WAYSIDE, FORE STREET
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 century
Thomas Ousely was a butcher who lived and worked in what is now The Old Bakery in Fore Street. When he died, his wife Edith Ousely, as his widow and administrator sold the cottage which was next door in May 1795. This was described in the deed as a cottage consisting 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-
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-
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-
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,
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-
6. 1820 (312) Coms. of Inquiry into Charities in England and Walles, Fourth Report,
Appendix, pp. 30-
7. BL Add. MSS. 9427, p. 116
8. DHC PC/THO 3.1 Thorncombe Parish Overseers of the Poor account books 1722-
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
© EVE HIGGS