St James, Ashwick
Some thoughts on the Emerys of Ashwick
My ancestral line back to the Emery family of Ashwick is straightforward. My great great grandmother, Phoebe Ann Gait was the daughter of Zachariah Gait and Lydia Horler Emery, who had married in Midsomer Norton in 1820. Lydia’s father James had been born in Ashwick in 1764 and moved to Norton where he married Abigail Rogers in 1787. The connection is easy to see as Lydia was named after James’ mother, whose maiden name was Lydia Horler. James’ father was another James Emery who was the parish clerk of Ashwick and who died in 1806, the parish register recording “James Emery. Clark”.
Ashwick which lies to the south-west of Midsomer Norton is a strange parish in that the church stands in the small hamlet of Ashwick, merely a manor house and a few other buildings, whilst it contains several townships larger than the village itself. The largest of these is Oakhill to the south, straddling the Bath to Shepton Mallet road, and in the north of the parish lies Gurney Slade. The present church at Ashwick is a Victorian Gothic building of the 1870/80s, although the tower is medieval and the one the Emerys would have known.
The parish register of Ashwick is sadly deficient in the early years of the eighteenth century and only commences in 1702, so much of the history of the Emery family is hidden from us. This is, in part, owing to another James Emery who was the parish clerk in the 1730s and was twice publically admonished in the register itself by the vicar of the parish, Thomas Jenkins. That of 1732 reads:
1732 N.B.By ye Exissive Negligence of James Emery ye Clerk notwithstanding frequent admonition to ye Contrary in several months before and after this, I believe several Christnings are omitted wh ought to have been Registered, And that yt are Registered are much confusd.
And in 1735 Rev. Jenkins wrote:
28th September 1735 The same complaint which I have made already concerning James Emery, Clerk of Ashwick, I must here again repeat, tho’ this will be but poor satisfaction to those yt may suffer by ys deficiency of ye Register from March 7th 1733 to the date underwritten. I shall for ye future take ye names of those I bury and baptize myself, and if any fault happens I shall give ye Parishioners leave to charge it on their Vicar. Tho Jenkins
The 1732 admonition
The father of the James who was the parish clerk from c1784 until his death in 1806 was yet another James and I had assumed he might be the person named in these complaints. However, on reflection it would seem that he was too young for this to be the case. He died in 1789, aged 80 years, as the register states, giving him a birthdate of 1709. He married in 1732, the year of the first entry in the register and that refers to “frequent admonition” so it would appear that he would have been clerk in his very early 20s, which seems unlikely. However, there is yet another James Emery, buried in 1744 who the register names as “James Emery snr.” I now believe (without any further evidence) that this might be the clerk whom the vicar names in his complaints. We would thus have four generations of James Emerys, at least two of which were parish clerks:
James Emery (? – 1744) his wife was Mary was buried 1744 also. Possibly the clerk of the complaints and possibly the father of..
James Emery (1709-1789) who married Mary Perkins in 1732 and father of..
James Emery (1738-1806) Parish clerk, who married Lydia Horler in 1763 and father of..
James Emery (1764-1839) the father of Lydia Horler Emery (1802 – 1876)
Images of the parish registers of Somerset are now available online so it has been possible to examine the detail in the Ashwick register itself and a couple of interesting points arise. In his second complaint Thomas Jenkins the vicar states “I shall for ye future take ye names of those I bury and baptize myself”. This implies that the clerk made notes rather than write up the register at once. This was common practice in the eighteenth century and led to many entries being lost. In many cases the register would only be written up once a year at the time of the annual visitation. On inspection it is clear that the register which was started anew in 1728 after a gap of eighteen years is in the hand of Thomas Jenkins, and continues until September 1742; in fact many of the pages carry Jenkins signature. Over the next few pages at least three different hands can be identified, possibly a curate, new vicar or most likely churchwardens, until in March 1745 when a further new hand takes over and continues until May 1752 when an entry records that Charles Huish was “put in to be the Clark of Ashwick”. Thereafter the register continues in (Huish’s?) hand for many years.
The layout of the pages in the register is a standard double column style with baptisms on the left and burials on the right (marriages were listed in a separate part of the register) but on the first page in the new hand of 1745 there are no burials on the right; instead, under a heading of “James Emery” is a listing of the birthdates of what one assumes are the children of this particular James Emery. Some, but by no means all of these children appear in the register of baptisms. It would appear that this James Emery was parish clerk from 1745 until 1752 and he used a convenient space to record his own childrens’ births as well as later on, their baptisms. In one of the entries specific details are recorded which surely only a family member might know – that of Sarah where it is written “Sarah Emery was born March the 12 a bout one a clock in the after noon in 1751”. The list is not in chronological order and was presumably written about the time of Sarah’s birth, rather than added to over the years after 1745. Interestingly, when James’ son became parish clerk in 1784, he too listed on a spare page, the dates of his childrens’ births.
Birth records of the children of James Emery (1709-89)
Apart from the registers there are often other useful sources of information which enable us to find family relationships. One of these is a lease where several members of a family were named. Leases were often granted for a term of a number of years (often 99) and on certain lives, normally three. It was in the interests of the lessee to name younger members of his own family where possible in order to obtain the greatest benefit, but it was quite common too to include a wife and one child to protect the wife’s interest should one die. The manor of Ashwick (until about 1810) was held by the Fortescue family of Castle Hill, near Barnstaple in Devon. The papers are now in the hands of the Devon Record Office and several surveys of the manor are recorded in documents held there. I recently viewed those of 1763, 1779 and 1791 and these give us further knowledge of the Emery family.
The most interesting entry is in the Survey of 1763 which shows James Emery holding a lease on a property called Lime Kiln Cottage, which is in the hamlet of Gurney Slade (and still exists). The “Messuage or Tenement” includes “A Dwelling House, Two Gardens, Lime-Kiln and little Plot of Lime Rock Ground, for Burning lime on”. In addition there are a further five acres of land around the house. The charge was £3.10.00 a year and a faint note at the bottom of the document reads “This is well worth £3.10s.0d Pr Annum”. Unfortunately there is no date on this lease as there is on some, so we don’t know how long the family had held this property. The lessee in this case must be the James who lived 1709-89 as another document records that the lease was on the three lives of James himself, his wife, Mary and James their son. Also recorded there and in the Survey of 1779 are the ages of the three parties, which are not entirely accurate. In 1763 the family’s ages are shown as being 45, 45 and 21 and sixteen years later they are 59, 59 and 35. We don’t know Mary’s age but the father and son are about 10 and 5 years out respectively. This is not neccessarily a problem – ages were often estimated and we do not know for certain the elder James’ birthdate in any case. It is quite likely that he was in fact born c1713/4 and the age at the time of his burial is wrong. This is certainly the right family however.
Details of Emery’s lease in the 1763 Survey
The Survey of 1791 shows that the lease had been renewed in 1772 and the new lessee is Joseph, the younger son of James the elder. So we can be sure that James Emery (1709-89) was a lime burner – the provider of a very useful service in the predominately agricultural area of Ashwick. Lime, for fertilising the fields as well as its use in making mortar for building, was obtained by burning limestone in a kiln, fired by either wood or coal; the latter was easily obtained from local mines. There is further evidence of the Emerys’ trades in two entries in the Churchwarden’s Accounts for Ashwick in 1773:
May 28 Sack of lime. To Jim Emery to repair the window that fell down
July 21 To Joseph Emery for setting up a New Stone over the Window in the Church
Joseph, the son who was the lessee of Lime Kiln Cottage in the 1791 Survey was a mason, as other records confirm. At present this leaves us with no knowledge of the occupation of his brother James who was to be the parish clerk from 1784-1806. He may also have been an occupant of the cottage, but we don’t know. Joseph later bought the freehold of the property from the Fortescues. As far as we tell, James’s son, the James who moved to Midsomer Norton was an agricultural labourer.
Map of late 19th century showing the position of Lime Kiln Cottage (above white star)
The Surveys also enable us to glean a little more information as another lease was granted to Joseph Perkins in 1763, and the three lives on which it was held were Richard and Joanna, the children of Joseph Perkins and George Emery, the son of James Emery aged 14. This would be the brother of James and Joseph, whose birth was recorded by his father in the parish register as having taken place on Candlemas Day 1745 – February 2nd 1746 in modern terms. So one would assume that the original lease was granted to the father of Joseph Perkins, who was almost certainly the father of Mary Perkins, the wife of James Emery. He was probably the Richard Perkins who died in 1751.
Documents courtesy of South West Heritage Centre