Although possibly all who can trace their roots to Issells living in South Devon will find them living in Stokenham, that is as descendants of one John Issell who was living there by the time his oldest known son, Richard, was baptised in 1628/9. The Parish Registers for Stokenham survive for many years prior to this; there is no entry for anyone with the surname Issell or similar.
Looking for John’s origins there it is not possible to be certain where he came from, or who his parents were. There seem to be two potential families, although there could be others for whom no records (or at least, no readily find-able records) survive.
These pages look at what evidence there is of Issells before John, but also ask the question why do all Issells now descend from him? Did the other lines all die or daughter out, or did the name survive in another form?
But to begin with Issells known of before John moved to Stokenham.
The fourteenth century
Often the earliest evidence of a surname in an area is the fourteenth century lay subsidies. There is only one entry in the transcript of the Devon lay subsidies ??? . The absence does not mean none was present in the county; it may be that the name was rare and none qualified as a tax-payer. Unfortunately those who did not need to pay were not recorded.
The fifteenth century
Relatively few records remain from the fifteenth century that indicate what names were in an area. Probably manorial records are the only ones which name many of those living in an area, but for many manors little or nothing survives. These may yield some information about Issells – I have yet to look.
So far the only Issell I know of in the fifteenth century was through a debt in 1472.
The sixteenth century
In the sixteenth century the picture changes: we have a whole lot of documentary sources available, although patchy survival makes it difficult if not impossible to build up a clear picture. Not only did Parish Registers start, but records survive from several lay subsidies, a muster roll and there are more surviving records from equity and common law courts.
Leonard Issell of Dartington
For some Issells no links to any other are known, others fit into a nuclear or larger family grouping. The largest is that probably descends from one Leonard, and most likely also his wife Alice, although we only know she was his wife when he died. One Lawrence Issell married in Dartington in 1555; he named a son Leonard, quite an unusual name, and one that almost certainly is indicative of a close link but Lawrence could have been a brother or even cousin or nephew of Leonard.
Whilst we can’t be sure of the links in Leonard’s family, we do learn from a case in the Court of Requests that he was a ‘tyler’, i.e. a layer of stones. The OED suggests a tyler was a roofer, but slates, not stones, were used for roofs in Devon – maybe they were referred to as stones? But also roofers were called helliers. Was the term ‘tyler’ also used? I wonder if the stones were those laid as floors. The Court case refers to work done by Leonard and his servants, so clearly he was a master, employing others. In about 1552 he had been in the service of Henry Peckham, an absentee landlord who acquired Dartington Manor in 1550. It seems probable that Leonard was not employed as a domestic servant; at this time the term could be used for anyone employed, and since Leonard was a tyler he was presumably laying floors or roofs on manor buildings. Transcriptions of the documents along with more detailed notes can be found here. Images of the documents can be seen by registered (logged in) users of this site via Alice’s page.
Richard Issell of Ipplepen in dispute with his sister Margaret
At about the same time as Alice was seeking compensation for Leonard not being able to harvest and sell timber in Dartington, two Issell siblings seem to be squabbling over land left by their father in his will. This dispute was taken to another of the equity courts, the better known (and longer lasting) Court of Chancery, but the procedure was similar. In this case I have only found a bill and one answer. The documents, though, are a little puzzling. Although the answer cites their father Robert’s will the dispute does not seem to be about inheritance. The crux of the matter seems to be whether or not Richard came to an agreement with Thomas and Margaret over the property Bakelforde, and paid them some money for it. However, the answer seems to contain a lot of information which is not relevant to it, which makes me wonder if this was one of those cases in which the Court was used to record a property holding. (I need to see if I can learn more about this, though from what I have read I thought such cases showed more agreement than is found here). My summary and transcription of these documents can be found here.
Curiously it is not the first time Bakelforde, also known as Battleford, had been in a dispute taken to the Court of Chancery. In a case some quarter of a century earlier another Pope had been involved, a John – could he have been Thomas’s father? (The Discovery catalgue entry for this case is here; C1/865 is not yet on AALT but the related document can be viewed there C1/551/85).
Last updated: August 17, 2020 at 23:36 pm