02. A Turning Point

Bartholomew Fishleigh's Memorial
Bartholomew & Jane Fishleigh’s Memorial
as seen on 10 June 2009

The Writing on the Wall

This plaque is located on the  outer south wall, to the left of the porch, of Holy Trinity, the parish church for Milton Damerel in North Devon, England.

I only discovered it when I tripped.  I had spotted a couple of sarcophogi mostly hidden in shrubs by the church wall.  I had scrambled in to get a closer look and  I was gingerly manouvering alongside one of these raised graves, carefully pushing branches aside, to see who was buried there. “Could they be mine?”, I asked myself.  Yes! Both were Fishleighs!  In the instant of excited discovery I lost my footing and fell backwards into a gutter.  As I was manouvering out from it  I looked up and it was then the writing on the wall came into my visual field. The image was quickly transmitted to my still conscious brain.  I scrawled the names and dates in my handy notepad for future reference. That plaque and the two sarcophagi made my day and were the subject of some jubilant retelling when I returned to Meadow Park in Buckland Brewer that evening where I was staying with Iris and Brian Chapple. Three Fishleighs in one bush!

That happened several years ago.  This year when we returned and stayed at the Woodford Bridge Country Club in the Parish itself, we found that the shrubbery has been tamed and the plaque is more apparent.  The vines which threatened the wall memorial and which had even invaded the substance of it at some time in the past, have now been carefully removed. I’m grateful. It made it easy to get a good photograph.

Here is a transcription of the writing on the wall:


of Bartholomew Fishligh of this

Parish. He died the 28th day of May 1799

in the 81st year of his Age

And was here buried right be-for ye Stone

My wife and children dear I have left behind

With aking hearts and troubled minds.

I hope in Heaven your souls to see

So lead your lives to come to me.~

Also Jane wife of the above. She died on the 12th day

of Feb. 1807 Aged 84 years.~~~

I intend to use this plaque as a jumping off point for exploring the lives of Jane and Bartolomew Fishleigh and their community. The result will be the development of a family history of the descendants of Jane and Bartholomew. This will include the compilation and discussion of the available resources. Many original documents will be transcribed for the benefit of other researchers interested in the parish of Milton Damerel and its contiguous parishes. Going clockwise starting in the north above the Milton Damerel these contiguous parishes are  Abbots Bickington, Newton St Petrock, Shebbear, Thornbury, Holsworthy Hamlets and Sutcombe. While not contiguous, one must not forget Cookbury because it was, for a time, an ecclesiastical offshoot of Milton, under the same management so to speak.

Bartholomew and Jane in the Ormiston Transcriptions

Among the eight burials recorded for the year 1799 we find Bartholomew Fishleigh on 30 May. This would appear to validate the date of death, two days earlier, found on the memorial. Jane’s burial, one of eight recorded for the year 1807 (four of whom, surprisingly, were female Fishleighs) was, on the other hand, said to have occurred on 2 February which is ten days before Jane Fishleigh is said, on the memorial, to have died.  I have recently acquired from the Devon Record Office in Exeter a microform copy of the original parish records for Milton Damerel so I have taken a look at the original to see if it agrees with the Ormiston transcription. One normally suspects the memorial as a more likely source of an error, where there is one, because of the time lag, sometimes years, between the death and burial and the creation of the memorial. We will discuss this in more detail shortly.

A Marriage

If Bartholomew and Jane were respectively 81 in 1799 and 84 in 1807 as we have read on the plaque, then we would expect to find a marriage between 5o and 60 years before Bartholomew’s death in 1799 or between 1739 and 1749. Milton Damerel marriages in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries typically took place one or two years after the bride and groom reached the age of majority (21). According to the information on the plaque this would have been 1740 for Bartholomew and 1744 for Jane.   A quick look at the International Genealogical Index (IGI) on Familysearch.org reveals a marriage as follows: Marriage of Bartholomew Fishleigh and Jane Pridiss at Milton Damerel on 14 April 1746. We are told that the Batch Number is MO51451, the source is 0916860. This marriage information  has been “extracted” from the microfilm made of the Ormiston transcripts. Because this IGI extraction is not a complete transcription of the entry in the parish register it is always necessary to take the next step of consulting the full original record. Were the bride and groom from the parish where they were married? Were witnesses names recorded?  Who were the witnesses? Were they family? Did the bride, groom and witnesses write their signatures or did they make their mark? Was the marriage by banns published on three successive Sundays or by license? We will revisit Jane and Bartholomew’s original record shortly.


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