced with kind permission.

Reference to the 1839 Tithe Map and the 1841 Census tentatively locates  the  tenements  on Fore Street, with Forsey’s on the site of Jubilee House, and Peadon’s among  buildings near the Old Crown 11,12 . Outgoings in the 18th century accounts  indicate that  these properties were  also used as parish workhouses .

   Poor House Yard,  marked next to the School House in Chard Street, opposite the church  on the 1839 Tithe Map may have been used for elderly paupers who were initially maintained in the parish following the establishment of  union  workhouses.   It is possible that  Peadons and Forsey’s were also to house Thorncombe’s needy old folks at various times in the 17th and 18th centuries.


1. Stoate, T. (1982), Devon Hearth Tax Return, Lady Day 1674, Bristol, T.L.Stoate, pp. 14-15

2. DHC  PC/THO RE1.2 Thorncombe Parish Register 1734

3. TNA PROB 11/759 Will of Thomas Cook 1747

4. (accessed 22.08.2011)

5. DHC PC/THO 3.5 Thorncombe Parish  Overseers of the Poor Workhouse accounts 1734-44

6. 1820 (312) Coms.  of Inquiry into Charities in England and Walles, Fourth Report, Appendix, pp. 30-31

7. BL  Add. MSS. 9427,  p. 116

8. DHC PC/THO 3.1 Thorncombe Parish Overseers of the Poor account books 1722-47

9. TNA MH12/2095/155 Internal memorandum Thorncombe Parish

10. TNA MH12/2095/176 Sale of Parish Property Form 8 … Thorncombe Parish Workhouse

11. DHC  PE/THO Thorncombe  Parish tithe map & apportionment 1841

12. Transcription of  Thorncombe Parish 1841 Census  (accessed 21.08.2011)


DHC: Dorset History Centre

DRO: Devon Records Office

TNA: The National Archive


August 2011