Frances Billinge 2019


I have been tracing Bovey Tracey’s connections with famous people. So far I have found a link with the Victorian diarist Rev Robert Francis Kilvert. His sister, Frances Henrietta , was a member of the sisterhood of St John The Baptist of Clewer and a sister at the Bovey Tracey Devon House of Mercy. [1]

Another famous person linked with Bovey Tracey was Gerard Manley Hopkins, the poet, who stayed with his friend Edmund Urquhart in the town in 1865 and visited many local landmarks and some local families.[2] A living connection is with the Olympic gold medallist rower Sir Matthew Pinsent. His ancestors were investigated on the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are ? [3] His family tree can be accessed on and we can now add more their historic Bovey Tracey connection.

Pinsent Family Tree: the Bovey Tracey Connection

Pinsent Link with Bovey Tracey

The story starts with John Pinsent a successful merchant and entrepreneur of Moretonhampstead. He was the great, great, great, great, great grandfather of Matthew Pinsent. John had business links with Moses Savery, another successful merchant, who lived in Bovey Tracey. John had a son Thomas who also had a son called Thomas. This Thomas, Thomas II, married Mary Savery, the daughter of Moses, in 1805. Mary was Matthew Pinsent’s great, great, great grandmother. She was born in Bovey Tracey in 1780.[4]

Pinsent Family of Moretonhampstead and Kelly Mine

The Pinsents were a large family in the Moretonhampstead, North Bovey, Lustleigh, Hennock and Bovey Tracey area from at least the 1500s into the early of the 1900s. As there were so many families with this surname and common first names of John, Thomas, Elizabeth, and Sarah as yet we cannot be sure of all the family connections. John Pinsent was born in Moretonhampstead in 1725. He was a successful soap boiler as shown by his will of 1800. [5] John owned property in Moretonhampstead as well as nineteen years remaining on his lease of Kelly Mine on the Moretonhampstead Road. This micaceous haematite mine was on Hennock land surrounded by the parish of Bovey Tracey. Haematite was used for ink blotting and also for making corrosion resistant paint.[6]  Ownership of this mine showed another side of John’s business entrepreneurship as this made him part of the adventurer spirit which was to lead the industrial revolution.

John Pinsent’s will gives further insights into his businesses and also his family connections. From it we know that John Pinsent was closely associated with Moses Savery and so it is no surprise that the families became connected by marriage. John Pinsent required his grandson son, who was and also Moses’ son-in-law, Thomas II to pay Moses a sum each year for both the Caphill estate and the Court estate in Moretonhampstead. He also gave Moses Savery and Joseph Wills part of his rights in Kelly Mine to pass to John’s granddaughters:

‘Also I give unto Moses Savery of Bovey Tracey and Joseph Wills gent of Ilsington their part of the mine lying in the parish of Hennock called South Kelly for my grand daughters Mary Pinsent Sarah Pinsent and Elizabeth Pinsent and if any of them die it shall pass to the last surviving of them free of their husbands…And I give to my son Thomas Pinsent of Newton and Thomas Pinsent his son the other two third parts of the aforesaid mine with all paths and priviledges that I have by grant for the term  or time of nineteen  years  more or less and if either of them die then the survivor shall enjoy the three parts for as long as the right does continue.’

Joseph Wills II was most likely linked to John Pinsent’s family as Joseph’s father had married an Elizabeth Pinsent in 1754. John Pinsent did have a sister called Elizabeth but it has not yet been proven beyond doubt that she was the same Elizabeth who married Joseph Wills I. However as Joseph Wills II was mentioned in John Pinsent’s will he most probably was John’s nephew.

The inscription on John Pinsent’s grave in Moretonhampstead parish church also indicates a link with the Savery family as an Elizabeth Savery was interred along with him and his wife. The inscription is as follows:-


In memory of JOHN PINSENT soapboiler of this parish who departed this life Oct. 11th 1800 aged 77. Also ELIZABETH his wife who died 17 April 1795 aged 76. Also their little daughter MARY who died 27 Feb. 1773 in the ….. year of her age. ELIZABETH SAVREY who died ….. 17?1 . SARAH S…UDDY died April 5th 1782 aged 21. ….. all ….. die in faith. Heb. XI. 13.[7]

It has not yet been possible to ascertain who this Elizabeth Savery was.

Thomas Pinsent II, a linen draper who married Mary Savery in 1805, was the grandson of John Pinsent. He developed a very successful business in Devonport and by 1852 Pinsent and Company was described as linen and woollen drapers; silk mercers; Scotch, Manchester, and carpet warehousemen.[8] By the 1860s he possibly also had business links in Clifton in Bristol as he was living there on the 1861 Census.[9]

Mary Savery of Bovey Tracey:  Matthew Pinsent’s Great, Great, Great Grandmother

Who was Mary Savery? She was to become a wealthy woman through inheritance from her father Moses Savery. He was a successful merchant in the wool trade described as a serge maker and clothier of Bovey Tracey as well as being a landowner with properties in that parish and elsewhere in Devon. On the 1786 Land Tax Assessment he was the half owner along with Joseph Satterley of a property referred to as ‘Late Coniams’, and this was the property in which he lived and where Mary was born. From his will of 1817 we learn that this property was opposite ‘Late Stonehams’- which identifies it as Summerfield on East Street, (Fig. 1).  


Figure 1. Summerfield East Street. David Lewis Collection, Bovey Tracey Heritage Trust.

Moses had interest in other properties in East Street, as shown by various property indentures, land tax assessments and wills. He also owned part of Redgate, now called Front House (Fig. 2).


Figure 2. Redgate, now called Front House. Frances Billinge 2018.

These were large properties near the market place in the borough. Moses was also the owner a farm called Bradley (now Lower Bradley Farm) which was outside of the borough of Bovey Tracey and in the manor part of the parish. Through owning property in both the manor and borough Moses had an interest in all of the civic administration of Bovey Tracey.[10] Mary’s upbringing amongst this property portfolio and her father’s serge business would have prepared her for marriage to a successful wool trading entrepreneur who had business interests in Devonport. In his will Moses left his Bradley estates to Mary together with other properties (Fig.3).

Figure 3. Bradley Farm re-built near the old site. Frances Billinge 2019.

Moses was obviously a significant man in the parish as apart from owning several properties he had apprentices assigned to him.[11] These apprentices would have lived in the house along with Mary and her siblings. She would have seen the civic duty which her father performed in this way to help the poorest children as part of the parish’s poor law administration.   

Pinsent and Savery Families Support of Non-Conformist Churches

Another important link between the Pinsent and Savery families was that both John Pinsent, his grandson Thomas II , and his great grandson John Balle together with Moses Savery and his son John  were all financial supporters of either the Moretonhampstead or Bovey Tracey non-conformist church. This was at a time when interest in Baptist, Methodist and Congregational churches was developing in Devon and the rest of the country with money and land needed to build more of churches.[12] In his will John Pinsent wrote,

‘Also I give unto the Deacon or the Leader of the Tabernacle in Moretonhampstead  or Society for the support of the Gospel for the space of seven years  after my decease the sum of six pounds per annum to be paid by my grandson Thomas Pinsent out of Court Tenement  in Moretonhampstead  parish and it be paid for the Ministry  to be Calvinist and the preaching to be  once every month and if not the payment of the aforesaid to be withheld.’

John also left his grandson, ‘a New Bishops Bible and the choice of any of my books.’ This was a bible written in English but we do not know which edition John owned. It was obviously very important to him for it to be named specifically in his will.[13]

Likewise Moses Savery had a keen interest in his local Baptist church. In 1800 he assisted that church to obtain land so that a larger chapel could be built. He agreed the church could rent some of his land for one barley corn- an insignificant amount. The other men involved in helping the church were yeoman and merchants, some were local but others were from as far away as Exeter and Plymouth.[14] Five years later the congregation was still increasing so the adjoining dwelling house was bought in order to enlarge the church. To pay the £130 purchase money a subscription was set up. This purchase was on a lease and this time the annual rent was a peppercorn.[15]

By 1823 the new meeting house was being built and was roofed (Fig.4) [[

Figure 4. Bovey Tracey Baptist Church. Frances Billinge 2018.

Further land next to the church was acquired in June 1825. By this time Moses Savery had died and the land was leased to his son John Savery, a surgeon from Hastings. John was Mary’s brother. The rent was one peppercorn a year. This again shows the status of those involved in the land acquisition for the chapel, and the low rents asked for the land. It also shows that even though he lived at a distance John Savery continued to support the church his father had helped build [16]

In 1839 the meeting house ‘of certain congregational dissenters commonly known as Particular Baptists’ was leased for a year from and Rev. J.L. Sprague, and William Tucker to various yeomen and merchants including ‘Thomas Pinsent a gentleman from Kingsteignton’. These were the trustees for the meeting house and the rent was a peppercorn. Such a conveyance shows the complication of land transactions at that time. The deed shows us who the significant members of the church were and that they included Thomas Pinsent II, Mary’s husband. This lease was repeated in 1840.[17]

Pinsent and Savery Burials and Memorials Bovey Tracey Baptist Church

Although Mary Savery and Thomas Pinsent married in the Church of England in Stoke Damerel their children’s births were registered in the non-conformist church in Devonport.  All their children who pre-deceased them were buried in Bovey Tracey Baptist church ‘dissenters’ burial ground. Their daughter Sarah was buried there in 1813. Thomas, their son, was buried in the ‘cave’ of his grandfather Moses in 1826. Moses had been interred in 1817.  The word cave was used to describe a brick lined vault. [18] The early tombstones in this graveyard are now lined down its sides so we cannot be sure exactly where the Pinsent children and Moses Savery were buried (Fig. 5)

Figure 5. Bovey Tracey Baptist Church Old Graveyard.  Frances Billinge 2019.

Nearly fifty years later a larger burial ground was needed and a conveyance of 1886 shows that part of Hen [Hind] Street Higher Orchard, above the church, was purchased for £5. The land was owned by ‘John Ball Pinsent a gentleman of Newton Abbot’ and Evan Edwards a Baptist minister of Torquay. John Ball[e] Pinsent was the son of Thomas Pinsent II and Mary Savery so he was continuing his family’s interest in the Bovey Tracey Baptist Church even after his parents had died.[19] The new graveyard had obviously been used from the 1870s as shown by extant graves but earlier conveyance records have not yet been found. Both Thomas and Mary Pinsent were buried in this new graveyard, and alongside them was their daughter Anna and son Savery (Fig. 6)

Figure 6. Grave of Thomas Pinsent and his wife Mary on right, and Anna and Savery on left. Bovey Tracey Baptist Church New graveyard. Frances Billinge 2019

The inscriptions read as follows:-









BORN JAN 17 1782 DIED JAN 2 1872




BORN FEB 20 1780 DIED NOV 29 1859

















MAY 18TH 1886


 By the time of Thomas II’s death his extensive South Devon property portfolio no longer included Bovey Tracey properties as these had passed to other family members or been sold.[20]

The Savery family continued to be important members of the church as shown by the inside memorial to Richard Savery and his children (Fig.7) Richard was the son of Moses and brother of Mary.

Figure 7. Figure 7. Memorial to Mary’s brother Richard Savery. Bovey Tracey Baptist Church. Frances Billinge 2018.

Pinsent Licensees of the King of Prussia

Thomas Pinsent II’s son John Balle Pinsent was part of their family brewing business in Newton Abbot. He was a licensee of the Jolly Sailor in Newton Abbot until 1878.[21] In 1864 a John Pinsent gentleman of Newton Abbot purchased the King of Prussia in Bovey Tracey as recorded on the Bovey Tracey Borough Court Presentments.(Fig.8)[22] This was John Balle the son of Thomas Pinsent II as no other adult John Pinsent was living in Newton Abbot at the time.

Figure 8. King of Prussia, now Bovey Paradiso. Frances Billinge 2019.

In 1917, during World War, another Pinsent acquired the King of Prussia inn. When applying for the transfer of the licence he asked the local petty sessions for permission to change the name of the public house. The presiding judge agreed that, ‘You can’t have the King of Prussia now’, and went on to suggest it might be called the King of Bovey instead.[23] In 1920 William S. Pinsent and Son’s brewery business in Newton Abbot was purchased by the Heavitree Brewery and at the request of the brewery the court agreed the new name of the Heavitree Arms Inn. This suggests it was William Pinsent who was the licensee in 1917.[24]   

Other Pinsents in Bovey Tracey

Pinsents in Bovey Tracey can be found at least as far back as the 1500s and continuing until the start of the twentieth century. In the Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1524 there were as many as five Pinsent families.[25] The family members then became so numerous, with frequently repeated first names, that it is not possible yet to trace which might be related to Matthew Pinsent’s family. Over the last 600 years the Pinsents have held various farms in the parish including Bradley, Clayparks,  Colehayes, Combe, Forder, Hatherleigh, Higher Down, Whitstone, and Yeo  together with properties in the borough.[26] In the 1600s various Pinsent sons attended Oxford University.[27] In the 1800s Pinsents sat on the borough courts showing their sense of civic duty and the respect in which they were held within the community.[28]


Investigation of Matthew Pinsent’s paternal line has shown that his great, great, great, great, grandmother Mary was born in Bovey Tracey. Her father Moses Savery was a founding member of the local Baptist church. This church played a significant role in helping the poorest people in Bovey Tracey and in providing some education for their children when little else was available.[i] Her husband Thomas and her son John also gave financial support to this church.  It is a proud heritage for the Pinsent family who have some of their forbears buried in Bovey Tracey Baptist Church graveyard. Although many Pinsents were born in Bovey Tracey between 1500 and the early 1900s over the last 400 years it would seem that there are none of that name in the parish now, but some cousins by marriage are probably still there.  


I am very grateful to a Pinsent descendant for letting me know of the link between Bovey Tracey and Matthew Pinsent, and for sharing his thorough research with me.



[1] Frances Billinge, 2019. Devon House of Mercy,

[2] Ibid., Gerard Manley Hopkins.


[4] Non-conformist parish register, Hen Street Chapel Bovey Tracey,

[5] Devon heritage Centre 4930B/WP2, will of John Pinsent.

[6] Tony Brooks, 2016. Kelly Mine. (Exeter, Short Run Press) p.1-11.

[7]  St Andrew’s churchyard grave 079,

[8] F. Brendon, 1852. A Directory of Plymouth, Stonehouse, Devonport, Stoke and Moricetown (Brendon, Plymouth) p.180.

[9] The National Archives 1861 Census

[10]Devon Heritage Centre Bovey Tracey Land Tax Assessment 1786 ‘part Late Coniams’ ; Ibid., 312M/TH/937-944 Attway Meadow; Ibid., 312M/0/TH/807-812 Hind Street; Ibid., 4423M/T/9a-b East Street properties which Dorothea Savery inherited after her father Moses’ death in 1817; Ibid. Land Tax Assessment 1844, Moses’ son Richard owned (by inheritance from his father) part of Scotway, Roles, Late Coniams, part of Hindstreet  and part of Redgate on East Street and Bradley farm; Ibid., 4137M/T/3-4 lease and release of 20-24 East Street; Prerogative court of Canterbury will 1817 Will of Moses Savery lists two  messuages and tenements in Kenford, and lands, messuages and tenements at Batworthy, Chagford.

[11] Devon Heritage Centre apprentice records 2160A/PO/117, 147, 166, 216, 320, 379, 380, 379.

[12] Frances Billinge, 2018. Bovey Tracey Baptist Church

[13] See note 5, will of John Pinsent

[14] Devon Heritage Centre Box 3575 Baptist Church Bovey Tracey Indenture of lease 3 December 1800 Savery and Hamlyn to John Jackson et al.

[15] Ibid., 23 July 1805 lease Richard Hamlyn to Mr Jackson et al.

[16]  Ibid., conveyance and lease 23 June 1825 Messrs Burd and Nosworthy to John Savery.

[17] Ibid. lease 6 and 7 December 1839 inrolled 6 March and 1840 Rev J .L.Sprague and William Tucker to William Bastow et al.

[18] Non conformist parish register Devonport,; ‘cave’ described in ‘The Dissenters’ Burial Ground’

[19] See note 14,  November 1886 conveyance John Ball Pinsent and Evan Edwards to Trustees.

[20] Exeter Flying Post 17 July 1872, p.1.  

[21] The Western Times 4 October 1878, p.8 licensee of the Jolly Sailor; The National Archives 1871 and 1881 Census;

[22] Devon Heritage Centre 5595B Bovey Tracey Borough Court Books.

[23] The Western Times 13 June 1917, p. 2.

[24] Heavitree Brewery History; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 5 March 1920, p.13

[25] T.L. Stoate, ed. 1979.  Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-7 (Stoate, Bristol) p. 226.

[26] Devon Heritage Centre 312M/0/ZTH/1-2 Bovey Tracey Church Rate 1596; Ibid., 3861M/1-177 Manor and Borough Rent Rolls; London Metropolitan Archives CLA/044/O5/04 John Norden survey of Devon Crown Lands c.1613; TNA Census returns.

[27] Oxford University Alumina www.

[28] See note 22 Borough Court Rolls.

[29] See note 12 Bovey Tracey Baptist Church