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Thomas Underdown (1674-1758)

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Biography details

Baptism

Thomas Underdown was baptized in Ottery St Mary on the 9th October 1674 to a Thomas and Johan Underdowne. I believe him to be the elder sibling of 3 more children to this couple.

His baptism demonstrates the first use of the Underdown surname in this family without the use of the letter ‘e’ on the end. From this point forward, this Underdown family uses the spelling of the name as it is known today.

It also demonstrates the point where the direct lineage of this Underdown family becomes definitive. Prior to Thomas and Grace Underdown, connections must be considered with caution.

Move to East Devon

Thomas’s brother John was born in 1679 and his sister Mary in 1682. Between the birth of these two siblings, Thomas’s family moved from Ottery St Mary to Honiton on Otter. Why this move was made is not yet known, but it likely that Thomas’s father was in the weaving trade and moved to the area to take up new work opportunities. Honiton is said to have been the first town in Devon in which serges (a durable twilled woollen or worsted fabric) were made, and there was a flourishing woollen industry here in the 17th-18th cents. It was also notable from Elizabethan times for the manufacture of a fine lace.

Monmouth Rebellion

The Monmouth Rebellion was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, Scotland and Ireland upon the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some Protestants under his rule opposed his kingship. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, claimed to be rightful heir to the throne and attempted to displace James II.

The Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis on 11 June 1685. In modern terms, Lyme Regis is only half an hour travelling time from Honiton (it would have been much further in Thomas’s day). For the following few weeks the Duke of Monmouth’s growing army of nonconformist, artisans and farm workers fought a series of skirmishes with local militias and regular soldiers. This was mostly in Dorset and Somerset, but it was right on the border with East Devon, and it is likely that the townsfolk of Honiton were aware of or heard of what was happening. Some may have even been involved. How Thomas’s family reacted to the rebellion is currently unknown.

Monmouth's forces were unable to compete with the regular army and failed to capture the key city of Bristol. The rebellion ended with the defeat of Monmouth's army at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685. Monmouth was executed for treason on 15 July 1685. Many of his supporters were tried during the Bloody Assizes led by Judge Jeffreys and condemned to death or transportation. The Assizes was held at Exeter in Devon (again only half an hour from Honiton in modern terms) and it is likely that the townsfolk of Honiton heard of what occurred. Thomas (b 1674) was 5 years old when this occurred.

Literacy

It is known that Thomas could read and write at a time that many could not. It is not know at what time that he learnt these skills and who he learnt them from, but it is assumed to be is his youth or early adulthood. The literacy rate in England in the 1640s was around 30 percent for males, rising to 60 percent in the mid-18th century. This was the result of elightenment that occurred in the period after the Civil War known as the Reformation. Education was once considered a privilege for only the upper class. However, during the 17th and 18th century centuries, “education, literacy and learning” were gradually provided to “rich and poor alike”.

Living in Honiton, the most likely place that Thomas would have learnt these skills would have been at Allhallows School. The school was founded about 1515 in Honiton, probably as a chantry school where priests taught boys to read Latin so that they could sing in the choir. Later still it became a grammar school for the sons of the local gentry. Its origins in Honiton are the reason former pupils are still known as Old Honitonians, or OHs. The school was named after its neighbour All Hallows, a roadside chapel for travellers built sometime before 1327 and now the oldest existing secular building in Honiton. It is used a museum of lace and local antiquities.

Marriage

Thomas married Grace Pennington in Northleigh, Devon on the 2nd December 1712. He was 38 years old at the time of the marriage, which was considerably old at the time. Her origins are currently unknown.

Children

Thomas and Grace went on to have 11 known children, establishing another pattern for this Underdown line – large families.

The first three children – James, Abraham and Mary – were all baptized in Widworthy. The remaining eight children – Thomas, Grace, Sarah, Philip, Agnes, Joan, Ann and William – were all baptized in Northleigh.

Samuel, who married a Joan Warren on 5/12/1749 in Northleigh, may also have been a child of this family, but this is yet to be established.

Owner of land?

The birth of Thomas’ eldest three children in Widworthy is interesting in that Thomas’ son Thomas would own land in the area and passed it on to some of his children. How son Thomas obtained the land is unknown because he appears to never have lived there. My theory is that Thomas also inherited this land from his parents, most likely his mother. It is possible that Grace Pennington came from the Widworthy area and that is why she and Thomas settled there initially after their marriage.

Clerk of Northleigh Parish

Thomas became the clerk of the Northleigh Parish Church. When he took on this role is unknown but he still held the role at the time of his death. I like to think that one of the reasons why our Underdown family has been relatively easy to trace is because of the basis of record keeping that he established for the line.

Death of Daughter

Thomas’ daughter Sarah died and was buried on 5th June 1748 in Northleigh, Devon. Her cause of death is unknown. She was aged 26 years old at the time and single, so quite possibly was still living at home with her parents. Thomas was age 74 when she died. A scarlatina (otherwise known as Scarlett Fever) epidemic was affecting the country at the time, and it is possible that Sarah may have been afflicted. A typhus epidemic is also recorded for this year.

Death

Thomas was buried at the Northleigh parish church on the 27th March 1758. He was 84 years old. This establishes another pattern for this Underdown line – longevity.

He was clerk of Northleigh Parish at the time of his death. The rector of the church at the time of his death was William Ford.

Wife Grace would outlive Thomas by 13 years.

Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas & Grace Underdown


James bap 6/9/1713
Widworthy, Devon
1791


Abraham bap 5/11/1714
Widworthy, Devon
1790


Mary bap 8/2/1715
Widworthy, Devon


Thomas bap 24/4/1717
Northleigh, Devon
1795


Grace bap 26/11/1718
Northleigh, Devon


Sarah bap 12/8/1722
Northleigh, Devon


Phillip bap 18/2/1723
Northleigh, Devon
28/1/1817
Southleigh, Devon


Agnes bap 15/8/1725
Northleigh, Devon


Joan bap 10/10/1727
Northleigh, Devon


Ann bap 19/5/1729
Northleigh, Devon


William bap 8/8/1731
Northleigh, Devon


References

  • "Recorded Details on the Underdown Families in England", by Peter Underdown, South Australia, 1990
  • GEDCOM details of Maxine Cadzow, Victoria, Australia
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NRMD-5JR : accessed 19 Jan 2013), Thomas Underdowne, 29 Oct 1674; citing OTTERY SAINT MARY,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 0962974, 0962975
  • "England, Marriages, 1538–1973 ," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N2HD-PPB : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown and Grace Penniton, ; citing Northleigh By Honiton,Devon,England, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JMYW-2MX : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for James Underdown, 06 Sep 1713; citing WIDWORTHY,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917554.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J3FW-BDS : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Tho Underdown in entry for Abraham Underdown, 05 Nov 1714; citing WIDWORTHY,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917554.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J3FW-B3L : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Tho Underdown in entry for Mary Underdown, 08 Feb 1715; citing WIDWORTHY,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917554.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N57Z-2D3 : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown, 24 Apr 1717; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N57Z-2DQ : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for Thomas Underdown, 24 Apr 1717; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N57Z-2JN : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for Grace Underdown, 26 Nov 1718; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J79P-XMG : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for Sarah Underdown, 12 Aug 1722; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N57Z-2BJ : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for Philip Underdown, 18 Feb 1723; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N57Z-23R : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for Agnis Underdown, 15 Aug 1725; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N57Z-27N : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for Joan Underdown, 01 Oct 1727; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J79P-X9Q : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for Ann Underdown, 19 May 1729; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N57Z-2ZB : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Thomas Underdown in entry for William Underdown, 08 Aug 1731; citing NORTHLEIGH BY HONITON,DEVON,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 917206.
  • "Ancestral File", database, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/MW1Z-XGL : accessed 2013-02-08), entry for Thomas UNDERDOWN.
  • "Ancestral File", database, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/MW1Z-XGY : accessed 2013-02-08), entry for Grace PENNITON.
  • "Ancestral File", database, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/MW1Z-XPJ : accessed 2013-02-08), entry for Thomas Widworthy UNDERDOWN.


Sources and notes

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