The WILLS Family of Lustleigh

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2. Lustleigh Farms

George WILS, copyhold tenant of North Hisley, is the earliest known Wills in Lustleigh and is first mentioned in the 1618 addition to the 1615 survey. By 1624 he was a churchwarden. He was baptised in Bovey Tracey in 1586, the first son of John Wills. This John Wills was probably the eldest son of Geoffrey WILLS of Christow who, we speculate, was the brother of the Henry of Christow who purchased 1/4 of Wreyland in 1577. Furthermore, one of Georges sisters was called Dunes possibly after a Dewnes WILLS, who was married in Christow in 1577 to Peter VALENCE.
John of Chistow died in 1629 thereby, we assume, allowing George funds in 1630 to buy, with others,
one quarter of Lustleigh Manor when it was sold by three of the MARTIN heiresses. They divided the quarters between themselves such that George WILLS owned one quarter of each of the following:-
North Hisley, South Hisley, Rudge, Eastwrey, Woodpark and Longmarsh,Waye, North Harton and Petherbridge.

2.1. Rudge

Rudge farm is to the south of Lustleigh village.The son George WILLS , of George who bought the quarter of Lustleigh Manor in 1630, married Susanna Pethybridge and was buried in Lustleigh in 1691. At his death he owned two thirds of Rudge , one quarter of which he inherited and the remainder he purchased. This family was the start of the Lustleigh WILLS era, his sons grandsons and great grandsons became one of the largest farming families in Lustleigh and are closely interlinked with the history of the village.  George’s g grandson George purchased the remaining third in 1805. The farm passed after two more generations to the childless widow of George in 1873 and then out of the WILLS family. In 1990 when it was sold the asking price was £525,000 with 20 acres of land.

 

2.2. Caseley

Caseley is on the northern outskirts of Lustleigh. When it was a farm its land bordered onto Eastwrey.

Fourteenth century charters found by Dick WILLS with Narracombe documents refer to Caseley. After being tenants for a great number of years the CASELEIGH family purchased the farm from the heirs of John Wadham in 1629. Possibly they had made their money by mining tin in the valley as in 1613 there was a tyn blowinge mill called Caseleigh Smitha. Caseley farm passed to Thomas NOSWORTHY when he married Elizabeth CASELEIGH on 26 Nov 1639 and then to the Wills family when Mary NOSWORTHY of Narracombe married George WILLS in 1808. It was then inherited by their son George of Narracombe who sold it to Thomas WILLS of Eastwrey. In the 1851 census Charles WILLS, the son of George WILLS of Lower Hisley, is living here farming 90 acres with his wife, four young children, three labourers and a house servant. Caseley was sold by William WILLS of Eastwrey in 1870 to George WILLS of Pepperdon, however, William lived there and raised his family there before moving his equipment and animals by rail to Marlwood in Gloucester.
The picture shows what was originally the farmyard side of the farmhouse, now the front of a desirable residence.

 

2.3. Eastwrey

Located about one mile to the north of Lustleigh village on the main road to Moretonhampstead. Stands above the east branch of the Wrey or Wray stream. The main farmhouse is now operating as a small hotel.

The first family occupant of Eastwrey was Christopher WILLS, the youngest son of George who purchased a quarter of Lustleigh manor in 1629. Christopher leased it from 1659 followed by his son John and grandson Richard until 1751. After this his second cousin Thomas WILLS born 1712, of Wreyland and Gatehouse, lived there. Thomas owed eight twelths of Eastwrey, three inherited from his grandfather George above. Another twelfth was purchased by his father, George, from CONDOR and he purchased another 3 twelfths from TOZER. Thomas' son Thomas born 1741 eventually owed the whole of Eastwrey after purchasing the remaining third from Hon WYNHAM in 1805. It was occupied by the family for a total of 8 generations until it was sold with Caseley, Thorn Park, Gatehouse estate and Willowrey by William WILLS in 1870 after his fathers sudden death. The properties including 280 acres, were sold for £6,700. The purchaser was George Wills owner of the adjacent property of Pepperdon, not as far as we know related, who had made his money as a merchant in Adeleide supporting the gold rush. Two of Williams nephews emigrated to New Zealand and founded Wills families there today, one of his brothers was my grandfather. The 1881 census shows Thomas, farmer of 390 acres, living with his wife and seven of his children, the oldest son Thomas was not there, presumably at boarding school.

The earliest photograph we have of Thomas WILLS my great grandfather is at the time of Queen Victorias Golden Jubilee festivities at Lustleigh in 1887, when he donated the granite steps that lead up to the Lynch Gate to Lustleigh Church. He is in the white hat and jacket on the right hand side of the picture.

His daughter Frances, my great aunt, wrote:-
"Jubilee festivities were held at Lustleigh yesterday. A feast of beef and plum pudding to all the men and for the women an excellent tea was provided and an abundance of good things for the children.
As early as 3 oclock the people were astir, putting up arches etc. The Religious services of the day began at 2pm, when the choir passed through the church chanting psalm 121, took up their position at the Lynch gate. Memorial stones being the gift of Mr WILLS of East Wrey, were then placed one by Mrs WILLS and one by the Rectors grand-daughter. A service in the church followed the laying of the stones."

 

 

2.4. Gatehouse and Cleave Hotel

Thomas WILLS born in Lustleigh in 1712 owned two thirds of Gatehouse one third being ex TOZER. His son purchased the remaining third from Hon WYNDHAM in 1805.

When sold with Easywrey in 1870 Gatehouse Estate consisted of 46 acres. It is located in the centre of Lustleigh opposite the church and part of the Cleave Hotel complex. No old building is now called Gatehouse but the name is used by a relatively modern house nearby. The name Cleave is taken from the steep hillside located east of the village.

The photograph shows the Cleave, now the village pub.

 

 

2.5. Higher and Lower Hisley

Originally known as North Hisley and South Hisley. George Wills born 1586 was copyhold tenant here when he purchased with others one quarter of Lustleigh Manor. He also purchased one twelfth of some tenements from Samuel CONDOR and his son George purchased a further third of some tenements from STRANGEWAYS. As a consequence his grandson, John WILLS born 1669 inherited two thirds of North and South Hisley and one third of Eastwrey. The final third of North Hisley was purchased by John WILLS in 1805 from Hon PC WYNDHAM and the farm was sold by his son William in 1934.
The remaining third of South Hisley was also purchased in 1805 from Hon WYNDHAM by another George WILLS who was born in 1776, after his death in 1827 it was sold by his executors to fund the payment of debts and legacies to his sons. However, young George born in 1806 continued to farm there as a tenant but lived and also farmed at Knowle. The next two generations continued to farm Lower Hisley until 'Ned' WILLS who was also farming Rudge retired in 1961, to end a run of 7 generations at Hisley. Thomas another of the sons of George emigrated to Wolf Island in Newfoundland where he built a house in 1840, this still exists today, then because the high humidity was affecting his health his son George Searle WILLS moved in 1890 to homestead in Calgery Alberta where his descendants live today.

Today the Higher Hisley House is based on the original longhouse structure shown in the old photograph at the top. The picture on the left shows Lower Hisley House as it is today with only the ash house remaining from the time of the old longhouse which almost certainly extended at right angles to the front of the new house. The ash house was used each night before retiring to put all the ashes from the kitchen fire into, to reduce the risk of the thatched roof catching fire at night. The present house was built by about 1886 after a fire in the old longhouse.

In the 1851 census George WILLS was farming 88 acres with 2 labourers and John WILLS was farming 60 acres also with 2 labourers.

 

 

2.6. South Harton

About one and half miles northeast of Lustleigh village. Probably of monastic origins, the stone cross built into the wall near the entrance gate is suggested by Peskett to have come from the roof of one of its ancient outbuildings.George Wills born 1584 purchased one quarter in 1629 and, his grandson son of George of Rudge, Thomas WILLS baptised in Lustleigh in 1712 acquired two thirds of South Harton and Eastwrey, his grandson owned it all and it was eventually sold by Frank WILLS who was born in 1911, brother to 'Ned' who farmed at Lower Hisley and Rudge.

The 1851 census shows Francis WILLS as owner occupier of 170 acres employing six labourers.

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Updated 15 Jan 2006