Loosemore of Devon - Chapter 4


Although Loosemores are believed to have lived in or near to Tiverton more or less continuously for some 400 years from the end of the fifteenth century, the limited aim of this chapter will be to outline their early years in this, one of the largest parishes in Devon.  We shall be concerned mainly with the family of George Losemore (sic), clothier, a fascinating example of a true entrepreneur, though he lived over four centuries before the term came into common usage.  First, to set the scene, we shall look briefly at the emergence of Tiverton and the woollen cloth trade in late medieval Devon.

Tiverton and the Devon Woollen Cloth Trade

Very little is known about the woollen cloth trade in Devon before the end of the thirteenth century but, as in the rest of the country, it was largely concentrated in the (relatively) larger towns.  It was labour intensive and the several processes then involved changed little until the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Raw wool cut from the fleece was first combed or carded—the choice depended on the individual fibre lengths, long staple wool being combed, short, carded—to align the fibres, and then spun into yarn.  During the spinning and subsequent weaving operations the wool was usually impregnated with oil for convenience in handling, resulting in an improved finished product.  ‘Finishing’ the woven cloth involved three essential steps.  Firstly, in order to remove extraneous matter, including the oil, all cloth was immersed in water to which a special earth had been added and beaten, either by stamping on it in a manner similar to the traditional method for crushing grapes or by heavy wooden arms in a mill driven by water power.  The process, known as ‘fulling’ (in Devon, ‘tucking’) not only shrunk the cloth, tightening the weave and increasing its strength, but also caused the fibres to cross and interlace until the weaving pattern was often quite invisible.  Control of this technique gave a cloth its characteristic style and texture.  The added earth contributed a mild abrasive action which helped to clean the cloth; the modern ‘fullers earth’ is a reminder of that function.  After fulling, the pieces of cloth were stretched and dried on long wooden tenter frames to which they were attached by tenterhooks (also remembered in a modern idiom).  Tenter fields with their arrays of frames, a common sight in all cloth-making towns, were still marked on maps of London at the end of the seventeenth century.  Finally, the finished cloth was dressed by brushing it with bunches of teazels to raise the fibres and then shearing it with large, heavy shears to produce a smooth even finish.

The invention of the water-powered fulling mill, or tucking mill, brought about a rapid dispersal of cloth-making into the countryside, so that by the early fourteenth century many Devon streams supported at least one mill.  Tiverton had acquired one as early as 1245, Barnstaple, North and South Molton, and Crediton by 1327.

Cloth-making was so important to the national economy that legislation to control its manufacture and establish standards of quality was first enacted as long ago as 1196, though the realization by the Crown that it could thereby augment its revenues, by imposing a tax on all ‘cloths of assize’ was no doubt another powerful incentive. [1]   A cloth of assize came to be specified generally as 24 yards long and 2 yards wide after fulling and drying, but regional variations were always acknowledged.  For example, the standard ‘Devonshire dozen’, made throughout the county, was a smaller cloth about 13–14 yards long and 1 yard wide.  Thus, four Devonshire dozens were reckoned as equivalent to one cloth of assize.

At this period the main cloth-making centres apart from Exeter were Tavistock, Totnes and South Molton.  These early Devon cloths, known as ‘straits’, were rough and coarse, made for local country-men and little exported.  They could not compete with the expensive, high quality broadcloth produced in East Anglia, Wiltshire and, later, the Cotswolds which found a ready sale among the relatively wealthy people at home and abroad, particularly in the Low Countries.  In the 1360s and early 1370s, out of a national total of 30–40,000 cloths of assize exported, only 300–400 were Devon cloths, i.e. 1200–1600 ‘dozens’, many of which were produced in the area west of South Molton and exported to Gascony and Spain through the thriving small port of Barnstaple. [2]

This picture changed dramatically during the mid-fifteenth century as the result of a development in European fashions coincident with the introduction of a finer local cloth, the Devonshire kersey.  Artisan and middle-classes in Flanders and elsewhere, enjoying a new affluence, sought a middle-priced cloth, somewhat rougher in texture and of lighter weight than the traditional finely finished broadcloth.  The huge size of this market, at home and abroad, was to dictate the character of mass-produced textiles into the far future; Devonshire kerseys in the ‘dozen’ size were ideally suited to satisfy this new demand.  A kersey has been described as

serge cloth of scribbled yarn, manufactured at first with Devonshire wool only, after-wards with Cornish and Dorsetshire wool, and some other sorts supplied weekly from London…of fine quality and spinning and well weaved, but much of the excellence of this manufacture depended on the fuller… [3]

Even so, the trend towards high prosperity in the West Country was not without its setbacks.  An economic depression in the 1450s followed the loss of Bordeaux in 1453, ending 300 years of English suzerainty and the collapse of English power in France.  Difficulties were compounded by domestic stresses and disruption arising from dynastic struggles known as the Wars of the Roses.  Finally, in 1475, Edward IV and Louis XI of France signed the Treaty of Picquigny, the so-called ‘merchants treaty’, initiating a sustained expansion in Devon cloth production.  From 1000/year cloths of assize in the 1450s and 1460s Devon exports jumped to 6000 annually in 1481-3, reaching a peak of 11,000 in 1501-2.  In the decade 1500-1510 Exeter exports alone averaged 8,600 cloths/year, as demand increased not only from France and the Low Countries but also from Portugal and Spain.  At this time the county was supplying 10% of all English cloth exports.

An important consequence of all this increased manufacturing activity was the emergence of the clothier as perhaps the earliest example of a capitalist phenomenon, the entrepreneur.  Westcote, writing in 1630, described the primitive state of the Devon clothing industry, where

…the gentleman farmer or the husbandsman sends his wool to the market, which is bought either by the comber or the spinner, and they, the next week, bring it thither again in yarn which the weaver buys; and the market following brings that thither again in cloth… [4]

So cumbersome a structure of un-organized cottage craftsmen could not hope to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the upsurge in demand for cloth.  The entrepreneur clothier became the pivot of a new industrial organization.  He was not a manufacturer who worked with his hands and probably never learned the regular trade of weaver.  Instead he directed and co-ordinated operations, leaving to others the execution of technical details.  He was an employer of labour, delivering wool in turn to the carder, spinner, weaver, fuller and dyer who would each pursue his craft in his own cottage, though at a later stage the more successful clothiers employed artisans on their own ‘factory’ premises.  He would then sell the finished product, either at local markets or fairs, or export it through Exeter and its port of Topsham, or take it to London for sale at Blackwell Hall, the country’s foremost cloth market.  It was a high risk business with correspondingly high returns for the successful: Dunsford has estimated the profit on the kersey trade to be only a little less than 100% in the late sixteenth century. [5]

Not least of the risks to be accepted arose out of the urgent desire of Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Wolsey, to augment Crown revenues.  The king’s insatiable demands for money to satisfy his ambitions coincided with a rapid increase in prices, the result of a rise in population as the country shrugged off the debilitating effects of plague epidemics in the previous century.  Higher taxes were inevitable but Wolsey over-reached himself in 1523 with his imposition of a tax equivalent to 1/6 of a man’s goods.  Intense popular resentment eventually forced Henry to withdraw it. [6]

Shakespeare, always a trenchant commentator of royal goings-on, expressed his views on the matter without equivocation:

The clothiers all, not able to maintain
The many to them ‘longing, have put off
The spinsters, carders, fullers, weavers, who,
Unfit for other life, compell’d by hunger
and lack of other means, in desperate manner
Daring the event to the teeth, are all in uproar
And danger serves among them. [7]

This was no poetic licence.  Clothiers in East Anglia did dismiss their spinners, carders, fullers and weavers, narrowly averting an uprising.

If we exclude the very rich clothiers who could set their own terms for selling, it is probable that most others either sold locally or transported finished cloths to London.  During the sixteenth century Tiverton had a thriving weekly Monday market with a turnover of £2000/week, but to reach a wider clientele there were obvious advantages to clothiers in bringing their wares to Blackwell Hall market, almost adjacent to Guildhall.  Country clothiers were forced to sell through agents or factors, who rented permanent stalls there and eventually established a dominant position as middlemen.  By gradually isolating suppliers from their customers they forced clothiers to grant them long-term credit as a condition of doing business, a state of affairs which must have strained the financial resources of many smaller merchants. [8]   We shall see later how this situation contributed to the financial difficulties of George Losemore’s youngest son Lewis.

Yet the clothiers prospered until, in the 1540s, eager to increase still further their already large profits, they gradually reduced the quality of their cloth, for so long held in high esteem throughout Europe.  Production was already beginning to saturate the market in Flanders and the result of their failure to maintain standards was a decline in demand.  This blow to the reputation of the English cloth trade was compounded by major social stresses which developed during the 1540s and early 1550s following Henry VIII’s break with Rome and the transfer of ecclesiastical property to the Crown between 1536 and 1548.  Religious beliefs were firmly held, especially in the conservative West Country where many folk great and small, refused to reject their allegiance to the Catholic faith.  Two years after Henry’s death in 1547 [9] , when the country was effectively ruled by Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset and self-styled Lord Protector, a major rebellion broke out.  Only after it was put down, with extreme ferocity, by military forces under the command of Sir John Russell, was the change to Protestantism enforced.  These disturbances were probably in part responsible for the stagnation of business and laxity of controls over clothiers during the short reign of the young King.

In 1551-2 Edward (or rather, his Privy Council), concerned at the likely effect on the Crown’s income and on the country as a whole of a permanent downturn in an industry which accounted for 60% of all English exports, was finally forced to act, causing Parliament to enact a regulating statute.  An extract from the preamble to this tough measure is revealing:

…as clothiers, some from lack of knowledge and experience and some of extreme covetousness, do daily more and more study rather to make many than to make good cloths…

After listing the various ‘great and notable faults as almost cannot be thought to be true’ committed by clothmakers it laid down strict rules to be followed by them and imposed heavy penalties for any transgressions.  So severe were the regulations that an amending statute was enacted in 1557-8, relaxing somewhat the lowest acceptable limit on quality.  The amended rule for Devonshire dozens required the minimum weight to be 1 lb/yard, fully dried and finished.  The penalty for failure to reach this minimum condition was forfeiture of the cloth plus a fine of 2s. for every pound lacking up to 4 lb, and 5s. for every pound lacking over 4 lb.  Searchers were appointed to carry out random checks in the markets. [10]

New customer markets were clearly needed if growth in the industry was to be maintained and to provide a buffer against fluctuations in northern European demand.  Exploratory expeditions sponsored by wealthy merchants set off for many distant lands and under Elizabeth the world-wide expansion of English commerce blossomed.

The unprecedented boom which began in the late fifteenth century saw the rise to pre-eminence of the east Devon inland clothing towns of Tiverton, Cullompton and Crediton.  They were ideally situated in the valleys of the Exe, Culm and Yeo spreading north, east and west from their confluence just north of Exeter.  Tiverton, occupying a wedge-like site between the Exe on the west and the Loman on the east, had been an insignificant village throughout the fourteenth and most of the fifteenth centuries, dominated by and wholly dependent on, the Courtenay family’s castle home.  Its emancipation brought about by the clothing industry was only completed in 1539 when attainder and execution of Sir Henry Courtenay, marquis of Exeter and earl of Devon, liberated the township from its economic bondage.

At the opening of the sixteenth century many active and wealthy woollen manufacturers were natives or residents of the town.  In this first period of expansion John Greenway (d. 1529) was the most notable, a splendid aisle and chapel in St. Peter’s Church bearing witness to his piety no less than his business acumen.  Greenway was one of the very first provincial merchants to be admitted to the Worshipful Company of the Drapers of London, eventually becoming its Master.  He illustrates the expansionary vision of those exciting times by his contribution in 1521 to the cost of Cabot’s exploratory voyage to Newfoundland.  John Lane, his exact and most successful contemporary in Cullompton (he also died in 1529) beautified his parish church in a similarly elegant fashion. [11]

But the most celebrated of all the Devon clothiers was Peter Blundell of Tiverton (1520-1601).  It was his good fortune to be born at exactly the right time, when Tiverton kerseys had acquired a national reputation, and he took full advantage of the business opportunity.  From humble beginnings he accumulated a huge fortune of some £40,000, worth now (1986) perhaps £4-5M, becoming the town’s chief benefactor.  Blundell’s School, founded in 1599, is his lasting memorial.  Many other merchants, less well-known than these three but successful on a smaller scale, made their homes in Tiverton and helped transform it into the richest woollen town in Devon by the end of the sixteenth century.  Its population, about 2500 in 1565, increased to 4150 twenty years later and topped 5000 by 1591.  In that year it was visited by plague, 500 people died and hundreds more fled to the country.  The town had barely recovered from this setback when, on Monday 3 April 1598, it was gutted in two hours by a terrible fire.  This was a great calamity, for the weekly market on that day brought considerable trade to the entire area and provided many people with a livelihood.  For these reasons the population had fallen in 1600 to a quarter of what it had been just before the fire, but prosperity returned rapidly and by 1605 numbers had risen again to 3700. [12]

In 1612 Tiverton was the chief market town in western England and then, on Wednesday 5 August, a larger fire burned the entire town once more.  Yet so energetic and determined were its burgesses that within three years Tiverton had been re-built, receiving its first charter of incorporation from James I in 1615.  The town’s first mayor was Richard Hill als Spurway, who earlier had purchased the manor of Oakford from the Pollard family.

This, then, is the background against which we have to imagine the life of George Losemore, clothier of Tiverton.

Family Relationships

Any attempt to recount the earliest recorded history of a family in a particular place is destined to start untidily.  It is as if one were to be confronted with the actors in a play on stage with no programme note to explain how they arrived there.  This is certainly the position with the early Loosemores of Tiverton.

Some Early Loosemores

The very first family mention so far discovered occurs in a Tiverton borough court roll of 1477 or 1478, when Alex[ander] Losemore was arraigned before the court on a minor offence.  Even the year is not unambiguously clear, for the court record has been imperfectly preserved. [13]

Since we shall have recourse to the records of court proceedings on a number of occasions it is as well to be clear that ‘borough’ is here not used in its modern sense.  As we have seen, Tiverton received its first royal charter of incorporation only in 1615, some 60 years after Abingdon, and it is from that time that its ‘modern’ history may be said to begin.  In medieval usage from the twelfth century onwards, a borough signified any town, village or hamlet where tenements were held in free burgage, that is to say, by payment of a money rent with little or no liability on their occupants for agricultural services of the kind owed by rural tenants to their lord.  This right to substantial independence from feudal services was by no means common until the late fourteenth century.  Devon boasted only four pre-Conquest boroughs, and by 1238 the numbers had increased by just 14, of which Tiverton was one.

These early boroughs are best regarded as hopeful speculations by the local lord, in anticipation that by establishing a free borough the virtual elimination of serfdom would lead to social and economic developments, with consequent increased toll revenues from markets, roads, fairs, etc., as an alternative to the traditional feudal sources of income.  Such a convenient money income could have proved particularly attractive to absentee landlords who spent most of their time fighting, either at home or abroad.  For the burghers, obvious benefits derived from increased security of tenure and a reduction in the number of arbitrary regulations and penalties to which they were subjected.  They could buy and sell property with little let or hindrance; they were free of death duties and other services normally due to their lord; most importantly, they acquired the right to a court of their own in which they would be tried by their fellow townsmen.

Tiverton borough was probably founded by William de Vernon, 5th earl of Devon, some time between 1193 and 1217, at the same time as Honiton and Plympton.  He granted it a weekly market and three fairs annually, on 7 July, 1 September, and 3 November.  The borough was fortunate when in 1370 Hugh Courtenay, the 2nd of his family to bear the title earl of Devon, benevolently gave the market tolls as a perpetual benefit to the poor of the town and the parish of Tiverton, appointing eleven of the inhabitants as guardians of his charity. [14]   We met this Hugh Courtenay (he who married Margaret Bohun, a grand-daughter of Edward I) in Chapter 3.

Medieval official records seldom concerned themselves with humdrum, ordinary events, and court records in particular cannot be expected to shed much light on the law-abiding members of a community or to  provide family details of those with whom they are concerned.  Alex Losemore is not heard of again, and it is not until 1494 that a John Losemore appears before a court held on 9 June; he is mentioned again on 20 November that same year.  The following year Thomas Losemore gained four consecutive mentions, at courts held on 10 and 23 July, 6 August and 2 September, the last three merely restating a debt (presumably unpaid) which was the reason for his first appearance.  We meet another family member, Hugh Losemore, in court just once, on 20 April 1502.13

All that can be inferred with confidence from such impersonal glimpses is that at least one Losemore family lived in Tiverton from 1477 and possibly earlier.  In 1560 the population of the parish, of which the borough formed only a part, was estimated to be 2500; at the beginning of that century the total would certainly have been significantly smaller.  Hence it is not unreasonable to assume that Alex, John, Thomas and Hugh were closely related.  The nature of their relationship remains unresolved.

Our next clue to the family offered by surviving records occurs in the 1524 Lay Subsidy roll, which we shall examine more closely later in this chapter. [15]   Suffice it to say here that Thomas Losmore, as he is there called, emerges as a modestly prosperous citizen of Tiverton, with goods conservatively valued at £6 putting him in the top 20% of its inhabitants, while a John Lossemore is evidently a very ordinary labourer, with an assessed annual income of only £1 from wages.  Thomas also appears in the record of another borough court held on 30 September 1536 and again in the return for a subsidy levied in the autumn of 1544 [16] .  Probate of his will was granted in 1548 but the document was lost, with so many others, in the Exeter air-raid of 5 May 1942. [17]   John took his turn in the borough court in 1532, being arraigned for debt on 7 April, 16 May and 18 July; these all relate to a single offence, it being customary to enter a record of non-payment until the debt was discharged. [18] He is absent from later subsidy returns.

No firm conclusions can be drawn from such fragmentary information but we may hazard a guess that the various mentions of Thomas and John referred to just two individuals, both being born around 1470–1475.  John probably died before Thomas.

George Loosemore, père et fils

At this point we may introduce George Losemore, who is to be the central figure in this chapter.  Evidently he was too young to be included in the 1524 subsidy return, and our first intimation of his existence gives no hint of his later importance: on 30 April 1533 he appeared before the Tiverton borough court among a group of 30–40 burgesses, to be fined 2d for violating the assize of ale by giving false measure.18  That this was not considered a serious offence is clear from the total sum collected from the whole group—a mere 4s.8d.  It need not be inferred from this transgression that he kept an inn or ale-house.  In Tudor England men commonly augmented their income in diverse ways and it would occasion no surprise if George, who would have brewed ale for his own domestic consumption, should have contrived to sell the surplus as an easy way of reducing his overheads.

By 1544 his affairs had prospered to the point when, on 14 April, he was appointed a member of that same court, charged in company with his fellow members with responsibility for passing judgement on the ordinary townsfolk, a rôle that he was called upon to continue in each of the next two years and again in 1550, 1551 and 1558.  He could well have reached that position earlier—we have no means of knowing—as court records are missing between August 1537 and Spring 1544.

The court comprised 15 or, occasionally, 12 members but we need not be too impressed by a superficial appearance of democratic local government.  Tiverton’s medieval charter of incorporation as a borough is lost and we cannot be certain how its members were selected, but we can be sure it was not by open election.  Inspection of court records shows that the same family names, usually well-to-do clothiers or other merchants, recur with monotonous regularity, confirming that Tiverton was  run, as were other incorporated towns, by a self-perpetuating oligarchy of carefully chosen men.  It is doubtful if the ordinary townsman had any influence on the selection process.  He probably felt that any group of merchants, however wealthy, was nearer in outlook to his own than was the local lord, in this case the so high-and-mighty Courtenay family secure in its castle home up beyond St. Peter’s church.  By 1544, if not earlier, George was a fully-fledged member of this tightly knit circle of merchants; as we shall see, his sons continued that tradition until beyond the turn of the century.

It is convenient here to mention one other early reference to George Losemore.  During the period 1538–46 musters were held throughout the country, reflecting the desire of Henry VIII’s government to know, in the face of his aggressive overseas policy, about the numbers of trained and armed men who could be called upon in the event of external attack on the country.  The rolls list only ‘ablemen’, those able to bear arms, omitting the young, old or infirm, and those others who managed to avoid the parish constables and thus escape notice.  One undated return for Tiverton in this period lists those in the tithing of the manor under several categories depending on whether they possessed ‘harness’. [19]   For example, one group of 25 men ‘be archers full harnessed and every man his hors’.  George Losemore is included in another group of 10 archers which ‘be without harness’. [20]   Presumably he had acquired some basic skill with the longbow, for all men were required to train and demonstrate a reasonable proficiency in its use, but as an urban dweller pre-occupied with business he would not take too seriously the thought that he might have to fight in earnest.

Before continuing the main story of George and his family we note another member of the clan who is mentioned in the records at about this time: Henry Losemore.  He appears for the first time in the 1544 Lay Subsidy return16 , assessed on £3 goods (c.f. Thomas at £6 and George at £20), so he was then at least 16 years old and probably nearer 21, suggesting a birth date of c1525 or so.  Two years later we catch another glimpse of him when he was arraigned before the borough court on 12 July and again on 14 August.18   One may wonder to what extent his older kinsman George, a member of the court, preserved his objectivity, if indeed he thought it important to do so.  Henry was in all probability a near relative of George for the older man appointed him in November 1561 to be an overseer of his will, using the diminutive ‘Harrie’; the other overseer was a business associate, Thomas Deyman. [21]   Henry is listed in the great 1569 muster roll, providing armour jointly with John Snowe (later a business associate of George’s son Robert) on a scale corresponding to an assessed worth of £6 goods. [22]   We know Henry was buried in St. Peter’s church, Tiverton, on 5 February 1580/1.  One may guess that he married and had at least one son, also Henry, for on 13 March 1584/5 Jane the daughter of Henry Loosemore was christened in St. Peter’s. [23]   No other information respecting him has come to light, but we shall consider the possibilities later.

At the risk of monotonous repetition it must be said that almost nothing is known about George Losemore’s wife Margaret.  She is first mentioned in the grant, dated 10 July 1545, of his first manor, Templeton. [24]   George appointed her sole executrix of his will and, as we shall see, she outlived her husband by several years at least.  The question to be answered is whether she was his first or second wife.  At the time of the Ipm on his estate taken on 24 October 1562 Robert, his second and eldest surviving son, was stated to be 34+ years old, i.e. he was born in 1528. [25]   George jnr., his first son, could therefore not have been born after c1526.  His other two children, Edith and Lewis, were minors at his death as is clear from the instruction in his will that they should both ‘be ruled and abide by the order of’ their mother.  Edith was due to be married in November 1573, so one may estimate their births at c1544 and 1548.

Margaret was thus certainly the mother of Edith and Lewis.  Assuming that George jnr. was also her son and the first-born of his father, and that Margaret was no older than 21 at marriage, her birth date must then have been c1503.  If there were other children who did not survive childhood, or if she married later in life, her birth date would have been even earlier.  It is not impossible that she should have been 45 years old, or more, at Lewis’s birth but this argument, coupled with the very large gap of about 16 years between Robert and Edith, tips the balance of probability against it.  It seems more likely that George snr. married twice, George jnr. and Robert being sons of the first marriage.

The eldest son, George jnr., married Ebbott, daughter of John Aprice, also a clothier of Tiverton.  We shall see later that George snr. and his son entered into an agreement dated 10 August 1556 whereby at least one of his father’s manors was transferred the following April to the younger George and his heirs.  This was almost certainly a marriage settlement and it fixes within close limits the date of the son’s marriage.  George and Ebbott were to enjoy little time together.  After barely three years of a childless marriage the young George died in London of ‘the sickness’, no doubt one of the infectious diseases covered by the general term ‘plague’.  He was buried on 26 March 1560 in the parish church of St. Gregory by St. Paul’s, one of London’s medieval churches which stood in St. Paul’s churchyard until it was demolished in 1637. [26]   Probate of his will, made two days before his death, was granted on 30 August of the same year to his brother and executor, Robert. [27]   The prosperity of the Tiverton cloth trade is well illustrated by the bequest to his young widow ‘in full recompense of such money as I have had and received of her father and friends by reason of marriage between us’ of £243, now worth about £20-25,000.

On 12 February 1559/60, only 6 weeks before his death, young George and his wife were forced to initiate litigation in the court of Chancery against Ebbott’s step-mother Christian Aprice, co-executor with her of her father’s will, for refusal to release to the daughter those goods willed to her by her father.  Apparently the step-mother had been the wife of Humfrey Toker, another well-to-do merchant, after whose death she had administered his estate until she ‘for love only took to husband the said John Aprice’ in a marriage of convenience. [28]   She evidently felt that once Ebbott, Aprice’s daughter by a previous marriage, had found a home of her own, she (Christian) was entitled to keep all of her second husband’s belongings, his will notwithstanding.  It was often the case that starting an action in Chancery was sufficient to produce the desired result; Christian may well have decided there and then to hand over to her step-daughter the items due to her.  If she held out until after March 1560 possession would seem to have been a full ten points of the law, for Chancery records contain no note of any further action in the suit.

Young George Losemore’s death when only 34 years old must have been a grievous blow to a father with dynastic aspirations, although the terms of the son’s marriage settlement ensured that title to all the Losemore properties reverted to the older man, George jnr. having produced no heir of his body.  The family suffered a second blow the following year when George snr. died on 15 November 1561.  The speed of events—his will was dated the 14th and he was buried on the 16th—illustrates the characteristic reluctance of people in Tudor England to relinquish full control of their possessions, by postponing making a will until the very last moment.  Of course, it may simply have been that death was unexpected due, perhaps, to one of the virulent infections which had scourged the country at intervals over the preceding 200 years.  Even so, the known ages of his sons indicate that he must have been born c1500: a life of 60 years would have been considered good measure in 16th century England.

In spite of the many surviving details concerning George Losemore’s business activity, to be outlined later in this chapter, he remains a shadowy figure.  We have not a single letter to illuminate his personality so that apart from those business activities our view of him as a man must be based solely on his will.  The instruction to Margaret his widow that he be buried in Tiverton parish church ‘without pomp or pride’ is revealing in an age notable for its acceptance of conspicuous consumption and ostentatious displays of wealth and position.  A gift to the poor of £20, worth nowadays about £2000, is another small pointer to a kindly, undemonstrative man who had not lost touch with his humbler origins.  In the absence of any more positive clues we must leave it there.

George Losemore’s last hours were less than peaceful, for bickering over the terms of his will started even on his deathbed.  According to Thomas Deyman in the course of defending an action in Chancery brought against him and his son by George’s widow Margaret and their second son Robert, the original will bequeathed only £140 to Edith and £100 to Lewis.  When this was pointed out to George ‘on his deathbed’ he increased the bequests to £300 and £200 respectively and instructed Deyman to change the will, which he did.  Deyman also alleged that the bequest to Edith was an outright gift, that the condition under which it should remain to Lewis if she died before marriage was added after George’s death. [29]   Thomas Deyman’s motives as an overseer of the will were not entirely disinterested, for it was intended that his son should marry Edith and he was no doubt determined to extract the maximum advantage from the match.  These plans were frustrated by Edith’s death at the beginning of October 1565, before the marriage took place.  The Deymans were an old-established upper crust family of Tiverton, active in its government for many years.  Thomas may therefore have regarded the Loosemores as nouveaux riches, first-generation members of the circle to which his family had belonged for many years, and fair game for a predator.

Before the date of the planned marriage Deyman had evidently persuaded Margaret and Robert that they should advance his son £100 of Edith’s £300, to which he alleged he added a further £50, also regarded as part of the bequest.  He asserted that Edith, contracted to marry John, had bequeathed all her goods to her future husband, who therefore presumed that the £150 was his in law.  Margaret and Robert, the complainants, on the other hand insisted that the terms of the will were clear and demanded that the money they had advanced should be returned as no marriage had taken place.  Whatever the outcome of the action it seems not to have affected relations between the two families.  Thomas continued to search for a suitable match for his son and eventually, on 7 August 1573, a regulating deed was signed as part of a marriage settlement between the Deymans and Roger Colman, clothier and father of Katherine who was to marry John Deyman; Robert Lowsemore (sic) was one of two attorneys appointed to supervise the agreement. [30]   But we have got ahead of our story.

Robert Loosemore

When George Losemore snr. died Robert, his second son, now heir to the family estates and still a bachelor at 33 years old, must have been a worthwhile marriage prospect given the unsentimental, even calculating, attitudes of the time.  In a little over two months he had married Mary, a daughter of John Peryam of Exeter and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Robert Hone of Ottery St. Mary.  The Tiverton parish register entry merely records that on 24 January 1561/2 Robert Loosemore was married, there being no mention at all of his bride.  However Westcote, writing before 1630 states, in discussing the Peryam family, that Mary, one of the four daughters of John Peryam and his wife was married to ‘Loosemore of Tiverton’.  As we have seen, this could not have referred to George the eldest son and we may accept with confidence that Robert was intended.  It was a good match, as Mary’s brother William was destined for high office in the law.  He was appointed a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in February 1581 and knighted in January 1593.  The marriage of his sister Mary makes it easy to understand why (Sir) William, as Robert’s brother-in-law, later took a mortgage on his manor of Templeton and why, when Robert came to sell this property and his other manor of Aller Peverell, they were both bought by the same William Peryam. [31]

Robert and Mary Loosemore illustrate very well the uncertainties of establishing a social position in 16th century England.  At first sight the omens were good.  As the eldest son of a successful business man he was heir to a desirable estate of some 2500 acres, as we shall see later.  His wife came from a respected local family: her grandfather and father had both been mayors of Exeter while her mother was an aunt of Sir Thomas Bodley. [32]   Robert was accepted as a member of the ruling circle in Tiverton in succession to his father, for a borough court roll for 27 September 1571 records his membership of the court.  He may well have held that position for some time as only two rolls have survived for the 13 years from 1558. [33]   All he needed was reasonable luck in his business affairs and an heir.  We shall examine his business activities in the next section but here we can only imagine the disappointments in his domestic life.

His wife presented him with not less than nine children, 6 sons and 3 daughters, of whom it seems certain that only two children, his eldest daughter Katheryn and a son Valentyn, survived to maturity.  Katheryn was baptized on 12 April 1564 and may be the same Katheryn Lusmore whose will, now lost, was proved in 1584.17  Valentyn may be the Valentine Losemore who married Edith Marshall in St.Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton, on 22 Jan 1598/9, their union producing six children between 1600 and 1612 of whom at least four died in infancy.  We shall mention him again in Chapter 9.  Of Robert and Mary’s seven other children at least five are known to have died young, being buried in St. Peter’s, Tiverton; nothing is known of the remaining two, Tobye and Wilmot, baptized in St. Peter’s on 17 November 1570 and 12 September 1575 respectively, but they most probably died soon after birth.

Robert appears only once before the borough court, as plaintiff in a minor suit of debt against William Webber which dragged on for several months from 20 March 1566/7.  His mother Margaret was still living at that time for she was involved in a suit against John Radford during the same period.33  Robert seems to have been specially afflicted with the Tudor propensity to seek redress in law against his fellows at the slightest provocation.  In addition to the suit brought against Thomas Deyman referred to below and one other against Dennys Passemore to be mentioned later in this chapter, we have knowledge of five other Chancery suits in which he was the complainant.

On 28 November 1565 he brought an action against Jone Rausterd, widow; on 16 January 1567/8 he was similarly involved against Thomas Deyman.  Neither of these suits (probably for debt) progressed beyond an instruction to ‘take the answer of the defendant’; they were probably settled out of court.  On 29 May 1573 the court ordered the attachment (i.e. arrest) of Henry Ware on his complaint and on 27 May 1578 the same fate befell John Staplehill.  Robert was no respecter of family ties: on 30 October 1581 the arrest of his half-brother Lewis was ordered, also on his bill of complaint. [34]   No papers have survived for any of these suits and the bare court summaries give no clue to the substance of the complaints, so we can only guess that they too were for money owed to him.

Robert’s wife Mary died fairly soon after 1577; their last recorded child, Ellnor (Eleanor), was baptized on 22 February 1576/7 and was probably buried on 10 December following, though the register is defective at this point.  We may imagine that Mary was finally worn out by the combination of continuous child-bearing and subsequent loss of her children.

A final chapter in the Loosemore/Deyman story was written when, some time before the end of 1579 Robert, then a widower of 50 or so years, took as his second wife Johan (Joan), a daughter of the redoubtable Thomas Deyman.  Ironically the married couple were almost immediately forced into litigation as complainants against her father in a suit concerning a tenement and two closes of land in Tiverton.  The property had been leased for a term of three lives to John Deyman the father of Thomas, Thomas himself, and Johan daughter of Thomas.  On the death of John Deyman, Thomas and his daughter took possession but after Johan’s marriage to Robert Loosemore, Thomas refused her any part or parcel of the property (perhaps known as ‘Pruston Lands’, see later in this chapter).  Further, he retained the original lease and deeds, and the couple could gain no satisfaction in common law. [35]   Deyman’s answer to the bill of complaint is lost, as are all other relevant papers.  This suit and the previous one involving Deyman are examples of the then common attitude that when a woman married she was regarded as having left her own family irrevocably, becoming a member of her husband’s family and their responsibility.  She could expect little help or favour from her parents.

On 25 March 1585 the Tiverton parish register records the burial of ‘Mr Robert Loosmore’; his will, dated 1586 is lost.  So ended any hope of a continuation of the line through the second of George Losemore’s sons.

Lewis Losemore/Loosemore

Lewis or Lewes, the third and youngest son of George snr. by his second wife, would have received little of the guidance and instruction in affairs that he might have expected normally from his father and elder half-brother.  Both his father and eldest brother had died by the time he reached his ‘teens, while his other half-brother Robert was married at about the same time and in consequence would have been pre-occupied with his own family.  For the last and most important eight years of his minority Lewes must have relied mainly on his mother Margaret, with perhaps some advice from his kinsman Henry, the overseer of his father’s will who was born at about the same time as his eldest half-brother George.  Whether or not others took a hand in the young boy’s education it proved to be not the ideal preparation for a successful business career, as we shall see later.  His domestic life also lacked the stability and continuity which could have helped him through the difficult times ahead.  He was three times married.

His first wife, Margaret Prowse, whom he married on 22 November 1573, came from another long-established Tiverton clothier family.  She was almost certainly a daughter of Thomas Prowse of Bolham manor in the Pitt quarter of Tiverton, to whom Lewis later sold the Old Bridewell, as we shall see in the next section. [36]   The Prowse family were linked by marriage with the Waldrons—John Waldron was one of Tiverton’s wealthiest clothiers—so Lewis had started shrewdly enough.  Margaret bore him three children: Mary, the first, died within a few weeks; George, baptized 7 August 1577, his eldest son and heir who was to emulate his father by taking three wives; and Elizabeth.  The Tiverton register records her baptism as 7 December 1577, only four months after that of George, though we cannot be certain whether or not this is a simple scribal error.  Children were usually baptized shortly after birth to minimise the risk of their dying unshriven.  Elizabeth married Risse Aller on 10 August 1605.  Margaret her mother was buried on 14 July 1582, nearly four years before Robert Loosemore.

Towards the end of Lewis’s first marriage we are offered a hint that relations between him and his elder half-brother had become strained.  On 14 June 1580 Lewis appears as complainant in a Chancery suit against Robert, though court records suggest that it did not progress beyond the initial stage of obtaining a written answer from the defendant.  Then, following the successful suit brought against him by Robert leading to his arrest in October of the following year, Lewis’s immediate riposte one month later, in November 1581, was to bring a counter suit against his elder brother. [37]   No further details survive for any of these actions and it is impossible to decide which of the two brothers was most at fault, though one is tempted to conclude that Lewis, who first had recourse to the law, had only himself to blame for his arrest.

After the death of his first wife Lewis married again to provide a home for his two young children, though no record of the event has come to light.  His second wife, Elizabeth, is known only through the register entry recording her burial at Tiverton on 19 October 1602.  Their nineteen or so years together produced a further eight children, two sons and six daughters, of whom all but two daughters survived to maturity.  Prudence, the eldest child of the marriage, was baptized on 24 February 1583/4 and married Hughe Yiate on 6 February 1609/10; Mary, baptized on 10 February 1585/6, married Richard Ames on 14 September 1612; Robert, baptized 10 February 1587/8 we shall meet briefly later; Elizabeth, baptized 11 June 1592, continued a family tradition by marrying into the Deyman family when she married a Thomas Deyman on 30 October 1623; Nicholas and Margaret, baptized on 13 October 1594 and 19 March 1598/8, were both living in 1617.

Lewis must have been doubly grieved at Elizabeth’s death, leaving him a family of six children whose ages ranged from 4–18 years.  Aged about 54, he would have yearned for a companion and housekeeper above all else, and on 31 January 1603/4 he married Mary Mounder, of whose back-ground nothing is known.  Although his business affairs were apparently far from satisfactory he retained his position as one of the ruling Tiverton families.  The first surviving borough court roll after the death of Robert Loosemore, starting on 2 October 1595, names Ludovicus Lousmore as a member of the court along with such well-known merchants as George Slee, Thomas Sellake, and John son of Thomas Deyman.  Lewis was re-appointed the following April after which the record is deficient until October 1605, when Lewis is named first among court members; his last recorded appointment was for the half-year commencing 22 October 1607.  We may believe with reasonable confidence that he attended regularly as a member of the court for the whole period from 1586, as his father and older brothers had done for 42 years before him.

By this time Lewis’s dependent family had been reduced by marriage to three children: Elizabeth, now 15 years old, Nicholas 13, and Margaret the youngest who was 9.  Their father, now approaching 60, seems to have attempted to make provision for them by purchasing from Ralph Waldron a group of houses with gardens and 4 acres of land.  More details of the transaction are considered in the section on his business activities but the upshot was that when Lewis died in 1612 (he was buried on 13 September) he was effectively bankrupt.  George, his eldest son and sole executor, had the unenviable task of paying his debts.  Yet it would be an excessively harsh judgement to dismiss Lewis as simply improvident or incompetent.  We may reasonably give him the benefit of any doubt and plead extenuating circumstances on his behalf for his unfortunate condition.  There are good reasons for such a judgement for, as we have seen, in 1598 and again in 1612, the year of his death, Tiverton was utterly devastated by two disastrous fires.

Contemporary accounts of these conflagrations leave one in no doubt of their severity.  The first, which occurred on Monday 3 April 1598, coincided with the weekly market.  We are told that

…all the cloth in the market, wares in their shops, goods and household stuff, money, plate, apparell, and bedding, yea all was burnt and nothing saved…400 houses burnt … most of them belonging to the wealthiest men in the towne, with all the goods that were in them…

Fourteen years later an even greater fire devoured the town, on 5 August 1612.  On that occasion an eyewitness tells how the fire

…unresistedly foraged divers other streets, being the seats and dwelling places of many wealthy householders, as of St. Peter’s Street, beautified with many costly and comely buildings, Bampton St., Barrington St., St. Andrew St., …the capitall graces of this now decayed towne… [38]

Remembering that Lewis Loosemore lived in St. Andrew Street we may offer our silent sympathies at this final misfortune to a man who had not the easiest of lives as the youngest of three sons of a notably successful father.

Lewis Loosemore’s children

To round off this account of George Loosemore’s family we look briefly at his youngest son Lewis’s two sons: George jnr., by his first wife Margaret, and Robert, by his second wife Elizabeth.

George jnr. married first Elizabeth Hankins on 26 September 1609.  She died in childbirth of their first child, baptized Margaret; mother and daughter were buried on 19 February 1609/10, only five months after the marriage.  It was by no means uncommon at that time for the first child of a marriage to be conceived outside wedlock.  Betrothal conferred almost all the connubial privileges on a couple, especially since proof of a woman’s fertility was often regarded as a necessary pre-requisite for a formal union.  A year later, on 30 January 1610/11, George jnr. re-married, this time to Katherine Bryant, but his second marriage was even less fruitful than was the first.  Katherine was buried on 8 June 1616 without having produced an heir and six months later, on 28 January 1616/17 George jnr., now approaching 40 years old, took for his third wife Pauline Chilcott.  She bore him two sons and a daughter: George, baptized on 14 June 1619, Susan, baptized on 4 February 1624/5 and Lewes, born in 1621 whose short life lasted only two months from the end of May (he was baptized on the 27th) to the end of July (buried on 29th).

Lewis Loosemore’s other son, Robert, married Jone Wate on 6 July 1614 and over the next fifteen years we have knowledge of six children, four sons and two daughters.  Once again we are confronted by that distressingly high infant mortality which was to colour the value of a human life for the next 300 years.  Their first-born, Lewes, died while a young boy of five years; a second boy, also Lewes, succumbed after less than a year.  A third son, Roger, died in May 1628 (his baptismal date is not recorded).  The survivors, so far as is known, were George, baptized on 29 December 1618, together with Johan and Elizabeth, baptized on 19 February 1621/22 and 6 September 1629.  It is ironic that both of Lewis’s surviving grandsons, one from each of two marriages, were named George (distinguishing their progeny will not be easy) after their clothier ancestor, while neither of the elder sons of the original George produced any son to continue the line.

The 1641 Protestation return for Tiverton parish (the oath was actually taken at the end of February 1641/2) lists three George Loosemores, with no explanatory comment. [39]   It is an unusually valuable listing because of its completeness as a population survey.  The oath of allegiance to the Protestant faith, taken in the presence of parish priests who could be expected to know their parishioners personally, was considered to be of such fundamental importance that absenteeism would have been minimal.  We learn from it that Lewis Loosemore’s son George, now 65 years old, together with his son George, and George the son of Lewis’s half-brother Robert, were still then alive.

No attempt has been made to follow the fortunes of the two Georges, grandsons of Lewis, and at this point we take leave of the direct descendants of George Losemore, clothier of Tiverton.

Other Tiverton Loosemores

Reference has already been made to several very early Loosemores and to Henry Loosemore.  Continuing our trawl for 16th century kinsmen, whose relation to each other is not always clear, we note that on 27 June 1579 Jone Losmore married Philip Thomas.  This Jone was probably born c1555, before the existing parish register was started.  Next is another John Loosemore, though we know little about him.  On 26 November 1580 he married Maude Cortis (Curtis?) but the marriage was short-lived: Maude was buried on 18 June 1582, possibly in childbirth though the register of baptisms makes no mention of a child.  John evidently craved a family for within four months, on 15 October of the same year, he took for his second wife Katherine Horrwaye.  Of their life together we know only that two of their children died young: a daughter, Christian, was buried on 18 December 1583 and a son, Thomas, on 22 April 1587.

Considerable speculative interest surrounds this John Loosemore for it is tempting to identify him with a ‘John Loosmore of Tiverton, mariner’ who in January 1597 was interviewed at Poole by two emissaries of the Queen and sent off to London, there to recount his experiences to officers of Secretary of State William Cecil.  The background to his story affords so fascinating an insight into Elizabethan naval conflict that it is worth more detailed examination, see later in this chapter.

Loosemore of Halberton

To complete our survey of early Tiverton Loosemores it is convenient to mention here a small group from the adjacent parish of Halberton.  Information is extremely sparse.

The first reference occurs in the parish returns for the 1524 Lay Subsidy, when John Lowsmore was assessed on annual wages or goods worth £1.  He seems to have prospered modestly, for some time between 1544 and 1553 he was appointed with Peter Pasemore to be a churchwarden of the parish.  This was a position of considerable power, for the churchwardens were responsible not only for the finances of the church but also, to a large extent, for the whole parish.  For example, no labourer could work in any other parish unless he obtained a ‘discharge’ from the churchwardens undertaking to have him back again if he should become a charge on the other parish. [40]   At least his appointment suggests that John had shown himself worthy of respect among his fellow parishioners.

In their joint capacity as churchwardens John Lowsmore and Peter Pasemore became involved in upheavals arising out of the aftermath of the Reformation and were obliged to engage in the eternal Tudor occupation of litigation, in two separate Chancery suits.  In the first, against John Weare and five others, they alleged fraud in the casting of bells for the church, the defendants having been elected by all the parishioners to look after the bells and other church ornaments.  In the second, they laid a complaint against Christopher Sampford, bailiff of Halberton hundred, that he seized jewels the property of the church under the pretence of a royal commission. [41]

John Lowsmore showed a less admirable side of his character on 12 August 1547.  According to a bill of complaint laid in the court of Star Chamber by Thomas Rede of Venn in the neighbouring Uplowman parish a group of up to 20 riotous persons including John Losemore, by commandment of Johan Marwood, widow, armed with ‘swords, bucklers, daggars, staves, bowes, arrowes, bills and pikes…brake and entered into a field’ where Thomas and his wife Mabell were working ‘in Goddes pece’, carrying off 120 stooks of wheat to the Marwoods’ house ½ mile away in Halberton.  The defendants’ written answer is lost, but in spite of the prima facie case made by the complainant one somehow feels that Thomas Rede’s account left much unsaid. [42]

Some 20 years later, in the 1569 Muster Roll, we find John and Edward Losemor [sic] among the list of archers resident in the parish, perhaps sons of the earlier John.  This Edward may be he who laid a complaint in Chancery on 30 October 1585 against William Jones, an attorney at law, in a suit which seems not to have progressed further. [43]   And that is all; there are no further mentions.

Family: Conclusions

It would be satisfying to propose a scheme showing convincing links between all these Tiverton and Halberton Loosemores, but in truth it cannot be done.  Loss of the early Thomas’s will of 1548 makes it unlikely that definite evidence will now emerge concerning the very early family members.  Perhaps one may assume that this Thomas, born about 1475, was the father of George snr., the clothier.  It may also be that the earliest John, he of the 1494 court roll, was a brother of Thomas.  This family possibly included Henry who died in 1580 and his (?) son Henry the father of Jane who was baptized in 1584/5, together with Jone who married in 1579 and John who married twice, in 1580 and 1582.

This is speculation and we leave it there.  In the following section we look in more detail at the business careers and activities of George Losemore, clothier, and his sons George, Robert and Lewis.

Business and Official Activities

In this section we shall examine the family’s business affairs rather than its personal relationships, though such a distinction must always be arbitrary and will inevitably lead to overlaps with the preceding sections.  At a distance of nearly 450 years there can be little hope of a fully connected narrative since in the absence of family papers the main sources of information will be occasional mentions in official documents.  Considerable imagination would be required to put flesh on these bare bones, with a consequent danger of creating largely fictitious characters.  Better, therefore, to resist the temptation and leave it to the reader to embellish the story to his, or her, taste.

George Losemore snr.

An early indication of the family’s financial position may be gained from the Tiverton parish returns for the great 1524 Lay Subsidy to Henry VIII, granted by the Commons at Wolsey’s insistence after prolonged argument.15  This source of revenue, which became all too familiar to the country under Henry and later Tudor monarchs, is in effect the 16th century forerunner of our modern income tax.  In 1524 it applied to everyone aged 16 years and over, assessments being based either on annual income from land (1s. in the £ in each of the years 1524 and 1525), or the capital value of goods (1s. in the £ for £20 and over, or 6d. in the £ for £2–£20); wages/goods under £2 formed a third category taxes at a fixed 4d.  Assessment of income from land was probably fairly accurate but the valuation of goods tended to be conservatively low, typically by a factor 3–4 except at the top end of the scale, and the term ‘goods’ was ill-defined.  Luckily the return for Devon is one of the most complete for any county and shows with reasonable accuracy that across the county 3·8% of taxpayers were assessed on goods valued at £6 while 76% were valued at £5 or less; 10% of taxpayers were said to be worth £10 or more.

Among 289 Tiverton people liable for tax appear the names of Thomas Losmore, assessed on goods worth £6, and John Lossemore assessed on wages of £1.  Thomas was a reasonably prosperous citizen, in the top ¼ of taxpayers, possessed of goods with a true value of perhaps £18–24.  John Lossemore on the other hand was a typical labourer, one of a group comprising 36% of those taxed but producing only 4% of the tax yield.  The only other mention of Thomas Losmore so far discovered occurs in the lay subsidy return for autumn 1544. [44]   It lists those assessed for the second payment of a subsidy granted by Parliament in 34 & 35 Hen VIII (1543), at a rate of 8d in the £ for goods valued at over £20, 4d on goods of £10–20, 2d on those of £5–10 and 1d on £1–5.  The 285 taxpayers in Tiverton included George Losemore assessed with 27 others at 13s.4d tax, Thomas rated at 3s.4d, and Henry Losemore a mere 3d.  The top two parishioners were assessed at 20s., followed by George Losemore’s group.  These sums correspond to goods valued at £20 (George), £10 (Thomas), and £3 (Henry).

George Losemore’s name appears in several other similar lay subsidy returns of this period.  In autumn 1540 and again in 1541 he was assessed at £20 on goods, but in 1545 the same name attracts a tax of only 3d, corresponding to an assessed value of £3 goods. [45]   The most likely explanation is that George snr. was away on business in London, and his eldest son George was therefore assessed instead.  In the Ipm taken in October 1562 after the death of George snr., his second son Robert was said to be 34 years old, suggesting that had George jnr. survived he would then have been about 36, i.e. born c1526.  In 1545 he would have been 19-20, beginning his business career as eldest son and heir.

A return based on an assessment in January 1549/50 is more informative.  It concerns the payment of a subsidy on goods only, granted in 2–3 Edw VI (1549), limited to those people possessed of goods with a minimum value of £10.45   A fixed rate of 1s. in the £ was imposed, payable by 20 April 1550.  In Tiverton parish 63 payers are listed together with their occupations, roughly in descending order of assessment.  George Losemore, clothier, is sixth in the order although his assessment, 26s.8d corresponding to a valuation of £26.13s.4d, is the third highest.  It is an interesting social commentary that four of the first five entries are described as ‘gentlemen’ although three of them are assessed at £20 or less.  Their status as gentlemen was considered sufficiently important by the assessors to justify placing them first in the listing even though their income was inferior to that of the most wealthy merchants.  The two highest assessments are for £40 and £30; 13 of the top 20 payers are described either as gentlemen or clothiers, all rated at £17 or more.  The return provides convincing evidence of Tiverton’s prosperity and the great importance of the trade in cloth, even though John Greenway, richest of the early clothiers, had died in 1529 and Peter Blundell, greatest of them all, had yet to start his career.

Thomas and Henry Losemore remain shadowy figures, as does John, and there is nothing to add to our conclusions in the last section regarding them.  George, too young to be included in the 1524 subsidy return, was by now well established in his business career, one of the top-rated men in his parish.  We can discern other signs of his business success, quite apart from his substantial property deals which will be examined in the next section.  He was evidently not afraid to engage in litigation with wealthy merchants.  At some time between 1538 and 1544 he laid a bill of complaint against John Skinner for the latter’s refusal to complete a conveyance concerning 20 acres of land, woods and pasture in the neighbouring parish of Cheriton Fitzpaine.  Skinner had been assessed in 1524 on goods valued at £66.13s.4d, the third highest in Tiverton after John Greenway and William Sellake.  The bill manuscript is very faded and difficult to read, even under ultraviolet light, but apparently George was aggrieved at being thwarted in an attempt to purchase property. [46]

Official recognition of his business success came when in 1551 and 1552 he was appointed one of the two High Collectors in the Hundreds of South Molton and Witheridge for the Devon lay subsidies of those years.  The appointments referred to the collection of the 3rd and 4th payments of a subsidy granted by Parliament in 3 Edw VI (1549) at a rate of 1s. in the £.  They illustrate the special responsibilities for administering the country accepted in the 16th century by middle classes and minor gentry, in the absence of a professional civil service.45    Parliament decided the rate and scope of each subsidy, or ‘relief’, and appointed about 50 commissioners in each county with overall responsibility for assessment and collection of the tax.  Commissioners usually organized themselves into groups of 3 or 4, each group being responsible for a similar number of Hundreds.  They prepared lists showing the assessment for each person liable for tax and appointed petty collectors who were empowered to receive the monies.  They also appointed High Collectors, usually two for each group of Hundreds, who fulfilled a special rôle.  Before receiving money from the petty collectors they were required to enter into a personal bond to pay to the king the full amount calculated by the commissioners, by the date specified in the appropriate parliamentary statute.  Their responsibility was then to ensure that the actual sums delivered to them were sufficient to cover their personal obligation to the Crown—or to make good any shortfall from their own resources.  Finally, they were required to deliver all the monies personally to the Exchequer, when their bond would be declared null and void.  High Collectors must have lands producing a minimum annual income of £10 or goods to the minimum value of 100 marks (£66.13s.4d); usually these minima were exceeded.  It is clear that they must have been determined men, thoroughly numerate, accustomed to handling large sums of money, with the experience and resources to transport it over long distances to London under difficult conditions.  ‘George Losemore, clothier’, and his colleague Matthew Grabys ‘of South Molton, yeoman’, were responsible in 1551 for £131.9s.8d, a substantial sum in Tudor times, being allowed 2d in the £ between them for their pains.

George Losemore’s selection for the Hundreds of South Molton and Witheridge is itself revealing.  There would be obvious benefits if the High Collectors had local knowledge of the districts for which they were responsible.  Matthew Grabys had clear qualifications for South Molton, suggesting that George may have been linked in a similar way with Witheridge Hundred.  That Hundred contains many of the parishes in which contemporary evidence of Loosemore settlements has been uncovered, including especially Oakford, Creacombe and Rose Ash.  The implication that his family came from that neighbourhood is very attractive, but circumstantial evidence is rarely conclusive.  Direct evidence to support this hypothesis is lacking.

George must by now have been recognised as a substantial merchant who was accustomed to travel to and from London.  Such men were useful to the government as official couriers—they were the Tudor equivalent of our registered post—and George was employed in that capacity.  As an example, he is recorded as having delivered to the Court of Wards and Liveries in London on 3 November 1552 an Ipm on the estate of Sir Peter Courtenay taken at Exeter the previous 6 October. [47]   It may well be that a detailed search among other official Devon documents would reveal other examples.

We have no direct knowledge of the way George Losemore organized his business for the production of woollen cloth.  It may be assumed that he operated in much the same way as did other clothiers, buying wool off the fleece and acting as co-ordinator and director of craftsmen who worked in their own cottages or in village co-operatives.  He must have instituted careful inspection procedures for, as we have seen, increasingly stringent minimum standards of quality were being placed on manufacturers by statute.  But the critical step in the entire operation was to market the finished product.  He would have had three options: cloth could be sold locally in the weekly market at Tiverton; it could be exported by sea, probably through Exeter and its port, Topsham; it could be despatched by packhorse train and sold at one of the big regional markets like Cirencester or, more likely, at Blackwell Hall in London.

The importance of the Tiverton cloth market has been mentioned earlier in this chapter and it may be supposed that most Tiverton-based clothiers, including George Losemore, sold some of their wares there, especially in the early stages of their careers.  All legally recognized markets were licensed in order that merchandise could be inspected by accredited ‘searchers’ who were empowered to impose fines, but no records for Tiverton have been found.  It is more than likely that they were lost in the great fires of 1598 and 1612 when most of the town was destroyed, and there is little prospect of retrieving any details of the market’s operation.

Information on the export of cloth by ship from Exeter over this period can be extracted from detailed Customs Accounts sent annually to London, which have survived.  Some of the great clothiers, e.g. John Greenway of Tiverton and his contemporary John Lane of Cullompton regularly exported through Topsham, importing not only linen cloth from Brittany but also wine, fish, salt, honey and dyestuffs such as woad.  John Parsmore, whom we shall meet as Passemore in the next section when examining Robert Loosemore’s litigation over a ½ share in eight messuages and gardens in Tiverton, was another merchant who exported goods through Exeter and Topsham in 1541–2.  As far as can be ascertained from a search which may not be fully comprehensive, George Losemore did not participate in this trade, though more work is necessary before reaching a definite conclusion. [48]

On the other hand, definite evidence has come to light confirming his trading through Blackwell Hall market in London.  As a result of the cloth-making statutes of 1551 and 1557 already discussed, officials were appointed to conduct random inspection of merchandise offered for sale and to impose fines for any violation, according to a scale laid down in those statutes.  By a happy circumstance the Mayor and Corporation of London claimed half the money collected in this way within the City limits and hence accurate records became necessary of clothiers who were fined.  Detailed lists were enrolled in the Exchequer giving the name of each clothier together with his town of origin, the type of cloth examined, the nature of his violation and the amount of any fine.  An incomplete though extensive series of these lists is still extant for the period 1550–1584, among the very bulky Kings Remembrancer memoranda rolls. [49]   The series does not extend back to George Losemore’s early activities, before the first regulating statute, but over the period covered he incurred fines as follows:

  21 February 1550–1    1 Devonshire dozen shrunk in length 20s.
    6 July 1555  1 white kersey lacking weight  20s.
  25 February 1555–6    1 marble kersey lacking weight  20s.
  28 March 1556  1 white dozen lacking weight  20s.
  26 June 1557  1 white kersey lacking weight  20s.

Evidently his son Robert carried on the business after his father’s death because he was fined 20s. jointly with John Spurway on 3 November 1561 on account of ‘1 western kersey lacking [weight?]’.

There are no other Losemore references up to 27 November 1577; so far later lists have not been examined.  Many other Tiverton clothiers figure in the lists, e.g. John West on 27 April 1552; John Prowse on 19 October 1555; John Aprice, father-in-law of George Losemore jnr., on 28 September 1550.  Apparently George Losemore—either father or son for they cannot be distinguished here—was no more frequent an offender than were others from his home town.  If we may assume that the frequency of fines reflects the scale of his operations then the years 1555–1557 represent a peak, though not much weight can be given to so small a sample.  It must also be remembered that an unknown number of cloths sold in London were never displayed at Blackwell Hall, the City’s legal market, but instead were sold through informal contacts made at inns, or through running contracts between London merchants and provincial clothiers.

The lists provide no information on the number of cloths offered for sale by a clothier each week, for searchers restricted their examination to one cloth only and were not empowered to reject an entire batch on the strength of a single faulty sample.  In 1561–2 the market was held on Mondays, though either the clerks or searchers made many errors in recording the dates of fines; in 1554 by far the most frequently noted dates were Saturdays.  A more extensive analysis would no doubt resolve this ambiguity and reveal more details about the way the market was conducted.

Taken together, the isolated facts so far outlined above indicate clearly enough that George Losemore sent, or brought, cloth for sale in London more or less regularly from 1550 onwards.  He may have started as far back as the early 1540s for, as we shall see in the next section, he was able to purchase a large estate in 1545.  The identity of name between George and his eldest son makes it impossible to deduce when the younger man was adjudged by his father to be sufficiently experienced to act on his own behalf at the market.  That he had done so by the late 1550s seems certain, for in his will the younger George instructed that ‘all the charges of my sickness here in London shall be borne of mine owne goods’ and we may safely assume that his presence there was not just a pleasure jaunt.  His untimely death when still only about 34 years old must have been a serious blow to the family’s prospects for as his father’s heir he would by then have been an active partner, preparing to take over the expanding business.

In this context the occasion of the last fine, in November 1561, is specially interesting, for it was imposed on a market day only 12 days before George snr. died at Tiverton.  With the death of George the eldest son and heir just a year earlier, and his father now ill, Robert the second son must have been thrust into the business while comparatively inexperienced.  It was probably for this reason that he joined forces with another Tiverton clothier, John Spurway, who was more familiar with the ways of the market.  Spurway was certainly no stranger to Blackwell Hall for he was fined 20s. on his own account the following 9 March.

George Losemore, gentleman, died in Tiverton on 15 November 1561; probate of his will, drawn up the previous day, was granted to Margaret his widow on 7 February 1561/2.21  His major legacies in ready money totalled a sizeable £570 but we have no information regarding the residue of his estate apart from the properties he owned, of which he bequeathed the most important to Margaret.  In view of his position as a tenant-in-chief of the Crown the customary writ ‘de diem clausit extremum’ (‘he has closed his last day’) was issued on 30 January after his death, ordering a post mortem enquiry (Ipm) to establish the details of his holdings.  The writ also instructed the excheator to ‘take in hand all the lands and tenements of which the said George was seized…without delay and cause them to be kept safely…’.  In other words, until title to the estate had been proved and the legal heirs had sued their livery (paid the necessary fine) those lands became the property of the Crown, who retained all rents, profits, etc, from them.  The enquiry was held at Exeter castle on 24 October 1562 before Robert Prideaux, excheator for Devon, on the oaths of 16 men who would have been selected for their personal knowledge of the deceased man.  It was delivered into the Court of Wards and Liveries on
3 November and Robert the eldest surviving son received permission to enter on his lands, after payment of various fees, on 6 February 1562/3. [50]

Robert Losemore

Robert continued the family business, for he was described as a clothier in two property deals recorded in deeds dated 10 July 1566 and 31 July 1571, as we shall see in the next section.  Very little else has come to light concerning his business life.  In 1573 he was co-trustee with a number of other substantial citizens including Thomas Deyman, Edward and John Prowse the elder, John and Robert Waldron the elder, and John Hyncley the elder in a property settlement on Robert, Thomas and Elizabeth the children of John Prowse.  The deed is dated 10 August 1573 and the property comprised 2 messuages or tenements, 2 gardens and 2 acres of meadow in Lynton parish. [51]   Some time between 1563 and 1579 he was forced to indulge in the expensive but standard pastime of litigation, against Denys Passemore and others, to establish his title to a ½ share in 8 messuages in Tiverton (see later).

In 1569 his financial and social status was highlighted when he was appointed a presenter for Tiverton parish in the muster taken in June of that year. [52]   Under Elizabeth there was no real worry regarding internal social disorders, but her active encouragement of an aggressive policy of exploration and commercial enterprise brought the country into sharp competition with Spain, Portugal, and other expansionist nations.  Precautions were therefore necessary to ensure adequate standards of home defence.  In July 1557, a year before her accession, Parliament had enacted that all Englishmen between the ages of 16 and 60 should provide themselves with armour and weapons on a scale dependent on the value of their estates, based either on income from lands or the capital value of their goods. [53]   Twelve years later the muster, little more than a display and inspection of men and equipment, was ordered to be held throughout the country.  It was to be organized under the general jurisdiction of the Lord Lieutenant of each county; a certificate, the Muster Roll, reported the result.  For each parish sworn presenters chosen from the wealthier parishioners certified the truth of the information in the Roll.  In Tiverton these were eight in number, their personal armour and weapons as listed corresponding to annual incomes from land of £20–40.  For example, Robert Lousmore (sic) provided one corselet and two murrions, both worn by pikemen. one pike, one harquebus, one bow, one sheaf of arrows and one steel cap of a type worn by archers. [54]

Margaret Loosmore, Robert’s step-mother, whose income from land was said to be in the range £5–10, provided one almain rivet, one bow, one sheaf of arrows, one steel cap, and one bill.54  Henry Loosmore, jointly with John Snowe worth goods to the value of £20–40, contributed one almain rivet, two bows, two sheaves of arrows, two steel caps, and one bill.  Margaret at this time owned a life interest in Templeton manor, stated in George’s Ipm to be worth £8/year though at the purchase price in 1545 equivalent to 20 years income it was then reckoned to bring in £24/year.  Apparently land was undervalued in the Muster as it was in the Ipm.

In 1578 Robert is described as ‘gentleman’, not clothier, in a deed regulating the sale of his lands in Cullompton to William Bowman (see later).  Then in a deed dated 13 September 1581 he is appointed an attorney, in the sale for £18 by Anthony Pearse of Tiverton, draper, to Robert Gannys, cordwainer, of a tenement and garden called The Pitt immediately north of his own lands in St. Andrew Street. [55]   It is not clear whether this signifies that by 1581, at the age of 50, he had ceased trading as a clothier and become instead a lawyer.  It may be no more than a social convention that he is described as a gentleman, acknowledging his respectability and social position, but it is worth remembering that his brother-in-law William Peryam was rapidly advancing his career at the bar; he was appointed a judge of the Common Pleas in February 1581.  Just possibly, Robert, recognising his lack of flair in the demanding cloth trade, decided to take up the less stressful life of a lawyer.

As we have seen, ‘Mr Robert Loosmore’ was buried in St. Peter’s church, Tiverton on 25 March 1586, aged 57 or 58.  His will was lost in the 1942 Exeter air-raid.

Lewis Losemore

A large age gap separated Robert and his younger brother Lewis, who was probably only 16 or 17 in 1569, for his name does not appear in the Muster Roll for that year  As we have argued earlier, he may have been only a half-brother, the two eldest sons of George Losemore being issue of a previous marriage.  Information about Lewis’s business activities is almost completely lacking, but overall he was not successful financially.

In 1575, by a deed dated 18 September, he was appointed by John Waldron, the guardian of a bequest made by Walter Tyrell made in 1568, to be one of ten trustees charged with distributing an annuity of £10.8s. among six needy poor of Tiverton at the very modest rate of 8d/week each. [56]   When selling his inherited property in Bishops Tawton to Robert Prowse in 1577 he was described as a clothier, so he continued in the same trade as his father and elder brother.  Some time before 1579, and probably after his marriage in 1573, he was the complainant in a Chancery lawsuit brought against Thomas Gover, clothier, involving money owed him by Thomas and his brother Robert Gover.  Robert was said to be a ‘factor in the City of London’ acting for his brother and the case illustrates not only Lewis’s lack of business experience but also the power exercised by the factors of Blackwell Hall in demanding long lines of credit from provincial clothiers.  The sum involved, £13.10s., is surprisingly small to warrant incurring legal fees, but Lewis was evidently frustrated by his inability to recover the money owed him, even after threatening to have Robert Gover arrested. [57]   Yet one is left wondering whether the middle classes in Tudor England regarded litigation, with all its inevitable expense, as some kind of certificate of social status, for so often there seems little other justification.  Lewis’s only other known official business took place on 22 March 1596 when he assisted in taking an inventory of the possessions of Nicholas Mercer, the parson of Pitt Quarter in Tiverton parish. [58]

The most revealing insight into Lewis’s business success, or lack of it, is provided by his eldest son, also named George, who was baptized at Tiverton on 7 August 1577.  In yet another Chancery lawsuit, the unfortunate George laid a bill of complaint dated 20 November 1619 against his younger half-sister Margaret, arising out of an unsavoury family quarrel.  Lewis their father had bought certain messuages with their gardens and 4 acres of land just outside Tiverton from Ralfe Waldron on 24 October 1607, and then by two deeds dated 17 and 19 March 1607/8 had demised the property to his son and heir George for 99 years commencing on his own (Lewis’s) death and then for 100 years to his younger children Nicholas and Margaret by a second marriage, commencing on the death of George.  These two children were baptized on 13 October 1594 and 19 March 1598/9 respectively.  The bill goes on

…and after he the said Lewis being greatly indebted made his last will and testament in writing…devised legacies…to Nicholas £10 to Margaret £10 and shortly after Lewis died [his will dated 1612 was lost in 1942] …and Nicholas and Margaret well knowing that the debts and legacies of…their father did far exceed the means that [he] had left to pay and discharge… [59]

In fact, Lewis died bankrupt, leaving George his eldest son and heir, and sole executor, to pay off his debts.  George must have tried for many years to resolve his financial problems without success until finally, and unhappily, he entered into written agreements dated 1 October 1617 with Nicholas and Margaret.  The effect of these agreements was that George would allow them one messuage each if they would renounce all further claims on their father’s estate.  George would then sell the remaining properties to pay off Lewis’s debts.  This they agreed to do.  However Margaret, presumably advised by a lawyer or prospective husband, reneged on the agreement on the grounds of its invalidity, she being a minor (under 21) at the time.  Her case in law was strong.  George was therefore left with properties he must not sell, leaving him unable to discharge the burden placed on him as the result of his father’s misfortune.

This is as far as we can go at present.  George Losemore’s grandchildren and their families, in reduced circumstances, drop out of the record.

Property: Acquisitions and Sales

In this section we shall look at the properties owned by George Losemore and his sons.  To some extent any such account must tend to become a mere catalogue of surviving official documents recording the various transactions but we shall attempt to add some variety by examining, for example, some general aspects of the Crown’s dealings with its subjects in the sale of monastic lands.  We shall also look briefly at the early history of some properties purchased by the elder George.

Estate of George Losemore snr.

It has already been suggested that George may have been a son of Thomas Losmore, although Thomas’s will, which received a grant of probate in 1548, was among those many Loosemore wills lost in the so-called Baedecker air-raid on Exeter in May 1942.  The question of his relationship to George is not now likely to be resolved with any certainty.  Thomas was one of twenty people listed in the 1524 Devon lay subsidy return15 whose goods were assessed at £6.  As an indication of his relative position in the parish, 21 payers were assessed at more than £10, of whom John Greenway (£150), William Sellake (£100) and John Skinner (£66.13s.4d) were the only three assessed at more that £40.  Thomas Losmore was among the top 21% of payers; only 19 (6½%) were assessed at more than double his rating.  If our assumption regarding George’s antecedents is correct he came from a relatively comfortable background.

Interestingly, no more than seven people were assessed on land and of these only one, John Spurway, £12, was assessed at more than £7.  Almost certainly this reflects the fact that the Courtenay family owned most of the land in and around Tiverton.  It is probable that Spurway’s valuation referred to property in Oakford parish, although he was resident at the time in Tiverton.

Nothing is known of any property inherited by George Losemore snr. from Thomas his hypothetical father.  We shall see that nothing remains unaccounted for in the Ipm taken after George’s death in November 1561, while sales made by him during his life relate to his own earlier purchases.  We may therefore be fairly certain that all his property was acquired out of his business profits as a clothier.  The extent of his estate at his death is known accurately from the Ipm; additional details of his major purchases can be obtained from other official records.

I.     His first known purchase was almost his largest.  On 10 July 1545 he, with his wife Margaret and John Strangman, were granted the lordship and manor of Templeton in Witheridge hundred together with the advowson of its church, following his application to purchase dated 8 June of that year.  The grant also included various lands in Dorset, Notts., Denbigh, Merioneth and Carnarvon. [60]   Templeton manor comprised 30 messuages with their gardens, 50 acres of land, 100 acres of meadow, 200 acres pasture, 100 acres woodland, 600 acres furze and heath, together with a total annual rent income of 66s.8d.  Like many other provincial gentlemen who bought ecclesiastical estates which had fallen to the Crown following the break with Rome, George Losemore paid the full market price—an estimated 20 year’s income—as well as incurring onerous obligations, as we shall see.  Templeton cost him £432.10s.10d, plus £5.3s.4d for 86 acres of woods there; the remaining properties at £146.15s.0d brought the total cost to £597.5s.10d, a very substantial sum in 1545.

Several features of the transaction are worth a closer examination.  Disposal of monastic lands was controlled by the Court of Augmentations, established in 1536 for that purpose.  The policy of the court was to grant away properties in blocks, effectively working through agents who, as a condition of acquiring attractive estates such as Templeton would also be required to accept less attractive parcels of land.  Bulk transfers of this kind led to administrative economies since the burden of disposing of small or remote estates was shifted to intermediaries.  No doubt it also enabled the court to dispose of remote properties quickly, at a higher price than would otherwise have been possible. The Crown would benefit still further by increasing the number of transactions as the result of any subsequent sales by intermediaries, each of which would attract a separate licence fee. [61]

George Losemore was clearly acting as an involuntary agent in the matter of his grant, for otherwise his purchase of lands in such remote localities as Denbigh, Merioneth and Carnarvon is inexplicable.  The manor of East Pulham, Dorset, ‘in fee’, i.e. freehold, was immediately re-sold to Thomas Mullen and his wife, while a messuage in Wellome (probably a scribal or transcription error for Wellow), Nottinghamshire, in the tenure of Richard Tee was similarly transferred to Richard Richardson of Clareborough. [62]   Information on the prices obtained is lost.  No doubt other documents now lost would show how he disposed of the remainder of the ‘foreign’ properties in his grant, for he owned none of them at his death.

John Strangman’s rôle in the original grant is probably a legal device evolved by George Losemore.  Strangman is described as ‘of Winterborne [St] Martin’ in Dorset, close to Abbotsbury, and it is possible that he subsequently purchased from his co-grantee the messuages in that parish in the tenure of John Hill, Richard Whitely, William Locke ‘and all other possessions there of Abottysbury manor’.  But since he relinquished all rights in the principal property, Templeton, the day after the grant ‘for a certain sum’ his participation served no useful purpose in relation to the grant.  One explanation is that a joint tenancy even for one day would have the effect of barring Margaret’s right to dower, i.e. to a life interest in 1/3 of her husband’s entire estate.  In compensation she gained, by his will, a life interest in the whole of Templeton manor and the house in Tiverton where she and George lived.  The stratagem would thus have avoided protracted legal arguments concerning the exact nature of her dower without causing her to lose any significant benefit.

A more far-reaching aspect of the grant concerns the obligation to knight’s service imposed as a condition of sale.  This relic from medieval times was originally an obligation to fight in the king’s army as a knight, or to pay a sizeable ‘relief’ to opt out.  It was retained by Henry VIII solely to generate another source of income.  The Act by which the Court of Augmentations was established provided that the Court, in granting out the abbeys and their lands, should reserve to the Crown a tenure-in-chief by knight’s service.  Any such tenure, on however small a part of a man’s estate, brought the whole of his lands within the royal grasp so far as livery and wardship were concerned.  Thus the heir to a tenancy by knight’s service, even if of full age (21 years), only succeeded to his legal inheritance upon paying a relief for it to his lord the king.  Further, he was required to sue out his livery, i.e. obtain a writ confirming his right to possession.  If he failed to do so he lost the income from the whole of his lands, not just that part covered by his tenure-in-chief, and was no longer able to dispose of them or endow his wife from them.  Suing the livery, if his total property was worth more than £20, involved payment of a fine equal to half a year’s value plus heavy fees and charges for legal work, payments to court officials, and payment of a relief at the rate of £5 per knight’s fee.

Matters were worse if the heir was a minor for then the Court had a right to all rents and profits from the entire estate in the intervening period until the heir attained his/her full age; meantime the heir became a ward of court.  The Crown could, and did, sell its right of wardship so that many a well-endowed young heiress was married by purchase of wardship.  Other benefits to the Crown included the right to licence for a fee any agreement made subsequently to alienate or sell any of the tenant’s lands.  The keystone of the entire procedure was an enquiry held upon the death of the king’s tenant: the Inquisition post mortem, Ipm.  This was the procedure employed to determine whether or not a tenancy-in-chief existed, and it was ordered at a person’s death whenever such a tenancy was known or its existence suspected.  Another special court, the Court of Wards and Liveries, was set up in 1540 to regulate and administer the scheme, which generated an income to the Crown of £7613 in 1547 rising to £29551 in 1561.  The court, universally detested, was finally abolished in 1661, after the restoration of the monarchy.  It was not for nothing that the obligation to knight’s service has been described as ‘such a curse to the families who had aquired monastic lands’. [63]

A brief look at the history of Templeton will serve to round off this account.  The Hundred Rolls of 3 Edw I (1274) record that ‘aforetimes’ it was a tithing in the hands of Regine de Reygni and Nicholas de Acastre (perhaps the same who witnessed the second Spurway deed with Peter de Losemore, noted in Chapter 3), owing normal fealty to the Crown.  Then the Knights Templar brought a writ superseding them, obtaining its benefit by default, whence the name Templeton.  After the dissolution of the Templars in 1311 the manor was granted to the Master of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, who in turn were suppressed in 1540.  Their lands became forfeit to the Crown, with what result we have seen. [64]

In the interim period the manor had long been regarded as part of Witheridge parish, though a service was performed occasionally in St. Margaret’s chapel at Templeton by the Rector of Witheridge or his deputy.  The date when it obtained distinct parochial rights is not known.  An example of George Losemore’s exercise of his rights as lord of the manor and owner of the advowson of its church is to be found in a list of the Rectors of Templeton.  The second entry reads: ‘John Rede, adm[itted] 21 July 1554, certo modo vacantem…pat[ron] George Lowsemore of Tiverton, clothier’.  This was the only occasion on which he was able to present the Rector, for the post did not again become vacant until well after his death. [65]   And there for the present we may leave Templeton.

II.    George’s second purchase of known date is easily summarised.  In 1547 he acquired from James Bable ‘one messuage with 3 acres of land and 8 acres meadow’ in the Tidcombe quarter of Tiverton, which he was to make his home until his death.  Tiverton, a very large parish, was at that time divided into four ecclesiastical regions, of which Tidcombe encompassed the eastern side of the town and parish, on both sides of the Loman river.  The deed regulating the purchase is lost but the Fine is dated 7 October in that year so the transaction would have been completed a few months earlier. [66]   George willed it and Templeton manor to Margaret his wife during her life, with remainder to his eldest surviving son Robert.

Reference will be made on a number of occasions to the term ‘Fine’ in connection with land conveyancing.  This should not be confused with a ‘fine’, a general term meaning, for example, a payment to a lord of a manor or an entry payment for renewal of a lease.  A ‘Finalis concordia’ or final concord (‘Fine’) was the last stage in an extraordinary legal fiction designed to invoke the authority of the courts in establishing the validity of a land transfer without the need to pay a licence to the Crown.  The complete procedure became fixed as early as 1195, remaining unaltered until its abolition in 1833.  In essence, an intending purchaser would initiate a legal action alleging that the vendor had broken an agreement to the transaction.  Once the complaint had been accepted by the court the vendor would change his mind and confirm his acceptance of the contract, but since the court had by now taken notice of the case the due processes of law must be followed, and the court would record details of this final concord between the parties, the ‘Fine’, thus giving legal authority to the deed of sale.  The complex background to this legal fiction has been discussed elsewhere. [67]

III.   Five years passed before George Losemore purchased his next recorded property.  In 1552 he acquired from Thomas Warren, a fellow clothier from Cullompton, the tenancy-in-chief of a small group of lands in South Molton, Newport and Bishops Tawton, for the sum of £173.10s. [68]   Newport was originally part of Bishops Tawton parish but was incorporated with Barnstaple in 1885; South Molton parish is a few miles to the east.  No details are given of the overall extent of the properties—this would have been the subject of other deeds now lost—but the size of the Newport/Bishops Tawton component can be inferred by reference to George Losemore’s will and Ipm.  The surviving deed refers to a sub-lease of the Newport messuage granted by Warren to Thomas Thorne ‘for three lives’, which George agreed to honour.  His will makes mention of ‘one tenement called Thornes place’ which he bequeathed to his youngest son Lewis while his Ipm describes it in greater detail as ‘one tenement, two gardens, 12 acres of land in Newport within Bishops Tawton parish, held of Francis earl of Bedford as of his manor of Bishops Tawton, by fealty’.

Apparently the property in South Molton was sold before his death as the Ipm makes no reference to it; all details are now lost.  We may note in passing that Francis earl of Bedford was the second Russell earl, only son of John Russell, 1st earl, born about 1527.  Sir John Russell was the supreme military commander responsible for suppressing the 1549 uprising in Devon with such ruthless efficiency, as has already been mentioned.

IV.   The following year George Losemore acquired a second manor when, by a licence dated 20 June 1553 he was authorized to purchase from Richard More, gentleman, ‘the manor of Allerpeverell, their capital messuage called Peverstonberton and three closes of land in Allerpeverell’.  This substantial purchase was recorded in a Fine dated 7 October 1553 as comprising ‘26 messuages with their gardens, 6 cottages, 50 acres of land, 200ac meadow, 300ac pasture, 100ac woodland, 600ac furze and heath, and 40s. [annual] rent in Allerpeverell, Cullompton and Bradninch’. [69]   George’s Ipm describes this estate in exactly the same words.  If these details are accepted at their face value the total, amounting to 1250 acres, exceeds that of Templeton at 1050 acres, but they are rounded approximations, not the result of an accurate survey.  In the absence of any surviving regulating deed many details, including the purchase price, are now lost.  We shall see later that when George’s son and heir, Robert, sold all this property he separated from the manor of Allerpeverell ‘the tenement called Bulaller…another called Tye…another called Shutlake…a tenement or cottage called Shutelake…two tenements called Westcott…with common pasture on Mutterton moor and Kentysbeare moor’. [70]

All of these farms are marked on the current O.S. map of the district.  Peverstonberton or barton, the home farm of Allerpeverell manor, is now Peverstone Farm in Cullompton parish; Bulaller, now Bolealler House, Tye Farm, Shutelake and Westcott are all in the same parish.  Another Shutelake Farm on the parish border with Bradninch may explain the mention of that parish and the repeated reference to Shutlake/Shutelake.  Mutterton is a hamlet in Cullompton close to the Peverstone, Shutelake, Bolealler and Westcott group, while Kentis moor lies in the adjacent parish of Kentisbeare.  An annual rent of 40s. from all these lands seems rather low even by the standards of the 16th century and it is just possible that part of the property might have been attached to Allerpeverell manor while the rest represents an additional purchase of which no record remains.

Aller Peverell, to give it a modern spelling, had a chequered history.  According to Polwhele it was anciently the inheritance of the Peverell family of Sampford Peverell, through William Peverell who owned it temp. 8 Henn II (1162).  Sampford Peverell is now a parish some 4 miles east of Tiverton and about the same distance north of Cullompton and Aller Peverell.  Both manors, Sampford and Aller, were sold in 1380 to Sir William Ashthorp and Margaret his wife who held them in chief of the king, but in 1399 they were in the hands of trustees following the death of Ashthorp, now referred to as a mere chivaler and crisply described as ‘a bastard and died without heir’.  Thw two manors therefore escheated to the Crown, being granted by Henry IV in 1401 to his brother John Beaufort, earl of Somerset and a grandson of John of Gaunt. [71]

Somerset died in 1445, possibly by his own hand, unable to bear the disgrace of banishment from court after his violent objections at being passed over as Regent of France in favour of the duke of York.  Margaret his daughter and heiress, a baby of 2 years at her father’s death, became one of the most influential women of her time, mother of Henry VII and a benefactress of Cambridge and Oxford as ‘the lady Margaret’.  Cambridge in particular owes much to the founder of St. John’s and enricher of Christ’s colleges.  Aged 12 she was married at the behest of Henry VI to his half-brother Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond, as was mentioned in Chapter 3.  Richmond died late in 1456 and a son, afterwards Henry VII, was born to his widow, now 13, in January 1457.  Margaret Tudor married next Henry Stafford, son of the Lancastrian duke of Buckingham, who was executed after his father’s abortive coup against the Yorkist Edward IV at the battle of Tewkesbury.  Lord Stanley, Margaret’s third husband, was afterwards earl of Derby.  At the accession of Henry VII all Margaret’s titles and lands, confiscated by Richard III’s parliament, were restored to her, among them the manors of Sampford and Aller Peverell.

Henry VII and his mother Margaret, now countess of Richmond, both died in 1509 and although Archbishop Fisher was largely successful in protecting her extensive estates, already earmarked for her academic endowments, the Peverells apparently passed into the rapacious maw of Henry VIII.  He granted Aller Peverell to Henry Fitzroy, born in 1519, his natural son by Elizabeth Blount, along with many other estates.  At the tender age of 6 years Fitzroy was created earl of Nottingham, duke of Richmond and Somerset, not to mention becoming lord high admiral of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Gascony and Acquitaine in that year.  Such were the privileges of a royal bastard.  Sadly for him he died in July 1536 and his lands again reverted to the Crown.

On 1 November 1544 the Court of Augmentations granted William Goodwyn of Wrytell, Essex, a large parcel of lands and estates which included Aller Peverell, for a total sum of £1547.6s.0½d.  Goodwyn was obviously forced to act as an agent for the Court in the same way as we noticed with George Losemore and the Templeton grant, for eleven days later Aller Peverell was disposed of to Richard More, son of William More the occupier.  Finally, on 20 June 1553 Richard More received a licence from the Court of Wards and Liveries, at a cost of £6.2s.2¼d, to grant the manor to George Losemore and his heirs. [72]

George Losemore was now the master of over 2300 acres and well on the way to becoming a landed gentleman.  On 12 January 1557 he obtained a licence, costing a further £6.2s.2¼d, to grant Aller Peverell to his eldest son and heir George, but on 9 April of the same year another licence, costing yet another £6.2s.2¼d, was granted to transfer it instead to trustees to hold ‘to the uses specified in certain indentures dated 10 August 1556 between George the elder and his son’. [73]   These indentures, now lost, had the effect of assigning the property to the elder George for life, with remainder to the younger man and his heirs and to the right heirs of the elder George if the son were to die without issue.  This was common practice when arranging a marriage settlement on a son.  As we have seen, George the younger pre-deceased his father, when Aller Peverell descended to Robert, the eldest surviving son.  We shall consider its later story when looking at Robert’s property dealings.

V.    There are left a few smaller properties whose acquisition by George is less well documented.  The circumstances surrounding his purchase of a half share in ‘8 gardens and one acre meadow in the borough of Tiverton’ are recited in a bill of complaint laid by his son Robert before the Court of Chancery at a hearing on 27 May 1566. [74]   No dates are given on the pleading, as was customary in these early suits; the summary of court proceedings on that day merely records an order to take the answer of the defendants to the sworn complaint.  We learn that in the mid-15th century John Bounce owned the property as of fee, [i.e. freehold] which became the equally-shared inheritance of his three daughters and co-heiresses, Margaret, Johan and Elizabeth.  Johan died without issue and Margaret’s line was extinguished on the death without issue of her great-grandson Baldwyn Waye.  Elizabeth married William Lond, and her two daughters of the marriage, Johan and Alice, each became seised of a half-share in the property.  Johan’s son John Crendon sold his half share to George Losemore of Tiverton, father of Robert the complainant, probably about 1555.  Alice’s son John Skinner sold his half share to John Passemore, whose son Denys unaccountably sold both halves to a group of people five of whom are named in the bill.

Robert had issued several writs against the occupiers but not surprisingly failed to persuade them that he had title in law to half the property and that it should therefore be partitioned.  He was eventually forced into litigation to try and establish his claim but Chancery proceedings were notoriously protracted and it was not until two years later, on 25 May 1568, that the court dismissed Robert’s complaint, referring him to seek a remedy under the common law, i.e it admitted its incompetence to adjudicate.  Whether or not he pursued his complaint in the Court of Common Pleas remains uncertain.  Records of this court are vast and effectively not indexed.  To search the lists of suitors would involve very considerable labour and after an initial attempt the idea was abandoned.

VI.   Very little information has come to light regarding George’s tenement with 8 acres of land and 4 acres pasture in Farringdon parish, held of George Hunt as of the manor of Farringdon;  the parish lies 1½ miles or so east of Exeter.  Sir George Carew mortgaged the manor to Thomas Hunte of Exeter for £140 with an opportunity to re-purchase, by a deed dated 29 February 1540.  He probably did not exercise that right for we find Thomas Hunt, ‘citizen and draper of Exeter’, purchasing additional property in Farringdon from John Wodebury on 23 April 1541.  It seems very likely that Thomas and George Hunte were related, one perhaps being the heir of the other.  George Losemore evidently held a lease of part of the manor. [75]

VII. Reference in George’s Ipm to ‘lands and tenements in Tiverton called Pruston Lands’ in occupation of Thomas Deyman at an annual rent of 12s. is puzzling since although the Courtenays owned almost all the land in and around Tiverton this property was said not to be held of anyone.  The explanation may lie in the area west of the Exe which had been waste before being incorporated into the Tiverton built-up area early in the 16th century.  Harding, discussing charitable benefactions of the wealthy clothier John Greenway, refers to a property in Broad Lane ‘…situate between the lands of John Sadler on the west, and the heirs of Preston on the east…’.  A map of Tiverton dated 1791 shows Broad Lane running almost due west from West Exe Street, just west of the Exe. [76]   Bearing in mind the lack of a uniform spelling in the 16th century it may be that these Preston Lands were the Pruston Lands owned by George Losemore.  This property, together with that in Farringdon, were both willed by him to his youngest son Lewis.

Acquisitions by Robert Losemore

VIII George Losemore died, as we have seen, on 15 November 1561; within two months Robert, his eldest son and heir, signalled his intention to extend the family estates.  On 3 January 1561/2 the Court of Augmentations granted a licence to Sir Gawain Carewe, Sir John More and two others to alienate ‘lands in Deyhous, Overham, Neytherpitland, Overpytland and Willand, and the advowson of Wylland church’ to Robert Losemore.  Since the early 12th century Willand manor had been an endowment of Taunton priory, Somerset, one of many small monastic houses in the West Country whose lands had been forfeit to the Crown as an early consequence of Henry VIII’s assumption as supreme head of the English Protestant church.  It was granted in fee, i.e. freehold but with the usual feudal obligations to knight’s service, by the Court to Christopher Lytcote, his wife Katherine, and Edward Streitburg on 23 March 1545 as part of a larger parcel of lands, for a total payment of £850.18s. 11d, offering another example of the policy of granting out properties in bulk to agents. [77]   Lytecote was described as a gentleman pensioner, so Henry treated his servants well, for £850 was a large sum in those days.

The manor then came into the hands of Sir Thomas Moyle of Eastwell, Kent, one of the General Surveyors of the Augmentations who were empowered to sign grants on behalf of the Crown, and one time sheriff of Kent.  This transaction is not recorded in the Patent Rolls so it may be that he used his position to avoid paying a licence fee.  Whatever the explanation, in 1560 he bequeathed the manor to his eldest daughter Catherine, who brought it with her when she married Sir Thomas Fynche.  This unlicensed bequest was noticed by the authorities and Sir Thomas was required to purchase a pardon by paying a licence fee of £7. 3s. 1½d.  He and his wife in turn alienated the manor with advowson of the church together with other lands to Sir Gawain Carewe and two others on 10 May 1561.74  The manor then seems to have been split, for a week later Carewe and his partners alienated a small parcel of lands in Willand to one Nicholas Wadham.  When in 1577 Robert Losemore disposed of his purchase it was said to comprise one messuage with its garden, 20 acres of land, 6 acres meadow, and 24 acres pasture only, so it seems likely that at the sale in 1561 the manor was dismembered into a number of small parcels. [78]

Willand is a small parish contiguous on its south side with Cullompton, implying that Robert may have planned to consolidate his Aller Peverell inheritance.  The 1st edition O.S. 1 inch map shows Higher Pitt, Mid Pitt and Lower Pitt in a close grouping just to the north of Sampford Peverell so it is possible that the lands comprising this purchase were scattered around Willand.  Deyhous and Overham remain unidentified.

Robert had to wait until 6 February 1562/3 before he received permission from the Court of Wards and Liveries to enter upon his rightful inheritance following the Ipm on his father’s estate the previous October. 50   He would have been compelled to pay a substantial sum for the privilege, and one begins to see more clearly how the medieval device of knight’s service, exploited by Henry VIII to augment his income, imposed a heavy burden on families who held land in chief of the Crown.

IX, X.   Three years later Robert purchased from Richard Heucley or Hewkley a property in Tiverton comprising 1 messuage, 5 acres meadow and 80 acres pasture; the Fine is dated 21 January 1565/6.78   He obviously felt confident about his business prospects for on 10 July of the same year (1566) we find him entering into an agreement with Richard de Killond of Rackenford, gentleman, and Alice his wife, to purchase ‘a tenement called Cleyve in Templeton with all lands etc. in the tenure of John Clappe, Johan his wife and Humfrye their son’ for a consideration of £55.  No details are given in the deed of the exact extent of the land, but a Fine dated Michaelmas 1566 describes the estate as ‘one messuage, one garden, 60 acres land, 50 acres meadow, 20 acres pasture and 20 acres furze and heath’. [79]   Cleve habitation is marked on the current 1:25000 O.S. map immediately west of Templeton village, another example of Robert’s policy of consolidating his existing holdings.

XI.   His fourth known purchase was dated 31 July 1571 when Phillipe Dun, yeoman, of Tiverton sold a tenement and two gardens in St. Andrew’s Street, Tiverton, to ‘Robert Losemore, clothier’ for £18. [80]   St. Andrew’s Street, a main thoroughfare through the town, runs southwards from Fore Street, immediately east of the Exe.  Its northwards extension, St. Peter’s Street, leads up to St. Peter’s Church and the castle.

Decline and Fall

So far as is known Tiverton Loosemore family estates had now reached their maximum extent, apart from one or two small properties which will be mentioned below.  Robert, now 43 years old, was evidently still in business as a clothier and one assumes that he and his younger brother Lewis, aged about 25, prospered.  Unhappily this state of affairs seems to have continued for less than three years, for the final act in our story shows the pair gradually divesting themselves of almost all their holdings, both patrimonial and their own earlier acquisitions.

First to be sold, if the record is reliable, was the manor of Aller Peverell with other lands in Aller Peverell and Cullompton.  A licence was granted on 3 April 1574 for Robert Losemore to alienate this property to his brother-in-law (Sir) William Peryam.  The sale is confirmed by Sir William Pole, an unusually reliable authority since, in his own words, Aller Peverell ‘…was by him [i.e. William Peryam] conveyed to me in marriage with Mary his eldest daughter…’.  A Fine dated Trinity term 1574 reflects changes which had occurred since George Losemore purchased it 21 years earlier.  The original 26 messuages with their gardens had become 30, each now with an orchard; four more cottages had been built; all except 50 acres of the 600 acres furze and heath had been brought into cultivation and 300 acres pasture had been reduced to only 50 acres; rents had doubled, to 80s. annually. [81]

Robert also sold his other manor, Templeton, to William Peryam.  Polwhele says that the Peryams ‘had first a mortgage on these lands and afterwards bought the fee of the Loosemores of Tiverton’ but the whole transaction is far from clear.  A fine dated 6 October 1579 records the sale of both Templeton and Aller Peverell by Robert Lousemore and Mary his wife, although we have just seen that Aller Peverell had been the subject of a separate concordance five years previously.  The eight men listed as plaintiffs in the 1579 agreement (i.e. the purchasers) included John Peryam who was probably William’s brother, suggesting that both properties had been transferred to a group of trustees, perhaps in fulfilment of a marriage settlement on William Peryam’s daughter Mary. [82]   Comparison of the component parts of the two estates given in the separate Fines with the description in the combination Fine reveals discrepancies.  Thus, the combined total area is stated to be 3000 acres instead of 2450; the total rent is now £4 whereas this income was attributed in the 1574 Fine to Aller Peverell alone.  However, the apparent errors may merely illustrate a general lack of precision in the Fines, which are not to be regarded as a substitute for the deed, now lost, regulating the sale.

The next sale by Robert and his wife Mary presents a confusing picture.  A Fine dated 21 January 1574/5 records the purchaser as Richard Hewkcley, and the property is said to comprise ‘10 acres land, 10 acres meadow, 120 acres pasture and 11s. rent in Tiverton’.  On 27 October that year, 1575, another Fine relates a sale, also by Robert and his wife Mary but this time to Robert Hewcley, of ‘12 acres land, 4 acres meadow, 12 acres pasture and 12s. rent in Tiverton’. [83]   It is not clear whether these two Fines purport to describe the same or different properties.  Presumably the earlier one at least refers to the property bought by Robert Losemore from Hewckley in January 1565/6.78   Having disposed of the freehold Robert seems to have leased it back, for he is listed in a rent book ‘of Tiverton of a quarter called Pryers [Priors] quarter in the year of our Lord 1580’ as paying 6s. (per year or quarter?) for ‘grounds holden of Mr Huclye and a close that lyethe behinde belmans howse’. [84]   Priors Quarter is shown on the parish map west of the Exe.

Two further transactions at about this time must now be noted, though there is no obvious link between them and any other properties known to have been owned by Robert or Lewis.  Late in 1574 Robert with four others purchased from Anthony Pearse and Ann his wife ‘4 messuages, 2 tofts, [plots for a house plus outbuildings and courtyard], one garden and one acre of land in Tiverton’; the Fine is dated 12 November.  In January 1578/9 Lewis and Antony Pearse jointly sold to Thomas Prowse ‘1 messuage, 1 curtilage or toft, and 1 garden in Tiverton’. [85]   Possibly this sale relates to part of the 1574 purchase which had been bequeathed by Robert to Lewis.

Then, within less than two years starting in 1577 three other properties were sold.  On 9 May in that year Lewys Losemore, still described as a clothier, sold to Robert Prowse of Barnstaple, merchant for 100 marks [£66.13s.4d] ‘all those messuages lands tenements etc…within the borough of Newport Bishop in the parish of Tawton Bishop…in the tenure and occupancy of one John Thorne and which now or late were…the inheritance of the aforesaid Lewis…’.  This is the property purchased by George snr. from Thomas Warren in 1552 [No. III] and bequeathed by him to Lewis.  A Fine recording the sale refers to ‘1 messuage, 3 tofts, 1 barn, 3 gardens, 3 orchards, 6 acres meadow, 4 acres pasture’. [86] .  The description may be compared with that given 15 years earlier in George’s Ipm.  This Robert Prowse was probably related to the Margaret Prowse whom Lewis had married in 1573.  Unless he was forced by necessity to sell at a disadvantageous price the sum of 100 marks implies that his father’s property in South Molton willed to him with the lands in Newton Bishop must have fetched about £110, though we do not know if, when, or to whom Lewis sold them.

Next, on 1 October 1577, Robert Losemore was granted a licence from the Court of Wards and Liveries to alienate to John Snowe, clothier, ‘lands in Deyhowese, Overham, Netherham, Butler, Netherpytland, Overpitland and Willand’, all of which he had acquired some 15½ years previously. [87]   On 8 February 1578/9 he disposed of the remainder of his Willand purchase to William Bowman and Humfrey Ball for £110, as we have already seen.  The terms of the deed regulating the mortgage, that it was ‘to be void if Robert repays the purchase price on 2 February following at the house of William Ball of Cullompton called Bullaller’ indicates that Robert acted reluctantly, hoping to buy it back. [88]

All that now remained to the two brothers of their estates from the heady days of 1571 was the residue of their Tiverton properties.  Robert still owned the house with 3 acres where his parents lived, his half share in 8 messuages and gardens with 1 acre meadow, subject to the outcome of litigation already discussed, and his own house and two gardens in St. Andrews Street.  He may also have retained the tenement called Cleyve in Templeton though it may have been included with the manor and sold to William Peryam—we do not know.  Lewis had only the small parcel of lands in West Exe called Pruston Lands.  Robert still owned his St. Andrews Street house in June 1581, when acting as attorney in a sale of property described as ‘adjacent to the north of lands of Robert Losemore in Tiverton’. [89]

Lewis also had an interest in other land in Tiverton, as both owner and tenant.  On 16 May 1591, for divers good considerations he sold to Thomas Prowse of Bolham, clothier, the Old Bridewell and St. Thomas’s chapel, both located in St. Andrews Street.  Prowse owned land immediately to the north of this property. [90]   Some sixteen later Lewis purchased from Ralfe Waldron ‘certain messuages, orchards, gardens’ and parcels of land totalling about 4 acres ‘lyeing near almost in Tyverton’ by a deed dated 24 October 1607, now lost.  This property, which may have been close to Waldron’s almshouses in West Exe, figured in his ill-fated attempt to provide for his children which has already been discussed.59   His name appears in the Priors Quarter rent book for 1580, charged with 5s. for certain lands, but nothing more is known about his land holdings.84

The wills of Robert and Lewis Loosemore (probate granted 1586 and 1612) were both destroyed in the 1942 air-raid on Exeter and we cannot now be certain whether or not they owned any other properties.  We can say without doubt that from the mid-1570s their prosperity began to decline, at a time when the fortunes of clothiers generally were increasing dramatically.

John Loosmore of Tiverton, Mariner 1597

The possibility was raised in the section Other Tiverton Loosemores that John Loosemore who married Maud Curtis in 1580 and, after her death, took Katherine Horrwaye as his second wife in 1582, might be the same as he who has been described as ‘John Loosmore of Tiverton, mariner.’  Our only definite knowledge of this mariner, whose adventures are the subject of this section, is derived from two short reports among the records of the State Papers office:

January 20, 1597, Poole: Sir Matthew Arundel and Sir Ralph Horsey to Secretary Cecil.  Upon arriving here on Her Majesties service, we met with the bearer, John Loosmore dwelling at Tiverton in Devonshire and just arrived from Spain; as he seemed to have something to say more worthy of your knowledge than our examination, we thought it good to hasten him, by allowing him licence to take horse, and other necessaries for effecting a speedy journey,


January 21, 1597: Declaration of John Loosmore of Tiverton, co. Devonshire, mariner:

Has been in the Groyne and the country thereabouts a year and a half; lately come from Vigo in a Flemish vessel called the Hart of Amsterdam; was put ashore in a Brazilian prize, near the Groyne, by foul weather, and was kept there 10 months; then had a pass to come to England 1 Sept.  On 16 Sept, was stayed at St. Anderas by Sebure and was a prisoner with him, until the shipping went to Ferrol, 5 or 6 weeks since.  There were 60 ships, Sebure had 60 gallions of the King’s, besides Flemings, and his own ship was about 400 tons.  Heard him confess that 36 sail were lost in the storm and upward of 11000 men, most of which were pinnaces and small barks, save 27 which were men-of-war.
The townsmen of Vigo confessed that upwards of 3000 soldiers and mariners have died there of sickness, and many also died at the Groyne.  The Flemish and French ships are discharged, save three.  The admiral of the fleet that came out of the straits is lost, as also the St. Jago Minor.  There is not a gallay at Vigo or the Groyne, and all Sebure’s fleet have not a piece of brass, but some small iron ordnance, and none so big as a demi-culverin.  Some half dozen ships put into Vigo on their return from Ferrol, and are going home to the southwards, and divers other Portugal ships are discharged, and returning.  A fleet of 112 sail went out from Lisbon.

Signed with the mark of the declarator, which he says is very well known in Devonshire. [91]

The background to this apparently obscure incident illustrates perfectly the semi-buccaneering style of sea-warfare typical of Elizabeth’s reign, and also serves to exemplify the ‘guerrilla’ tactics which she favoured.  She never put the country, or herself, seriously at risk on the outcome of any single action, at sea or on land, and she realized clearly that, given the limitations of 16th century naval warfare and the accompanying problems of logistical support for her ships, a conclusive victory over Spain could only be won on land.  Hence she regarded the naval rôle as valuable but subsidiary to land operations, a major irritant and a source of spoils and plunder but not primarily an offensive weapon.  Her main official pre-occupation was with defence, though she actively encouraged a robustly aggressive attitude on the part of merchants and sea traders.

During most of Elizabeth’s reign the English acquired a reputation for piracy which was at worst only partly deserved.  Reprisals were common between sea-faring nations; the record contains many examples where English seafarers and merchants were victims of pillage by sailors of other nations.  In 1585 the intensity of this armed exchange was greatly increased between England and Spain when, on 29 May, the Spanish king issued general orders to seize the persons and property of all English merchants and mariners in Spanish cities and ports.  Elizabeth was quick to respond, ordering on 9 July that ‘letters of reprisal’ [official permission to exact reprisals] be granted to all English claimants against Spaniards.  Two years later she directed the Warden of the Cinque Ports to urge merchants and mariners to fit out vessels at their own expense for service against ‘enemies of England and Holland’, i.e. Spain.  They were to be allowed to keep what they could capture. [92]

Raising the level of conflict was bound to result eventually in a major confrontation.  In 1588 the first Spanish Armada suffered a comprehensive defeat at the hands of the English fleet under its Commander-in-Chief Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham, whose chief subordinates were Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Palmer.  Drake had earned high praise the previous summer for ‘singeing the king of Spain’s beard’ when he commanded an expedition which attacked and burned the large Spanish fleet assembling in Cadiz harbour.  He not only destroyed ships and large quantities of stores but, equally valuably, damaged Spanish morale and delayed the Armada by a year.  As if to ram home the lesson of England’s sea-power, Drake and Sir John Norreys attacked and further damaged the remnants of the shattered Armada as it licked its wounds in Corunna the following Spring. [93]

The earl of Cumberland’s sortie to the Spanish coast that same year, 1589, provides an example of a privately financed privateering expedition typical of many authorized by Elizabeth.  Several ships were taken, including one from Brazil laden with sugar.  As each prize was captured it was usual to provide it with a skeleton crew of English sailors, replacing them by pressing a corresponding number of captured foreigners into service in the English fleet.  A limit was reached when insufficient trained Englishmen were available to crew any further prizes.  These prizes, crewed by a minimum number of exhausted English sailors, were specially vulnerable to bad weather.  A total of 91 Spanish prizes were brought into England that year by Cumberland and others.  This activity by privateers and naval squadrons continued through the next few years, a constant source of irritation to the Spaniards who generally came off worst in the sniping.

Although trade between the two countries was prohibited there is little doubt that illegal merchant venturers continued to operate, for Spain was one of our best trading partners in ‘normal’ times.  Vigo and nearby Bayonne were often mentioned as destinations.  Their people were traditionally independent in spirit while this region, with many offshore islands, was an ideal centre for exchanging English, Spanish and Portuguese goods.  As West Country ports, including Exeter, were prominent in the trade with Spain it is quite possible that John Loosmore and his fellows were involved in some form of illegal trading. [94]

1595 was a crucial year in the contest between the two countries.  Elizabeth authorized a large expedition to the West Indies to seek the Spanish treasure fleet, under the joint command of Drake and Hawkins, which failed, culminating with the death of both commanders.  Spaniards landed in force in Cornwall, burning the villages of Mousehole, Newlyn and Penzance before withdrawing.  Several English privateering ventures set out for Spain: Cumberland received a commission, Cross was sent with two ships to the coast of Portugal, there were many individual adventurers at sea.  It is probable that on one of these expeditions went John Loosmore, mariner of Tiverton.  After unknown adventures he must have been one of the crew put into a Brazilian prize, perhaps laden with sugar, which was driven ashore during the summer near Corunna (The Groyne), where he remained a prisoner until 1st September the following year, 1596.

These and many other events of the previous few years finally persuaded Philip of Spain to prepare a second Armada for an attack on England or Ireland.  Word reached England in the winter of 1595 and a pre-emptive strike was planned after the fashion of Drake’s raid on Cadiz in 1587.  The force, commanded by William Howard the Lord Admiral, with the earl of Essex, comprised 48 fighting ships and 100 transports, plus 6000 troops under the command of Sir Francis Vere; Lord Thomas Howard and Sir Walter Raleigh were senior subordinate naval commanders.  Elizabeth, always cautious and unwilling for her naval forces to absent themselves while strong Spanish forces remained in Flanders and Brittany, reluctantly released the fleet from Plymouth on 1 June, 1596.  It arrived off Cadiz on 20 June, and in two weeks created the utmost havoc, burning and gutting several large and many smaller ships, sacking and burning the city and generally committing mayhem.  The Spaniards were forced to burn their annual treasure fleet in the harbour to prevent it falling into the hands of the intruders, losing Philip twelve million ducats.  After suffering only light losses the raiders departed on 5 July leaving the city in flames.  As a last gesture of defiance the southern Spanish coastal towns of Faro and Loule were subjected to the same fate on the homeward journey.  The expedition arrived back in Plymouth in triumph on 8 August.

Philip was provoked by this second humiliating episode into re-doubling his efforts to make ready his Armada, which was to be commanded by the adelanto (governor) of Castile, Don Martin de Padilla, Conde de St. Gadea.  It finally amounted to 98 ships at Cadiz, including 20 men-of-war, with the great ship Santiago of 1400 tons (for comparison, the English Mary Rose was 700 tons), and another of 1200 tons commanded by the admiral of the Levant fleet (Loosmore’s ‘admiral of the fleet that came out of the straits’).  An additional 40 ships from Andalucia were expected to join the main fleet at Lisbon, plus 25 under Sebure [95] off Cape Finisterre.  Estimates of the army on board varied between 15–40,000 men.

The fleet finally left Lisbon on 13 October [96] but already it was in trouble.  Plague was present among the troops, whose morale was low as the result of a massive press to recruit adequate numbers; the expedition had to be organized very hurriedly after the brilliant English raid on Cadiz.  The Andalucian contingent never left Lisbon so John Loosmore’s figure of 112 ships slightly over-estimated the enemy strength.  It was late in the year to launch a large fleet of unwieldy ships into stormy seas, and on 17 October off Cape Finisterre the second Armada was struck by a south-westerly equinoctial gale, scattered and many ships wrecked.  The Santiago was lost as well as the Levantine admiral and his ship of 1200 tons, with others to a total of 30–40 (John Loosmore said 36 sail).  Official intelligence refers to 47 ships cast away with 5000 soldiers; another report mentions 7000 soldiers lost, so Loosmore’s figure of 11000 may not be greatly in error. [97]

Sebure did not meet the fleet as arranged, but brought his contingent from Vigo to Ferrol later, when remnants of the shattered Armada were sheltering at Corunna; even he had losses.  Evidently Sebure had orders to capture any ships in the vicinity, no doubt to minimise the chance that information might reach England or an English man-of-war.  John Loosmore’s departure for England was thus further delayed until Sebure eventually left Vigo for Ferrol, at which time John was freed to travel back home in the Flemish vessel, the Hart.  Arriving at Poole, his story was of sufficient interest, as we have seen, to warrant his being sent post-haste to London, there to be de-briefed by interrogating officers of the Secretary of State.

The story has an epilogue.  In the following year, 1597, ships of the second Spanish Armada were repaired and refitted at Ferrol.  Essex, Howard, Vere and Raleigh returned to burn them in harbour or at sea, but were turned back by bad weather.  They set sail again on 17 August but received word that the adelanto would not sail that year.  Accordingly the English squadron made direct for the Azores, intending to intercept the Spanish treasure fleet.  But the Armada did sail, with 136 ships and 9000 men.  Elizabeth’s worst fears had been realized: a major Spanish fleet was approaching English shores with her fleet far away.  Then, on 12 October, the weather struck yet again.  A violent storm scattered Philip’s ships and drove the main body in full retreat to Spain.  Essex returned safely, public confidence in England recovered from a severe shaking, by mid-November anxiety was at an end for the year. [98]

Of John Loosmore, mariner of Tiverton, nothing more is known.

[1] Hoskins, 125 for water-powered fulling mills.  For the early cloth industry see A R Bradbury, Medieval English Clothmaking: an economic survey, 1982, 106 et seq, and E Lipson, The History of the Woollen and Worsted Industries, 1921.

[2] E M Carus-Wilson, The Expansion of Exeter at the Close of the Middle Ages, Harte Memorial Lecture in Local History, 12 May 1961, pub. University of Exeter, 1963.

[3] M Dunsford, Historical Memoirs of the Town and Parish of Tiverton, Exeter, 1790, 34.

[4] T Westcote, View of Devonshire in 1630, Exeter, 1845, 61.  It is a contemporary account (Westcote died in 1640), although published over two centuries later.

[5] See Dunsford, ref. 3 above, 346n.

[6] F Rose-Troup, DCNQ, xi, Pt VI, April 1921, 227-240.

[7] Henry VIII, Act I, scene II.

[8] P J Bowden, The Wool Trade in Tudor and Stuart England, 1962, 182.

[9] Henry VIII was succeeded in 1547 by his 9 year old son Edward VI.  Somerset, brother of Jane Seymour, mother of Edward, who ‘guided’ the first years of the young king, was executed for treason in 1552.  He was followed by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who had engineered the downfall of Somerset.

[10] See Statutes, 5 & 6 Edw VI, c.6 for the 1551-2 statute; 4 & 5 Phil and Mary, c.5 for the amending statute.

[11] A H Johnson, The History of the Worshipful Company of the Drapers of London, 5 vols., 1914-22, see vol.ii for Greenway’s contribution to Cabot.  E M Carus-Wilson, Medieval Archeology, 1954, 104-117 for John Lane.

[12] Harding, i, 26.

[13] Tiverton borough court rolls, B.L. Add. Rolls series.  Dates quoted are those relevant to the text, not necessarily the range covered by a roll: MSS 64764 (1477-8); 64770, m.1 (1494); 64770, mm. 2v,3,3v (1495); 64773, m.3 (1502).  See also DRO C-R236 for 1494.

[14] H P R Finberg, DCNQ, xxiv, Pt VII, July 1951, 203-9.

[15] T L Stoate, ed., Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-7, Exeter, 1979.

[16] PRO E 179/98/251.

[17] Probate of the will was granted in the Exeter archdeaconry court, see Index Library, xxxv, 1908.

[18] Tiverton borough court rolls, B.L. Add. Rolls series: MSS 64780, mm. 3v,4,4v (1532); 64781, m.3 (1533); 64782, m.2.(1536); 64783, m.1v (1544); 64784, m.2v (1545); 64785, mm. 1,4v (1545-6); 64786, m.1 (1550); 64788, m.1v (1551); 64789, m.1 (1558).

[19] ‘Harness’: protective leather armour.

[20] PRO E 101/61/35.

[21] The will of George Losemore snr. is PCC 4 Streat, PRO PROB 11/45; a transcript is Appendix 3.

[22] See Chap.3, note 45.

[23] Register of the parish church of St Peter, Tiverton, held in DRO Exeter.

[24] L & P, xx, Pt 1, 1545, under date 10 July 1545, Grant No.1335 (30) and 13 July 1545, Grant No. 1335 (55).  For additional details of these grants see J Youings, Devon Monastic Lands: Calendar of Particulars for Grants 1536-1558, DCRS New Series i, 1955.  See also Appendix 4 for details of the grants.

[25] George Losemore snr’s Ipm is PRO C 144/134/44, on vellum in 16th century legal Latin; Appendix 5 is a translation.

[26] The register of the church of St. Gregory by St. Paul’s is deposited at the Guildhall Library, their MS 10231.

[27] The will of George Losemore jnr, is PCC 45 Mellershe, PRO PROB 11/43; Appendix 6 is a transcript.

[28] PRO C 3/110/70, m.1 and C 33/22, f 60v.

[29] PRO C 3/110/67, mm.1-5.

[30] DRO, Enrolled Deed No.966.

[31] Westcote, op. cit., 585 for the marriage of Mary Peryam to Loosemore; Polwhele, ii, 381 for the mortgage on Templeton.

[32]   Sir Thomas Bodley’s mother was Joan Hone, another daughter of Robert Hone of Ottery St. Mary, see DNB.

[33] Tiverton borough court rolls, B.L. Add. Rolls series: MSS 64790, mm.1v,2v,3v(2),4(2),5(2) (1566-7); 64791, mm.1,2 (1571);

[34] PRO C 33/31, f 493v and C 33/32, f 429 for Rausterd; C33/35, f 376v and C33/36, f 426 for Deyman; C33/46,
f 326v for Ware; C 33/57, f 193 and C 33/58, f 200 for Staplehill; C 33/63, f 6v and C 33/64, f 6v for Robert and Lewis.

[35] The surviving papers are PRO C 3/109/64.

[36] Harding, ii, Book 4, 105 for sale of Old Bridewell.

[37] PRO C 33/61, f 567v for Lewis and Robert; C 33/63, f 118 and C 33/64, f 125 for Lewis and Robert.

[38] Harding, ii, Appendix 7, 24 for Tiverton fires.

[39] A J Howard, ed., Devon Protestation Returns 1641, 1973.

[40] W H Wilkin, DCNQ, xxii, Pt 1, 1942, 17-21.

[41] References to the two suits are PRO C 1/1138/88-92 and C 1/1138/93-94.

[42] PRO STAC 3/2/2 for the assault at Uplowman (the PRO index wrongly refers to William instead of John Losemore).

[43] PRO C 33/71, f 91v and C 33/72, f 84.

[44] PRO E 179/98/251.

[45] PRO E 179/97/216 for 1540; E 179/97/219 for 1541; E 179/98/260 for 1545; E 179/99/317 for 1550;
E 179/100/332 for 1551; E 179/100/333 for 1552.

[46] PRO C 1/1025/35.

[47] Ipm on the estate of Sir Peter Courtenay:, typescript summary transcription held in WCSL, Exeter.

[48] DRO: Customs Rolls 1504-5, 1507-8, 1526-7, 1541-2, 1561-2, 1563-4.  Useful background information is in H S Cobb, Journ. Soc. Archivists, i, No.8, October 1958, 213–224.

[49] M L Zell, The Exchequer Lists of provincial clothmakers fined in London during the 16th century, University of London, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, liv, 1981, 129–30.  This tabulates extant memoranda rolls containing data on fines, in PRO class E 179.  17 rolls have been examined, covering 1550–70.  Loosemore occurs in the following:  -/330/Mich/175 for 1550–1;  -/335/Mich/233 for 1554–5;  -/337/Mich/228 for 1555–6(2);  -/338/Easter/86 for 1566–7;  -/350/Hil/329 for 1561–2.  The list for 1561–2 has been published by G D Ramsay, EHR, 1942, 361-9.

[50] CPR 1560-63, 598.

[51] DRO, 257M/T2.

[52] A J Howard and T L Stoate, eds., The Devon Muster Roll for 1569, 1977, transcr. from PRO SP 12/57.

[53] Statutes, 4 & 5 Phil and Mary, c.2.

[54] Corselet: light body armour consisting of a metal backplate and breastplate held together with straps, often with a front metal apron attached to the breastplate; murrion: helmet with a central ridge and narrow brim; harquebus: early firearm about 3 ft. long weighing about 10 ib; bow: the longbow, of yew, about 6 ft. long; sheaf: 24 arrows; archer’s steel cap: round pudding basin type without a brim; almain rivet: German style corselet without the backplate, the apron made from overlapping pieces attached by rivets, sliding in slots; bill: similar to an agricultural billhook with a fairly long slightly hooked cutting edge, on a shaft about 6 ft. long.

[55] DRO Enrolled Deed No. 1181, roll 47/33.

[56] Harding, ii, Book III, 89-90.

[57] PRO C 3/111/100, 2mm.

[58] DCNQ, ix, Pt VI, 1917, 169.

[59] PRO C 2/Jas I/L16/62.

[60] The grant is L & P, xx, Pt I, 1545, under date; see Appendix 4 for details.  See J Youings, Devon Monastic Lands: Calendar of Particulars for Grants 1536–1558, DCRS New Series i, 1955 for additional details.

[61] W C Richardson, History of the Court of Augmentations 1536–1554, Louisiana State University Press, 1961 is a useful source for this subject.  See also Youings, n.60 above.

[62] L & P, xx, Pt I, 1545, Grant No.1335(55), under date 13 July 1545.

[63] H E Bell, An Introduction to the History and Records of the Court of Wards and Liveries, Cambridge 1953, 69–and Table 6A facing p192.

[64] For the early history see O J Reichel, TDA, xxx, 1898, 395.  Parliament passed the bill suppressing the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem on 10 May 1540, see Statutes, 32 Hen VIII, c.24.

[65] G Oliver, Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Devon, 3 vols. bound together, Exeter, 1828–1840; see i, 102-108.

[66] PRO, Fines CP 25(2)/56/407, 1 Edw VI Mich. (1547).

[67] C A F Meekings, Abstracts of Surrey Feet of Fines 1509–1558, Surrey Record Society, xix, 1946 is a good account of the legal procedures leading up to the Final Concord as a method of establishing rights in law for land conveyancing.

[68] DRO 1142B/T38/12 for 1552 purchase.

[69] CPR 1547–1533, 211 for the licence; PRO Fines CP 25(2)/69/570, 1 Mary Mich. for the fine (1553).

[70] DRO Enrolled Deed No. 1090 dated 8 February 1578/9.

[71] For the early history of Aller Peverell see Polwhele, ii, 365 and M T Foster, TDA, xlii, 1910, 156–181.  For later transferees see CPR 1401–1405, 17, 195; 1405–1408, 349; 1467–77, 339, 343; 1485–94, 338.

[72] L & P, xix, Pt 2, 1544, 408, Grant 690(1); Grant 690(67).

[73] CPR 1560–1563, 329, 437.

[74] PRO C 3/109/47, m.1; C 33/33, ff.215, 415; C 33/37, f.66.

[75] DRO Enrolled Deed No.913, roll 47/25.

[76] Harding, ii, 51; see also for a street plan of Tiverton dated 1791.

[77] CPR 1560–1563, 371 for Robert’s purchase; O J Reichel, TDA, Supplement, extra vols. i-x, ii, 1929, 54 for early history of Willand; L & P, xx, Pt 1, 1545, 222, Grant No. 465(73) for sale to Lytcote; CPR 1560–1563, 132(2), 202 for Moyle/Fynche.

[78] PRO Notes of Fine CP 26(1)/125, 8 Eliz Hil for Robert’s January 1565/6 purchase; CP 26(1)/173, 19 & 20 Eliz Mich, for his 1577 Willand disposal.

[79] For the deed see DRO Enrolled Deed No.780; the Fine is PRO CP 25(2)/106/1306, 8 & 9 Eliz Hil.

[80] DRO Enrolled Deed No.913, roll 47/25.

[81] CPR 1572-1575, No.1849 for the licence; Sir W Pole, Collections towards a Description of the County of Devon, 1791, 185, 441 for the sale of Aller Peverell; PRO Fine CP 25(2)/109/1334, 16 Eliz Trin. for the 1574 Fine.

[82] Polwhele, ii, 381 for the mortgage quotation; PRO Fine CP 25(2)/110/1353, 21 & 22 Eliz Mich. for the 1579 Fine.

[83] PRO, Fines CP 25(2)/109/1336, 17 Eliz Hil, and CP 25(2)/109/1339, 17 & 18 Eliz Mich.

[84] B.L. Lansdowne MS 819, f 14, for Book of Tiverton, Priors Quarter.

[85] PRO, Fines CP 25(2)/109/1335, 16 Eliz Mich. and CP 25(2)/110/1350, 21 Eliz Hil.

[86] The deed of sale is DRO 96M/83/16; see also PRO, Fine CP 25(2)/110/1347, 20 Eliz Easter.

[87] PRO, Notes of Fine CP 26(1)/173, 19 & 20 Eliz Mich for October 1577 sale;

[88] DRO Enrolled Deed No. 1090 dated 8 February 1578/9.

[89] DRO, Enrolled Deed No.1181, roll 47/33.

[90] Harding, ii, 62, 105.

[91] CSPD 1596–7, cclxii, No. 15, 349; cclxii, No.21, 350.  John Loosmore’s original declaration is PRO SP 12/262, No.21.  A piece of brass is probably an error for a piece (cannon) of bronze.  A demi-culverin was a piece about 8–10 feet long, bore 4¼ inches, firing a shot of about 10 lb.  Iron cannon were generally of shorter maximum range than those of bronze.  The ‘Groyne’ was English mariners’ parlance for Corunna, an important northern Spanish seaport.

[92] As a general reference for this section I have used E P Cheney, A History of England from the Defeat of the Armada to the Death of Elizabeth, 2 vols., 1914–26, repr. 1948, N.Y.

[93] J B Black, The Reign of Elizabeth 1558–1603, The Oxford History of England, 2nd edition, 1959, 394.

[94] J P Croft, English Trade with Peninsular Spain 1558–1625, Oxford unpub. D. Phil. Thesis, 1969, 149.

[95] Sebure, a Spanish general at sea, also spelled Seburo, Cebeaur, Zubiaur.

[96] 24th October according to the reformed, Gregorian, calendar adopted in Spain.

[97] CSPD 1595–7, cclx, No.87; cclxii, No.3, 342; No.37, 360; No.72, 372.

[98] Black, op.cit., 427.