John Denis Vanstone and The Spreyton line

compiled by Barbara Moore

John Denis Vanstone, baptised 17th April 1782 in Broadwoodkelly, was the second son of William Knight Vanstone, and was named after his two grandfathers, John Vanstone and Dennis Buckingham. He married Joanna Bradford (baptised in Wembworthy) in 1819 in Winkleigh and their eldest son William was born in Winkleigh. Two daughters, Ann (an unmarried cook in Paddington in 1891) and Elizabeth, were born in Hatherleigh, and then the family settled in "Downheys", Spreyton. John is listed as one of the farmers on the parish in White's Devonshire Directory in 1850 (then living at "Coffins"). They had another daughter Mary, who married William Howard in Exeter, and 4 more sons, John Bradford, Samuel, Edmund and Denis. The last, Denis, was born in May 1837 and Joanna died a few days later. The baby Denis also died when only a few months old.

John Denis remarried a widow, Ann Honeychurch, nee Amery, who had children of her own, including daughters Jane and Anna who lived with her in Spreyton. The marriage produced two children, Thomas and Martha Deborah, but was evidently not a successful one. Martha died aged three, and in the 1851 census, Ann was living in Zeal Monachorum, with their surviving child Thomas, while John Denis had moved to "Little Week" in South Tawton, with his son Edmund, a daughter Amelia and a servant Mary Brock. Mary Brock, 33 years younger than John Denis, was actually Amelia's mother (Amelia Brock Vanstone, born 1849), and they had two other daughters, Sarah and Ellen, all of whom took the surname Vanstone, but it was only when second wife Ann died in 1856 that John Denis and Mary Brock were free to marry. He died in the Union Workhouse (hospital) in Okehampton in 1869, and third wife Mary married William Rowe the following year.

John Denis's eldest son William lived with his wife Ann and children in Spreyton until the early 1850s, then in South Tawton, then Ipplepen. His youngest son Samuel moved to Portsmouth.

John and Joanna's second son John Bradford Vanstone, married Elizabeth ? but they remained childless. They moved to London in the 1850s, where he served as a policeman, before returning to Devon to retire.

Edmund also moved to London where he married Sarah Penfold. They had three daughters, and two sons, one of whom died young. The other, Edmund, married Alice Snelling and moved to Ipswich. The eldest daughter Sarah, born in 1864, was living with her aunt Ann Vanstone in Paddington in 1891 and with her aunt Elizabeth (John Bradford Vanstone's widow) in Devon in 1901.

John Denis's third son, Samuel, was born in 1831, though he seems not to have kept close track of his age, as I discovered when I tried to trace him. In 1851 he was living as a farm labourer in North Tawton, but he moved across the Bristol Channel to South Wales, as a gardener, possibly following his uncle James, who was then working as a gardener in Swansea.

Samuel married Martha Cole of Herefordshire, in Neath in 1864. Their first child Joanna was born in 1866 in Martha's home town of Lingen but they returned to South Wales. Their son, Charles Francis, was born in Quaker's Yard, Merthyr Tydfil, in 1867, but despite the job opportunities in the industrial belt of South Wales, Samuel stuck to what he knew, and remained, haplessly I think, an itinerant garden, finally migrating to Cardiff. A daughter Ada was born in 1870 (she died shortly after) and another, Rosa Jane, was born in 1871, but there is no sign of the family in the 1871 census. In 1881, by which time their last child Arthur was born, they were living in rural St. Andrews on the outskirts of Cardiff, with Martha boosting the family income by working as a seamstress.

By 1891, Martha had clearly tired of the itinerant life and had found a settled home in Redlaver Street, Cardiff, with the children and a couple of lodgers, one of whom, Samuel Perry, married her daughter Rosa Jane, while another, John Johnson, seems to have stepped into the missing Samuel's shoes as man of the house. There is no sign of Samuel, until 1901, when he was shown living as a pauper in the Cardiff Union workhouse, as an unmarried gardener. He died there in 1903.

His daughter Rosa Jane Vanstone's marriage to Samuel Perry produced a large family, including my grandfather, Ivor Perry, born 1894. He worked at the docks in Cardiff until the Depression, when he and his family moved east to Luton.