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William Westaway & Elizabeth Beere of South Tawton, Devon

The Westaway name will always be special to me. My dear grandmother, Helena Augusta Brooking, died at the tender age of 97 in 1991 and a few months prior to this, whilst she was ill she told me her mother was a Westaway and had lived in Newton Abbot, so when she died I just had to know more about her and her background.

My Westaways traced back to South Tawton, a beautiful Devon village near Okehampton. but by a huge coincidence my husband's Yeo family also came from the same place, so it became very special to me. I traced the tree back to William & Elizabeth Beere of South Tawton and William can probably be identified through this indenture

An indent between George Sydenham Fursdon of Fursdon house in the parish of Cadbury, Esq of the one part, and William Langmead of the boro of South Zeale scrivenor of the other part. It mentions that messes or dwelling houses late in the possession of Jane Battishill deceased, but now late of William Gillard, William Underhill, William Westaway and James Crocker, lying and being in the boro of South Zeale on the lives of William Langmead aged 38, William Westaway aged 28, son of Benjamin Westaway of Zele labourer and John Paltridge aged 47 son of John Paltridge of Okehampton, labourer yearly rent of 10s and yielding unto the sd G. S. Fursdon, upon the death of each of them the sum of 10s for and in the name of an heriot and also doing service at the courts and courts of the sd G Fursdon to be holden and kept in and for the said manor and boro of South Zele.

The family had seen good times as initally they were farmers and has married into the Arscott, Battishall & Knapman families all of which were influential within the parish. However times were very hard during the late 1700's early 1800's and the poor law records of South Tawton record a desperate story. In 1795 William is recorded as in need and this follows with various entries for poor law rate, clothes etc.
  • 1 John Westaway 1500 - b: 1500 in Lydcott, Belstone
  • ... 2 Robert Westaway 1530 - b: 1530 in Arscott, South Tawton
  • ......... 3 John Westaway
  • ............. +Izotte Vandone m: 14 Oct 1572
  • ............... 4 William Westaway 1585 - b: 1585
  • ................... +Alice Arscott
  • .................... 5 John Westaway 1606 - b: 1606 in South Tawton, Devon
  • ......................... +Margaret Stoning m: 17 Jan 1623/24 in Sampford Courtenay, Devon
  • ........................... 6 John Westaway 1630 - b: 1630 in South Tawton, Devon
  • .............................. +Joane Battishall m: 31 Jul 1679 in Exeter Licence
  • ................................ 7 Matthew Westaway 1691 - b: 1691 in South Tawton
  • .................................... +Elizabeth Knapman m: 11 Jul 1715 in South Tawton
  • ...................................... 8 Benjamin Westaway 1734 - b: 11 Aug 1734 in South Tawton
  • .......................................... +Mary Garland m: 19 Nov 1754 in South Tawton
  • ............................................ 9 William Westaway 1765 - 1835 b: 1765 in South Tawton married Elizabeth Beere

Generation 1

All William & Elizabeth's children were baptised in South Tawton.However by 1831 he must have been living in Drewsteignton, as when his son James married in Guernsey he wrote that his father was William Westaway of Drewsteignton. 29th July, 1933

1.  William10 Westaway  (Benjamin9, Matthew8, John7, John6, William5, John4, Robert3, John2, John1) was born 1765 in South Tawton, and died 1835 in South Zeal.  He married Elizabeth Beere 16 Aug 1789 in South Tawton.  She died 1833 in Drewsteignton.

  Children of William Westaway and Elizabeth Beere are:

1  John Westaway, born 11 Mar 1792 in South Tawton.  He married Ann Milford 31 Dec 1823 in Drewsteignton; born 1794 in Drewsteignton. On the 10th August 1807 John aged 15, father William, was apprenticed to William Blanchford of Drewsteignton. In 1841 John and Ann were living at Little Underdown, next door to John's brother George. Living with them were children Harriet, aged 16, Ann aged 13, James aged 6 and Elizabeth aged 2
2.    Mary Westaway, born 24 Dec 1793 in South Tawton. On the same day as her brother George, Mary was apprenticed to William Moor, yeoman for 12 years
3. George Westaway, born 05 Jun 1796 in South Tawton.  He married Ann Northcott 31 May 1818 in South Tawton, Devon. On the 2nd March 1803 George was apprenticed, aged 9 years to Mr Pitts, a yeoman for 12 years
4   Elizabeth Westaway, born 15 Apr 1797 in South Tawton.. Elizabeth (Betty) was apprenticed to Thomas Moore of Collibeare at the age of 8 for 13 years.   Possibly the Elizabeth who married John Orchard
5. William Westaway, born 23 Dec 1798 in South Tawton; died 24 Jul 1843 in Sampford Courtenay.  He married Mary Trace 19 Oct 1819 in South Tawton; born 1799 in South Tawton.. William was apprenticed to William Powlesland at the age of 8 for 13 years by parent's consent. William left a will when he died on the 24th July, 1843. He was a higgler, which was a person who travelled around with a horse and cart selling wares.
6   Francis Westaway, born 21 Mar 1802 in South Tawton; died 1853 in Exeter St Thomas area.  He married Jane Brewer 15 Apr 1827 in South Tawton; born 1807 in South Tawton; died 1877 in Exeter St Thomas area. Francis was apprenticed to Richard Dunning of Scouhills at the age of 8 for 13 years. In the poor law records there is an entry for Francis :- 24/3/1834, Pay for the poor. Francis Westaway's family 10s for his child that is so very ill. Francis moved to Heavitree, Exeter and became a Master Gardener.
7   Dennis Westaway, born 20 Dec 1804 in South Tawton.  He married Ann Coyde 12 Jul 1832 in Guernsey; born in Guernsey, Channel Islands. Dennis went to Guernsey around 1826 and appears in the 1827 census, residing at Les Terres, in St Peter Port.  He was a labourer and his age was recorded as 26.  He was actually 22 years old.  The family then moved to Westminster, London
8     James Westaway, born 27 Mar 1808 in South Tawton.  He married (1) Mary Conly 19 Feb 1831 in Guernsey.  He married (2) Catherine Johns 12 Nov 1840 in Guernsey. "James Westaway son of William, of the parish of Drewsteignton in the county of Devon and Mary Conly of the Town of Plymouth in the county of Devon were married 19th February 1831"  There is no record of Mary's death and it is quite likely that she is  the Mary wife of James, sailor who was transported to Tasmania. James must have divorced her and married Catherine. Further on it reads "James Westaway, son of William of South Tawton, in the county of Devon and Catherine Johns, relict of John Head of this parish, were married 12th November 1840.
However by 1831 he must have been living in Drewsteignton, as when his son James married in Guernsey he wrote that his father was William Westaway of Drewsteignton. 29th July, 1933

Generation 2

George married Ann Northcott on the 18th May, 1818 in South Tawton Parish Church, where all their children were also baptised. In 1841 George was living at East Underdown, Drewsteignton

East Underdown, Drewsteignton

  • George Westaway 40, Ann Westaway 40, Mary Westaway 18, John Westaway 7, Ann Westaway 4, James Westaway 8, Sophie Westaway 13

In 1851 George was still living in Drewsteignton and was a Lime Quarryman, living next door was his brother John, so this is obviously why their parents William and Elizabeth moved to Drewsteignton.

Address: Little Underdown, Okehampton Census Place: Drewsteignton Okehampton, Devonshire PRO Reference: HO/107/1885 Folio: 584 Page: 32 FHL Film: 0221035

  • George WESTAWAY Head M 53 M Lime Quarryman South Tawton-DEV
  • Ann WESTAWAY Wife M 52 F --- Broadwood Widger-DEV
  • Mary Ann WESTAWAY Daur U 28 F House Maid South Tawton-DEV
  • Ann WESTAWAY Daur U 14 F Scholar South Tawton-DEV
  • James WESTAWAY Son U 28 M Farm Labourer South Tawton-DEV
  • George TRACE Vist U 28 M Farm Labourer Spreyton-DEV

Generation 3

John and Jane were married after the birth of Mary Anne in 1853. John signed with a cross, but Jane signed her name. Jane was from the Hellyer farming family of Chagford, Devon, who had also hit on bad times during the early 1800's.They were married in the parish church in Plymouth Charles the Martyr and in 1861 were living in Stoke Damerel, Plymouth. They moved to Newton Abbot between 1861 & 1871.

In 1871 John and Jane were living in Wolborough Street, Newton Abbot

  • John Westaway H M 41 Miner Drewsteignton
  • Jane Westaway W M 41 Chagford
  • James Westaway S U 10 Plymouth
  • Louisa Westaway D U 4 Newton Abbot
  • Ellen D U 1 Newton Abbot

John died on the 7th May, 1872, in the hospital at Exeter St Sidwell. His cause of death was exhaustion from abscess of the lung. He was only 40 years of age and the mining had taken its toll. Jane was a washerwoman and lived in Wolborough Street, Newton Abbot. In her last few years before she died she lived in Kingskerswell Road, Decoy, Newton Abbot with her daughter, Louisa.

Generation 4

click on tree for larger image

By 1881 William and Mary Ann were married at Union Street Chapel in Torquay, Devon. William signed his name but MaryAnn couldn't write hers.

Dwelling: 58 Higher Union Street Rear Census Place: Tormoham, Devon, England

Source: FHL Film 1341522 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 2167 Folio 164 Page 34

  • William BROOKING M 29 M North Huish, Devon, England Head Brushmaker
  • Mary BROOKING M 27 F Plymouth, Devon, England Wife
  • Eliza BROOKING 7 F Torquay, Devon, England Daur
  • Elsie BROOKING 5 F Torquay, Devon, England Daur
  • Kitty BROOKING 4 F Torquay, Devon, England Daur
  • Florence BROOKING 8 m F Torquay, Devon, England Daur

In 1891 William and MaryAnn were living in Torre, Torquay. William T Herd Brooking H M 39 brushmaker N. Huish MaryAnne Brooking W M 37 Plymouth Kate Brooking D U 14 scholar Torquay Florence Brooking D U 10 scholar Torquay Bertha B Brooking D U 7 scholar Torquay Beatrice Brooking D U 5 scholar Torquay May Mary Brooking D U 2 Torquay

When Helena was born in 1893 her parents were living at 9, Cavendish Terrace, Upton, Torquay and William was a basket maker and hawker. My only knowledge of William & Maryann is from his granddaughter, Aunty Betty. She told me that William was the most handsome sailor in the whole world, with a fantastic sense of humour. He had a mass of ginger hair and was very tall. Everyone loved him because he was so kind and full of fun. Like alot of Victorian working class men he liked his drink and the police would bring him home to Maryann, who small as she was, had the upper hand and would make him sleep in a shed at the bottom of the garden until he was sober. Apparently William rescued Maryann from a house in Torquay where she was in service. She was being cruelly treated so he brought her back to live with his family and the only posessions she has was her bonnet and the clothes she was wearing. Maryann was always dressed in black and rarely smiled, but when she did it was like a transformation. All the girls had to learn the laundry business and look after each other. They were all spotlessly clean and took a pride in their appearance. Certainly William's strong signature appeared on all the baptisms of his children, so he appears to have been very involved in their upbringing. In the 1901 census Helena is still living at Cavendish Terrace with her parents, William and Mary Ann and sisters, Florrie, Beatrice, Mary, Alice, Elsie, Ethel & Lily. Sadly none of the boys survived and there must still be alot of relatives in the Torquay area I have never met who descend from all her sisters. These are the marriages I have traced and I would love to hear from any descendants.

  • i Eliza Brooking, born 1873 in Torquay, Devon. She married Charles James Quantick 04 Jan 1891 in Tormoham
  • .ii. Elsie Louisa Brooking, born Sep 1875 in Torquay, Devon. She married Richard John Waldron 25 Nov 1899 in Zion Chapel, Torre Hill Road, Torquay.
  • iii. Kate Elizabeth Brooking, born Mar 1877 in Torquay, Devon. She married Frederick John Burges 19 Dec 1897 in Register Office, Newton Abbot.
  • iv. Florence Emma Brooking, born Sep 1880 in Torquay, Devon. She married (1) x. She married (2) Charles Kelly 15 Dec 1901 in Upton St James Church, Torquay.
  • v. Margaret Mary Brooking, born Sep 1881 in Torquay, Devon. She married (1) Laurence Poyner. She married (2) Albert Way 12 Mar 1906 in Upton St James Church, Torquay.
  • vi. Bertha Harriet Brooking, born Mar 1884 in Torquay, Devon; died 28 Jan 1896 in Rose Hill Hospital, Torquay.
  • vii. Beatrice Ellen Brooking, born 10 Apr 1885 in Torquay, Devon. She married John Tucker 04 Apr 1904 in Tormoham.
  • viii. James Westaway Brooking, born Jan 1887 in Torquay, Devon; died Mar 1890 in Torquay, Devon.
  • ix. William Thomas Brooking, born Jan 1887 in Torquay, Devon; died Sep 1887 in Torquay, Devon.
  • x. May Mary Brooking, born Jun 1888 in Torquay, Devon. She married Albert Way 1906 in Tormoham.
  • xi. Edith Gertrude Brooking, born 22 Jul 1891 in Torquay, Devon. She married William Henry Whittington 01 Apr 1909 in Torquay.
  • xii. Helena Augusta Brooking, born 18 Oct 1893 in Torquay; died 01 Apr 1991 in Torquay. She married Frederick Henry Brown 1912 in Upton, Torquay, Devon; born 07 Sep 1891 in Torquay, Devon.
  • xiii. Ethel Lavinia Brooking, born 21 Jun 1895 in Torquay, Devon. She married Wilfred Leonard Kelly 31 May 1919 in Upton, Torquay, Devon.
  • xiv. Olive Evelyn Brooking, born 29 Nov 1896 in Torquay, Devon. She married Alfred Towell 1915 in Upton, Torquay, Devon.

Generations 5, 6 & 7

Helena married Frederick Henry Brown in 1912 at Upton, Torquay, Devon


  © 2003-6 Sheila Yeo | For more information on the Westaway family and the research contained in this site email sheila@yeosociety.com or call me on +44 (0)1626 360978