Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Romance of the Charley Family - the Charley Family of North Devon

Finding a reference to the book by Irene H Charley (1970, private printing) in a genealogical magazine from the late 1970s prompted me to check online to see if there were any copies available and there is one in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin. Much to my surprise this is an old Irish family which, according to the book, moved to North Devon   from Belfast, Ireland. Namely a Hugh Charley was said to have arrived with his wife and infant son. The original home of the Charley family in Devon shows a title deed to Coulsworthy Farm in their name dated 1571. Coulsworthy Farm (2.4 miles ESE of Combe Martin) is located in Kentisbury which is a rather spread out village in North Devon 2.8 NW of Combe Martin.

I managed to purchase a copy of the book and read through the chapter on the North Devon Charley family. Unfortunately, it does not mention my Mary Charlie/Charley who married John Pincombe 8 Nov 1767 at Bishops Nympton and was said by the priest to be of the parish. Having transcribed the entire Parish Register of Bishops Nympton, I am assured that Mary was the one and only Charlie/Charley entry there as a surname.

In my blog ( I discussed at length the Charley family of North Devon and in particular the Charley family at Kentisbury with the earliest will being dated 1643 (administration) for John Charly. The only possibility that I have found for a baptism was for the daughter of Hugh and Mary Charley at Arlington 21 Sep 1735 with siblings William baptized 4 Nov 1710 at Kentisbury, Mary baptized 4 Dec 1712 at Kentisbury and John baptized 26 February 1714 at Kentisbury. Arlington is only 2.2 miles SSW of Kentisbury. There is also another possibility as a Mary Charley was married to (unknown) Charley at Trentishoe (3.3 miles NNE of Kentisbury) 8 Apr 1733. I have still not gotten around to purchasing the parish registers for these parishes and probably will not. The loss of the wills in WWII may make it virtually impossible to link together the various Charley families in North Devon although manor records where they exist may be helpful.

It was interesting though to read the story of the Charley family as having been Irish prior to coming to North Devon. Perhaps I should no longer say that I am totally English with this one Irish line now seeming to be verifiable by various records mentioned in the book. The Charley family does not appear in the Tax Subsidies of the 1500s in Devon. Looking at the 1581 Subsidy in Combmartine Parish the following are listed: John Chaluecombe, William Hancocke, John Roberts, Richard Lerawill, Thomas Estawaye, John Peake, Nicholas Nutte, John Beare, John Norman and John Ley. At Trenshooe (Trentishoe) Parish the list includes: John Blackmore de Totiscombe, James Blackmore, Philip Warde, Philip Kayle, Nicholas Nethecote, and John Skotte. Kentisburye Parish includes: Antony Randall (gent), John Warde junior, Robert Yeallaton, William Harris, William Vellacotte, John Romesham senior, Thomas Wilkey, John Warde senior, John Baker, John Richardes, John Hill, John Waterfalle, Walter Gorden, William Crocker, Amicia Horwoode, John Lerawill, John Reede, Thomasina Nicoll widow, and Robert Nicoll.

By 1699 though John Charley is listed as a Churchwarden at the Parish Church in Coombe Martin. But the Charley family does not appear on the Protestation Returns at Coombe Martin in 1641-42. The family lore in the current Devon family according to Irene H Charley who interviewed them in the 1960s was that their progenitor in North Devon arrived from Belfast, Ireland in the latter part of the 1600s and was able to obtain Coulsworthy Farm although the date on the deed is 1571 in the name of Charley. It does leave one to wonder if that should have been 1671 since they are not on the Protestation Returns there. Perhaps I will be able to check on that one day.

The family lore which the author repeats is that "a Charley landed at Berkeley, Gloucestershire with a wife and child and a pack on his back. He was not without money but his arrival was shrouded in mystery and certain dangers gad attended the journey. He presented his credentials to the castle where the Lord Fitzharding was Lord of the Manor. He was not given hospitality immediately but his record apparently justified his reception and a welcome was given to the family. They lived awhile in the castle. Later the man became a farmer on the estate. My grandfather (author) said the family had come over from Ireland because of religious persection (they were Church of England) and distress through the potato famines." Apparently this story was confirmed by other members of the Charley family.

I haven't read the entire books yet (136 pages) which includes family trees for some of the families in the USA and Australia. It would appear though that the author is thinking that the Charley family of Ireland actually came from Lancashire at a much earlier date. After I read it I shall know more of her thoughts.

For the most part I have set the Charley family aside until time permits me and the proper moment of my being near the Exeter and orTaunton Record Offices to pursue more information on this family. Mary Charlie/Charley and John Pincombe were my 4x great grandparents, their son Robert married Elizabeth Rowcliffe and their son John was my emigrant ancestor to Canada in 1851.

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